The Guilty Conscience of a Companion Animal Caregiver


Here’s June Buggie during a flare-up.

The medical term is Feline Herpes Virus, or FHV-1. My cats have it. That’s why you sometimes see photos of them with conjunctivitis and eye discharge.

And it’s a source of guilt for me as I care for them. You see, many cats carry the virus, but typically FHV-1 flairs up during periods of stress. And we all know whose fault it is when there’s a stressful environment in the home.


It’s my fault there’s too many cats living together in my home. I never should have taken them in. And who knew they’d live forever?

It’s my fault they’re not getting along with each other. If I were a GOOD caregiver, I’d hire a “professional” to come and train them, or subject myself to public humiliation by being on a show like Jackson Galaxy’s. I mean, nothing is too good for the cats. Right?

It’s my fault they’re overweight, so I chose to move from free feeding to feeding twice daily, and then to a lower calorie food. They don’t like having to wait for a meal, and that causes stress.

It’s my fault I don’t have them at the vet’s office every time they sneeze. Money should be no object.

The cats are  on L-lysine; it seems to help. I sprinkle it over their food daily. I have ointment for when there’s a flare-up. This past weekend was a vet run for an eye flare-up that wasn’t responding to the usual treatment.

And now comes the recurring bout of guilt. Oh how I wish I could be one of those perfect companion animal caregivers that I see out there. It would be so nice for once to not be this fallible, guilt-ridden soul.

50 thoughts on “The Guilty Conscience of a Companion Animal Caregiver

  1. Hey, stop feeling guilty. You have no need to at all. If you had not taken your beautiful cats in, what would have happened to them? You have given them a life, a home, loads and loads of love and you care very much for them. There is no such thing as a perfect companion animal caregiver, just millions of people loving and caring for their animals and doing the very best they can. Okay, they don’t always get on with each other – mine don’t but I know we love them very much and take care of them and make sure we do the very best for them that we possibly can. Let’s face it we all have human beings we don’t get on with or like, but we survive and cope.

  2. No one is perfect. If they’d not been taken in by you, they’d likely have been killed or euthanized years ago. A little stress is everywhere. Living on the streets or in a shelter is much more stressful. Perspective!

  3. You’re not alone. I love my dogs and give them the best possible care, but I know they get stressed every time I get stressed – which is often! The answer is simple – don’t get stressed – but I can’t seem to stop it happening.

  4. I think the “perfect companion animal caregiver” is more a vision than a real person. Nobody is perfect and you did so much good things for animals, there is no reason to feel guilty.

  5. First of all Jen, I feel your pain. Before my divorce, I had much more money to spend on vet visits. So now, I feel like a terrible parent, as money, school and job responsibilities, prevent me from going to the vet like I did in my previous life. Frankly, fewer vet visits seems to accompany the positive result of less feline stress.

    I loved all animals when I met my ex-husband, although due to a trauma inflicted upon my mother, I carried her discomfort of being near cats. However, I overcame my family legacy and grew to love cats. During my marriage, I was joyfully and gratefully mom to ten cats. all of whom I was crazy about.

    The largest “herd” we had at one time, was comprised of six cats, and that was for just two years. We also lived in a 6,000-square-foot house where the cats had free range to roam as they pleased, most of the time, and we had several rooms devoted to their needs and pleasure. So each cat had both personal space and community.

    When he left for his textbook mid-life crisis, my ex-spouse left me with his six cats. He directed me to have therm put down, that he was finished with them; our marriage had been a business deal and it was time to delete the assets and burdens. Obviously, I couldn’t do so. Instead I am doing the best I can, and my animal family comes first.

    We have lived in tiny rentals and now a small cindominium. I am stressed about money and my futureb and being alone at my age. Sometimes they are stressed, but we are better together than apart. I truly know that.

