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,

George@ure.net

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