News about Lydia


Lydia on back of sofa

Hi, folks. If you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging much in the last few weeks. There are a number of reasons for this — an intense travel/ speaking tour schedule, the Head Cold of Despair and Disillusionment that flattened me last week — but one of the main reasons is that we’ve been dealing with a medical situation with our cat, Lydia. I wanted to fill you all in about it, and try to give a sense of how it’s likely to affect my blogging in the coming weeks.

A few weeks ago, our cat Lydia was diagnosed with cancer. We didn’t know at first whether the cancer was fast- growing or slow-growing, so we held off on telling all but a few people about it until we had more information and a more accurate prognosis. It now looks like it’s probably the slower form of cancer, and it looks like there’s a decent chance that it’s treatable. But the cancer is being complicated by additional medical problems she’s having with her appetite and digestion. We’ve had to put the cancer treatment on hold for the most part until we can get her digestive problems under control, and it’s looking like the digestive problems may require surgery.

Dealing with this is taking a fair amount of our time, as well as a fair amount of our mental and emotional energy (particularly of the “having to make difficult decisions with limited information” variety). This is even more the case since our other cat, Violet, also has an ongoing medical condition: she’s in good health for a cat of her age, but she needs meds and a special diet, so she and Lydia now have to be fed separately, which makes feeding time at the zoo rather complicated. And we’ve had a number of “having to drop everything and rush Lydia to the veterinary emergency room” situations in the past few weeks: we hope we’re done with those for a while, but of course we can’t know that for sure.

The upshot is that… well, that this is taking a fair amount of my time, and a fair amount of my mental and emotional energy. Plus I still have my day job, speaking engagements to prepare for, something resembling a life to lead, and so on. So in the next few weeks, I may not be blogging as often as I normally do, and I may have to interrupt my schedule (including the Atheist Meme of the Day schedule) without much warning. Please accept my apologies. I’ll be back on track as soon soon as I can. And please send Lydia your prayers healing white light best wishes for a speedy recovery. We’ll pass them on to her in the form of chin skritches and belly rubs. Thanks.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m sorry to hear about this- many chin skritches for her from me, and I really do hope that her conditions are treatable and that the treatments themselves aren’t too awful for her.

  2. says

    My kitty is getting old, too–sympathy, sympathy! O-Daiji ni nasatte, kudasai! Nice tea and bed rest for you, and chin scratches and ear rubbies for Lydia and Violet.

  3. Maria says

    I sympathise! My cat is 19 and a half years old. She’s been healthy until now, but you can really tell her age now :-(
    I hope Lydia will be all right! Dealing with a loved one’s illness is hard, no matter what!

  4. Jennifer says

    My best wishes to Lydia! My little cat is now a 2 year survivor after being treated for Fibrosarcoma…I know how tough it is!

  5. Thegoodman says

    I am not trying to be donnie downer here, but I don’t get it.
    Why do we care about our pets? Isn’t believing that your pet loves you and cares about you just a form of denialism?
    If someone truly practices skepticism, shouldn’t this include their “relationship” to the animal that is confined in their home. Those pets only care that you exist because you make their lives more comfortable. Loyalty is a trait that is bred into them, not a real emotional connection.
    Don’t misread what I am saying, its unfortunate that Greta has a sick cat and I don’t wish the creature any harm. However, I don’t understand why or how a person as intelligent and skeptical as she cannot see that her emotional attachment to the animal is a form of denialism.

  6. Maria says

    Why do we care about our pets? Isn’t believing that your pet loves you and cares about you just a form of denialism?
    Why does caring about something have to include it/they caring back in the exact same manner? I don’t have any illusions at all about my cats, but I care about them anyway. If you have a baby, the baby won’t care about you either very early on, it isn’t capable of that in his/hers first stages of development. You think the parents will therefore not care for, and love their child?
    It might be an evolutionary thing which makes us care for animals (the same trait that will make us take care of our offspring, “misfiring” if you will) I don’t have enough knowledge to say for sure, but I don’t think that all pet owners have an illusion that their pets “loves” them in a human sense of the word, and I don’t think that that is even required, for us to care for, and about them.
    Some people love their cars so much they would cry at the smallest scratch, you think those people are in denialism about that their cars have a connection with them? ‘How can you love that car so much? Don’t you know it has no feelings and can’t love you back?’ That’s not a valid question. They of course know that cars are inanimate objects that can’t love them back. But they are still very attached to that particular car, and would be very sad if it got stolen or wrecked!

