In Home Euthanasia: A Better End of Life Experience

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Making a decision about whether it’s time to let a beloved pet go is one of the hardest things anyone loving a cat will have to go through. What can compound the difficulty of the decision is that most cats don’t like going to the vet’s. Having the euthanasia performed in the comfort of your home, perhaps even in one of your cat’s favorite spots, can help make saying goodbye a more peaceful experience for both cat and human.

When I first published Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher (affiliate link*) nine years ago, I heard from so many readers that they had no idea that having a pet euthanized at home was even an option. Thankfully, home euthanasia has become more common since then.

I write in Buckley’s Story:

There was never a doubt in my mind that when the time came, Buckley would die at home. I had never been comfortable with euthanasia done in veterinary clinics. Even though I had assisted with many of them in my years of working at animal hospitals, and they were usually peaceful experiences, I did not like the idea that an animal’s last moments would take place in such a sterile and unfamiliar setting. No matter how peaceful veterinarians and staff try to make this final transition, most pets are stressed by veterinary hospital visits, and pet owners can be left with their final memory being one of a stressful experience instead of the peaceful one it can be when done in the pet’s home.”

Not all veterinarians offer home euthanasia, but many will do if asked

Not all veterinarians offer home euthanasia. Those that do generally don’t advertise the fact. I feel that asking a veterinarian whether they offer this service is extremely important while the pet is healthy, rather than waiting until there is a need for the service and then to find out that it is not available.

In recent years, some veterinarians with house call practices have embraced the concept of home euthanasia, and these vets can be a great option if your own vet does not offer it. Even though you won’t have an ongoing relationship with these vets and they won’t know your cat, they are experienced with making the euthanasia process as peaceful as possible.

A peaceful goodbye in familiar surroundings

Home euthanasia can make the final good-bye a peaceful, and sometimes even beautiful, experience. There will no stressful or upsetting car ride. You won’t have to see healthy pets or other pet owners as you walk into the clinic with your pet for the last time. You can create a calming atmosphere and surround the cat with what she’s familiar with, providing comfort and support. You can hold a ceremony that suits your personal and religious beliefs. You will be able to spend as much time with your cat’s body as you need after your cat has passed without being disturbed by veterinary staff. You will be able to grieve in privacy and on your own terms.

Is in home euthanasia right for you and your cat?

While I believe that in home euthanasia is always preferable to having to put your cat through the stress of a final visit to the veterinary hospital, for some cat parents, watching their beloved cat die at home may simply be too difficult. Cat guardians who have decided against in home euthanasia usually do so because they worry that they won’t be able to handle the memory of their cat passing in a formerly favorite spot in their home. Like all decisions involving euthanasia, this is a very individual and personal decision. There are no right or wrong answers.

A directory of veterinarians who offer in home euthanasia

The Pet Loss Support Page offers resources for your cat’s end of life and beyond, including listings of veterinarians who will perform in home euthanasia by state (don’t let the outdated design of the site turn you off, the information is current. Simply click on your state in the upper left hand corner.)

Have you experienced a home euthanasia for one of your pets? Would you consider it for your cat?

*The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products on Amazon and affiliated sites. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.

This post was first published in 2013 and has been updated.

33 Comments on In Home Euthanasia: A Better End of Life Experience

  1. Sean
    April 8, 2018 at 1:20 pm (2 weeks ago)

    This sounds like a potentially less stressful solution to having to part with our pets who are ill and in pain. I hope we can all find local vets who can help with this when the time comes.

    Reply
  2. Carol Goin
    April 6, 2018 at 3:19 pm (3 weeks ago)

