Euthanasia: To Be With Your Cat, or Not?

Buckley in front of the maple tree

Making a decision about whether or when the time is right for euthanasia is one of the hardest things cat guardians will ever go through. I’ve previously written about what can help a cat guardian make this difficult decision. But once you have made the decision, there are still more things to consider.

One is location. I am a firm advocate of in home euthanasia. I’m always surprised when I hear from my readers that, until they read Buckley’s Story, they had no idea that having a pet euthanized at home was even an option. There are few veterinarians who offer home euthanasia. Those that do generally don’t advertise the fact, but some will come to your home when asked. Housecall veterinarians can be a good option for in home euthanasias. The In Home Pet Euthanasia Directory can help you locate a veterinarian who performs in home euthanasia in your area.

Another decision you will need to make is whether you want to be with your cat during the euthanasia, or whether you simply can’t bear to see the final moment of your beloved cat’s passing. This is a highly personal decision, and there is no right or wrong answer. I have been fortunate that I have been able to be with all of my cats at the end. They all died in my arms, and I can’t imagine not having been with them during those final moments. But I also understand why a cat guardian wouldn’t want to be present.

I believe that knowing what to expect during a euthanasia can help cat guardians decide whether they want to be present, or whether they would rather say their good byes before the vet gives the final injection.

What happens during euthanasia

If a euthanasia is done the right way, it can be a a peaceful, and sometimes even beautiful, experience. Unfortunately, not all vets are good at this task, and there is nothing more upsetting for a cat guardian than to have a beloved cat’s final moments be a struggle rather than the gentle death it should be.

For most cats, going to the vet’s is a stressful experience, which is yet another reason why I advocate for in home euthanasias. However, regardless of whether the euthanasia is performed in your home or at your vet’s office, it is helpful to understand what happens during euthanasia.

Normally, the euthanasia solution is injected into a leg vein, often through a catheter that is placed in the vein. This requires that the cat be restrained, and for most cats, this will be stressful. In order to facilitate placement of a catheter, the veterinarian should first give a sedative injection subcutaneously (under the skin.) Most cats will tolerate that type of injection better than an intravenous one. The sedative will allow the cat to quietly fall asleep. Once the cat is asleep, the veterinarian will give the final injection into a leg vein. However, depending on the cat’s condition at that stage, finding a viable leg vein may be difficult, and sometimes, the final injection is giving into the abdomen or heart. This is not painful for the cat. With abdominal injections, it can take up to 20 minutes for the cat’s heart to stop beating. Heart injections stop the heart almost immediately.

Once the final injection is given, the cat will usually take a deeper than normal breath, and,typically within six to twelve seconds, go limp and into what looks like a deep sleep. Your cat’s veterinarian will place his stethoscope on your cat’s heart to verify that the cat’s heart has stopped. In some cases, you may see what is known as “agonal breathing,” a series of sudden, convulsive breaths. This can be very disturbing to witness, but your cat is already unconscious at that point, and will not feel any pain.

What happens after euthanasia

Arrangements for your cat’s body should be made prior to the euthanasia. Regardless of whether you choose burial or cremation, if you’ve chosen to be with your cat during euthanasia, make sure that your veterinarian allows you plenty of time to be with your cat’s body so you can say your final good-bye at your own pace.

Being aware of what happens to the body physically after death can help make this time a peaceful rather than distressing experience. Unless your veterinarian closed your cat’s eyes immediately after she died, her eyes may remain open. Body fluids and gas may leak out, so be prepared if you want to hold your cat, and wrap her in a blanket or towel. Blood tinted fluid may leak from your cat’s nose or mouth. Your cat’s body will gradually become colder and stiffer.

During my years of working in veterinary clinics. I’ve heard far more people say they regretted not being with their pet during her final moments, than people who were present but wished they had not been.

That being said, this is a deeply personal decision. Only you can know what’s right for you and your cat, and nobody should judge you for the choice you made. In the end, all that matters is that your cat knows she was loved by your throughout her life.

70 Comments on Euthanasia: To Be With Your Cat, or Not?

  1. Maria Taylor
    April 28, 2016 at 5:02 pm (9 months ago)

    Thank you Ingrid for this entire blog but mostly for this particular one. I have such intense, gut wrenching guilt about the day my Phantom was euthanized that I still have days that I am unable to do much of anything but sob and she’s been gone for almost 10 years now. She had, unbeknownst to me, been having “little” strokes for about 2 months. (There were always in her sleep so I truly didn’t know they were happening and she didn’t seem any different.) But the final one paralyzed her head and we knew it was time. My husband WAS with her, I couldn’t take it. She was MY baby, she came into my life at a difficult time and came all the way home to Ohio from California with me after my separation. She flew on the plane, in the cabin, in her carrier which I insisted I would MAKE fit, period. I feel so much that I let her down and I can only hope that she will forgive me and still meet me at the Rainbow Bridge one day. I have promised my current fur baby Smudge, I will not leave her side, even if it comes that that day. Thank you for sharing what happens and that you can at least ask for a home visit. It’s still so difficult but I won’t break this promise.

