Euthanasia: The Loneliest Decision

Making a decision about whether or when the time is right for euthanasia is one of the hardest things someone loving a pet 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. Making this decision for a beloved pet can be agonizing to the point of being nearly impossible for some pet guardians.

And even though there are some guidelines that can help with the decision process, ultimately, nobody else can make this decision for you. It’s between you, and your pet.

My personal experience with having to make the euthanasia decision

I’ve had to make this decision three times. In April of 2000, Feebee lost his battle with lymphoma. After tolerating chemotherapy well for almost seven months, he declined rapidly, and instead of choosing more aggressive chemotherapy and blood transfusions, which might have given him some more time, I choose to let him go. And Feebee, in one final act of unconditional love, took the decision out of my hands: he died in my arms while my vet was on her way to my house.

Those of you who read Buckley’s Story already know how difficult my decision was to let Buckley go in November of 2008, when her severe heart disease was compounded by multiple other problems. I probably held on a little too long with her, but I’m now at peace with my decision. She, too, died in my arms, with my vet’s gentle assistance.

My most difficult decision was the one I had to make last May, when Amber came down with a sudden, severe illness. She was in intensive care for four days, and her prognosis was so poor that I decided against pursuing more aggressive treatment and took her home. I spent the afternoon with her before my vet came to the house. Amber laid on my chest, and looked right into my eyes as she took her final, peaceful breath with my vet’s help. I’m still not entirely at peace with this decision, a part of me will always wonder whether I gave up too soon.

How do you decide when it’s time?

There are some markers that can be used as guides. Pain is one of them. No pet parent wants to see a beloved pet suffer. Animals, especially cats, are masters at masking pain, so this can be difficult to detect. Another marker is appetite. For most pet guardians, the first indication that something is wrong is usually when a pet stops eating. A third important marker is dignity. Is the pet still able to relieve herself on her own, or does she need assistance with urination and defecation?

Dr. Alice Villalobos, founder of Pawspice, a hospice program for pets, has developed a Feline Quality of Life Scale that can help care givers determine quality of life based on criteria such as pain, appetite, hygiene, and whether the number of good days outweighs the bad.

Each relationship is unique

But decision points aren’t the only part of the equation. Each pet and each relationship between human and animal is unique.  There is no one right answer. And that’s why making this decision can make you feel like you’re all alone with this awful responsibility.

The emotional aspects of making the euthanasia decision can be incredibly complex. In addition to the love for the pet, and the fear of losing him and not being able to imagine life without him, a care giver’s prior experience with illness and death, be it of a pet or a human, will influence the decision. Religious beliefs may also impact the decision.

Denial can play a significant role in the process. When faced with difficult situations, denial is a natural defense mechanism that initially saves the person from anxiety or pain. However, getting stuck in denial can become paralyzing. When it comes to dealing with a terminally ill pet, love and denial can be intricately linked, and it can sometimes be difficult to separate one from the other.

A lonely decision

Making the euthanasia decision is a lonely decision. While others may provide support and advice, ultimately, nobody other than the pet’s caregiver can make this decision. And that’s where things get challenging. I’m currently dealing with a situation where a client’s cat has been ill for a long time, but the client is not ready to make a decision. She’s gone far past the stage where I would have made the decision, if the cat was mine. But at the same time, I can’t fault this client for not being able to make a decision: her cat, while medically in very bad shape, still responds to her, still purrs for her, and still eats well.

Sometimes, it can be hard for a caregiver to really see how far an animal may have declined. Watching a pet deteriorate a little more every day is hard, but seeing the decline happen a little bit at a time can feed the natural amount of denial most people have that the pet just isn’t that sick. Sometimes, it takes a visit from someone who hasn’t seen the pet in a while to make the pet’s guardian realize just how much the pet has declined.

One aspect to making the decision that is not often talked about was recently addressed in a beautiful post by Robin Olson of Covered in Cat Hair. Robin’s 14-year-old cat Bob has lymphoma, and has recently stopped responding to chemotherapy. He’s also dealing with multiple other problems. Robin writes:  “Try to watch out for the urge to just get it over with because YOU are suffering watching this natural process occur. This is very very difficult, but we owe it to our animals to give them every option and every day we can.” I couldn’t agree more. We don’t want our animals to suffer, that’s a given. But the euthanasia decision should never be based on our own discomfort with the dying process. I encourage you to read Robin’s entire post about Bob’s battle with cancer, and her struggle to do the right thing for him.

Will you “just know?”

It is often said that we will “just know” when the time is right. And I believe that when we do connect with the essence of our animals and manage to set aside worry and fear for even just a few moments at a time, we will know.  It takes courage to set aside our fears, and to tune in to the animal and really “hear”  them.

Ultimately, the only way any of us can make this decision is by listening to our animal friends with our hearts, not with our heads. It becomes a decision of love, not something to be reasoned out on an analytical and intellectual level.

The sad reality of making the euthanasia decision is that there is probably no way to ever be completely at peace with it. And that, too, makes it the loneliest decision.

Have you had to make the euthanasia decision for a beloved cat? What helped you during the decision process?

