Coping: Pets — Passings and Prepping

A number of my friends have pets that have died recently. And this weekend, our cat Zeus was attacked by a pack of wild dogs on the property. So with all the “pet events” in life, I thought it could be useful to talk about two things that are very much on our minds now. Passings and Prepping.

Case #1. A dear friend of our lost a champagne-colored Scottie within the last month, or so. 16-years, or so, of age.

He (and his wife) have had dogs for 30+ years and the family dogs were as much a part of the family as another child.

Case #2. Daughter’s cat of 16-years passed unexpectedly a couple of weeks back. This is a cat who was almost like the “child they didn’t have” to the daughter and son-in-law.

Case #3: Zeus the Cat was set-upon by a pack of four wild dogs that cornered him and tried to chew him up.  He was only saved by quick intervention of a stick-wielding daughter-in-law. With no obvious deep wounds, Zeus is sore as hell, after playing chew-toy for a shepherd, has a runny nose, and is walking ever-so gingerly since he’s terribly sore.

Analysis: Losing pets, let alone watching them be at anything other than optimum health is a terrible thing. The problem is further compounded by the facts of money and human resources.

The money angle makes sense. It was possible the late cat of the daughter could have had its life extended by a month…maybe two, but at a cost of around $4,000. The decision was made to let the cat go to sleep early.

As of the weekend, she and the Mr. have a new cat (rescued from a shelter), age three, litter-trained, and their family unit moves on. But there’s concern (and understandably so) about how to prep with a pet.  Also a nagging “Did we wait long enough?”

In the case of the late Scotsman, it was a similar call. Extending life – even slightly – had a huge dollar sign and the outcome uncertain at best. A type of canine leukemia, seems. So again, the decision was made to let him go.

As in the cat case, a new pet is possible, but since the owner is not as young as once upon a time, he is spending a lot more time spent on healing from the loss (and his own recent surgery).  After that, he figures to look at future pet ownership a bit cooler.

For example, who will watch the new pet if he wants to travel? Also, pets are sometimes the cause of falls, as they can get underfoot around the house as we age,, which last time I checked wasn’t optional.

Plus, there’s the nagging part about the pet’s role in a prepper’s plans .  Both he and the cat daughter taking prepping seriously.

imageIn the case of Zeus, he’s crashed-out on a chair in the office.

We are keeping a close eye on him because the most important things to help a cat or human heal are keep ‘em warm, and get some water and nutrition through them.  So Zeus is on the 22-hour a day sleep routine. A trip to the vet will follow if his condition doesn’t improve though he’s stable to slightly better.  But again there’s the damned dollar sign problem. 

We’ve  experienced the passing of formerly feral “woods cats” before so this is a familiar set of tough questions.

An Approach: One way to approach the “cost of life extension problem” is to assign (and yes, this will sound cold) some arbitrary “cost-per-pound” limit to what you can or will pay anyone in the pet (or human) medical arena.

If you have a very dear pet, then perhaps something like $200 per pound is a workable number. A ten-pound cat, at this level, would be a candidate for up to $2-thousand worth of medical bills.  That’s a good bit of doctoring.

Applying the same metric to a human, a 170 pound human would be worth $34,000 in out-of-pocket costs. With Medicare kicking in (covering 80% for many things) that would put their care budget at $170,000.

I use 170 pounds as a “thinking number” because it’s the weight the F.A.A. often uses in aircraft weigh and performance calculations.  Non-gender-based calculations are fairest.

Were the problem so simple, though!

Then there’s the “cost-per-day of survival” calculation.

If someone has $170,000 spent on medical conditions, they would need to last some period of time following surgery or treatment. Since we used the $200 per pound idea, we might come up with a calculation (like 170 days) which might be based on $200 per day survived. A similar calculation can be done with pets.

Yes, it is a terribly cold-blooded thing to even discuss publicly. But there are people (like, um, Ures truly) who have been around First Responder Land and seen enough triage events to realize that resource is spent where the return on investment is highest, not lowest.