    Reply
  2. Kathie
    April 28, 2016 at 1:14 pm (9 months ago)

    No one wants to be there to watch it and I certainly did not. However, I couldn’t imagine leaving my cat in a room with strangers to be put down. I felt I owed it to him to be strong and be there with him at the end. He was scared enough and like most vet offices, he could hear barking dogs which always upset him (probably from his times being in a shelter). I still can’t think about the whole situation without feeling intense guilt, grief and despair. I chose to have him sedated which I thought meant he would go to sleep first, but he never fell asleep. I felt rushed as it was a last minute decision (after he’d been ill for some time and just wasn’t getting better) and the vet’s office was closing for the day. The staff tried to be nice, but you could tell they just wanted to close up and go home for the day. He yelped and then his eyes were like watching a light switch go off. It’s a horrible experience and every time I think about it, I feel so much guilt. I wish I had taken him to a different vet and the whole experience had been handled better, not just for me but for him as well. I learned a lot of lessons from that experience, unfortunately. I have found a different vet for my remaining cats and I will never let that happen again.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 28, 2016 at 4:18 pm (9 months ago)

      I’m so sorry you had such a bad experience, Kathie. I hope eventually these memories will fade. And I’m glad that you found a different vet.

      Reply
    • M.
      December 12, 2016 at 6:14 pm (1 month ago)

      Hi Kathie,
      Just wanted to say that I was searching for someone who had had a similar experience in putting their pet to sleep under rushed circumstances, and then I read your post which, I am sorry to say, matched mine a lot.
      This evening I cried for my cat who I had euthanised a year and a half ago. I haven’t cried properly about it until now, partly because the euthanasia itself left me with so much guilt that my mind wouldn’t let me go there.
      I understand your terrible hurt for your cat’s last moments. That is how I am feeling very much right now. This evening I happened to look at a shared video of a dogs last day with its owner, and at the end I saw.how the owner had ample cuddle time and space to reassure the dog. I wondered why I had not had this with Alfie!
      On Alfie’s last day, he was sick as anything, and this was made worse by the painkillers I had been instructed to give him, which left him dehydrated. I was watering him with syringe into the mouth and around that point I realised it was time. My appointment was with the same vets I had gone to a week before. The receptionist couldn’t have been kinder. But the two vets were, shall I say, polite enough but clearly just wanted it to be done quickly. It was awful, looking back.
      Alfie had no personality to show at this point as I imagine he was in so much pain/numbness. I wanted to ask to be with him for a few moments but, like you, for some reason I went along with they guidance without asking them to slow down!! I will never forgive myself for not even allowing him to lie down comfortably, instead of them injecting him while he balanced on his crooked leg… I couldn’t hug him properly as they propped him up, and within a minute I managed to just glimpse into his eyes as he went out like a light. I just couldn’t believe how fast it was.
      I, neither, will make the same mistake again with my other pets.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        December 13, 2016 at 6:13 am (1 month ago)

        I’m so sorry about your awful experience, M. It is completely unacceptable for vets to rush a client through a euthanasia – it makes me angry every time I hear a story like yours. My heart goes out to you.

        Reply
  3. Kaley
    February 5, 2016 at 12:36 am (12 months ago)

    My cat Betty passed away very suddenly three months ago. She was only 6 years old. A routine steroid shot (which she’d had before without problems) sent her into congestive heart failure–she was gone within 48 hours from the time we realized something was wrong.

    So many of these comments describe what I thought–hoped–euthanasia would be like. I felt so strongly that I wanted to be there with her, but I sort of wish now that I had not been.

    She was in the ICU in an oxygen cage. The vet had been able to stabilize her at first, and her breathing had initially improved. But she threw a clot the second night at the hospital, and we got a call at 4:00 in the morning that she was going downhill very fast. She was panting and in clear distress. She felt so poorly that she did not seem at all like herself, nor did she seem to register my presence. But I wanted to be there to comfort her during her last moments.

    When the vets moved her out of the cage she was in to the table to administer the shots, her yowls of pain and fear cut me to the core. I had to leave the room and was crying hysterically. I’m crying as I remember it. They gave her the first shot to sedate her and brought me back in, but she did not fall into a peaceful sleep. Her eyes were open and she was gasping for breath. I said goodbye and that I was sorry, and I had to leave again because I could not stand to see her draw her last breath in pain.

    Once she was gone, I got to spend a few minutes with her in another room. She looked like she was sleeping. I told her how much I loved her and thanked her for being a good pet. I apologized again and again for letting her down–for asking for a steroid shot instead of pills because she refused to take pills, for not taking her to vet sooner when her heart started to fail because I didn’t realize what was wrong with her. I’m grateful to have had that time with her when she looked like she was at peace.

    Despite this, the memory of those last few moments before she died still haunts me and brings me to tears whenever I think of it. I try not to think about it much, but the memory springs up unbidden sometimes and chokes me with tears. All I wanted was to protect her, and watching her in so much pain without being able to do anything about it was my worst nightmare realized.

    To those commenters who feel selfish for knowing that you couldn’t watch your pet pass–I sincerely hope you can forgive yourselves. Being with your pet as they pass can, I’m sure, be a peaceful experience, but it’s not always. Don’t beat yourself up for wanting to avoid having a painful experience seared into your memory forever.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 5, 2016 at 6:37 am (12 months ago)

      Oh Kaley, I’m so sorry you had such a horrible experience. I hope that in time, you can focus on the final moments when you held her when she was already gone, rather than the awful moments leading up to that. My heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing what you went through, I know it will help others who may have experienced similar situations.

      Reply
    • aga
      April 13, 2016 at 2:25 pm (10 months ago)

      My cat Mruczek had to be put to sleep today, but i am not sure if i didn’t wait too long for that, i think today morning he was in pain , i had to rush him to emergency with my mom. I was going to stay with him, but before they started , my super called that a fire alarm went on in my apt, i knew right away that my mom left milk on stove top , so i only kissed him and told him that i love him and i had to leave. Now i feel so bad and guiltyand sad that he had to stay alone, but by the time we got to the hospital he was miauing from pain , and i am not sure if i could witness him being in such a pain and agony.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        April 13, 2016 at 4:03 pm (10 months ago)

        I’m so sorry, Aga.