 

159 Comments on Euthanasia: The Loneliest Decision

  1. Kim
    August 15, 2019 at 1:04 am (2 days ago)

    I’m going through this heart wrenching decision now. My sweet girl Honey is 18yrs and has been very healthy until about 1-1/2yrs ago. She’s the most loving, cuddly, sweetest cat ever and am so lucky she chose me when I walked into the humane society 17 yrs ago. Her health issues started with her throwing up a few times a week and then going from 10.5lbs to 6.4lbs. Had blood work, X-rays, MRI’s. It was determined she’s in very beginning stages of kidney disease, has a slight heart murmur & possible IBD. Vet put her on a prescription diet which helped for maybe 7 months. In May she was back to throwing up every 2 to 3 days and is now 5.8lbs. Same testing ran again with not many changes so put her on steroids which has helped with the throwing up but not much more. This week she’s fallen over twice, peed outside the litter box and is moving very slow. I was told she is now anemic and vet has given the option of blood transfusion and more testing to figure out cause or to euthanize. I don’t know how to make the decision of when it’s time. If I stop, I feel like then I’m not trying everything because what if it is treatable for a few more years and I gave up. But what if it’s not and I’ve continued to put my cat, who’s terrified of the vets office, through all these tests for no good outcome. I don’t know how people are able to decide what’s right for everyone. Everyone keeps saying only I can make that decision but it’s such a struggle because I just want to make the right choice for her.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 15, 2019 at 5:19 am (2 days ago)

      My heart goes out to you, Kim. Honey seems to be following a pattern similar to what my first cat went through (he had intestinal lymphoma.) For me, the decision to stop treatment was based on the fact that he was so stressed when it came to going to the vet’s, I just didn’t feel it was right for him to keep putting him through repeated trips, hospitalization for transfusions, stronger chemotherapy, etc. As painful as it was to lose him, I never doubted that I made the right choice for him. Unfortunately, “everyone” is right, only you can make that decision for Honey. She is unique, you are unique, and your relationship with each other is unique. FWIW, the one thing I’ve found in my years of working in the veterinary profession, counseling clients, and in my own experience, there’s hardly ever a “too soon” when it comes to making the euthanasia decision. In my experience, most people wait too long because it’s so hard to make that choice. I hope this helps.

      Reply
      • Kim
        August 15, 2019 at 2:40 pm (2 days ago)

        I thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience, your thoughts and your kind words. This does help to hear others stories and thoughts. As I’m sure you were, I am just so afraid of doing wrong by her. I think in my mind I know what to do, it’s my heart that’s not ready to do it. I know a lot of people understand how that is to feel that way. Thank you again.

        Reply
    • Dario
      August 15, 2019 at 5:37 am (2 days ago)

      I’m sorry you’re faced with this situation Kim. It is one of the hardest decisions to make and a very personal one. You can trust the experience from the vet and others in this forum to make it. You’ll see the signs. When the cat stops eating, shows incontinence, lack of energy and looks for a place to hide to die is because they know their time has come.

      What I can tell you is that I will always regret no having made that call for my Michi earlier. Although she rarely show pain before, my cat died in tremendous pain and agony, the day before the vet was going to come home to put her down. I waited for too long, wanting to keep her with me for a bit longer, feeling that guilt that I could’ve done something else. She was a rescue cat and I never knew where she came from or how old she really was. she was my best friend and I was in denial of the fact she was over 18-20 years old and her time had finally come. I was the one who didn’t want her to leave, she was ready from two weeks before.
      It was two years ago and it still giving me the goosebumps and I’m crying as I’m writing this.

      I’m sure you’ve given her a wonder life, and she gave you all that love back 100 times. The final demonstration of love will be easing her pain of her final days, whether it is now or in the future.

      Stay strong!

      Reply
      • Kim
        August 15, 2019 at 2:50 pm (2 days ago)

        Thank you so much for your understanding, kind words and sharing what you’ve been through. It is true, Honey is my heart and I’ll love her forever and will never forget her when she is gone and I know that she loves me so much. As you know, this is an extremely difficult thing to go through and, because she trusts me completely, I don’t want to do wrong by her. I will take every consideration and do what I think she’d want and I can only hope it is the right choice. Again, thank you.

        Reply
  2. Jack
    July 6, 2019 at 5:26 pm (1 month ago)

    We euthanize our cat yesterday and I’m struck by the level of guilt I”m dealing with.

    He was on numerous meds, had diabetes, neuropathy, and his arthritis was getting quite bad. He also had chronic kidney disease. He was 16. He still seemed to enjoy life even as he was deteriorating before our eyes. I don’t think we made the wrong decision, but I think it’ll take some time before I’m fully able to accept it.

    Reply
  3. Natasha Lall
    April 7, 2019 at 5:57 am (4 months ago)

    Having had to have 2 cats put to sleep, I think it is so important to choose the right Vet.
    I am linking a paper, endorsed by the Humane Society, which is really helpful (you only need to read the parts that are relevant to you and then you are better equipped to ask your vet a couple of questions in order to reassure yourself about the process they use): https://www.animalsheltering.org/sites/default/files/content/euthanasia-reference-manual.pdf
    With the right process, putting them to sleep is really the best thing you can do for them and I now agree with all of the other comments I’ve read – sooner rather than later… each time it was such a difficult decision as I loved both of my cats so much and would have done anything to save them. However, I also think that very invasive prolonged treatments which require essentially ‘torturing’ the animal are not the way to go where the animal is not likely to live for long anyway… I think there’s a balance to be struck when deciding on treatment. In my story, in the first case there was nothing to be done, I found out the cat had late stage lymphoma and there was nothing could be done. I decided to call a vet out to our home to perform the euthanasia. The vet gave the cat a sedative in the back of the neck, which prompted him to wretch and vomit, over the next 40 minutes she gave him three injections into the abdomen through the side (he was lying on his side), he fairly quickly became relatively unconscious and more so with time and each injection (there was no eye movement or resistance when she pulled his back claws) and then she gave him an injection into the heart. The whole process took 1 hour and it was very upsetting. I hope our little fluffter did not suffer but I definitely did not feel good about the process. This recent time, I decided it was not worth calling that same vet (she seemed to be the only one in my area who did house calls). So as much as I dreaded having to take my little kitty on the much hated journey to the vets clinic I decided this was preferable, as I understood the process my usual vet was going to use. I was so stressed and upset, but I knew I had to overcome my own emotions in order comfort my little cat in the best possible way during those last hours and moments. I got someone to drive me to the vet so I could have him on a pillow and cuddle and comfort him on the journey (rather than put him in his cat carrier). I waited in the car with him until the vet was ready (so he didn’t have to wait in the waiting room and start getting all upset at where he was). We went straight into the surgery room and the vet chatted with us for a while. He then very gently squeezed each front paw looking for a vein (the paws were already shaven due to previous treatments) and when he found one he used the thinnest of needles and little peanut didn’t even feel the needle going in. He was gone so quick you didn’t even see it happen, it was a matter of seconds and there was no reaction from the cat whatsoever. I know 100% that my cat did not suffer. My vet told me he uses a substance which is 50 times stronger than what is used for a normal general anaesthetic. I know some vets do not allow you to be present when they are ‘finding a vein’ and they put a catheter in and the SPCA for example injects a first substance which calms the animal down. For me I found the idea that I would not be there for part of the process distressing. It was important for me to be there for every step to ensure my cat felt no distress for any of it. I wish all the best to anyone who has to go on this journey, I can only give you a piece of advice you will hear over and over, do not let your little one suffer it is not fair on them. x

