Euthanasia: Knowing When to Say Goodbye

cat euthanasia

Making a decision about whether or when the time is right for euthanasia is one of the hardest things a cat guardian will ever go through. Unlike human medicine, veterinary medicine is fortunate to be able to legally offer the option of gently ending suffering when there seems to be no hope for recovery. However, making this decision for a beloved cat can be agonizing.

There are so many factors that come into play: quality of life, fear of losing a beloved cat, a cat guardian’s prior experience with illness and death, be it of a pet or human. In a recent article on Answers.com, I tried to provide some guidelines to help cat guardians make this difficult decision.

Click here to read the article on Answers.com.

Have you had to make the euthanasia decision? What has helped you during the decision process?

15 Comments on Euthanasia: Knowing When to Say Goodbye

  1. Nancy
    June 23, 2014 at 10:33 pm (3 years ago)

    My family vet always said that the pet had been good to you and that it was time to be good to the pet. No animal should suffer. If someone waited too long to bring the pet in for PTS , they were told ! I have a very compassionate clinic now and choose them by the way they handled Little, when the time came. He had multiple problems and was incontinent. The tech took him in her arms wet towel and all… With GoldD I stayed, we did our night routine which ncluded cuddles and prayers aloud, he settled in my arms… I am crying now , but it was time….. N

    Reply
  2. Paddy
    February 6, 2014 at 8:56 pm (3 years ago)

    This brought back so many memories. We have not had to make this decision since Buddy went so suddenly, but we still agonized over how we would know it was time. Thanks again for all your support. I still shudder to think what we would’ve done if you had not been there!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 7, 2014 at 6:30 am (3 years ago)

      I still miss Buddy and think of him often, Paddy. I’m glad I was able to be there for you that awful day.

      Reply
  3. Pat
    February 1, 2014 at 2:39 pm (3 years ago)

    I’ve had to make the painful decision twice with my dogs & its not any easier then with kitties.. In 2006 my ShihTzu rescue Casper (11 y/o) was in his last stages of CHF & while it was a hard decision the decision happened so quickly I didn’t have time to think about it.. Just took that death so hard I couldn’t leave the house for months & quit my job so I wouldn’t have to face people.. In 2013 my ShihTzu rescue Angel (12y/o) had been suffering through an illness which to this day I don’t know what it was the specialists & vets never told me.. In the final months I knew what had to be done but just could not make the decision which was made harder because I am a senior living alone.. While I watched my baby get worse I started the prep’s for his final stages with me, ordering his special urn to match his brother Casper’s & more importantly finding a facility where I would NOT have to leave him at all.. With Casper even though his was a private cremation I still had to wait a week for his ashes & urn to come back mainly because I hadn’t ordered his urn beforehand.. Once I had ordered Angel’s matching urn some of the decision process became clearer & easier since I could see he was uncomfortable & I couldn’t face that any longer.. I found a special veterinarian about an hour away that did a different type of euthanasia (anesthesia first) so much easier on the pet & they had a crematory on premises.. While I held both of my pets during the euthanasia process with my Angel I was able to carry him back to the crematory & wait for him.. Never to be alone without me.. That was in June 2013 & until last week I still had all of Angel’s things out & kept having dreams of him then I suddenly packed up many of Angel & Casper’s many things in memory boxes & donated the rest of their many, many things to a no kill shelter which I know my Casper would approve of.. If I thought the pain of Casper’s death was hard the death of my Angel was much harder since he was a much more needy pet from the first day I rescued him (at 6mths old) until his last day with me.. Until we all meet again.♥ I will continue to do animal rescue work but will never have another pet again, too old & the end of their life decision too hard.. I too have it in my will that my boys ashes are to go with me to my burial site but some cemeteries forbid it so my son knows what to do.. Sorry for being so wordy a throw back from my former life.. Peace

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 1, 2014 at 5:36 pm (3 years ago)

      I’m so sorry about Casper and Angel, Pat. I know it’s so hard. Thank you for sharing your story.

      Reply
  4. Margaret
    January 30, 2014 at 11:54 am (3 years ago)

    The hardest thing isn’t it… and we have all been there more than once I’m sure. I would always wish to be with my cat(s) when they go on to better things, but it isn’t always possible. The first time I had to do this I wondered if I COULD actually stay with the cat but found that I could. It is a “beautiful” (if that’s right) and peaceful ending, the last thing you can do for a much loved animal, and to me once the soul has gone, only the shell is left. I truly believe animals have souls and that we all shall meet up again in a far better place than this one.
    I think one DOES know when it’s time to say goodbye, and I am fortunate in having a vet who is caring, brilliant, very very kind and sympathetic, I have total faith in him and I know he would always give me the best advice, although at the end of the day of course one does have to make the decision. Awful to have to play God – and sometimes the cat decides for itself. Each case is different perhaps, I can only speak from my own experience

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 30, 2014 at 12:13 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Margaret. I agree that when we really connect with our animals, we do “just know,” it’s just sometimes hard to do when we’re scared of losing them.