Deeper Issues of Prepping and Pets

Planning for possible Pet Trauma Treatment is only one of the prepping issues associated with pet ownership if you’re deeply into prepping.

A few sites have attempted to address the issue of prepper food for pets, but the main thing to remember is dry food is fairly inexpensive.

Over on the Dogs Naturally website, there is a dandy article on how long pet kibble can store once opened. The gist of it is oxygen is not your friend.

Seems to me the best approach would be to get a couple of 50-pound sacks of pet food. Then open it and put it in 3-5 pound VacuSeal bags after first flooding them with argon/nitrogen mix (*which you should have on hand for your emergency MIG welding gear) or with CO2, which can be obtained in the form of dry ice.

Since carbon dioxide is heavier (*44 grams per mole) compared to oxygen (32 grams per mole), placing a chunk of dry ice (or injecting the bag with welding shield gas) immediately before sealing, should improve storage time. I would expect that to be in the area of several years.

The danger in pet foods, as the DN article notes, is oxygenation of the essential fats and that turns them rancid.  Once soured, such food won’t do the pet any good.

What to do with pets as we age is another increasingly difficult problem, if travel is part of your ultimate exit strategy. Elaine and I haven’t nailed it down, yet. So we’re welcome to inputs.

Zeus has already brought us a “back-up cat” (whose name is “Spot” for a tiny patch of white on one hip).

Out here in the Outback, protocols in pet ownership are different than in the Big City.

In town, people select their pets.

In the Outback, pets have the option to select their people.

So far, looking at the pets who have selected us before going to the Great Mousing Place in the Sky, their quality of owner section seems every bit as good as the human selection choices.

That, all by itself, is a rather humbling realization.

Write when you get rich,

29 thoughts on “Coping: Pets — Passings and Prepping”

  1. Dear Mr. Ure
    Saying a prayer for Zeus, feels like part of the family. Hope he has a full recovery soon!

  2. I haven’t had cats or dogs around in nearly 30 years now, George, but my husband and I finally decided it would be okay for our kids(8-10 yr olds) to have a pet, since we’d moved out of the city. We selected a cat at the local shelter, paid and adopted it. We’d planned to get a cat and dog, however a gorgeous white fluff, with a similar disposition to the shelter cat, showed up the same week we decided to get the kids a pet. This cat brought mice carcasses to the porch, more than once, and finally, to prove his worthiness, brought down a full grown rabbit right in front of my eyes. Yikes, okay, catzilla, you win… you can stay! Pretty sure it was a housecat at one time though. Both are deflead now and are indoors when weather is sucky.
    Interesting how the white one showed up when he did though. :) We’d lost my father-in-law on the 20th, and this cat shows up the next day too. Husband figures it was sent by his Dad for nighttime company for when he has to be up all night (husband and father would talk all night). Coincidence is a wonderful thing, when it’s on the good side.
    Btw, we named fluff-butt Mr. Stay Puft, and the shelter cat is called Gozer, the Gozerian. As you can tell, the kids really liked the original Ghostbuster movie.

    • I used to get home from work to find a tasty-looking bird liver on the front step and my big tiger-stripe looking expectantly – eat up!

      He always saved the best part for me, and I would try to make a big fuss about it while disposing of it.

      Cats is the best. They do tend to show up when needed.

  3. My parents were born in 1897 & 1901. They had a whole different attitude about death than what we see now. People used to buy cemetery lots as soon as they could afford them. They planned on planting whole families there. We can’t even think about those things today without going into a tail spin. I mentioned before that my dad was a policeman for over 40 years. I never heard a complaint from my mom or dad about the danger he might face. You, George, might remember the Greenwood Bank robbery from the 50’s. My brother and I came home for lunch from school, my mom had the radio on – she never listened to the radio. Fed us lunch, kicked us back to school and headed for Greenwood where she had heard that three officers were down. Happily, my dad wasn’t one of them, but we got lunch, first.