    Reply
  4. Colleen Mooney
    April 18, 2018 at 2:31 am (1 year ago)

    I had to make this heartbreaking decision last Friday for my 3yr old male cat Gizmo I had to make the selfless decision after learning surgical intervention was not guaranteed to end his suffering. I decided that the pain of watching him suffer the past 2 months was greater than me selfishly wanting to have him here longer Holding him in my arms he peacefully crossed the Rainbow bridge

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 18, 2018 at 5:25 am (1 year ago)

      I’m so sorry, Colleen.

      Reply
  5. Linda Kurz
    April 9, 2018 at 4:30 pm (1 year ago)

    We just put our beautiful, sweet girl Sami to sleep this passed Saturday. Sami was a gentle, loving little kitty. She was about 13 years old. During the Fall of 2017 Sami was diagnosed with kidney disease. We were given medications for her as well as a prescription for special cat food. I was fine with that, anything for this sweet girl who gave her love so sweetly. However, Sami was not ok with any of it. I put the meds in her treats and she took them for awhile and we were happy. Then she started eating her treats and leaving the ones with the meds. Now I’m getting anxious, she didn’t want them. We had the blood pressure medicine converted to liquid in a fish flavor. When we give it to her she started to struggle and foam at the mouth. I continued to try and she started to withdraw. The food was not a big hit either, she wouldn’t eat it. Sami was unhappy and sad. I made a decision that I would not pill her or force her to eat what she didn’t like. I let her eat her favorites and gave her lots of love and attention. When she didn’t feel like eating I would hold the bowl and she would take the food. She started to stay in my 2nd bedroom so we had a heating pad for her on the recliner, I brought up her food and water bowl and made it comfy for her. She still went out for a walk (safely, only in my neighbors yard and in mine). Sami was back to her loving, affectionate self snuggling with us once again. During the past few weeks I noted that she started to deteriorate, her muscle tone was gone, her eyes were not clear, but still she preserved and I held her bowl while she ate. I brushed her, sat with her. I work from home at times so it gave me time with her, but hubby is retired so she was with him all day as well. During the past 2 weeks, Sami’s condition rapidly deteriorated and last week on Wed, Thurs and Friday she wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t drink unless I brought the bowl, which I did, but she would turn away. She started to breath very rapidly and I could hear her breathing. Sami would sleep with me, but last week she started to stay away and sleep at the end of the bed with her neck extended or she would just sit. When she went to lay down, she would throw herself on the floor as if she wanted to do it quickly. She was confused, disoriented; not the same Sami. She was still loving and sweet, but struggling. I thought long and hard, knowing that she would never get better with the decision to put her to sleep. I wrapped her in her blanket and took her to the vet, one that I have been using for years. Sami usually struggles in the car, but I let her lie on the floor on the blanket while I sat with her, petting her all the way. When we got the vet, a blanket was on the table for her, she sat very quiet as my husband I stroked her and I brushed her and spoke to her crying the whole time. I knew I made the right decision, Sami was peaceful. When the vet came in with the tech, he started to shave her leg and had the tech hold her down, she freaked out and I started stroking her, but I really wanted to grab her and run out. He injected her with the sedative and she calmed and then with the final injection. I’m angry and pissed at myself and the vet. It started peaceful and she ended up scared. I wracked with guilt (did I do enough for her, should I have forced the meds and food), I’m angry (at the tech and vet for putting her through that when she was calm and at peace). All I do is cry. She was my heart kitty and I feel like I failed her. Did I make the decision too soon? But when I look at all the pictures, I see the way she was and how she looked at the end. I know I made the right decision for her, but I can’t stop feeling like I let her down. I know this is jumbled up, but my feelings are a mess and I’m crying as I’m writing this.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 10, 2018 at 5:56 am (1 year ago)

      I’m so sorry about Sami, Linda. Based on your description, I think you absolutely made the right decision. I don’t believe it’s worth forcing a cat to take medications if she really doesn’t want them, as you saw with Sami, it can destroy the bond between cat and human. It’s a difficult decision to stop medicating a sick cat, but I think the quality of the time spent together that you gain by it far outweighs the longer amount of time you might have with an unhappy cat who runs from you as soon as she sees you because she knows you’re going to do something to her that she doesn’t want.

      I’m so very sorry that the actual euthanasia experience was so traumatic for you. The vet should have given the sedative BEFORE shaving her leg, and restraint should NEVER be done forcefully even in a healthy cat, let alone as part of a euthanasia. It makes me sad and angry that there are still vets out there who just don’t seem to be able to get this right.

      I hope in time, memories of your time with Sami will outweigh the pain and grief you’re feeling right now. I think it took courage for you to stop medicating her, and it took courage to make the euthanasia decision. From all you’ve written, I think you did right by Sami. I hope you can find peace in time.