  7. Thegoodman says

    Maria,
    I do think most people believe their pets love them back. I would also bet that most people consider an inanimate object like a car entirely different than a pet. You lumped them both into the same category. Cars are appreciated for a number of things; appreciation of their engineering, their beauty, their pricetag, etc. Pets similarly can be appreciated for the ingenuity of their selective breeding, their beauty, and their pricetag. However; these are usually secondary to pet owners. Because they “just love them”. That inexplicable love only exists elsewhere with family members.
    We take care of our offspring because it is our responsibility. Some parents shirk this responsibility. Most do not. We wish for our kids to carry on our genes, so from an evolutionary standpoint, it behooves us to love and care for our children.
    That is exactly my point. Treating a pet as if it were a child is denialism. It is creating a situation where that pet fills the role of a child and denying the uncomfortable truth that you do not have children. You care for it and raise it and have an emotional attachment for its well being.
    My question is why would a person allow this themselves to continue if they were truly skeptical of their lives?

  8. Jim H says

    @thegoodman: I am not a cat person. That said, a cat makes friends with its person, and that friendship is for life (the cat’s, usually). (the same fir dogs, though dogs are more expressive about it.).
    The relationship is two-way; even if it’s only half human, it’s still human. And even though losing a beloved pet isn’t the same as losing a human friend/relative, it’s still losing a friend. Please don’t diminish it.
    @Greta: best wishes for you and Ingrid and your four-legged friends.

  9. Jim H says

    If i’m going to make a typo in a post about cats (or dogs), it should have been, “the same fur dogs.” D’oh!

  10. Nurse Ingrid says

    @thegoodman:
    “Treating a pet as if it were a child is denialism.”
    Jesus tapdancing Christ, what a ray of sunshine you must be to the people in your life. This is how you talk to someone who is going through a painful experience?
    Lydia is not our child. She is our pet, and we treat her as our pet. Yes, she is an animal. So are we. We are a social species, and so are felines. What in Greta’s post suggests that we are in “denial” about any of those facts? We care about our pets because, unlike you, we are capable of empathy.

  11. MaryL says

    Denialism of what? We form emotional attachments to our pets; usually with the full knowledge that the pet is not a human being. But why would anyone think that mammls other than humans are incapable of emotions? Their “love’ for us is unlikely to be exactly like our “love’ for them but caring bonds do form. K-9’s have put themselves between their human partners and suspects/criminals, deliberately shielding their partners from harm. One such dog here recently took a bullet and died. He was only protecting his meal ticket?! As each of my parents neared the end of their lives, our cat spent more time with each of them; almost ignoring me. And I have fed him, brushed him, played with him and cleaned the litter box from the day we brought him home. They just petted and played with him.
    The two German Shepherds that shared 20 years with us had very clear, strong emotional ties to each of us; this was backed up by their vet. In this, I’ll trust what the doctor said.

  12. Nurse Ingrid says

    Thanks to Maria, Jim H, Mary L, and all of you who sent us your kind words and good wishes. It really means a lot. Greta and I will give Lydia a big skritch from all of her Internet friends tonight.

