Of Cats and Kidneys

A news photo caught my eye last week. Four Pakistani men are holding up their shirts, displaying long surgical scars. The caption explained they had each sold a kidney to a “transplant tourist.” Transplant tourists are patients who journey abroad in search of affordable bodily organs. Kidneys are among the most popular human commodities. Payments to impoverished donors reportedly range from a high of around $10,000 in Brazil to a low of $1300 paid by the Iranian government.
While the wretched of the earth are submitting themselves to major surgery, the cats of America are enjoying health care benefits most of our planet’s six billion-plus people can only dream of.
If you doubt me, check out “VeterinaryPartner.Com,” where we are told, “Kidney transplantation is something everyone has heard of for human patients but hasn’t really thought about for pets. It turns out that organ transplants are not very available for our pets; however, there is a notable exception and that is in kidney transplantation for cats.”
This article goes on to list the screening required to determine if your kitty is a good candidate for a kidney transplant: blood tests; urinalysis; urine culture; feline leukemia virus screen; ultrasound examination of the heart; screening for taxoplasmosis; blood typing, and (no kidding) teeth cleaning.
These people seem to be serious. No wonder… we Americans, while tolerating lack of health insurance for about 15% of our human population, spend billions caring for our pets. I even found a support site for cat owners facing the trauma of kitty’s kidney transplant. “The shock of the initial diagnosis is where the emotional roller coaster ride begins. The first priority must be to overcome feelings of hopelessness, anger, sadness, helplessness and fear so that you can assist your cat.” http://www.felinecrf.com/transf.htm
Listen here. I like our dog. Just the same — and please don’t tell him this (he can’t read) — if his kidneys kick, he’s not going on any transplant list. If that seems hard-hearted to you, let me provide a bit of perspective.
When I was a boy, growing up in Pennsylvania’s hard-coal country, people mostly were fairly poor. Lower-middle class and blue-collar are the class labels that come to mind. Many supplemented their larders with wild game. Beagles and hounds were the canines of choice. Cats were kept around to kill mice. When these “pets” could no longer do their jobs, they were put down. They were expected to earn their keep.
Middle class affluence has bred a batch of disproportionate behaviors. The Hummer is one… great for patrolling Baghdad, but a hazard on an interstate highway. Fast food is another… super-size me, baby!
Our weird passion for our pets is yet another. Kidney transplants for felines is only the most outrageous example of the practice of veterinary medicine in America today.
Someday, however, animals may repay us for our extravagant generosity to them. According to Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin of the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “the recent development of genetically modified pigs that are more compatible with humans, has reinstated hope for the success of xenotransplantation,” i.e., transplanting from one species to another.
A great idea, given that “transplant tourists” are mostly folks who are likely to die before their names come to the top of waiting lists in their home countries. They’re not out to exploit impoverished donors. They’re just trying to stay alive.
I only hope the trend never runs the other way. Given how goofy we’ve become about our pets, will the next news be that somebody’s pit bull just received a human organ?


2 Responses to “Of Cats and Kidneys”

  1. that’s why it will never wor. Ondrej Manisha.

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