      Reply
      • Louise K.
        April 10, 2018 at 10:56 pm (1 year ago)

        I’m sorry about Sami. My 15 yr old cat had cancer, and in Feb. it was time to let her go. It was very peaceful…the sedative shot 1st, in the scruff of her neck, put her to sleep. She wasn’t aware of the euthanasia shot.
        A few years ago, my other cat had a not-so-peaceful departure. That vet didn’t use a sedative, and the shaver freaked my cat out. I had to hold her, and she let out a howl as the shot was given. I think it even upset the vet and his tech. I use a different vet office now. I will always insist on a sedative now, also.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          April 11, 2018 at 5:31 am (1 year ago)

          I’m sorry you had such a bad experience with your second cat, Louise. Giving the sedative first is an absolute must, and is standard of care in euthanasia. Sadly, not all vets follow this standard.

          Reply
  6. Cheryl
    March 26, 2018 at 1:26 pm (1 year ago)

    I think this is the most painful decision you can make,but you need to remember that you are not making it for yourself, but for your pet. My Hera is 18 years old and she has been part of the family for those 18 years. She was diagnosed with Acute Kidney disease last month and has lost her eye sight . She is not the same cat at all and I have been going back and forth questioning her quality of life and break out in tears every time I get close to a decision. Hera no longer plays with any of her toys, except when she bumps into her scratching post and scratches. Most times we have to take her to her food, even if she makes it into the kitchen, she walks around bumping into everything. She has pain defecating and looks forlonged and it breaks my heart. I love her, but she is not enjoying life and is making me emotionally broke. She sleeps with me and wakes up at 12 and at 4 to use the bathroom and I have to carry her to the bathroom( during the day she can make it on her own most times) she has peed outside her box on occasion. Although, she drinks water , she is always hungry and is eating abnormally so. I am underemployed and just can’t afford the weekly blood tests or even monthly tests to see change in her blood work or kidneys. She is not going to get better and I would rather let her go in peace, then prolong her life to see if she can live longer in pain. My heart is breaking, but it is not about me, it is about setting her free to be who she used to be my feisty , active cat, not one who lies hunched most of the day. 🙁

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 26, 2018 at 2:19 pm (1 year ago)

      You are so right, Cheryl – it’s always about the cat. My heart goes out to you as you get ready to say goodbye to your precious girl.

      Reply
    • Dario
      March 27, 2018 at 11:39 am (1 year ago)

      Be strong and don’t delay the inevitable. I did it and I regret having put my cat through an extra week of pain and misery.
      It takes a lot of courage and it hurts not having them anymore but you know you’ve done your best for them.

      Reply
  7. DENNIS MORAN
    March 7, 2018 at 4:08 pm (1 year ago)

    I GOT MY FIRST CAT GANDOR A BEAUTIFUL,GENTLE, SWEET RUSSAN BLUE BOY WHEN HE WAS 7 YRS. WHEN HE WAS 17 HE STARTED SLOWING DOWN AND SPENDING MORE TIME SECLUDED IN THE HOUSE. I HAD EXTREMELY HARD TIME GETTING HIM OUT OF HIS HIDING SPOT TO TAKE HIM TO THE VET. THE VET SAID HE MIGHT HAVE A MASS IN THE STOMACH SHOWN BY THE X RAY OR ULTRASOUND THAT SHE TOOK. SHE SAID A STOMACH BIOPSY WOULD SHOW BETTER. I AGREED. NEXT DAY I GET A CALL TO COME INTO THE VETS IMMEDIATELY. I AM TOLD BY THE HEAD VET, THERE IS A LARGE MASS IN HIS STOMACH, AND THEY HAD CLOSED HIM IMMEDIATELY, AND THAT I SHOULD PUT HIM DOWN NOW. BEFORE HE WAKES. I SAID I WANTED TO SEE HIM AND TAKE HIM HOME FOR A WHILE AND SAY GOOD BY IN MY OWN WAY. HE SAID I WAS BEING SELFISH. AND THE CAT STUGGLING TO HEAL AND THEN TO DIE A FEW WEEKS LATE WAS CRUEL. NOW I FINALLY GO IN TO SEE MY BABY! THEY CUT HIM FROM THE NECK TO THE GROIN . AND SEWED HIM UP ZIG ZAG. LIKE THEY COULDN’T BE BOTHERED. AND ASSUMED I WAS GOING TO PUT HIM TO DOWN. I SCREAMED IT WAS ONLY A BIOPSY. LOOK AT THE WAY YOU CUT HIM. HOW COULD YOU SEW HIM UP LIKE THAT ? I STRUGGLED TO KEEP FROM KNOCKING OUT ALL HIS TEETH. I TOLD HIM TO PUT THE CAT BACK UNDER. SEW HIM UP LIKE HE WAS ONE OF HIS OWN CHILDREN. THEN I PUT HIM TO DOWN. AFTER HE STOPPED BREATHING . I TOOK MY BABY BOY HOME. WHAT REALLY HURTS IS THE LAST MEMORY MY CAT HAS OF ME. IS FEAR… WHILE I WAS STRUGGLING TO GET HIM OUT OF HIS HIDING SPACE TO GET HIM TO THE VET. I WAS NEVER ABLE TO SAY GOOD BYE TO HIM WHILE HE WAS AWAKE….DENNIS

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 7, 2018 at 5:32 pm (1 year ago)

      I’m so sorry, Dennis. What a horrible way to lose a precious cat. I hope in time, memories of your time with Gandor will replace the pain of losing him in such a distressing manner.

      Reply
    • Phoebe
      March 18, 2018 at 10:49 am (1 year ago)

      Dennis, that made me cry more than any of the posts on a cat Loss group I’ve been part of so far. Nothing I say could possibly make perfect the outcome. Even as I say this, I want to make the argument that the end is so very rarely perfect, if ever, since you always wish you’d said or done just one more thing. I can’t stand vets. Even the nicest ones seem phony. I think eventually I will end up at a cats only vet. That said, I KNOW your cat knew he was loved. No way can any one or two experiences with others in strange places wipe that out. It is so basic and real. That is a fact: knowing and having you care for him was the main feeling the cat took away with him. The final thought was that he wanted to be with YOU.