    I feel the same with pets. I have an aging cat, and a couple dogs in the house. As long as they are happy and without a lot of pain, good. If replaced, it would have to be with older animals who might share my own life expectancy!

    I would apply the same formula to people, the largest medical expense for people is usually in the last few months of their lives when we go to extremes trying to keep them alive beyond a reasonable outcome.

    Our future does not bode well for those who can’t deal with death, I think there is going to be a great deal of it and soon. We are just not dying off quickly enough with all the poison being pumped into us, now.

  4. Having been animal lovers from way back we have a big bunch of rescues. Heck, even 2 of our donkeys are rescues. Pets become furry children with a speech impediment and we have had to bury too many over the years. But we feel the love and companionship outweigh the negatives. Thank you for the link on the life of dry pet food.
    And finally, best wishes to editor-in-chief Zeus for a speedy recovers.
    James Johnson, ex-nuke
    P.S. Keep an eye out for infections. Bite wounds are notorious for that.

  5. IMHO, one thing you should be seriously considering is wild dog erradication. Yes, they fled from a human witha stick….but how would they react to an injured human, eh?

    • Mssrs Ruger, Mossberg, and Taurus are my constant companions when out and about on the land…and I have no qualms about deploying them as required in ANY situation. The old Texas “Better judged by 12 than carried by six” is still the law out in these parts. Specially when wild and on Ure owned property.

  6. Hi George,
    My husband and I have been married for 40 years and have always had cats in the house. We have 2 now that are brother and sister age 15. They are the best cats we have ever had. Mr. Biggs got in a fight when he was 7 and we spent the money to have his leg removed. Friends said we were nuts. That was 8 years ago and he has been fine since. When these two go to kitty cat heaven I do not plan on getting another pet. We hope to retire soon and want to travel. Keep an eye on Zeus. They have a way of hiding how they really feel. Hope he’s out hunting soon.

  7. Did we wait long enough? Sometimes it turns out we wait too long. Learned this the hard way. Pets can go downhill quickly and it can be very scary to them. Also they dehydrate quickly which can make it very hard to get needle in a viable vein when the time does come. Much better to go a little early than wait too long. We all deserve to leave with dignity and at peace.

  8. Jez, I glad Zeus is doing ok. Wishes for a speedy recovery. They do have a rescue remedy for pets. But it has to be the pet formula. It might be helpful. Maybe some lavender to help calm and soothe him.

  9. Our cat population has generally been self-limiting. Cannibalistic cats aside the mother of all of them used to pick out the kittens she liked the most, usually one, then park the others behind the tires of the car in the carport … and wait. We learned pretty quick to check under the car before we pulled out which has resulted in the first batch of kittens in years that we can tame. The old mom cat is remorseless but is obviously enjoying the grandkittens now. This hasn’t stopped her from stashing a couple between the grill and radiator of the same car, however. Having a kitten fall out of your car on a busy street while a lawyer walks by in the crosswalk is a situation you don’t want to deal with, trust me.

    The obvious benefit of cats, OUTside cats, is no mice have been found in the house in at least a decade plus no snakes found outside either.

    I was thinking of the exact subject of your submission today a few days ago. What happens in a SHTF scenario to all the pets? Even storage of human food is only going to last so long but if I go back to hunting the “inedible” parts will make a good supplement once the dogs learn to eat fresh. We already have a problem of people dumping pets on the highway and side roads around our small town and I’ve already found dog tracks at the ranch but no livestock kills that I know of yet.

    Note, however, to check a pet’s shoulders if you ever put a sweater or such on them like the one our oldest dog had a couple of winters ago, even though it appeared loose it cut into her skin on both sides. She never complained until I found her situation was pretty grievous. Long healing time with topical antibiotic healed her up, thankfully, so we won’t do that any more.