    Just like my family, you and your pet family, are better together than apart. You are better together, than apart because you care about and support each other. Living with you is better for your fur-family than being alone, afraid, hungry and without medical care. Being with you is better than living outside in extreme weather. Living with you is better than being at a subpar shelter.

    And yes, one of my cats had ocular herpes, triggered by stress; stress from his pet siblings, stress from me, and stress from allergies, for which we have no control.

    No matter what comes your way, you are all better bonded as a family rather than in what “The Blog of Otis” calls purgatory, or alone and afraid, or frightened in a a shelter or dead from being alone in the wilds, the suburbs, the city or the country.

    We are both creating a happy home and healthy family with our pets.

    Wishing you all great blessings.

    Your animal family is loved and happy and healthy. Animals don’t necessarily understand the complexities in vet medicak care, but the know you love them.

    My vet says when she dies she wants to come back as one of my cats because I treat them so well, both medicaly and in my interactions with them.

    I bet she’d like to be one of your pets as well.

  6. I think we all feel guilty at some point. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, if i lived in the ideal world my pets would not be ill, I would not have to work to support them and i could spend all day playing with them, walking them and showing them how much they mean to me. However, we live in the real world, so we struggle by best we can. Do not beat yourself up too much, yes maybe you shouldn’t have taken in all the cats but if you hadn’t where would they have ended up? perhaps in an ‘ideal world’ in a loving home, with servants catering to their every whim; but in reality a rescue taking up much needed funds? Wandering the streets as strays infecting other cats? Dead because the city council needed to clear a space?

    You are doing the best you can – give yourself a break!

  7. And it doesn’t help that some people are ready to recommend you be executed for not “doing everything you can”. B.S. It’s hard to compete with a world full of saints. I had a feline family of upwards of nine cats for two decades, more than six for three–the regular family were the ones who didn’t get adopted, the “upwards” part the ones who I pulled out of a bad situation until I found a home for them. Should I have repeatedly shoved Stanley away from my door? He lived to be 25 years old, and finally resolved his urinary issues in his teens. Should I have just taken Peaches and Cream to be killed because they were too old and no one wanted them? Cream had the chance to live her last 10 months here and Peaches lived five years and became one of my most precious art subjects.

    The list could go on. We do the best we can. The animals do the best they can. For most of that 30 years I was doing far better with my cats than most people by doing pretty much what you’re doing, now suddenly everyone else has discovered all these new and wonderful facts about diet and environment and everyone has to do everything. Now, after I spent all that time and money in rescuing, I’m holding at my Fantastic Five and not filling each corner of my house with a cat who needs a home–I’m letting everyone else take their turn, and I get it because I’m not pulling cats from death row, or fostering. No guilt for me. I’m semi-retired. You are doing what you can and your cats are overall fine. The reasonable person balances themselves in with the mix.

  8. Waaaaay too hard on yourself. Rumpy and all the cats know they wouldn’t have the lives they have now, were it not for you. In fact, there’s a better than good chance, they wouldn’t be alive at all. And they know it. Whether animal or Human, caregiving is an art – and it’s an art of compromise. In my life, I’ve had to give care to two people who died of AIDS. I’ve actually buried over 20 close friends and relatives, with that disease. But I personally had to care for 2. Professionals told me on more than one occasion, that I needed to “let go and let God.” That a Human being can only do so much for those in our care, and that attempting to do any more than that, or blaming oneself for not doing enough, merely destroys the caregiver, while providing no benefit to the receiver.

    You do the best you can – probably a good deal more than most – and the animals are aware of that. No Human being in your life – living or dead – will ever love you as much, or need you as profoundly as they do.

  9. Stop that right now!no more guilt!you have given them all a great home you love them and take of them better than most people would as for being pertfect…in a perfect world there would be no disease,pain or suffering,or bad people killing and hurt others animals and humans alike,but its not a perfect world and neither are humans just some of us try to do the best we can ,just like you do,xx Rachel

  10. We have four kittens here and sometimes my mom’s been worried if they are all happy to be here….but tries to think that if they were still out, they couldn’t have enough care….their life would have been much shorter…
    I think that you’ve done almost all what you can do for them, so you don’t have to worry….