      Reply
      • DENNIS MORAN
        March 19, 2018 at 2:57 pm (1 year ago)

        I GOT ANOTHER VET WHO ALSO WAS NOT THE MOST SYMPATHEDIC EITHER. MAYBE BECAUSE HIS WAS A MALE. I DO NOT KNOW. MAYBE HE HAS BEEN A VET FOR TWO LONG. ONE OF HIS JUNIORS WAS FEMALE AND I ONLY REQUESTED HER. WHEN I BROUGHT ANY OF MY CATS IN. AND THEN SHE OPENED HER OWN PLACE PLACE. AND THATS WHERE I GO NOW. AND I AM VERY HAPPY.I HAVE HAD TO PUT TO SLEEP FOUR OTHER CATS. AND I AM GLAD SHE WAS MY CATS VET AT THE END.

        Reply
  8. Dario
    August 10, 2017 at 6:32 pm (2 years ago)

    Thanks for this article and for the comments. I find them very helpful.
    I’m currently going through the tough decision of our beloved Michi, a black 20+ year old lady cat.

    She came to us 6 years ago through our backyard and never left. The vet calculated her age back then and he couldn’t believe how he survived being diabetic for so long. Since then we have to give her the insulin shots twice a day. She was doing all right until a week or so ago, when she los control of her lower body, stopped eating and is not active anymore.

    My partner is more pragmatic than me and has insinuated I should get over the fact she is bery old and we gave her the best last years she could possibly have.

    It is indeed the hardest decision one could ever mak, but I don’t want to see her suffering and I think she and I know it is her time.

    I’m calling the vet for tomorrow. I want her to leave at home, enjoying the warmth of the morning sun she always loved.

    Thanks for your stories, they helped me a lot.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 11, 2017 at 5:19 am (2 years ago)

      I’m so sorry you’re facing this, Dario. 20+ years is a good long life, but it’s just never long enough. I hope your girl has a peaceful passing, surrounded by those she loved.

      Reply
      • Sharon
        March 8, 2018 at 9:15 am (1 year ago)

        There was a comment addressing veterinary medicine as being fortunate to be able to legally offer the option of gently ending suffering. The ultimate word here is “gently”
        I had a horrific experience for my beloved cat Julie and myself. I watched Julie silently scream standing up as the incompetent and not compassionate vet took her life not gently.
        It helps to share and write your experiences.
        I wish there was a spectacular way to reach all pet lovers before this happens. We rate our mds and check their competence before surgery. Is there a national registry with comments from patients regarding incompetent vets.

        Reply
  9. Lisa
    January 30, 2017 at 3:47 pm (3 years ago)

    My boy was only 4 the one great love of my life feline chylothorax at a young age/he was a special uncle to the other cat /he was the great alpha we neede a very large amount of money to fix him like 10,grand I tried everything,but too much time passed no one thought a cat was that important I’m devastated.both my parents died before 50 I’m 53/Why do I lose everything I love THE MOST TO EARLY.DEVASTATED.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 31, 2017 at 5:31 am (3 years ago)

      I am so sorry, Lisa – my heart goes out to you.

      Reply
  10. Carl
    March 13, 2016 at 12:42 am (3 years ago)

    My boy cat Buster pasted a few weeks ago with the assistance of our vet. She came to the house so he could stay in his chosen last resting spot in the front window looking out at the front yard. He was diagnosed with lymphoma, he had a large mass in his stomach. He was 14 and the mass was large, so there really was no choice. He was on a steroid for a month but he lost interest in eating so his diet was treats and what he would eat off a spoon. He had lost a lot of weight. One night a week before he left he got off his perch and come over to me, stared at me and then went back to his perch at the front window. I knew then it was time. A week later I made plans with the vet. Now I could have waited a few more weeks but that would in my opinion been selfish. His eyes told me he was ready and I owed him that final dignity.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 13, 2016 at 4:44 am (3 years ago)

      I’m sorry about Buster. It’s a gift when our animals let us know they’re ready to leave, but it also takes a great deal of courage to really pay attention and not put our own needs ahead of theirs.

      Reply
  11. Louise K.
    August 9, 2015 at 5:15 pm (4 years ago)

    Yes, it is difficult. The internet doesn’t help, when you read about people going to extraordinary lengths to add a few months to their pet’s lives. Also, in my area, many people just can’t afford expensive treatment. In that case, euthanasia would be kinder than letting their pet continue to suffer without treatment.

    Reply
  12. Pooch
    August 6, 2015 at 12:51 pm (4 years ago)

    When I rescued my senior boy from the streets in December (where he got his name) in 2014, he was about 5.1lbs and filthy. For months he was put on medicine and I slowly got him up to 8lbs. He was very sickly and often times had to take him to the vet 2-3 times a month, but we were able to manage and I gave him strong TLC. He was too old to do a biopsy so we had to do what we could with trying different medicines. Between May 23rd and July 3rd, he was put in boarding because I went on vacation. The vets did not weigh him or forgot to save what he did weigh, so the most recent entry was 8.1 from April. During vacation I called many times, asked about his health, his food, medicine, litter box, and I was told all was fine, he was eating when I called, if the medicine was on his sheet, he was getting it. I had a relative pick him up a day early than his boarding was originally and when I say I was severely pissed off, that is an understatement. In hardly a week and a half, he lost about 2.5lbs, going from 8.1(from April since they didn’t know what he weighed when he was brought in) to 5.6, .5oz from when I rescued him, as well as having a sore on his hip. When I called, I expected to be told how often they filled his food bowl, his water, and more about his overall mental and physical health, ESPECIALLY the fact that he was losing weight. Three days after I came back from vacation, I had to put him to sleep because he was unable to walk after fluid therapy. I feel very cheated and lied to from my vet, and feel that, while they said they couldn’t, they could’ve force fed him, given him wet food, something to make him eat or get the nutrients that he desperately needed. Part of me wishes he had passed while in their care so I could sue them, but a bigger part of me is glad I was able to comfort him on his way. Having to take care of him, help him walk and eat and use the litter, was very painful to the point where I felt I was about to break in two. After his passing I was depressed and stopped eating to the point of getting sick, and this all lasted for about 1-2 weeks, where afterwards, for another 1-2 weeks I felt guilty for not mourning longer. I still go to that vet because it is the closest one, but in my mind I still blame them and hate going there. I do plan on changing vets in the near future, next time one of my children needs medical care.

