Is Abortion a Sin if You Choose it for Your Cat?
This story WILL go down as one of the kookier I can recall. It's to do with one pregnant cat, two dueling "owners," and the contentious issue of feline abortion. (Yes, really.)
Though it's nowhere near the issue it is when it comes to us homosapiens, feline abortion is fraught, nonetheless, with some degree of discomfiting hand-wringing. Why? I'm not so sure. But this years-old post explores it in more detail than I plan to offer you here. Still, here's a tiny primer to get you up to speed:
Pregnant cats are commonplace in veterinary practice, especially for veterinarians who engage heavily in TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs. We see, on average, perhaps one pregnant cat for every three brought in under these conditions (cats are scarily adept at the reproduction thing). So to perform an abortion is widely considered a necessary battle in the war against overpopulation.
But not all people agree.
Predictably, perhaps, those who are most affected by the stress of ending a feline fetus' life fall into one, or both, of two camps:
1) They disavow abortion in any species. A life is a life, human or otherwise, and consciously choosing to end it is morally repugnant to them. Period.
2) Cats must be saved. All cats. A cat fetus is every bit the cat the mother is. The idea of discriminating against a healthy cat when a home might be found for it is to give up on the cat rescue cause altogether.
Both points may seem identical to you but I assure you there are subtle differences here. The first is the view of a consistent "right-to-lifer," while the latter comes with a lot of practice in what I like to call "extreme cat rescue." These extreme cat rescuers have a mindset all their own and may think nothing of spending twenty thousand dollars a year on saving four near-dead feral cats, if that's what it takes to save them.
The woman who brought the pregnant cat early last week was of the latter camp. Though the cat was feral, she thought the kitty was tamable enough to find a home for. But she didn't want her pregnancy terminated. She sought out simple prenatal care for this cat, with a spay to come at a safe time after the delivery.
Weird, right? Still, I've heard kookier stuff from this particular (lovely, really) client.
The trouble was, the obligatory FIV test came back positive. This, along with other evidence of not-quite-optimal health, altered the landscape somewhat. Though we would not be euthanizing the cat on the basis of this diagnosis, we did have some reservations about the kittens, the pregnancy, and the delivery. Should we allow kittens to come into the world with the possibility of an FIV-positive status? (Transmission between mother and fetus is as likely as it is in human AIDS, a distinct but similar-acting virus.) Should we terminate her pregnancy for the sake of her own survival?
For me, the answer was obvious. She should be spayed ASAP. That's what's best for the population at large. For the owner, the answer was less obvious. Yet it didn't take her long to agree that, given this particular set of circumstances, what was best for all was to spay.
Problem solved, right? Not quite.
Enter the woman who had originally found and captured the cat. She was of another mind (camp No. 1, for those keeping track). Must. Not. Kill. No. Matter. What.
Okee-dokee. The problem was, she hadn't filled out the paperwork and she wasn't paying the bill, but the calls from her end kept coming anyway. She must have assembled a feline right-to-life club on the spot for all the calls we got from random individuals who were trying to put a stop to the madness and halt the abortion.
Seriously, now. A feral cat whose future was uncertain (she wasn't even that tame). A set of dueling anti-abortionists of different stripes. It was more than I could handle on a busy day. It was enough to make me want to plug my ears and sing "la la la la la" for the rest of the day.
In the end, we ignored the noise and spayed the cat.
Dr. Patty Khuly