I hate making decisions about elderly animals, and I especially hate that I find myself in a position where I have to weigh money along with love and even morality. (You should take the previous sentence as a trigger warning.)
Our one remaining cat is an elderly black-and-white tuxedo-kitty named Astrophe. I originally found him as a half-grown kitten under a bush in east Texas. He's been with us through two apartments, moving to a house, the arrival of Firstborn and then Secondborn, and their entire childhoods. (Firstborn, at the time of this writing, is twelve; Secondborn is eight. They are very attached to the cat.) He is sometimes an annoying kitty, as he's prone to meowing loudly in the middle of the night for reasons the rest of us can only occasionally decipher, but he's also very affectionate.
For about the last year, he's been showing his age: he doesn't move as fast as he used to, his legs don't always support him the way they used to, he sometimes has trouble pooping, and he's taken to a diet of easy-to-digest-for-older-cats kibble balanced with semi-liquid foods (gravy, bisque, and something labelled "wet cat treats"). When you hold him, he's all skin and bones, with only fur for padding.
And as of yesterday morning, he's also leaking. Specifically, he's leaking some kind of fluid from his butt. It looks watery, but with some blood in it. A bit of looking on Google suggests that it's probably an issue with his anal glands, which might be relatively simple to fix or might require anything from antibiotics up to surgery.
If it's surgery, or even expensive antibiotics, we can't afford it. If it's something else, or if he has other health issues as well, then... we very probably can't afford it.
Unfortunately, I need to be at work today and my beautiful wife is teaching classes and trying to wrap up grading for her semester, which means the only way to get the cat looked over immediately is to drop him off. The cat hasn't been out of our house in at least three years; leaving him at the vet is probably going to freak him out. But I don't want to wait until Saturday; waiting could easily turn a simple problem into a major issue -- plus, the vet would have less time to look at him on Saturday, even if we could squeeze an appointment in.
So, despite some serious misgivings, I've dropped the cat at the veterinary clinic and asked the vet to call me once she's had a chance to look him over and has some idea of what we may want to do next. I have no idea if that's the right decision, and I hate that feeling. And I hate the fact that Can we afford to have him treated? is such a big concern, even though the immediate follow-up question is Even if we can, are we sure we should?
It may very well be that we'll end up putting him down. He's a very elderly cat, and it might be kinder to him. But we'll have to see what the vet thinks, and if it does come to that we'll schedule it for a time when we can be there with him. And in the meantime I'll just keep reminding myself that I'm making the best choices I can with the information and resources I have, and that sometimes all you can do is try to find the less-bad outcome.
This would all be a lot easier if I could put Astrophe on my insurance alongside the boys.