    I am glad you have provided a series on euthanasia. I am also thankful that Rebekah Gamble commented on checking to make sure euthanasia is a two step process. I had a cat, Pooch, whom I adopted from a neighbor as an already indoor/outdoor cat, and had her for ten years without mishap. But there came a day, and I will never know what happened, when Pooch dragged herself home bloody. I think a dog off leash must have chased her into the parkway.(I will never again allow a cat outside) I was berserk with grief and horror and managed to get her to the emergency vet who asked if I wanted to hold her during the euthanasia. I said yes but was so upset I did not check about the two step process. I only realized later that he had had trouble getting the catheter in her and she was awake for it. I realize now that wanting to hold her was selfish as she was suffering, and the delay prolonged it. I am only comforted by knowing that as long as she lived with me she was Queen.
    My next cat, Celie, had a peaceful home euthanasia. She was very calm and hardly noticed the sedating injection. The vet shaved her leg after she was unconscious and then administered the final injection.
    My present cat is not near to this kind of decision but thinking ahead gives me pause because she is terrified of strangers and will vanish at the sound of footsteps coming around to the door. I may have to take Princess Annie to the vet if this time comes.
    Thank you for the series and thanks to the writers of comments. Reading the comments helps me be aware of different circumstances that could occur.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 6, 2018 at 3:47 pm (3 weeks ago)

      I’m so sorry about Pooch, Carol. What a traumatic way to lose a beloved cat. I’m glad Celie’s passing was peaceful.

      Reply
  3. Silvia shanahan
    April 5, 2018 at 2:32 pm (3 weeks ago)

    I so appreciate the tip to find which of the vets in my area does at home euthenasia, so that if I should ever need it, I don’t have to scramble at the time to find one.
    I checked around this morning and put that info in my book.

    When I had my last cat euthanized, it was at the vet, I was with the cat, and it went so quickly that I wasn’t prepared…..like I didn’t have a chance to say a proper goodbye. The cat did not seem stressed out on the trip to the vet.

    I brought him home and had a tearful wake all day long….the next day I buried him in my garden.
    Just reflecting on it now, brings back a lot of sadness and pain.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 6, 2018 at 6:00 am (3 weeks ago)

      I’m sorry this article brought back sad memories, Silvia, but I’m glad you have the information now. I hope you won’t need it for a very long time!

      Reply
  4. caren gittleman
    April 4, 2018 at 1:59 pm (3 weeks ago)

    Having done in home euthanasia (with my Angel Bobo) I am extremely mixed. For me, it wasn’t the experience I had hoped for. I have vivid, upsetting and awful memories of that day. When they shaved Bobo’s legs I was in the hallway and he was crying (they asked me to wait in our hallway)……then…I had to calm him down (which upset me because I was petting him to soothe him only to have him leave me)….it was awful. I had to stare at that couch (and clock) every day after and remember the experience. Even watching the Vet (whom I still go to and ADORE) walking with him to his car…….I can see it all vividly as if it were yesterday. I seriously don’t know if I could ever handle that again. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry as hard as I did the day it happened.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 5, 2018 at 5:51 am (3 weeks ago)

      Oh Caren, I’m sorry you had such a bad experience. It’s remarkable to me that you still adore the vet who performed the euthanasia – he must be a very special person. I’m also sorry this article brought back those sad memories for you.

      Reply
  5. Kat
    April 4, 2018 at 1:19 pm (3 weeks ago)

    Prayers for all of you who have lost a fur-baby….it’s never easy, no matter how much you expect it and prepare for it. We lost our tortie in Sep, to cancer of the jaw; but were lucky enough to find a vet to come to the house. Husband was a basket case, she was his girl, and he bawled like a baby; I still feel so bad I didnt catch that cancer way before; now I’m quite paranoid of my other three kitties. Regardless, some years ago I had a manx that I had vet come to home also…I fixed her bed in her room, played soft music, sun was coming in the skylight, she had some toys, and there was one special geranium she’d lay under outside…potted it and brought it to her, took one flower and put between her paws….that geranium is now 10 yrs old and still healthy…has been moved from NC, to WV, to FL. As for my tortie, she made it thru all those states, and laid to rest here in FL. As will the rest of my babies. Never to be forgotten……….

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 5, 2018 at 5:52 am (3 weeks ago)

      I’m sorry about your tortie girl, Kat. I have tears in my eyes reading about how special you made your Manx kitty’s passing, and the geranium that lived on all those year – beautiful!