    I feel like December would’ve lived longer had I not been on vacation, or the vet was more thorough in taking care of my son. I am aware that he was sickly and old and eventually, I’d have to let him go, but it could be possible that he could still be here with me today had something different happened.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 6, 2015 at 2:04 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m so sorry, Pooch. There’s really no excuse for your vet and staff not providing better care while December was boarding. I’m glad you got to spend some time with him before he passed, even though it was painful. My heart goes out to you. It’s always difficult to lose a cat, but when it happens under such trying circumstances, it’s unbearable. Be gentle with yourself – you did the best you could with what you knew at the time.

      Reply
      • Sharon
        November 29, 2017 at 12:28 am (2 years ago)

        I recently took my 15 year old cat Julie to the vet for the last time she was only 3pounds u could see her bones and had trouble getting up. I loved her so. The vet gave Her a sedative with a very large needle in her rear leg. The vet wouldn’t let me hold her because she said she may bite me when she gives her the shot. There was no sound that came out of her mouth. I never saw her open her mouth that wide in a painful silent scream. I can’t get her tortured face out of my mind. I did not know about vets coming to your home or hospice vets until after. Now I feel the only way I can help her is to tell people to do this at home with compassionate vets who specialize in euthanasia in the home where my Julie would have been peaceful. I am tortured by her last moments.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          November 29, 2017 at 6:06 am (2 years ago)

          I’m so sorry you were left with such a traumatic final memory of Julie, Sharon. My heart goes out to you.

          Reply
  13. Toni
    August 4, 2015 at 9:56 pm (4 years ago)

    This Sat will be a year since I took Mace, my dear companion for 20 years, to the vet. She need as I held her and told her I’d see her again… Her IBD took its toll on both of us. I loved her so and still cry for her even though I have found a new love in my Tigerlily.

    The most difficult thing in life is break my own heart to ease the suffering of one that I love. And I’d do it again in a minute

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 5, 2015 at 6:07 am (4 years ago)

      I’m sorry about Mace, Toni, I know it’s so hard. I’m glad you opened your heart to Tigerlily.

      Reply
  14. DaRob
    June 8, 2015 at 9:32 pm (4 years ago)

    My Diesel became very sick with IBS at age 11 and I gave her tube feedings for a few days before she pulled the tube out. She was ready to eat again, and lived 4 more years with steroid injections to keep the inflammation in her belly at bay. We knew this would eventually cause kidney damage that would shorten her life, but I did not want her to suffer vomiting 2 or 3 times a day.
    One day, she lost control of her lower body, and became incontinent of urine. In retrospect, that was the time I should have taken her to the vet and let her go. But I had never had to make the decision before and I thought she would pass quickly on her own. For 2 weeks she held on, barely drinking and lying in her beloved window seat in diapers I fashioned from puppy pads. The light left her eyes soon after she lost control of her lower body. I prayed to God every night to take her, but she held on. I finally had to face the fact that I had to make a decision and took her to the vet and held her as they put her to sleep. In retrospect, I should have taken her much sooner.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 9, 2015 at 6:05 am (4 years ago)

      I’m so sorry about Diesel. You did the best you knew how to do at the time.

      Reply
    • Lita Marie Flood
      June 10, 2015 at 11:34 am (4 years ago)

      I just lost my Beloved Mama yesterday morning at 4:30. She was the first feral we took in. She was so tiny and so young herself. Her and her 5 babies. She’s been the ONLY feral momma that did NOT drop her babies and run. We were able to bring them all in the house. We found good homes for the kitties, and we kept Mama. Getting her spayed was an adventure. I chased her all over my step-daughter’s room til I got her in the carrier. She was hissing & spitting the whole time, while I was cooing to her, “It’s OK….we’ve got you…You’ll be OK…” Once she was spayed she became an instant sweetheart! Purring & rubbing up against us! Still shy. Hated dogs or other cats and would only stay on the back porch. SLOWLY…she came into the main part of the house. And took up residence, and never left. She was “MAMA”. A couple of weeks ago, she wasn’t eating. Well, she was never a big eater anyway.
      But last week, she was so thin! I started plying her with her favorites; tuna, salmon etc. Feeding her every hour to hour & a half. Every time I got up, she was there, quietly mewing. So I fed her. And she ate. She started to get some weight back, not a lot, but some. And Monday was finally eating regular catfood. Tuesday morning I got up at 3:30 (I have a 19 yr old MinPin with Bladder Cancer and I was attending to her) and Mama was sitting straight up on her table kinda panting (but not) her stomach moving in and out rapidly. I petted her, and she wouldn’t accept pets. CRAP! This is it. I started panting. And shaking. The emergency vet is 50 miles away, are we going to make it? My husband works nights & he was asleep upstairs. Don’t get me wrong, he loves them but he works long hours, at a physically demanding job. I was in the bathroom comtemplating all of this, when I heard a thump, as in a cat jumping down. Coming out of the bathroom, Mama relived me of the choice herself. She passed on the floor. I just cried. I cried because I was cowardly. I cried because she was alone. I love her with all my heart, and she died alone. I will never forgive myself for that.
      She was always in the kitchen, on her perch. Wanting to know what you were doing. Yesterday I had to make meals all day without her. She was so small, but she had a big presence in my life.
      Please hug all your kitties today for Mama, she would have liked that.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        June 10, 2015 at 1:25 pm (4 years ago)

        Oh Lita Marie, I’m so sorry! You were not a coward. Even if you had left for the emergency clinic as soon as you noticed that Mama was in trouble, it doesn’t sound like you would have made it in time for them to help her. Perhaps Mama gave you a gift by making the choice herself, rather than putting that awful burden on you. My heart goes out to you.