        Reply
  4. Shefali O'Hara
    August 2, 2015 at 12:16 am (1 year ago)

    My vet came to our home to euthanize our cat. It just happened today. Snoopy was 20 years old, just 3 months shy of being 21. She’s had kidney failure for about 9 months. We were giving her sub-q fluids and an appetite stimulant and an anti-nausea pill. After her kidneys failed she became dehydrated and her appetite failed but with the pills and the sub-q fluids, she was able to maintain a good quality of life. Until about 6 weeks ago she would still occasionally go for a walk with us (she used to walk with us every day), still look out the window with interest, still groom herself, seek us out, etc. Then about a month ago, she went into a serious decline.

    She spent all of her time sleeping in one spot. But when we would go in and pet her she would still purr and be happy to see us, so we were OK with that. We moved her food bowls close to her so it would be easier for her to eat, and we fed her tiny meals several times a day because she would eat more that way. She couldn’t groom herself any more, so we tried to rub her down with a washcloth, but she hated that.

    Then 2 weeks ago, her appetite seriously declined. She had already lost a lot of weight, she couldn’t afford to lose more, and even with the appetite stimulant, etc., nothing helped. When she got up to walk to her litter box, her legs were very shaky. Her back legs and belly were very matted because she could not groom herself and she didn’t want us to do it. She still purred when we pet her so we checked on her often throughout the day, sitting by her for a little while and gently stroking her and speaking to her. But we knew she wasn’t going to get better and the vet told us she would only suffer more since she was starving to death.

    So we knew it was her time.

    It tore us up to put her down, but thankfully the vet was willing to come to our house. The vet explained that she would inject the anesthetic into her vein but that she wouldn’t do it unless they could find a good vein, and I had to be prepared if the needed to use her stomach. The vet did not discuss sedation, and now I know to ask for that in future.

    However, even without the sedation, the euthanization went smoothly, I think because it was a very experienced vet. She and her tech had brought a large soft blanket which we set on the spot Snoopy liked to sleep on, and the vet had my husband and I towards Snoopy’s front so we could talk to her, pet her, etc., and we actually sat there and stroked her for a little while before the tech restrained her hind paw so the vet could get a vein. Nothing was shaved. The vet got the needle in very quickly.

    However, when the injection started, Snoopy did try to jerk away for a second and let out a little growl and struggled for a second, but then she went to sleep just another second later. It happened very quickly.

    I think in future I would like to sedate my pet to remove even that little struggle – it only lasted a second but if I could have made Snoopy’s end completely peaceful… on the other hand, I was there with her, and telling her we loved her throughout. And after the vet allowed me to gently hold her and kiss her and brush her coat so she could be cremated with dignity. The vet even told me she would gently get out the mats on her belly I couldn’t get out, if I wanted her to, before we buried Snoopy.

    I also appreciate that the vet allowed us to gently stroke our cat and soothe her for a bit before she started the procedure. And when she first came to our house and I asked her if she was sure it was a good idea to put Snoopy down, she said to me, “I’ve seen cats many times have one or two good days right after the decision to euthanize has been made, but then they will go back into decline. But if you need me to leave and come back in a few days, we can do that. We want you to be completely comfortable this is the right decision, and if that means we leave and come back even 3 or 4 times – we can do that.”

    I really appreciated that she respected that I knew my cat and my decision. Ultimately we decided to go ahead because I knew that Snoopy was not going to get better, and I wanted her to die with dignity. She was such a dignified cat, I couldn’t bear the thought of her not having the strength to get to her litter box and I knew she was quickly getting to that point. But it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I didn’t want to say good-bye to her, but I was trying to do what was best for her, not for me.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 2, 2015 at 6:00 am (1 year ago)

      I’m so sorry about Snoopy, Shefali. It sounds like you found a wonderful, compassionate vet to help her on her final passage, and despite that one moment when Snoopy jerked away, it sounds like it was a peaceful experience. My heart goes out to you.

      Reply
    • Lucía Aguilar
      February 5, 2016 at 12:10 pm (12 months ago)

      ¡Hi! Shefali O’Hara

      I think that taking the decision to euthanize our beloved friends is so hard, but, is our leading occasion for show them our comprehension and empathy, and thanks we can gave them a less painful sleep. My vet used a sedative intramuscular injection before the final one, it was only the discomfort of the first shot, quickly and good, without struggle, Garfi went after that to his sunny spot, he had FIV and was the time to say goodbye. I think as you do, that sedation is not only a choice but a must for the best of our friends.

      Reply
      • Kate Sarginson
        February 21, 2016 at 12:59 pm (11 months ago)

        Lucia; I just came from euthanizing my cat Opie. He was 15 but had been abandoned by his previous owner so I had only had him 4 years. I have spent 6000 in medical bills on him in the last four months which I had to borrow. I would have spent another 6000 if I thought I could have saved him. He died very peacefully as my vet did the same as yours. Bladder cancer. I held him in my arms and he basically slept away. I loved him so much and it is very hard to see them die but I would never just leave them to die alone.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          February 21, 2016 at 1:08 pm (11 months ago)

          I’m so sorry about Opie, Kate.

          Reply
        • Lucía
          February 22, 2016 at 1:27 pm (11 months ago)

          Hi Kate, I´m so sorry about Opie. Is great to have a well trained vet for helping us at that time.