      Reply
  5. kaia denham
    January 30, 2014 at 11:13 am (3 years ago)

    I have had to make the euthanasia decision many times. I have had cats since I was a child, then as a young adult, now as an old adult (70) and have been in rescue for many years. All the things you said in your article come into play — prognosis, quality versus quantity, pain and suffering, which I am quick to end. I tend to err on the side of “better sooner than later” so that the animal doesn’t end up dying in a terrible way. If it’s a beloved pet,we are in tune with them, I think, and can recognize when all our tender care is simply getting in the way of their natural dying process. It helps so much to have experience with your vet, in home or not in home, and know the procedure ahead of time because all vets are NOT alike or in agreement, especially the emergency hospitals, who usually insist on taking your poor cat into the other room and inserting a catheter into a vein and then bringing it back to you for euthanasia if you choose to be with your cat during the process; otherwise they take the cat away and do it out of your sight! My vets use a ketamine injection in the butt (quick sting, then all over) and leave me alone to hold the cat as it gently purrs its way off to sleep in a happy ketamine cloud, then vet comes back in 10-15 minutes when the cat is completely pre-op level sedated to do the vein stick. (And I ALWAYS take a tranquilizer before taking a cat for euthanasia so I will be projecting calm and peaceful vibes to the cat. I can cry later. (I do not usually take tranquilizers but keep them around in case I have to fly on a plane or put a cat to sleep, both of which are infrequent, fortunately.)

    There is an in-home euthanasia group called “Sweet Dreams” and on their excellent site they explain everything you could ever need to know about their services and exactly what to expect. I have not used them yet as most of my cats are comfortable travelers and my vet is only about 7 miles away, but I do have one cat who does not travel well at all, and it would be worth the extra expense for him when his time comes. Here is the link to Sweet Dreams for your information.

    http://www.sweetdreamsgeorgia.com/

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 30, 2014 at 12:10 pm (3 years ago)

      Thank you for the link, Kaia. I think it is important to understand what happens during euthanasia. It takes some of the fear surrounding the process out of the experience, and it also allows you to ask the right kinds of questions of your vet to ensure that the procedure is done right. Some vets, unfortunately, still cut corners, which leads to a “bad death” and horrible memories for the cat’s guardian.

      This article provides more information: http://consciouscat.net/2013/12/18/euthanasia-to-be-with-your-cat-or-not/

      Reply
  6. Debi
    January 30, 2014 at 10:45 am (3 years ago)

    As my cats get older, I always dread the day when I may have to make that decision. I have found that many vets will not or can not help with this, although I think they should. My last experience was horrible, mostly due to Convenia, but also the vet kept telling me that my Cholla “could get better”. I brought him in 3 times within the week before I was leaving for a special birthday cruise. I knew in my heart his quality of life was declining rapidly, but I didn’t want to end his life for my convenience. I also thought, because it was what the vet advised me, that he’d make it at least until I got home. Turned out my poor baby died the night I left, on my birthday. I am still so sorry I was not here to be with him. My sister, who was taking care of him and my other cat, had to deal with his death alone. She didn’t tell me he had died until I was on my flight home.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 30, 2014 at 12:07 pm (3 years ago)

      Oh Debi, I can’t imagine finding out on the way home from a birthday cruise that Cholla died. I’m so sorry.

      Reply
  7. Viki Worden
    January 30, 2014 at 10:28 am (3 years ago)

    I have been in this situation quite a bit. When I was little it was up to my dad, but it hurt all the same. I have had a harder time with a couple of kitties more than the rest because I had a stronger bond with them. I cried for 2 weeks straight at bedtime when it was my Bebe’s time. I had one of my kitties cremated when I actually found out that you could do that. I kept the ashes. I would like to have the four I have now cremated too if I have the finances to do it. I told both my kids I want their ashes put with me when I pass. I want them to be right with me. I hope that I don’t have to make the decision for these ones. I would like them to go in their sleep, which I know we can’t always have the perfect scenario, but that is my wish.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 30, 2014 at 12:06 pm (3 years ago)

      I have the same provision in my will, Viki: I want my ashes comingled with the ashes of all my cats who will have gone before me.

      Reply
  8. maru
    January 30, 2014 at 7:16 am (3 years ago)

    I have been there… more than once.
    At home we have been fortunate to live with long-life pets… but by loving them and knowing them it becomes an act of love to help them in that final step.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 30, 2014 at 12:05 pm (3 years ago)

      You are so right, Maru – it is an act of love.

      Reply

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