  11. You need the perspective of what if there was no Jenn. Rumpy would be a stray or dead and so would the cats. Sounds like you all have won the lottery in a sense. Maybe no yachts or extra cash but lots of companionship. My cats are still adjusting to my last (unplanned) addition. Mostly good, occasional bashings but no one gets hurt. We’ve had a stray visiting which is making my old cat nuts. His response is to pee on the entry carpet to mark his territory. Thank God it’s washable.

  12. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent – pet parent or child’s parent. We all make mistakes, we all wish we had done something differently in retrospect. “If only” is every parent’s mantra – if only I hadn’t let Daisy jump up on chairs to sniff out the open windows, she wouldn’t have had such a serious leg injury. But I thought I was doing a good thing for her because it made her happy. If we could live in retrospect and do things differently, *maybe* we’d get closer to perfect. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’ve given these kitties a loving home and you’ve done the best you could and still are. Without you their lives would never have been this good.

  13. Sweetie, you saved them from a much worse fate. Yes, there are things you should do, but I bet you are doing more things right then wrong. My cat has allergies like I do so we both sniffle and suffer together. We do what we can with what we have.

  14. Perfect? Show me someone that fits that bill? If you’re guilty of the above things then my laundry list of what to be guilty for makes yours look saintly. We do our best and we do what we do in the moments we take action and it all balances. You’ve saved their lives and there’s no guarantee it would be stress free anywhere. For my money, and heart’s knowing, I’d trust you with any animal any time. ❤

  15. Meez vewy sowwy yous feel dis way. Cuz yous shuldn’t. You’s a GWEAT kitty pawent cuz yous luv and take cawe of yous kittys. Yous hav and had an altewnativ open tu yous tu kill dem. No mowe wowwies, no mowe spent munnys, no mowe feelin’ bad/guilty when deys flawe up. BUT yous didn’t du dat. And dat in and of itself makes yous a wunnewful and luvvin’ pawent. Meez vewy purroud of yous. Da mewe fact dat yous feel anyfin’ shows how much yous luv dem. And meez vewy sowwy dat dey’s hav these purrawlems in da fiwst place but meez finks deys got da bestest home in da univewse. Meez not seen any of those “purrfect” pet pawents dat yous talkin’ ’bout. Meez suwe der may be sum, and meez of couwse finks meez mommy is, but ders no such fing as da ppurrfect pawent. So take a bweevew and welax. Just enjoy da luv yous fuw babies giv yous. Meez be purrayin’ fuw all yous furmily.

    Luv and Hugs and Kitty Kisses ♥♥♥


  16. Your kind of guilt [not the murderer’s kind!] maybe what makes us better. There will always be ‘better’ ways of dealing with a problem, so your kind of guilt is ‘was it enough?’ or ‘did I do the proper treatment?’ or ‘too many cats living together in my home’ etc What really cures your friends is your love for them and that you give abundantly. Keep doing that and have faith that things will go better.

  17. No one is perfect!! We all just do the best we can. Perfection or attempts to again it is another stress. All of your pets/companions are lucky to have you never forget that.

  18. Guilt…such an insidious emotion. But you have to remember no life is perfect. That is what life is…imperfections. You don’t have to be perfect because you give them love, so much love. You give them shelter, you give them food and medicine. You do what you can when you can…that is all any of us can do.

  19. Please don’t feel that way. I am always feeling guilty that one of my cages is 20cm smaller than the recommended size for guinea pigs. I run them three times a day and the cage is usually open so they can roam but it doesn’t stop the guilt.