      Reply
  6. Ann
    April 4, 2018 at 12:27 pm (3 weeks ago)

    I’ve done this differently for different kitties. The one constant is that I’ve stayed with each one until the very end, and there is always a kitty blanket or throw with the “home smell” on it to warm them as they pass. The in-home experience that I had was very good; I had a question about the way one injection was administered, and know that if I chose to do this again, I’d ask about each step beforehand. The last vet visit my old boy had had clearly frightened him, so I wouldn’t bring him back for his last minutes. The in-home vet was very sensitive & attuned to his needs and to the presence of the other 2 kitties, who stayed in the room the whole time. One of them hopped up and curled up next to Kitten after the 2nd injection, which both amazed me and broke my heart. For my second oldest this winter, I had to make a decision about the expense and his needs; I’m retired and I’d already spent more than $1,000 in the preceding 6 months on his meds, X-rays & other diagnostics, & repeated vet visits. The in-home vet had cost $350 for the first in-home euthanasia. An ice storm was predicted for the weekend, and his respiration rate on exertion was starting to increase significantly. I didn’t want to have him/me trapped at home in hazardous weather if he went into respiratory distress. So we went to the vet’s. They loved him, and were always kind to him, and I think he felt OK with being there. He actually purred after they brought him back to me after inserting the catheter for the meds. He died peacefully, wrapped in his blankie while I whispered to him. I felt comfortable with each decision, and hope that others will, too.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 5, 2018 at 5:54 am (3 weeks ago)

      Thank you for sharing your experiences, Ann. I’m glad both were peaceful.

      Reply
  7. Joan Wysong
    April 4, 2018 at 11:51 am (3 weeks ago)

    I agree wholeheartedly, I had to have my Mary taken at Christmas time. We have here a group called Lap of Love, who are on call only for these difficult situations. The vet who came was SO Gentle and kind. After 18 years of love, it was my last gift to Mary.
    P.S. I now have two lovely sisters that look exactly like Mary.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 5, 2018 at 5:55 am (3 weeks ago)

      Lap of Love has a wonderful reputation, and I’m glad your experience was positive. It’s hard to lose a cat anytime of the year, but it seems even harder at Christmas time.

      Reply
  8. Janine
    April 4, 2018 at 9:26 am (3 weeks ago)

    We just had to put one of our cats, Kapono, to sleep on Monday. I sure wish my vet offered to do it at home. I know he would have much more comfortable. But we did take his favorite blanket and wrapped him up in it. At least he had something from home to lay on. My heart hurts so bad and I miss him like crazy. He gave us 15 wonderful years.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 5, 2018 at 5:57 am (3 weeks ago)

      I’m so sorry about Kapono, Janine. Be gentle with yourself as you mourn your beautiful boy.

      Reply
  9. Lana Verplank
    April 4, 2018 at 8:54 am (3 weeks ago)

    I had looked into In Home Euth before our beloved Wheaten Terrier Buster became stricken with a tumor on his spleen, Hemangiosarcoma. A death sentence. I knew and my husband agreed when the time would come that would be the decision. After surgery I put him on K-9 Immunity Plus and Milk Thistle and Curcumin and other vitamins. He bounced back and gained almost all the 15 lbs he had lost!! He lived 9 months which was a gift! They said a month. 3 was almost unheard of. I had also discovered his original Vet was not doing In Home Euth!! She knew him since a pup! There are no words to describe our pain, depression, grief and anger losing our 5th child, we have 4 children. However, the peace we were able to give Buster to be in one of his comfy spots, with us all there, music playing like I always would play, is unquestionable. There was absolutely no way I was going to take him in anywhere. I would figure out how to pay the cost no matter what. It was the worst time in our lives and we miss Buster daily. He left us 1 day after his 13TH birthday. May 2, 2014
    Our 7 yr old Bella kitty became ill with asthma and then Toxoplasmosis which led to finding out she was FIV+ 3 years after Buster. A relentless fever tormented her for a month and a half and tore me to pieces emotionally and physically taking care of her. I had contacted the Professor at Colorado University, the Pioneer and expert of FIV/Toxo cats to get Interferons started. Her last hope. She spent 3 days in Specialty Center when fever hit 106.4. Yes, I was panicked with fear. Unfortunately, 2 weeks later she was getting worse and I knew in her eyes she was not going to beat this. I’m going to cry now so I must stop writing. He was so strong and such s tough Russian Blue kitty. She went to be with Buster 7/24/17. At home with same Doc who came for Buster. She had peace on the bed in warmth and comfort and music and us, our kids and our 4 other kitties to say in a while crocodile. Sweet Bella I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you.
    No second choice to In Home Euth. The only decision for us no matter what I would have to pay for it.
    Also Thank you Ingrid for the state list link. We just moved to AZ from IL so that is very helpful.