          Reply
  5. Jan
    June 7, 2015 at 11:59 pm (2 years ago)

    Thank you for writing such insightful and compassionate article. On September 26, 2014 I chose to have my precious Cleopatra set-free from her painful and quickly deteriorating life. She was 14.5 years old and had been with me since she was 5 weeks. Cleo had been a constant and comforting friend through so much heartache and pain in my life. It was time to return the kindness. She had developed a rapidly growing brain tumor. My other cat and I were doing most of her grooming … and Cleopatra had always been so proud of her beautiful fur coat! She was also having difficulty climbing into/out of the cat box, even though I had bought one with a low lip. Eating was also becoming a problem and it wasn’t unusual for her to become sick afterwards. On Cleopatra’s day of restoration, she made the decision for me about whether or not I would accompany her. After holding her in my arms and loving on her, Cleopatra walked into the cat carrier (a first), laid down, and looked at the vet tech. She was telling me it was time … and I let her go. Quite honestly, I think that if I had gone with her that I would have been so upset that her passing would not have been peaceful. The vet tech that was with her had been with her every visit and he held her as she drifted off to sleep to her place of restoration. Do I miss her? Yes. I still wake up crying for my sweet girl. Do I regret my decision. No. It was her time.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 8, 2015 at 5:58 am (2 years ago)

      There’s such comfort when a cat gives such a clear signal that she’s ready as your Cleopatra did, Jan. It’s still a devastating loss, but it does help. I don’t think we ever stop missing them.

      Reply
  6. Trudi
    June 7, 2015 at 10:47 am (2 years ago)

    I have had to euthanize 4 cats. 2 had cancer, one had heart failure and the other had chronic bladder issues. I just can’t bring myself to be there when they are put to sleep. It could be because I was with my mother when she passed and it was an awful experience. I hope she was glad I was there, but I don’t really know if I helped her or not.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 7, 2015 at 2:54 pm (2 years ago)

      There is no right or wrong way to do this, Trudi. There is no doubt in my mind that our cats always know that we love them.

      Reply
  7. d
    April 20, 2015 at 5:45 pm (2 years ago)

    Yesterday I gave consent to euthanize my little boy. He wasn’t even 5 years old. He had peed all over the house for that many years. I tried everything I could to have him diagnosed but he didn’t have anything medically wrong with him. Then last week he obstructed, and they couldn’t clear him. They wanted to do PU surgery which would stop him from being obstructed but he would still have the same problem: the constant feeling of having to pee. It wasn’t his fault, but I didn’t want to live with him for 10 more years, being in chronic pain, whining and being stressed, hating the other kitties, not wanting to be touched or loved, hating me.

    So I made the decision, but when it came time to euthanize him, I couldn’t be there. In the hospital, with lots of pain medications, he was head butting and loving on me so much. But it was all the medication. And I couldn’t stand seeing what appeared to be a vibrant, young boy being destroyed for having a body that was hurting him. So I wasn’t there when they did it.

    And now I’m so sad, feeling like I abandoned him when he needed me most. I wish I had been there to hold his hand when he passed. But I was too selfish and now I hate myself for not being there.

    I’m writing this in the hope that it helps someone else in the future to make a better decision. I wish I had thought through this better and had been there for my boy. He was a good boy in a beautiful body that just didn’t work right. It wasn’t his fault. But it was my fault that he was all alone in the end.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 21, 2015 at 6:17 am (2 years ago)

      I’m so sorry – both for your loss, and for feeling like you abandoned your little boy at the end. You made the decision that was right for you in that moment. Try not to be so hard on yourself. Thank you for sharing your experience. My heart goes out to you.

      Reply
      • d
        April 21, 2015 at 10:44 pm (2 years ago)

        How do I get over this? I feel like I let him down so badly. I’d do anything to get him back. I miss him terribly. I can’t let this feeling go, how he should be here right now, and I made this horrible decision that I can’t take back. I want them to do the surgery and I don’t care about the pee and the whining, I just want my boy in my arms. At the time it seemed the right thing but I am so heartbroken. He was too young, a sweet little boy in a broken body. What do people do to get over it? Can it be gotten over ever?

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          April 22, 2015 at 6:11 am (2 years ago)

          Grief is a process, and unfortunately, there is no other way to deal with it other than to go through it. I wish I could tell you that you get over it, but I don’t think that’s possible. The pain will soften in time. Memories of the time you had together will eventually replace the pain of missing him, and your regrets about not being with him at the end. I wish there was a magic wand that could take your pain away! You may want to consider talking to a counselor who specializes in pet loss to help you deal with these feelings. There are also some great online resources. Petloss.com has an active community of others who have lost pets -perhaps you’ll find some solace there?

          Reply
    • Pam White
      June 7, 2015 at 12:52 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you. I am currently trying to decide the same situation. So, just by reading your comment I am staying with my Jill to the end.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        June 7, 2015 at 2:49 pm (2 years ago)

        I’m glad this article helped you decide, Pam. I know it’s so hard to say goodbye, my heart goes out to you.

        Reply
  8. Alice
    October 12, 2014 at 7:13 pm (2 years ago)

    I’ve had the pain of having 2 beloved cats euthanized so far. I was with both of them in their last minutes of life because it was only right: They had given me wonderful companionship throughout their lives and I would not abandon them at the end, no matter how painful for me. The first one was my first cat, a gray Persian named Abby, who was absolutely the sweetest, most loving kitty you could image. After 9 years with her, her kidneys gave out. Thank God I had a particularly compassionate vet who gave her a shot in her “hip” that put her into a deep sleep. I was able to hold her in my lap and say my goodbyes while she gradually got sleepier. When she was completely under, the vet returned and gave the final injection to the heart. And that was it.