  13. Maria says

    I do think most people believe their pets love them back.
    I have never denied that there are people like that. But that most people would think that… No, I don’t agree with that. I’ve never heard a snake owner, for example, say they think their boa constrictor love them, and they are so good at hugging and all. Pets comes in all variants, you know, with very responsible and dedicated owners, that have no illusions about their lizzards, tarantulas, pythons and rats. But maybe you are only talking of dog owners dressing their dogs in babyt clothes and “crazy cat ladies”?
    You assume Greta is such a person without anything indicating that that is the case. I am not such a person, and there are sure more than me. I do not think my animals love me back in any human sense of the word. Why would I? And why would that knowledge make me careless and cold about them?
    I would also bet that most people consider an inanimate object like a car entirely different than a pet. You lumped them both into the same category.
    Of course most would. That was not meant to be put in the same category of feelings (though I do think some people love objects more than could be considered rational). That was just an exaggerated example of that attachment does in fact not require that the object of affection show the same feelings back. That it is in fact possible to be very attached to things that doesn’t even have feelings. That being attached to something that does have feelings, such as animals, is then not strange. Such feelings does not necessarily require that they show human feelings. And showing such attachment does not necessarily mean that the person holding these affections are deluding themselves into believing that the object of affection are capable of fully human feelings. I didn’t compare cars with pets. I tried to show that just as car owners realize cars are inanimate objects, many pet owners actually do realize that their pets are animals. What I meant was that just as you probably wouldn’t assume that someone who is very attached to their car don’t see and understand this, you shouldn’t assume pet owners attached to their pets don’t see and understand this.
    We take care of our offspring because it is our responsibility.
    You really think that is the actual reason… for the human? That is the “evolutionary reason”, yes, but that is actually not something that human feelings know or care about. If it were so, then evolution would not have formed an actual attachment process for us that create feelings, it would have just relied on human’s rationalizing that it is the best for the survival of genes. It is rational, but that’s not mainly why we do it, or why we feel attachment to a baby even though it can’t reciprocate at first (and that was also only meant as an example at something that refutes your assumption that caring for something means we think it feels the same back). Falling in love is “evolution’s way” of passing on our genes too, but people don’t rationally calculate to fall in love. We can however rationally understand why we fall in love, and don’t have to be deluded about that, or think that it is an outside force of some kind, or shit like that.
    Besides I never said that caring for pets is rational. In a strict sense it might no be. What I argued against was that it is also always denialism and self-delusional. How can it be if I am aware of why and how I feel things, that it is evolutionary “misfirings” that causes it, and I don’t actually even for a second believes that my cats “loves me” or that they are not humans, but cats? My behavior might be irrational – but not self-delusional.
    I saw nothing in Greta’s post that indicates she actually thinks cats are human and have human feelings in the same way that we do. I saw only that she cared about an animal. Is it irrational of her to do this? Possibly. Is it to be in denial and self-delusional. Possibly too, but there’s nothing to indicate that, and I saw no reason for you to assume it right off the bat!
    That is exactly my point. Treating a pet as if it were a child is denialism.
    There is a lot of these “evolutionary misfirings”, that one of them might make you care for animals, doesn’t actually mean that you think it is a child. That is a really weird thing to say. Of course there are nutty people everywhere, but, really… Also, you do realize that not all people want children? I don’t want children, I have many children around me though, and they are nothing like my cats in any way. If I wanted to have kids, uh… cats wouldn’t do. I like cats partly because I don’t have to look after them 24/7 – a baby would make me crazy!!!
    Besides, a lot of people who do have children ALSO like animals very much. You’d think as soon as they got real kids animals would stop meaning anything to them at all then? Clearly it wasn’t a substitute. Or maybe a woman with three kids and two cats, really wants five kids, but she’s just being in denial about it?
    My question is why would a person allow this themselves to continue if they were truly skeptical of their lives?
    Why do you think this is the case with Greta? I see nothing that indicates it.
    I don’t really see how pet owning in itself, disregarding nutty people, is incompatiable with skepticism.

  14. Maria says

    As each of my parents neared the end of their lives, our cat spent more time with each of them; almost ignoring me. And I have fed him, brushed him, played with him and cleaned the litter box from the day we brought him home. They just petted and played with him.
    I’ve seen this many times too. Cats do seem to choose individual people, and it doesn’t at all have to be the one who provides the food.
    Cats are different animals than the human animal, and doesn’t have the same kind of feelings, or motivations or behavior, and most people who have pets actually do see and understand that very well, but that social mammals would only be some kind of machines who only go where the food trail points, is not correct, no. You are right. Animal behaviour (human or others) is more complex than that.

