Our cat Dobby has been sick. (It’s pronounced Dah-bee.) Like all cats, he is lazy, not Garfield lazy but normal-cat lazy. But in the last few weeks, he has been lounging around more than usual. So, we made an appointment at the vet.
His gums were white. His weight was down. His blood count low. Dobby was alarmingly anemic.
We were sent to Blacksburg. Eventually, the specialist called. Her voice was concerned but comforting. She was knowledgeable, compassionate, and determined. I appreciated her thoughtfulness and thoroughness.
But then she got to the bottom-line. She said, “The total cost for all these tests (which she called ‘The Gold Package’) including scans, bloodwork, transfusion, marrow sample, and medicine will be…$1500.” After an awkwardly long pause, I snapped out of my stupor and said, “Um….ok. Let me call you back.”
Sticker shock is supposed to come with cars, not cats. Or so I thought. Two possibilities shot through my mind. I asked myself, “If we spend that kind of money on a cat, are we being wise stewards caring for part of God’s creation, or are we being foolish spendthrifts, idolizing an animal?” I felt torn between the message of Genesis 1 and that of Romans 1.
It was not an easy decision.
The Animal Kingdom & The Political Kingdom
Talking about animal welfare sounds progressive and leftist to some. True, veganism and activism have gone together. Some have weaponized and politicized these extreme views. A few Darwinian purists have called for “animal liberation.” They not only want the closing of zoos and the recognition of animal rights but an official end to so-called “species-ism” which would erase the stigma of bestiality.
We hear some of these fringe movements (and sense their political motivations) and many Christians distance themselves from such environmentalist mumbo jumbo. But should we throw the cat out with the cat litter?
Church History & Animal Care
Prior to the twentieth century, the outspoken animal-care advocates of the world were largely found in the church. In the 1200s, Francis of Assisi, the Catholic saint of Ecology, called animals our “fellow creatures.” Many people know William Wilberforce as the British abolitionist, but he was also a founding member of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. His home was a menagerie of strays and mutts whom he cared for out of his own pocket. To these examples, we could add the words and works of John Wesley and CS Lewis.
Animal welfare has not just been by Catholics and Church of England-types. Even the Baptist, Charles Spurgeon, penned a blistering article against cruelty to animals entitled “A Word for Brutes Against Brutes.” And in 2015, there was published, “An Evangelical Statement on Responsible Care for Animals” which was co-crafted by a few Southern Baptists. (Find it at: www.everylivingthing.com)
Precedence is important. But Scripture is most important. So, what does the Bible say? For those who have pets, here is a faith framework for furry friends.
God cares for animals.
After creating animals on day six, God commented (before He made man) that “that it was good.” Animals were a valuable, beautiful part of His handiwork.
In Genesis 9, God preserved every species of life for repopulation. Noah became the first activist seeking to save endangered species (which was all animals.) Afterward, God re-established His covenant with “every living creature” (9:16).
Psalm 104:21 tells us that “the young lions roar…seek their food from God.” (See also 147:9). Jesus even said, “Look at the birds…your Father feeds them.” God exhibits His pastoral care for animals by creating, preserving, and feeding them.
Godly people care for animals.
Embedded in the Ten Commandments is not only a call for the weekly rest of men and women but also for “cattle” and animals. (Ex 20:10). Did you know that working animals also got Old Testament holidays off too? (Deut 5:12-15, Lev 25:2-7)
God also expected them to be rewarded. Deut 25:4 says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” The animal that worked should be fed.
Animal care was not just a matter of law, but also of wisdom. Proverbs 12:10 clearly states, “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal.” Taking care of four-legged creatures was part of how God’s people showed God’s character.
Ungodly people glorify animals.
Animals are important but not all-important. We were given “dominion” over them – both in terms of rank and responsibility. But sinful men do sinful things. Romans 1 talks about how many disbelieve in God but put their hope in idols shaped like “birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” (1:23) Such people “worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.” A view of animals that puts them on part with humans, or above, is offensive to God and must be rejected.
Stewardship requires us to think and act wisely.
Animals are a gift. Like all gifts, they should be cherished. They should not be abused or neglected. However, they should also not be pampered or overindulged. There’s no Bible budget for how much to spend at the vet – but how we spend our money shows what we believe about pets and God. Different people will have different levels of ability – but all should weigh the issues. Budget and spend wisely.
If you’re thinking about getting a pet, consider a few Bible-based questions:
- Can you, as a steward, afford the up-front and ongoing cost? (Roughly $200/year).
- Will you, like God, provide for and care for it daily – feeding, watering, and cleaning it?
- Do you love pets too much – treating them as equals to people?
If you are curious, we did not purchase the Gold Package for Dobby. We talked it over with the vet and came up with a solid treatment plan which, we felt, was humane and affordable. We hope it works and that Dobby will be back to his old lazy self soon.