        Reply
  15. Nancy
    June 8, 2015 at 7:41 pm (4 years ago)

    I have tears in my eyes after reading these incredibly sad stories. I have had two wonderful cats die from kidney disease. My first cat, Kashmir, died at 14 years of age. I had never dealt with this disease before and I truly trusted my vet. I asked him what he would do if Kashmir were his. He told me that he would have put him down. Kashmir had had the disease longer that we thought he had. He was the best cat; if you could choose the specifications for the perfect cat, Kashmir would have been the choice. It broke my heart but I did feel this was the right decision. Lily was my second cat – I brought her home when Kashmir was 9 years old. He did show me a couple of times just how upset he was (by weeing on two adorable cat beds). He came around and they got along famously. Lily was diagnosed at 6 years of age with kidney problems. I don’t know if this was the right diagnosis because I had her until the age of 16 & 1/2 years of age. She was a tortie point Himalayan and Kashmir was a seal point Himmie. Lily was always a bit delicate regarding her health. You know, at the vet more than Kashmir ever was. When she was about 15 & 1/2, suddenly one night I saw her straining to urinate. I called the vet and they wanted to see her as soon as possible. This is when the kidneys became a problem for her. I took her to the vet every other day for about a year to get fluids. I couldn’t do it on my own. She took a bad turn and was kept int he vet’s on an I.V. for 2 or 3 days. Not long after that they told me she needed fluids every day. That was it for me, I would not put her through any more torture (in my eyes – she wouldn’t have had any quality of life. She had gone through enough. It was so difficult – I so loved her – she was my baby. Prior to that, I brought home a tiny tortie domestic kitten (about 10 weeks of age). I named her Sabrina. She is the most gentle, loving cat who now has kidney disease. I have some wonderful techs. coming to my house four times a week to give her fluids (while she sits on my lap), and pills. The pills are very difficult to get down. Sometimes I feel like I am torturing her even thought I know I’m not. Sometimes she vomits and won’t eat for a day or two. The other night she vommitted after getting the fluids and pills. She sat on top of her condo, with her chin right on the top hanging over it, looking at so sadly. I don’t know how I slept that night. I know I’m too sensitive but it’s such a roller coaster ride. I have thought about when it will be her time – will she let me know? She is my third cat to have this awful illness. It’s a struggle – I try to be strong for her. I pray that I will know when the time is right for her, not for me. That’s the most difficult part. She sits on my chest and purrs away when she is feeling like herself. She just turned 13, I didn’t think she would even make it there, but she did. She is such a love. Thank you all for the beautiful stories. I don’t usually leave comments but I felt this time it was appropriate. Thank you for reading.

    Nancy & Sabrina

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 9, 2015 at 6:12 am (4 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing your story, Nancy. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with kidney disease yet again with Sabrina. All my best to both of you.

      Reply
  16. Betty
    June 8, 2015 at 6:05 pm (4 years ago)

    Grey fell from a 4th floor window. Not having the funds to take him to a specialist my local vet fixed his hip. However a month to the day Grey started having breathing problems. The vet gave him meds & sent him home. At 5am sunday morning i heard the most frightening meow. I ran to Grey who was panting wildly. I didnt know what to do. My roommate put him in his kennel & put us in a cab. We went to the specialist & i was told he was having organ failure. It would cost me $4000 for them to run tests & hope they could find & fix the problem. At this point im devastated because im barely surviving & living paycheck to pay check. I made the decision solely on the fact that i couldnt pay for treatment. I said a quick good bye & walked away. My heart broken into a million pieces because i felt i failed him. It was the hardest decision ever made & i cry & pray almost 3 yrs later that my beautiful baby boy can forgive me. I still cant look at his pictures without feeling a boat load of guilt.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 9, 2015 at 6:16 am (4 years ago)

      I’m so sorry, Betty. I hope you can eventually find peace with your decision.

      Reply
  17. Kat
    June 8, 2015 at 4:07 pm (4 years ago)

    i had an elderly cat, 21 years old to be exact. After spending 2 days joined at the hip to me, she quit eating. I took her to the vet. And she had a low potassium. I decided to pursue potassium replacement. She did not improve and died alone at the vet. This cat was my heart and soul. She trusted me. I still struggle with the fact that I put her through this treatment away from home and that I wasn’t there when she died because I couldn’t accept the signs that she had said goodbye and it was time. I had to take her to the emergency vet instead of my usual vet because it was a week end, and without knowing people it is hard to guide them in their decisions. I am a nurse and have helped families make the decision to withdraw care and provide comfort measures. As vets form that relationship with their clients that guidance is just as important. Sometimes we know the end inevitable, but our hearts refuse to accept it. This is an excellent article. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 8, 2015 at 4:13 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m so sorry, Kat. That’s one of the things I’m most afraid of: that I will not be able to be with one of my cats at the end.

      Reply
    • susan
      June 8, 2015 at 4:27 pm (4 years ago)

      I am so sorry you lost your baby this way! You have to remember it was the years you spent showering her with love that mattered the most.

      Reply
    • kat
      June 8, 2015 at 5:03 pm (4 years ago)

      I am sorry for your loss. Please know that she had a good life with you and maybe it was difficult for her to leave with you around. I know this topic is about cats but I have had cats and dogs. I went into the hospital last year for surgery to remove cancer. My 18 year old dog was in declining health but had been to the vet 2 weeks prior to my surgery where she was proclaimed the ‘ever ready bunny’, she keeps going & going. Nothing obviously wrong with her other than old age issues. The night I went into the hospital she started to fail and was gone in 2 days while I was still in the hospital. I think she was hanging on for me and when I wasn’t around she was able to let go. Maybe it was the same for your kitty; it was easier for her to leave with you not there.