  15. says

    @thegoodman: I’m not quite sure what your point is. (Or why you’ve decided that this is an appropriate forum for making it… but that’s another point, which I’ll get to in a moment.)
    Are you arguing that non-human animals don’t feel emotion? If so, the evidence is against you. All the evidence, from behavior to brain anatomy and neurology, overwhelmingly suggests that many/most (if not all) non-human animals do feel emotion: fear, pleasure, etc.
    Are you arguing that non-human animals don’t feel emotional attachment? If so, then again, the evidence is against you. All the evidence, from behavior to brain anatomy and neurology, overwhelmingly suggests that many/most non-human animals do feel emotions of social attachment: they care intensely for their young, experience familial bonding, bond with their mates, have social ties in social species, etc. In fact, many people who study animals think that the emotions pets have towards their human caretakers mimic these naturally evolved social emotions: dogs treat their caretakers as if they were the alpha dog, cats treat their caretakers as if they were their mothers, parrots treat their caretakers as if they were their mates, etc. And many non-human animals even show signs of “advanced” social emotions, such as ethics and altruism. (Although probably not cats so much…)
    Are you arguing that the emotions of non-human animals are simply an evolved response, coming solely from natural and human-bred selection? If so — duh. Yes, I know that. So what? How does that make them different from people? Human emotions are also an evolved response, part of millions of years of evolution as (a) a social species and (b) a species that raises its young for an extended period of dependency. That doesn’t make those emotions not real.
    Are you arguing that pets’ emotions towards their caretakers are different from human emotions towards other humans, or different from human emotions towards our pets? If so, then once again — duh. Yes, I know that. And once again — so what? The strangeness and alien-ness of our cats is actually one of the things we find most valuable and entertaining about them. And we’re aware that cats are the least naturally social of all domesticated animals, and that their affection for us is largely self-interested. We don’t have a problem with that. In fact, there’s something kind of refreshing about it. As Ingrid often points out: If a cat is hanging out with you, you know it’s because they really want to be there. Unlike, say, dogs, cats will just wander off if they lose interest in you. If they’re on your lap, it’s because they like you. Whatever that means to them. And, as Ingrid also points out, there is value in having a relationship where the communication takes place mostly by touch. The fact that our pets’ emotions are different from ours doesn’t make those emotions not real.
    I fail to see the denialism in my relationship with my cats. I am aware of their limitations and their differences. I value them nevertheless.
    And finally:
    What on earth made you think this was an appropriate time and place to make this argument?
    I have friends and family who are religious believers. When they’re going through a difficult time, when they’re dealing with illness or death or other stress, I don’t use that time to make my arguments for atheism. If they ask for people’s prayers or say they think they’ll see their loved ones in the afterlife, I don’t say, “Actually, an overwhelming body of evidence suggests that prayer is entirely ineffective and that consciousness has no way of surviving death.” I say things like, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. Please know that you’re in my thoughts. If there’s anything I can do to help, please don’t hesitate to let me know.” I don’t lie — but I know when to keep my mouth shut.
    A skill you might endeavor to learn.
    You have successfully taken a thread that was about the expression of anxiety and intense emotional upset, and other people’s expressions of compassion and empathy… and hijacked it into an opportunity for you to grind your personal axe, at the expense of other people’s pain.
    I have never before banned someone from my blog for simple one-time douchebaggery. Congratulations. You’re the first. I am not interested in the opinions of anyone with so little in the way of basic human compassion and empathy. Please go fuck yourself. Thank you.

  16. says

    And to everyone who expressed their compassion and empathy: Thank you so much. The kind thoughts and affection of this community means a great deal to both of us. Lydia will be getting a mega-dose of belly rubs and skritching tonight, courtesy of her Internet fans!

  17. says

    I’m sorry to hear about Lydia’s illness.
    Along with the skritching and belly-rubs, I understand that “medical catnip” is good for cats too.
    And you don’t need to go to a special “veterinarian” to get the “medical catnip” prescription than can only be filled by special dispensaries. THis treatment is available at the local pet store.

  18. LoSiento says

    I am very sorry to have been so offensive. It was not my intention. I love your blog and will continue to read it.
    -Thegoodman

  19. Nurse Ingrid says

    Steve, I was wondering about that!! Does it give them the munchies? She could use an appetite stimulant. I’m going to try it tonight!

  20. says

    Ingrid,
    With our 14 year old cat who is FIV-positive, an occasional bit of catnip improves his energy level. I don’t know if it gives him the munchies though.
    I’m guessing that it wouldn’t hurt to try a little catnip with Lydia (assuming that Lydia was OK with catnip before getting sick and not allergic etc to it).
    A bit of tuna fish from time to time helps as well with lagging appetites. It distracts our sick cat from wanting to go outside (which he can’t because he’s infectious to other cats).
    We had a cat back in the 1980s before the feline leukemia vaccine came along. When he was sick with feline leukemia and had very little appetite, we used tuna and the pureed meat baby foods from the supermarket as treats for him because they were easier to eat than the regular cat foods.
    Take care.