    Unfortunately, a different vet euthanized my second cat, Trixie. He used the catheter in the foreleg method. My poor sweet girl was terrified and it turned out to be a horrible experience for both of us. Never again will I have it done like that. Anything is better than that.

    Reply
  9. Nicole
    June 24, 2014 at 10:00 am (3 years ago)

    I would never not be present. I not only have cats of my own but I foster as well. I take on special needs cats some of which have a shorter span of life. I not only lost several fosters but had several of my own cats. My heart kitties had problems cause a foster thought to have a uri had fip and even tho im careful going in and out of isolation rooms several of mine ended up with it. Some with weaker immune systems couldn’t handle it Because I only adopt shelter cats I knew exposure for them was already probable but never thought id lose any to it..
    I lost over 20 in a year both my own and long term fosters. I was only able to give one the gift of euthanasia. I had to be with him. I had to know my baby was not alone. I never allow my fosters to be alone either. I wish not only more vets would offer in home euthanasia but that there would be emergency at home service as well. Because of the lack of even emergency care I had to uold some overnight and watch them struggle just being able to comfort them as hest I can till the end. The only regrets came when I wasn’t present because of one passing while I was away from the house or overnight when I slept. When I had to make that decision with Milo I was lucky my vet stayed open so I could come and help him. I only wish I had time to spend eith him afterwards. They were closed when I got there so I had no time. I will always try to be there for their final moments. It helps them and me. I have had to make this decision many times for my own and many for fosters. I always think they know whos there and can feel that love at the end.
    My hardest times have been when I wasnt there. I had someone break in to my home and horribly kill three of my babies a couple months ago. Thats the one that haunts me. My one vet is tone of the most compassionate people ive ever . When it came to the time I had to euthanize my oldest her talked to her and pet her before and after. I got that comfort from him as well. I only wish it would hace been like that for them or for the others that needed emergency help after hours. I truly think this can believe this can be a gift we give making the decision and being present for it.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 24, 2014 at 12:19 pm (3 years ago)

      You have been through so much, Nicole! Thank you for all you do for cats, despite the heartache that can come with it.

      Reply
  10. Debra
    June 23, 2014 at 9:25 pm (3 years ago)

    For me, not being there and holding my fur babies wasn’t an option. I had to be there, to hold them, pet them and love them right to the end. I recently had to let go of my 18 year old cat Cosmo. I had her since she was 4 weeks old. That was hard, but not as hard as losing my baby 4 year old tuxedo kitty Ambrosias. That will haunt me forever. Not the last moments, but that he was only 4, and he had a terrible disease that was so painful for him, and I had to decide to let him go. 4 is too young. Life can be so unfair.
    Peace to all who have lost their babies.
    Deb

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 24, 2014 at 6:15 am (3 years ago)

      I’m sorry for your losses, Debra. It’s always heartbreaking to loose a cat, but a young cat like Ambrosias – I can’t even imagine.

      Reply
  11. Laura
    March 28, 2014 at 7:28 am (3 years ago)

    My family and I had to put our little Lily to sleep last night. My eyes are puffy and red from crying. We were all in there with her. She was calm and when the vet injected her it only took a few short moments as she was so so small (4lbs). She was only 6 years old, she was to turn 7 on April 18th. She had FIP and began losing weight so rapidly. Yesterday she could even stand. When she had a seizure we knew it was time, as we didn’t want her to suffer. I feel so bad that this had to happen to her, but my whole family, we are all glad that we could be there with her. She is our little baby and I would never want her to be alone in that. Her little eyes stayed open afterwards. We hug and kissed and pet her. It was so hard to leave her in the room afterwards. I wish so much that our furry family members could be with us for longer, as they are such an important part of our lives.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 28, 2014 at 7:45 am (3 years ago)

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Laura. Seven is much too young! FIP is such a devastating disease.

      Reply
  12. Anne
    December 26, 2013 at 1:17 pm (3 years ago)

    I had to make the awful decision yesterday to euthanize my sweet and loving cat Tara. It was so unexpected, but she was terribly ill. She had lymphoma and had one chemo treatment, but her bowel was damaged (she had IBD too) and fluids started to leak out. I’m not entirely sure what happened to her, but they tried intensive fluid therapy and it didn’t work. They just couldn’t get her blood pressure to rise. She was in intensive care when we put her to sleep. We had to reach inside a cage to stroke her and talk to her. I remember she lifted her little head twice to look at us when she heard our voices. She fell asleep very quickly when the injection was administered as she was so close to death anyway. I don’t recall her eyes being open. They were closed. The pain is still so raw and I miss her terribly. I feel really guilty that I didn’t do enough for her. I feel like I let her down:( I feel like I didn’t spend enough quality time with her during her last days.
    The vet kept saying that she won’t feel anything, but I often wonder…how do they know that? Vets are not cats. How do they know what the cat feels?
    Tara’s last days were spent with me forcing tablets down her throat and horrible liquid that made her produce excess saliva. I feel so guilty that she suffered and that she maybe thought I was being horrible to her. The look on her face when she looked up from the cage was like she was saying … how could you do this to me? Don’t you love me anymore?
    On her last night at home (her second last night alive) I came home from work really late…I just couldn’t get away sooner! Tara was on her own from 7.45am to 6pm. She came down the stairs with a very sad look on her face…as if she felt abandoned by me.
    I had to put Tara’s sister to sleep 2 and a half years ago – she also had cancer. We decided not to go the chemo route that time and I regretted my decision. I went the chemo route with Tara and I regret my decision. I feel like I just can’t win.
    Also, I feel guilt that I didn’t manage Tara’s IBD very well and that the IBD led to the lymphoma! I wonder if stress triggered the cancer. I split with my partner a few months ago and Tara had to undergo a very stressful overnight journey to a new place:( She was 6 weeks old when she came into my life and I miss her terribly.
    Just thought I would share that.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm (3 years ago)