    Reply
    • Lana Verplank
      April 4, 2018 at 8:55 am (3 weeks ago)

      Typo -vet was *NOW doing !

      Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 5, 2018 at 5:59 am (3 weeks ago)

      I’m so sorry about Buster and Bella, Lana. Thank you for sharing your experience with both of them.

      Reply
  10. Nancy Faulkner
    April 4, 2018 at 8:40 am (3 weeks ago)

    Excellent information! Never knew that your kids could be euthanized at home. Will check into the website provided. Any pet parent knows it is never easy to say goodbye. Our pets are so much part of our lives.

    In my heart, I know we will be reunited with our kids. Once, we cross that rainbow bridge, ALL of the kids we had in our lives, will be there to greet and be with us forever.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 5, 2018 at 6:00 am (3 weeks ago)

      I believe that, too, Nancy. For me, that belief is the only way that makes losing them bearable.

      Reply
  11. Catatopia
    April 4, 2018 at 5:30 am (3 weeks ago)

    My last two cats were euthanized at home. It was a much calmer experience than with my first cat that I took to the vet. I would definitely go this route in the future if possible.

    Reply
  12. Yelena Aronson
    April 4, 2018 at 2:13 am (3 weeks ago)

    My cat Tulip died in a last weekend. I had two vets that they were ready to come and do it at home. But it didn’t happened, Saturday, she was following me around a house and asking for the food. And on Sunday she was sleeping all day long, it was kind of unusual for her. I had a bad feeling, but I didn’t call a vet, I was hoping maybe she’ll be okay tomorrow. Me and my husband were siting next to her all night. She died at 5am, quiet and peaceful. Now, we don’t have a life, both crying every day. I can not do anything, can not work, can not eat and we don’t sleep. House so empty, my husband grieving a lot, she was a daddy’s girl and thanks to him, she lived almost 9 month, since diagnosed with lymphoma. He was her doctor (he is a human doctor) and I know for sure, she was not in pain and she was comfortable to the very last moment.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 4, 2018 at 5:37 am (3 weeks ago)

      I’m so sorry, Yelena. I’m glad she passed peacefully, but that doesn’t make it any less painful for you and your husband.

      Reply
  13. Rebekah Gamble
    March 23, 2013 at 8:17 pm (5 years ago)

    Ingrid, you are a lovely person. Your answer to Lisa brought a little tear! I lost 2 that were 21 & 22 over the past 3 years. You can NEVER know if you should have done it differently. The first loss I felt that I should have taken her in sooner. I actually had a mobile vet appointment for the following Monday, but she died over the weekend. The 2nd one, I did not wait as long so she would not suffer over a weekend, and of course, felt like I was betraying her to take her to the vet. The bottom line is..whatever you did with LOVE was the right thing! Like you have said, no one knows how to die. I would also like to add that in discussions with a vet about euthanasia, ask whether it is a 2 step process. In other words, make sure they sedate them first and euthanize second, right? Remember the years of love and let your heart soar! Bless you all that love and do the best you can for God’s little critters.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 24, 2013 at 6:07 am (5 years ago)

      I’m sorry for your losses, Rebekah. And you are absolutely right about the 2-step process of euthanasia. This is considered standard of care, but it’s good to doublecheck. I also think it’s important to understand what may happen during and after euthanasia – most vets will explain this to clients beforehand.

      Reply
  14. Ingrid
    November 23, 2010 at 5:16 pm (7 years ago)

    Lisa, I’m so sorry about Fluffy. 21 years is a good long time for a cat, but of course, it’s never long enough.

