The subject of defining quality of life (QOL) for a cat came up at a visit to the veterinary clinic. It is now something I have to seriously think about. It coincided with my having read an article on QOL for humans with serious illness.
What Is Quality Of Life?
A Google search tells me that ‘quality of life’ is a noun. It refers to “the standard of health, comfort, and happiness experienced by an individual or group”. In other words, “the things that are needed for a good quality of life”.
Is QOL An Abstract Concept?
Recently I read an article ‘Cancer Professionals Need To Be Aware Quality Of Life Is An Abstract Concept For Many Patients‘. The article discusses a number of things including the conundrum of the terminally ill and the impact of chemotherapy, for example, on their QOL. It considers the choices that have to be made.
The thing I found most interesting was the debate about QOL which turns out to be an almost abstract concept. The article refers to the results of some research which found something interesting but not surprising. QOL “is interpreted or imagined in different ways by different people depending on their values, beliefs and world view.”
So if we were each asked to define QOL it is highly likely we would define it in different ways.
How Do You Define QOL For A Cat?
Another Urinary Infection for Malteser
All of this brings me to this morning’s visit to the veterinary clinic with Malteser. Regular readers of my blog will be aware of Malt’s heath issues. This includes the fact that he nearly died of a urinary blockage and was then found to have developed chronic asthma.
I had to take a urine sample with me today as Malt’s last blood test showed raised glycemic levels. Luckily the urine sample did not show anything to suggest that Malt had also developed diabetes but it did show a potential problem. An ultrasound showed Malt had another urine infection. Given his history, he is now on antibiotics and being kept confined indoors. That way we can keep an eye on him in case another blockage occurs. If you haven’t read my blog on the subject, a urinary blockage in a male cat can be a life threatening.
Defining QOL For Malteser?
Malt’s QOL came up in conversation with the vet. We were talking about how in the nice weather he sometimes disappears for a few days. If he did this now, it is bad news because of the regular medication he has to take, night and morning. The vet suggested that perhaps Malteser should become a house cat.
I was quite adamant that Malt would be thoroughly miserable being kept in all the time. At nine years old and always having had the ability to be in the house or go outside he would struggle with the confinement. (Note that in support of that argument, he is currently wailing in the other room and he has only been confined for less than a day so far!)
I asserted that this came down to Malt’s QOL. It was, I felt, better for Malt to carry on as he had always done (once this urinary infection is fixed).
A Decision Based On My Perception Of Malt’s QOL?
On the drive home I started to question myself on that assumption. I remembered what I read in the article about how nebulous the definition of QOL is between individuals. But this time I was making decisions based on my perception of what Malteser might consider QOL. If, indeed, a cat ever gave such a thing a moment’s thought.
Our Experience of Housebound Cats
Stevie Mouse and Emmy are house cats of course because of illness. Stevie’s eyesight is not so good so she is safer in the house. Emmy’s epilepsy and general strange behavior means she is kept in the house for her own safety. The difference here is that they were both kept in the house from when they were small kittens. They have adapted. And I guess Malteser would eventually.
Stung By Previous Experience
To be fair, my thinking was also influenced by a practical issue. With all the other animals in the household, including the two dogs, it would be nigh on impossible to keep him in the house if he really wanted to go out. There would be plenty of opportunities for him to sneak out while we weren’t looking.
Also if he knew he was not allowed out, once he got out he might not be so keen to return or to allow us to catch him. That is how we lost his gorgeous brother Giacomo, he developed a heart problem and sneaked out of the house when he was confined, never to be seen again. I guess I am still stung by that experience.
The Decision Requires More Thought
For now we have to get Malteser well again, or as well as he can be. And then consider seriously how to take things forward. Confinement to the house or carry on as usual and keep an eye on him are the two choices ahead of us. It is a decision that requires a lot more thought!
Update July 2021 – Soon after I wrote this blog Malteser was diagnosed with the beginnings of kidney failure. He had to switch to renal food and again we were advised to keep him indoors. But we chose to let him live his life as he wanted even if it meant he might not live so long. But he is still going strong! A bit slower, some confusion and a bit smelly at times as he doesn’t always wash as much as he should be he is still enjoying life to the full. The most recent check up even revealed an improvement in his kidney function. So whatever we are doing, we are doing the right thing!
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound, an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!