  10. George:

    As a long-term prepper [closing in on 20 years already!] I addressed this issue some time ago. When I assembled my Human First Aid/Trauma/Triage kit [which includes everything needed for even minor surgery] I stopped to consider my cats and their needs and created a kit just for them, too. An amazingly wide array of human meds can also be used on our pets in smaller doses and that’s a HUGE plus. The same Amoxicillin, Mucinex and Benadryl I take they can also. In fact, my personal Amox comes from vet supply company – I’ve been taking it for years now without need of a prescription.

    Basic Vet supplies are DIRT-CHEAP and worth having onhand. Sutures, Syringes, bandages, Scalpels, Scissors, Skin Staplers, Hemostats, even I.V. kits can all be had for just a few bucks and are well worth the investment, if not only for the peace of mind. And, I have them all.

    WTSHTF, how many Drs./Vets do you think will have equipment/supplies onhand at home to carry on? ONLY THE SMART ONES! EMT’s/Paramedics will be on the frontlines of emergency care and will be grateful for anything they can get their hands on to do their work of salvation. In my case, my niece is a surgical nurse and I will likely turn my kit over to her to use.

    It’s worth noting that -effective January 1, 2017- the FDA is cracking down on on many common Vet drugs, including Tetramycin, Pennicillin, Neomycin Sulfate and Terramycin [always in short supply, for some reason!] which will all then need a PRESCRIPTION for purchase. The list of newly-regulated drugs is a LONG one, but at least for the next few weeks you can still buy them through mail order. My personal favorite company is CalVet Supply. Top-notch in all respects, but do some basic research and you’ll find many, many others!

    Similarly, I also stock as much dry food as is logistically possible and have even developed a technique for recycling kitty litter to cover those needs as well.

    THANKS[!] for calling attention to this widely overlooked topic – when we’re all hunkered in our bunkers our furry friends will offer a special form of comfort that even your spouse cannot match!

    Here’s wishing Zeus a very speedy recovery!

  11. A very good friend has been in the hospital with a broken back ever since his ‘cute’ cat got between his feet while going down a short flight of stairs.

    I keep telling him that stuffed animals are better pets for so many reasons, but does he listen? No.

  12. My afghan hound was diagnosed with leukemia, but the price of treatment was way too high for me to afford. And she wouldnt eat the high fat/low carb food which was supposed to help in the fight. After she died, the vet admitted that his Labrador with leukemia (who was chemotherapy- treated) lived slightly less time than my dog. So if the guilt topic should come up, please relay this to your leukemia stricken friend. I should also let them know that I treated my dog with garlic, and the bloodwork showed improvement at first, but the disease was not quenched. If I had it to do over, I’d have gone heavy on organic meat in lieu of rejected low-carb vet food. And, now that internet exists, find a like-minded vet and/or Pub Med research.

  13. Well George, I am no expert, but I do not think CO2 is a viable option as an ‘inert’ gas, after all, there are two oxygen molecules attached. I have used nitrogen, and I have heard of people using argon, but never heard anyone recommend CO2. A cylinder lease on a tank of Nitrogen runs me a shade over 100 bucks per year, and will normally last a few years. Refills are 28 bucks.

  14. We just adopted a rescue dog. Her owner died and so his ex-wife inherited her. She didn’t want the dog because she reminded the ex-wife of her dead husband, whom she hated. So, she brought the dog to a veterinarian to be euthanized. The vet refused because the dog was perfectly healthy. So, she ended up at the shelter.

    She is an eleven year old Jack Russell Terrier, cute as anything, with a sweet disposition. We are pretty old ourselves, but we figure we can make her last years happy ones. We are preppers, too, so as soon as I can find a dry dog food that she’ll eat, I’ll store some. If not, she’ll at least have our farm eggs and rice if TSHTF.

  15. Another animal-prepping dynamic everyone needs to be aware of is what happens during a pandemic and you have a large dog? My critical care RN sister is trained on rapid response teams for things like SARS, bird flu, etc. Many times whole families can’t even get out of bed for days at a time. There are instances where the pet begins to eat the master, when they get hungry enough. Maybe an automatic feeder would be good to research.