      I’m so sorry about Tara, Anne. My heart goes out to you. It’s natural to want answers to all the questions you ask, and feeling guilty is, unfortunately, almost always a by-product of having to make the euthanasia decision. Based on how you ask your questions, I can’t imagine that there’s even a slim chance that you let Tara down. If anything, it sounds to me like you did everything that could have been done for her. No matter how well we manage a disease, sometimes, things just don’t end well. It sounds like she knew you were there at the end. I have no doubt that she knew she was loved.

      Reply
  13. Robin Olson
    December 21, 2013 at 7:58 am (3 years ago)

    I’m glad you covered this difficult topic. I, too, have tears in my eyes, but I strongly believe that after all the love our cats give us, we owe it to them to comfort them on their final journey. Is it easy for us? No, but our cat’s last moments are not about us, it’s about them. As someone who has been with many cats when they passed, I can say that I don’t focus on those moments as much as I think back on our good days together. I also agree that there is great beauty in the final breaths if you are lucky enough to witness them in a peaceful way.
    After we watched our cat, Bob die, we bathed him with soft cloths and wrapped him in a nice blanket. We talked to him and just sat with him for a very long time. I realize it’s not easy to do, but I also think there should be a time after the passing where you give the body and spirit a chance to part…where you give yourself time to have your goodbyes. I wish none of our cats ever died, but then in that sadness a new door is opened to saving the life of another deserving cat one day.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 21, 2013 at 11:02 am (3 years ago)

      Thank you for this beautiful comment, Robin. The way you held the space for Bob when he was dying was one of the most “beautiful” death experiences I’ve ever heard anyone share. For those of you who would like to read it, here’s the link. It is difficult reading, but Robin’s raw honesty about Bob’s final moments and her immense love for him touched my heart then, and do today: http://www.coveredincathair.com/content/bobs-battle-lymphoma-goodbye-my-love-part-4-5

      Reply
      • Tulsi G
        June 23, 2014 at 7:48 pm (3 years ago)

        Oh wow…I just read that story, and it was too close to home. I miss my beloved Fred every day! I’m sitting at work at the end of the day with a sore throat from trying not to audibly cry. My eyes did not cooperate. I’m grateful for waterproof mascara and paper towels from the kitchen. I miss all of my cats who have crossed over. I look forward to seeing them again one day and, meanwhile, in my dreams. The dream visit is always such a special gift. All of the comments touched me, and I’m so sorry the lives we have with our pets can be so short and that we have to second guess ourselves and the needs of our pets when the consideration of euthanasia arises. I absolutely agree that it has never been an easy decision. I have to think forward to the cats that still need good lives, though, and when it comes to it – a dignified and loving passing. I’m really glad it’s now time to go home. There will be a lot of hugging tonight.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          June 23, 2014 at 8:03 pm (3 years ago)

          I’m so sorry about Fred, Tulsi. I know it’s hard.

          Reply
    • Pam
      December 21, 2013 at 2:23 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you, Robin. I brought Shelley’s body home after euthanization, and did rest her in a little shrine I created. She was circled with all her favorite toys, some flowers, and some candles. I was with her like that until early evening, then felt ready to bury her in one of her favorite outdoor cat-meditating areas. A friend helped by digging the grave for me. It was at dusk when we finished, and I have never felt so much the contrast between no-life and still-alive. It was as much magical as it was sad. Then, a candle burned at that spot each evening and into the night for several days, until I felt finished. So, although I was in no way ready for her death (she was only 12, and nothing definitive was ever diagnosed about her health challenges), I feel I did process and honor her life and death rather fully. But, obviously, some doubts still linger in me!

      Reply
  14. Lucía Aguilar
    December 19, 2013 at 1:21 pm (3 years ago)

    I´m crying too. In may of this year (2013) I decided euthanized Garfi at home, veterinary helped him with a first shot, after my friend get sleep he did the second one. I talked before with Garfi and I told him that I loved him, I will love him until I die. Reading you I think that I would like to take him in my arms in his last sleep, I put him in his bed whit my hand in his body. I think it was an honor have him in my life, so I chose being there for him… was the best for me.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm (3 years ago)

      I’m sorry about your Garfi, and I’m glad you were able to be there with him in the end, Lucia.

      Reply
  15. Michele
    December 19, 2013 at 8:12 am (3 years ago)

    Tears are streaming down my face….in that last 15 years, we’ve had 15 cats! Strays, ferals, you name it….I’ve had two of my dearest kitties euthanized at home….a beautiful experience for me and our vet is wonderful….it doesn’t stop the extreme pain we all feel at the time but I did feel at peace being able to hold each one in my arms….this was a much better experience than having two killed by cars and one dropping dead from a heart attack….not to mention the ones who disappeared to “coyote land” and never returned. So know that euthanasia is a blessed method to use. BTW, we still have five cats! Michele

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 19, 2013 at 9:06 am (3 years ago)

      Oh Michele, so much loss! I’m glad that the euthanasias were a peaceful experience for you.

