Cats, snakes and emotional impact

In the comments on my last photo of Maya, Mike offered his condolences on our loss, to which he could relate, having had to put a cat down last year. But, he wrote,

It wasn’t quite the same when one of my corn snakes died after clutching though. How do you find it emotionally when one of the garters kicks off, or have you been fortunate enough to avoid that?

Regular readers of this blog — all six of you — will know, of course, that I’ve had more than a few garter snakes expire on me. Here’s what I wrote back:

I agree that it’s not quite the same (much as I’d like to pretend otherwise), but it was still a bit wrenching when a garter snake I’ve kept for years dies after a protracted illness, which has happened at least three times: to my female red-sided garter, who died of a liver tumour; to my male wandering garter, who died of a worm infestation; and to one of my Butler’s garters, who died from eggbinding.

I’m attached to all my animals, even the ones with little or no social interaction (i.e., the reptiles). But while I have to admit that there is a stronger emotional bond with a cat than, say, a corn snake, I’m still affected when I lose a reptile. Even if I’m not affected as much.

Either way, I feel a strong sense of responsibility: if I’m going to keep animals — especially exotic, wild animals — in captivity, I have a duty to ensure their health and, inasmuch as their little reptile brains can comprehend it, their happiness. When they die, I feel as though I’ve fucked up, even if they’re dead from natural causes or old age.