  21. vel says

    having six cats and two who ended up costing about $1500 each thanks to medical issues(cat blood transfusions and a bit of replumbing for the one male), I wish you the best(and a little contribution to the cause). We accept them into our lives and we care about them and they care about us. Many is the time I’ve had a kitty go out of its way to curl up with me when I’m hurting. I’ve found that kitties who aren’t that interested in food sometimes perk up if you heat it just a bit. Seems to get the aromas going better.
    And now-banned-jerk, I suspect that you were just one more theist who tried to make skeptics into nihilistic idiots so you can feel better.

  22. Nancy says

    Wow Greta. Seems you have lost your mind, actually banning someone for a singular comment, simply because it seems to have overwhelmed your emotional brain pan re: your cat.
    I agree pretty much everything thegoodman wrote. Your cats don’t “love” YOU or INGRID. Give them to a friend and watch as they completely FORGET that both of you existed as they attach themselves to their new owners.
    Seems you and Ingrid have much love to give and have chosen to give that love to members of the animal kindgom.
    It’s just that people like thegoodman and myself just don’t get the “intense emotional upset” which arises from a sick pet. (And, fyi, I have 2 dogs.) I suspect there are other readers of your blog who feel the same way but chose to remain silent since any comment re: their concern with your sick cat would not sound authentic.
    Rest assured, we ARE compassionate people (at least I consider myself to be) but, we cringe a bit when we run into people whom treat their pets as though they are human.
    My “basic human compassion” is saved for the humans in my life; my husband, 6 children and my enormous extended family. I just don’t have the energy to work up that same compassion for my pets.
    I just want thegoodman to know that there ARE others whom feel as he does.

  23. Maria says

    Your cats don’t “love” YOU or INGRID.
    And here we go again…
    Have I accidentally stumbled onto the comment section at AlterNet??

  24. says

    WTF? Did something get into the water this week and spread a virulent case of Compassion Deficit Disorder?
    Nancy: I have already addressed the arguments you make about the relationships between human and non-human animals, in my reply to Thegoodman. I’m not going to get into them again, except to point out that your arguments are a classic case of “all or nothing” thinking. What you’re saying is that, because the affection and attachment non-human animals feel for humans is different from what human animals feel for other humans, it’s therefore either trivial or non-existent… and that, because the affection and attachment humans feel for non-human animals is different from what human animals feel for one another, it’s therefore either trivial or deluded. The feelings are different, therefore they either don’t exist or don’t matter. It’s all- or- nothing thinking. And it’s an absurd argument.
    And I’ve already explained why I consider it grotesquely inappropriate to use someone’s expression of emotional distress, and their call for compassion and empathy, as an opportunity to grind one’s personal axe, regardless of the pain it’s likely to cause. I’ve explained the principle of there being appropriate times and places for these kinds of debates, and appropriate times and places to keep one’s mouth shut. I’ve explained about the concepts of empathy and compassion, versus rubbing salt in people’s wounds. I’m not going to go into those points again.
    The new point I’m going to make here is that you were warned. You knew that I considered my post on my pet’s health problems, and my expressions of anxiety and distress over it, to be an inappropriate forum for a cold-blooded discussion of whether human-pet relationships are trivial and deluded. You knew that I considered it to be insensitive at best, callous and cruel at worst. You pursued it anyway. Making your actions even more indefensible than Thegoodman’s.
    Thegoodman has, in fact, very graciously apologized to me in private email: I have accepted his apology, and have taken him off the Banned list. Which means that the position of Banned From This Blog For One-Time Douchebaggery now belongs solely to you. Congratulations. Now, please go fuck yourself.

  25. says

    I’m sorry, Greta – both for Lydia’s health and for the assholes in this thread (although at least the assholes are easy to deal with). All my best wishes to her and to you!

  26. AnneS says

    I am sorry about your cat and the sudden influx of jerkery! I have been there (er, in regards to the sick cat, not the unhelpful comments) and hope Lydia’s situation improves soon.
    It is always worth celebrating the human ability to form emotional bonds with non-human animals. Even someone who has never had a social connection with an animal themselves should see that this has been immensely beneficial for human civilisations over the past 12,000 years or so. The ‘misfiring’ of our capacity for affection has produced excellent results since we started befriending wolves.

  27. Jan says

    Sorry about your pet and wishing a full recovery and sending a belly rub!
    I’m a dog person (we foster for welfare) and I dont care about ‘love’ its an entirely human thing. So long as I do the love and the pets are happy and healthy as we can make them, thats perfect! Love is about caring and appreciating anyway, as Greta and Ingrid show in the care of their cats!

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