      Reply
  16. Michael O'Donoghue
    December 19, 2013 at 2:38 am (3 years ago)

    It is so sad to read all these stories. As a vet we all try so hard to make it a pleasant experience as it can be. I think one of the best things you can do is to preplan the event with your vet long before the end. Most vets would be open to ideas about how you would like it to be, and as hard as it is to think about these things, I know in the long run it makes a big difference. if you leave it till the end you might be too emotional to ask the right questions of your vet. As a vet I much prefer for the client to stay with their companion, as they seem a lot calmer. I think it is also really important to know the euthanasia drug is really an overdose of anesthetic, so the pet goes into a deep sleep and the eyes open as they would in any anesthetic , so it is important to know they are already fast asleep and not actually looking at you when their eyes open wide.

    Reply
    • Pam
      December 19, 2013 at 3:02 am (3 years ago)

      This is really helpful … thank you for posting!

      Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 19, 2013 at 6:17 am (3 years ago)

      I agree that it’s important to talk to your vet ahead of time. Thank you for this thoughtful comment, Michael.

      Reply
  17. Vicki Reeves
    December 18, 2013 at 9:00 pm (3 years ago)

    I have been there with both of the kitties I have had to have euthanized – one of advanced age with major organ shutdown, and one wasting away with cancer. Brat (first kitty) had a totally peaceful passing, with eyes closed. I expected the same with Willum, but though there were no struggles, after he was gone his staring eyes and protruding tongue upset me very much. For a long while, I thought that the next time, I would not want to be present. Now, 6 years after Willum’s passing, I have decided that whether or not it is a bit uncomfortable for me to experience, it’s the only final gift I have to give my beloved pet – my presence. And when it’s Snickyfritz’s time (she’s a pretty vigorous 17-18 now), I would feel guilty if I wasn’t with her, and I think I will be. But if there are issues with major illness/sudden death and a lot of emotional trauma (for me *and* Snicky) as some people have experienced, then I don’t honestly know what I’d do.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 19, 2013 at 6:40 am (3 years ago)

      It’s good that you are giving this some thought ahead of time, Vicki, even though it’s hard. I think because of this, it will help make your decision a little easier when the time comes, but hopefully, that’s still a long way in the future!

      Reply
  18. Sue Brandes
    December 18, 2013 at 8:19 pm (3 years ago)

    Years ago I would not have been able to stay with my kitties. But; my last 2 kitties I have and it was mostly peaceful. I was not prepared for Bear as his tongue came out and of course the eyes. And I was not offered to hold him and too distrot to ask as he was so sick it was sudden. Otherwise it was peaceful but; everytime I closed my eyes I saw that image. And Squeaky I got to hold but; when he got the sleeping shot he cried out. And that was hard. The vets and the techs were very caring and even though that happened I am glad I was with them both. It is a very hard decion to make.

    Reply
  19. Caren Gittleman
    December 18, 2013 at 5:28 pm (3 years ago)

    I was with my Angel Bobo and I truly have mixed feelings about it. I did in home euthanasia and was also haunted for quite some time every time I looked at the couch where “it” happened, at the clock, everything. It was awful for me. My vet and the vet tech had me wait in the hallway while they shaved Bobo’s legs for the injection (I can still barely write this, I start to cry all over again)….his meowing during it still haunts me. Then, when I was called into the room to be with him and we were all making him calm and soothing him with love and petting it seemed so awful to me to be calming him down and comforting him to put him to sleep. I felt as if I tricked him or something. He was my “soul kitty” and remains so to this day. It all still haunts me and I don’t know if I could go through that again.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm (3 years ago)

      Oh Caren, I’m so sorry it’s still so hard for you to think about your Angel Bobo’s final moments. Big hugs of comfort to you!

      Reply
  20. marsha durbin
    December 18, 2013 at 4:07 pm (3 years ago)

    When my cat was euthanized it was very peaceful, but the vet did not give her a sedative. Within seconds, her breathing and heart stopped. My question, and one that haunts me, is what happens to the brain? Is it screaming for oxygen? What a horrible death? Please let me know… I will never do that to another animal. Maybe with a sedative..

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 18, 2013 at 4:39 pm (3 years ago)

      The brain actually dies even before the heart stops, Marsha. The final injection takes effect in about 30-60 seconds. Unfortunately, some vets still perform euthanasia without sedating the pet first. The current preferred method is the “two-injection method:” extreme sedation, then the final injection.

      Reply
  21. Glogirly and Katie
    December 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm (3 years ago)

    It’s hard to even think about this…like the others, I’m already crying. I was with my Nicki years ago and would not have wanted it any other way. It would be the same for Katie & Waffles. As much as I don’t want to ask my vet, I should find out if they would come to my home. Just in case. Just so I know.

    Ok, now I need to go hug them.
    xo

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm (3 years ago)

      Believe me, I was hugging my girls frequently while writing this article, Debbie.

      Reply
  22. Viki Worden
    December 18, 2013 at 11:58 am (3 years ago)

    I’m sorry I couldn’t read the whole post because I started crying. I have had to have 4 kitties euthanized over my lifetime and it was never easy. The first time was my Bebe. She was 19. I never knew about the vet coming to the home or that I could even stay while they did it. I spent an hour in the exam room with her before they did. I had a kitten euthanized because it had contracted the feline form of AIDS before I got him. I had my Licorice euthanized but this time I stayed along with my daughter and my son. Then Katia never made it to the vet. She passed away in the car. I never knew there was a local vet who would come to the house until afterwards. The perfect ideal for me would be to have all 4 of my babies die naturally at home. It wouldn’t be any more comforting for me to have a vet come to the home and euthanize them. It may be more comforting for my babies, however, I still feel they wouldn’t be as comfortable because there would still be a stranger there. Hopefully I won’t have to make any decisions in the near future.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm (3 years ago)

      I think most of us hope that when the time comes, our babies just quietly slip away at home, Viki. I hope you won’t have to make any decisions for a very long time.