  16. George i am sure you are already watching for infection on Zeus, BUT if not, cats get infection easy and can die very quickly from it, also the infection can be cured just as fast so if any sores with puss start to show, get him some antibiotics quickly! hope you had a great Turkey Day, other than the wild dogs, the wild dog packs are becoming more prevalent all over the USA, as times get worse more and more people are just turning there pets out, even horses and all sorts of animals are being let loose! allot end up starving to death! very sad! zeus is a pretty cat!

  17. Carbon dioxide is a perfectly satisfactory medium for LTS (long-term storage), and is what survivalists and missionaries used for years. Nitrogen is better, N2-pack is good for 20-25 years for most foods, while CO2-pack foods only retain their full nutritional value for about 7-12. {How long are you going to hide in that bunker, anyway?} Carbon dioxide’s big advantage is anyone can get ahold of a chunk of dry ice and some styrofoam plates (use a plate to insulate the dry ice so it doesn’t “burn” the food) on short notice, to do a “quick & dirty” batch of LTS beans, rice, or flour.

    One of my daughter’s favorite anime is Excel Saga… Don’t remember much about it, other than Excel had a pet/companion dog she referred to as: “My emergency food supply…”

    That said, while I don’t believe I could eat a pet, mine or anyone else’s, in a SHTF situ, I’d have no such issue with any feral critter. BTW, Mountain men considered “cat” to be the best eating there was…

    Feral dogs don’t run here very long before they breed with the local coyote population. The resulting “coy-dogs” are exceedingly dangerous, because they adopt the survival traits and skills of the coyote, but not its inherent fear of humans or man-smell. A lone coyote will likely never attack a human unless it is dying of hunger or the human is helpless. A coy-dog will, however, attack without hesitation, and is much more-likely to be running in a pack. If you are seeing dog packs, please make sure Messrs. Ruger and Taurus bring an extra meal or two when on forays…

  18. Why in the world don’t you have a large bottle of Amoxicillin sitting around? Your vet will give you a scrip for it. Cats die very quickly from wound infections so you’d better get yours to the vet soon, if you’re willing to pay a little. If you are not, you should not own a pet.

  19. Hi George,

    This is an important topic. Thanks for addressing it. My own beloved black cat died on Labor Day weekend. She was 17 or older and the kids found her as a kitten. She was very ill in May and miraculously survived, but was not quite the same. She was the last of the family pets and I loved her most of all, so she became mine after the kids grew and the wife left. She was named after an Egyptian goddess that can no longer be named due to the insanity in MENA. She was closer to me than any dog and slept with me every night with her body wrapped around my arm. I buried her on the property and it almost killed me to put her in the ground. I visit her grave daily if weather and schedule permit. I could never replace her but am open to another female feline, but first I need to find the right female human, and that may well require travel. Travel really doesn’t matter if you have a spouse that’s there for you. I know all the feelings that you mentioned here in spades, and sympathize with all.

    I do hope that Zeus recovers well. He’s up there in age, but cats do have nine lives, at least. Mine did, and she used all of them effectively. I really don’t like dogs, though I do recognize their place in the scheme of things.

    I totally agree with having a sidearm at all times when practical, especially away from the house, but a shotgun/rifle? That would be totally clumsy when trying to get real work done.

  20. My two housemates like to tussle and wrestle and chase. When they were younger, little Gracie got nipped on the butt, and I didn’t know it. It abscessed. Cost: $500. The vet explained to me that because a cat’s skin is so elastic, they can sustain a bite, the skin closes up, and the wound festers. That nip in the butt happened one more time and because I noticed, it was just a course of amoxycillin. Either Gracie has learned Rocky’s limits or they’re just older, but we no longer seem to have any serious spats.

  21. George – I think you should take Zeus to the vets immediately. As others have commented, cats can go down very quickly.

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