      Reply
  18. Annette
    June 8, 2015 at 2:43 pm (4 years ago)

    Greebo came to us by chance. We’d had a bbq and left some scraps underneath it. I went back out to clean up, and there he was, a massive ginger cat, chewing on the scraps. I was going to shoo him away, but he was in really poor condition, and obviously starving, so I let him finish. He then proceeded to wander into the house, jump up on a chair, clean his face and fall asleep. I put him outside when we went to bed. This went on for 2 weeks before I let him spend the night. We put signs up, notified vets, tried to find an owner, but to no avail. The weather became bad, so I let him spend the night. He stayed then until his death, 11 years later. His collar was embedded, we had to cut it off him, and his skin underneath was ulcerated. He was matted and filthy. But we nursed him back to health. He became a legend in our neighbourhood and had many an adventure with us. Then, Christmas eve 2012, he suddenly crashed. We rushed him to the vet, and he was diagnosed with chronic renal failure. We were shown how to give him fluids on a drip, and went away with bagfuls of medication for him. All over Christmas and the new year we treated him, loved him, hoped for him. He was 17 by this point. In January, my husband had to go away working, and Greebo became very ill. His colour faded, and everything he ate or drank, he threw back up. My sister came to stay with me one night, and was concerned by what she saw. I gave him his drip fluid, and he cried all the way through it. We held him together for such a long time, and she finally asked me what I had been thinking; was it time to let him go? I conceded that I was thinking the same thing. There was no quality of life for him, and that’s what I was worried about the most. I agreed that I would take him to the vet in the morning and see what they thought. At this point, I had never had an animal of my own to look after, let alone lost one. The next morning, the vet agreed, and I held Greebo in my arms and sang to him as he took his last breath. I was hysterical. I couldn’t stop crying. It was raining heavily, but on the way back, a pure ray of sunshine broke through the rain clouds. I took that as a sign that Greebo had gone home. I was so sorry for my husband, as he was away and couldn’t be there with us. I couldn’t go to work, I was so upset, and cried all day. But I knew I had done the right thing. He had looked at me the night before, and I had just known…he wasn’t there any more. He wasn’t enjoying life, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, the vet said the renal failure would have made him feel terribly ill. I don’t regret it for a minute, but I’ve never stopped missing him. He was an amazing companion, and I will always love him for that. My amazing Greebo x

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 8, 2015 at 3:03 pm (4 years ago)

      What an amazing cat he was, Annette. I love that he sent you a sign when you were on your way home after letting him go.

      Reply
      • Annette
        June 8, 2015 at 3:57 pm (4 years ago)

        Thank you, he was amazing. So many people came to see us the day he died. He was a legend.

        Reply
  19. Martine
    June 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm (4 years ago)

    For me, barring when the animal is really sick and the decision is made for you, in a way, it’s the animal who lets you know when it’s time. This is what happened with my Maine Coon Clouseau. He had diabetes and renal problems. We’d accommodated him as much as we could each time he “asked” (which came in the form of him urinating somewhere, usually.) But one day, we saw that he was no longer enjoying life. That spark had gone from his eyes. We just could tell it was the end.

    For my cat Cyrano, it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done and thinking about it still brings me to tears. Cyrano was a very special Siamese cat. We had a remarkable connection, him and I. For his entire life, Cyrano had health problems (FUS, allergies and more). He patiently lived through all the vet visits. I fought with vets so he would get the best, most appropriate care. A couple of years after I divorced, he started declining. He had had ups and downs so I first thought it was just one more. And he did get slightly better, then slightly worse for about 8 months. Then he was diagnosed with cancer. At 17 and half, there was no way I was going to even attempt to give him any treatment. The plan was to make him comfortable until he “told” me it was the end. And he did less than a week later, one Wednesday morning, when I found him in the bathtub (his usual refuge when he didn’t feel well.) I called the vet to make the appointment for later that morning. We spent the last couple of hours in a big hug. I could tell he was ready. He seemed relieved to have “made the decision”. It sounds odd, but that’s how it felt.

    What’s really hard for me is to wonder if I waited too long. I have thought about it many times, replaying the last few months we spent together. In the end, I concluded that I might have “forced” him a little about a month and half before he went, when he wasn’t eating much and I would bring the food to him. But he ate and got a little better after. Except for that time, I’m convinced now that it was him who was hanging in there to stay with me. He might have “let go” earlier, but he was so attached to me and this was such a pivotal time in my life that I’m convinced he kept going so he could be with me. I don’t think he was in pain. Just feeling old and worn out, I imagine. But he was so attached to me I think it gave him a reason to hang on. What a humbling experience. I hope I did right by him.

    And maybe I did. The second night after he passed, I had a very unusual dream. I was in a room with a fireplace and in front of it, something slowly materialized. It was Clouseau, my Maine Coon. I was so happy to see him. I gave him a big hug and picked him up and asked (in my head; there were no words exchanged) “what are you doing here?” And he answered “in thoughts” that he had come to let me know that Cyrano was fine… I still think of Cyrano very often. I wish I could share with him my happy moments. If there is Heaven for cats, he’s up there, no doubt.

    I would say watch your pet for the physical signs, but also for that spark of life in their eyes. Once that’s gone, then it’s time. Thankfully, we still have the love we felt for them. That doesn’t die. It stays in your heart and keeps their personality alive for as long as we remember them. It’s a small consolation, but it’s helped me. Maybe it’ll help others.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 8, 2015 at 3:05 pm (4 years ago)

      You are so right about that spark, Martine. What a beautiful dream. I really believe that our cats find ways to send us signs – we just need to be willing to open our hearts and minds to see and hear them.

      Reply

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