      Reply
  23. Vicky Denison
    December 18, 2013 at 10:27 am (3 years ago)

    I am at the office crying as I read all of your comments! My two indoor furr-babies are only nine-and-a-half years, so mercifully I won’t have to face this situation soon. I did take one of my ferals to see the vet because he was limping, and I cried on the way there and in the waiting room because I was sure they were going to tell me to put him down. Well, it was only a bite wound and they shot him up with antibiotics and he’s still giving me purrs for years now, but I’ll never forget that intense pain I felt when I ‘thought’ I was going to have to…and that’s for a cat who I’d only known for a few months! And as Ingrid says, this is a very personal decision, and I’m glad I know more about what happens so I can make a informed decision when I would need to. I’ve also know that my veterinarian WILL make a final house call. Probably not for the ferals, but in time I hope to be able to handle each one of them, enough to carry them and even put them in a carrier, so we’ll just see what the future holds. My heart goes out to each of you who’ve suffered the loss of your kitty friend.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm (3 years ago)

      I hope you won’t have to make that decision for a very long time, Vicky!

      Reply
  24. JaneA
    December 18, 2013 at 9:32 am (3 years ago)

    I’ve had two cats euthanized over the course of my life. One was a 10-year-old cat that I’d adopted on my 13th birthday. He was in end-stage FIV, a disease which had only recently been discovered at that time, and his body was ravaged by infections and pain. I knew what I had to do, and I told my mother that I would take him in for that final vet visit. That one was really traumatic because as soon as we got into the exam room he perked up and started resisting the vet. It was a struggle to get the injection into him because he was wriggling around, and at that time they didn’t do the sedative before the euthanasia drug. I’m glad I was with him for his last few minutes and that the last three words he heard were, “I love you.”

    Last year I had my beloved Dahlia euthanized because she was suffering from a rapidly spreading cancer. I had scheduled the procedure at a calm office the next morning, but she began having major respiratory problems while I was cleaning her up so she could die with dignity. I ended up taking her to the emergency clinic because at that point it couldn’t wait until the next day. The people at the clinic made the moment as solemn and beautiful as they could. They took me into a room where they’d laid out a fleece blanket on the exam table and gave me some time to be with her. Then they took her in the back and placed the catheter. I was with her for those final moments in the exam room: the sedative calmed her down and eased her terror at not being able to breathe, and seconds after the final injection, I felt her soul leave her body.

    I’m glad I was there for both of those occasions, even though my heart broke each time. I’ll never NOT be present if I need to have a cat lovingly released from suffering.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing your experiences, JaneA.

      Reply
  25. Victoria Minnett
    December 18, 2013 at 8:17 am (3 years ago)

    I couldn’t imagine not being there. I just recently had to make that decision for one of my longtime companion kitties. It was very quick and upsetting, but completely painless for her. It’s important for me to be there for them till the very end as it would be for any member of my human family. My fur babies put all their trust in me and If I weren’t there for them at the end, I’d have immense regrets.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm (3 years ago)

      I’m sorry about your recent loss, Victoria.

      Reply
  26. Sheila J. Smith
    December 18, 2013 at 8:05 am (3 years ago)

    It has always been peaceful for me. The last gift I could give my fur friends. I was lucky with three of my fur friends to do it at home. I held them on my lap. The last were at a real nice emergency clinic who were very compassionate.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm (3 years ago)

      I’m glad all of your experiences have been peaceful, Sheila.

      Reply
  27. maru
    December 18, 2013 at 6:31 am (3 years ago)

    The decision is difficult, and as you say very personal, but I just have not been once and I regret it eventhoug it was so many years ago.
    I took my mom’s dog to be put to rest two months ago, and he knew I was with him as always when he went to the vet during his 17 years, and as sad as it was, it felt right.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm (3 years ago)

      That’s what I hear most frequently: that pet guardians regret not being with their pet in the end.

      Reply
  28. Pam
    December 18, 2013 at 3:28 am (3 years ago)

    When my cat, Shelley, was euthanized she suddenly opened her eyes to a normal wideness, raised her head, and appeared to look straight into my eyes. Then she went limp, as you wrote.

    A friend of mine who is a vet tech told me that such a response is common, but it haunts me to this day (over 5 years ago, now).

    What do you think, Ingrid? Do you agree that such a response to euthanasia is common? What haunts me, of course, is that Shelley was asking, “Why?”. If it’s a common reflexive response, as my friend said (and why can’t I just believe her?!), hearing that from another person would be helpful!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 18, 2013 at 8:58 am (3 years ago)

      I’m sorry you’re still haunted by Shelley’s final moment, Pam. It is common for the eyes to remain open during euthanasia.

      When Amber died, she was lying on my chest, and looked right into my eyes during her final moment. Painful as it was, I actually interpreted that as neither one of us wanting to let go of that last moment of physical connection, rather than as her asking “why,” the way you did with Shelley. I know it’s an overused term, but I really do believe that euthanasia is the “final gift” we give to our pets, and I choose to think that they know this on some level.

      I hope this helps at least a little.

      Reply
      • Pam
        December 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm (3 years ago)

        Yes, it helps. Thank you, Ingrid.

        Reply

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