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The cats and I are up in paws and arms — all ten of them. We have had enough. First it was Milie and then Dexie and then Sebastian and then Kiki and then Kenneth and then Emma!

And now it’s Snuggles — the sweet, little black-and-white ball of personality that Irish Kate rescued, tiny tumors and all, from a cold wire cage at the Humane Society. Kate said that the cat “spoke to her”– and who am I to ever doubt the hearings of an Irishwoman.

But she is not well — Snuggles that is, not Kate — although, as all cat owners know, if the cat is sick so are we. In one week Snuggles lost an eye to glaucoma and then, just a few days later, was told she had cancer. How much can a girl take, eh?

Out of respect, my cats hid their heads in their paws when I told them. Rose even stopped eating for half-a-day which is remarkable in itself. But as sad as Snuggles’ news made us — what really upset the three of us and pissed us off royally were the obscene, outrageous, ridiculous, scalping, bleeding fees that the various vets that Snuggles visited charged Kate to basically tell them both that she was very very ill.

$500 here. $250 there. “Let’s try something else, …” One more ultrasound. One more blood test. “Take her to the Emergency Clinic (translation: $$$$$$).” $2,000 for an operation or was it $3,000? Re-hydration. Overnight stays. More medicines. $$$$ There’s always something else to try. And who are we to say “No, I don’t think so.” when it could mean another few years of life to a dear friend. It’s too hard.

So we cat owners — like me and Kate and Beth and Judith — end up with hugemongous vet bills that are expected to be paid on-the-spot and with-a-smile, thank you very much. (Hmmm, this sounds a lot like dentists). So since none of us have a few spare thousands doing nothing much in our checking or savings account, we max out Visas or Master Cards that we know we can’t afford to pay off at the end of the month.  All in the name of helping alleviate pain from a friend. It’s not fair.

And here’s the real sad part — or another sad part — all of us, Judith, Kate, Beth and me, had/have rescue cats. Not pure breeds from a breeder, not even pet store purchases. Beth befriended and then invited in feral cats in her neighborhood, Judith took/takes in cats whose owners are unable to keep them, Kate found Snuggles in the Humane Society and mine, rescues from a alley in Chinatown. (Sometimes, when they’re really, really bad, I remind them that they could go back there. They just roll their eyes — knowing I’m not serious.) But, hey, we’re not wealthy women. So these vet bills are keeping us from adopting more or even encouraging others to adopt. And that’s a shame for all of us.

I’ve avoided the bills with these two. At the beginning, on the way back from their first-and-only vet visit, I had a serious chat with them. I made them an offer: stay healthy, eat the Greenies for your teeth, run up-and-down the stairs 5-times-a-day for exercise and, in return, no vet visits until they absolutely needed them. We shook on it all around. Win-Win.

But we shouldn’t have to go broke to take care of our cats. Nancy and Joe have rescued dozens of unwanted neighborhood cats in Columbus, Ohio. These cats aren’t stupid — they know which yard to show up in and mew sweetly knowing they will be fed and taken care of. I think there’s a cat grapevine in that neighborhood, I really do. But Nance and Joe couldn’t do it without having that one vet in Columbus who believes in the caring more than the profit. He doesn’t have a fancy office, no receptionist, has a cigarette dangling from his lips as he examines the cats, doesn’t baby-talk to the cats or call Joe the “dad”. And when one of the cats is near dying, he breaks it to Joe softly but straight on. That’s what we need here.

And that’s the challenge that the cats and I are taking on – our Campaign for Fairness! Lower Fees! More Caring! We have different strategies. The cats want something more

"The" Cats Practicing for a Sit In

“The” Cats Practicing for a Sit In

guerrilla action, danger. They think we should hit the alleys behind the vets’ offices — you can take the cats out of the alley but you can’t take the alley out of the cats — and plaster our message on front windows and back doors. They demonstrate their talents in slinking and walking on tippy-toes. I’m not impressed. They remind me that they — unlike me — can see in the dark (no flashlight needed).

I suggest a more adult approach. They’re instantly bored. A letter to the Director of the Ontario Veterinary College – Guelph University sharing our stories and providing some suggestions that would improve the service:

  • Require all of their graduate vets to provide so many hours of pro bono work for folks with big hearts and small incomes — hey, if greedy lawyers are forced to do it why not vets? And, if there are such vets out there, let us know where they are.
  • Discounted rates for people who have rescued cats from alleys, shelters, unloving homes, and feral colonies
  • Straight talk about a cats’ condition and no lingering treatment for terminal cats just to make more money

The cats applauded my efforts but insisted on adding

  • Extra helpings of Temptations for purring.

I agreed.

I’ll write the letter and then we’ll wait and see if we get a reply. Nothing ever changes unless you try. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep praying that Snuggles makes it through this tough time and keeps on truckin.