    We all just do the best we can and the best by our pets. You are doing the best you can, so don’t be so hard on yourself

    ~ Amy

  20. Is there a genuine animal care giver that does not have guilt..we all have it…the ones who do not feel guilt are the ones I worry about..we are human..we have limitations to cash…time….opportunity..every time I feel guilt hit me I try and focus on the things I do that make a better life for my pets…balance…don’t let guilt blind you..hugs Fozziemum

  21. I share your pain including the guilt. If we had enough money, it would be a lot easier to be perfect pet parents. To get specialists to deal with problems, to get teeth, grooming and vet visits at the first sign of something. But we don’t have enough money most of the time to get from the beginning of the month to the end and I can’t afford medications for myself if insurance doesn’t cover it. My furry companions by definition live with the same restrictions. That’s real life and I wish it was otherwise.

  22. If a cat’s truly not happy, or its living circumstances are untenable it will look for another home. I bet if you left the door open, none of them would leave you.

  23. Look at it this way. Had you not taken them in, they’d have had a far worse life than they have now. Who knows, many of them wouldn’t have lived this long. I am sure they are happy to be with you – they know that come whatever may, you’ll be there to take care of them and do for them what you can…and that’s what matters.

  24. I feel that right at this moment you are emotionally worn out Jen. When we’re worn out we get the ‘Oh let me beat myself up with the mental stick’ cycle going. Your animals are loved, cared for and safe. That my lovely, is a huge thing to do. The care givers you think you see out there, handle the same crap we all do, behind closed doors…tis a facade my lovely. You be you and carry on doing what you do and know that the fllowing love you pour out makes a huge difference. It is the smallest acts that carry the greatest love. Love yourself too, for you are special and loved. ❤ Xxx

  25. There is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. We all mess up somewhere along the way, and usually many times over. It’s part of being human. My lot occasionally turn into snarling banshees and I do wonder if some of them wouldn’t thrive more if they were only cats. But this is their life and I try to do my best. The same clearly goes for you.

  26. All eleven of us kitties are sending gentle loving purrs your way. We have a lot of the same situation here and OurGirl is very good at guilt. For better or for worse though, we wouldn’t trade what we have with OurPeople for even the fanciest bowl of cream! We love you and your furry family! Try to be kind to yourself. You’ve earned it. ❤

  27. I think this is a clear misdiagnose. Your only – but undeniably hard – problem is that you are exhausted, stressed and overstrained. I think you made a wise decision and should take seriously what you wrote in your previous blog entry. Try to build up yourself again, but slowly, stepwise. Don’t feel ashamed of doing things which give joy to you and help you calm down and relax – and do nothing else but this! You need this now – and you DESERVE a break, a rest so that you can REVIVE. You are of outstanding merit but not a god or a machine but a human being with nerves, body, and feelings.

  28. Whoooa — be kinder to yourself … you are a very conscientious caregiver/companion … your kiddos are well-loved and cared for … anyone who rescues more than one becomes seasoned in their care out of sheer necessity because funds are usually always limited.

  29. You’re being way too hard on yourself, Jen. I know you love your animals, and where would they be had you not taken them in? Seriously.

  30. It’s impossible to be perfect with sick pets. You just do the best you can, and love them! You are a great animal caregiver from everything I’ve read.

  31. Dear Jen: Throw the guilt out the window…it will only bring you down more. I think you are a FAB Mom to all the cats & sweet Rumpy! There is NO perfect human/care giver on WP or in the world. Trust me we all make mistakes. We all try to do our best. We do not always measure up to our WON standards. Funny thing tho’: Our 4 leggeds love us unconditionally. They are patient & kind. They love us just for loving them.
    My vet told me to buy Polysporin ointment, the plain ointment to use in cat’s eyes instead of the bPH ointment that costs a small fortune at the Vet’s. The L-Lysine works pretty well; have used it on Nylablue for her FHV. I also used to use CoEnzyme 10 in her food. Would get the capsules so I could put some of the powder in wet food.
    I hope you are feeling better. It is not easy caring for sick 4 leggeds.
    Been there;d oing that 😉
    Sherri-Ellen & Nylablue

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