Years ago, there was a debate that divided my Reconstructionist congregation. Should we announce pets, along with the names of deceased family and friends, before reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish? Most congregants seemed to feel uncomfortable with the idea. Even still, no one wanted to tell the Animals Are Family, Too activist that it made them uncomfortable.
I’ve been devoted to animals my whole life. Beth and I live with four cats. One of them was sitting on my lap while I wrote this sentence. They are part of our family and our psyches. Their happiness brings us joy and their pain devastates us.
Three weeks ago, we needed to rush Merle, one of our cats, to a veterinary hospital. When he got home, each of the other cats began falling ill, turning away from food, barely moving for days. We assume that Merle brought home a virus. Or all he had was a virus and he got it first and worst. Fortunately, each of the cats has rallied and all seem to be healthy again.
The veterinarian could only speculate about Merle’s condition. She asked us if wanted to subject him to invasive tests and expensive treatment. We decided against it. We love him and we also understand his lifespan and limitations, and ours as well. We don’t see our cats as people.