    I hope in time, you can find peace with what happened with Fluffy. You made the best decision you could for her every step of the way, and I really believe that she knew you only had her best interests at heart. In the end, she was with someone she loved, in an environment that she knew – and that matters a great deal.

    From your description, it doesn’t sound like she suffered, and that her end was peaceful. It’s agonizing to make the decision, but it’s also hard to second-guess yourself about whether you may have waited too long. Try to let go of these questions that have no answers, and try to focus instead on the love you shared with Fluffy for 21 wonderful years. The hole she left in your life, and your heart, will always be there, but hopefully, in time, you will be able to find peace, and only the happy memories will remain.

    You’re in my thoughts.

    Reply
  15. Lisa
    November 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm (7 years ago)

    My senior cat, Fluffy, passed away May/2010 at 21 yrs old. I struggle with my decisions for her “passing” not knowing if what I did was right or wrong. I knew instantly when she was dying. I knew it was close to the end just by her body language. I made numerous appointments with the vet to have her euthanized, and never had the heart to take her. My problem wasn’t letting go, or accepting that my cat was nearing the end. My problem was that I didn’t want the last thing my cat seen to be a sterile environment with people she didn’t know and me not there. I didn’t want her even for 1 second to think I had abandoned her. I didn’t have any money for veterinary care, mspca told me they would euthanize whether I had money or not for the welfare of my animal only thing is that they would take her away and I couldn’t be there for her last moments. so I decided to let God do his work and let nature take over. I knew she was sick because she was peeing all over the place. And I was beginning to get really irritated with the pee (i have carpets only) and I think I may have let her know that I was annoyed, and I still feel really bad about that. It turned into a really stressful situation. Her last day on earth she was laying in the kitchen on the floor, and she just peed herself all over. I let her out on the porch where my boyfriend and his brother were while I cleaned the pee. Half hour later my boyfriend led me outside where the cat was laying and it looked like she was gasping for air. I panicked and immediately said this isn’t right, and was getting on my shoes to take her to the vet and put her out of her misery. I felt that I had made the wrong decision, like I had prolonged her suffering so I wouldn’t feel like she felt like I was abandoning her. My boyfriend picked her up. wrapped her in a towel and was going to take her upstairs where my aunt was and was going to ask for a ride to the vet. I went into my downstairs apartment to grab my purse, keys etc. I made it upstairs less than 3 minutes later and she had already passed away in my boyfriend’s arms. She really loved my boyfriend and I felt some comfort knowing she was with someone she loved very much at the last moment of her life. I still don’t know if what I did was right or not. I don’t know if it was cruel, if she wouldn’t have cared or not if I was there for her. If she would have even felt abandoned. I just thought it would be a scary experience and her last experience I didn’t want filled with fear. My cat never cried out in pain, her only problem was peeing everywhere. I didn’t feel right taking away her life because she had become an inconvenience. I don’t feel right playing God, I wish I had money to get her all the veterinary care she needed, but I didn’t. I was able to bury her in our yard, have a little prayer and stick some religious objects in her little casket that I kissed before placing them. I loved that cat with everything in me, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of how I could have done things differently. I wish I knew home euthanasia existed.

    Reply
    • Alice
      October 12, 2014 at 7:21 pm (4 years ago)

      Lisa, I don’t know if this will help or not, but I firmly believe that the 2 sweet kitties I had euthanized years ago are waiting for me on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. They will be there to greet me when my time to cross comes, and I know it will be a happy reunion. As long as we did what we thought was best at the time, as long as we loved them and showed them our love, nothing else matters. God understands.

      Reply
  16. Ingrid
    August 25, 2010 at 1:16 pm (8 years ago)

    Bernadette, you’re right, having that final memory be something that took place in your home can be difficult, and it may lead some people to choose having it done at the vet’s office rather than at home. Like everything surrounding this difficult issue, it’s such an individual decision.

    Hani, you’re absolutely right. No matter how peaceful the passing is, it still hurts.

    Karen, I hope it will be a long long time before you have to consider this service.

    Marg, I think in most cases it is much easier on the animal, and the person.

    Reply
  17. Marg
    August 25, 2010 at 10:38 am (8 years ago)

    I have never done that but it sure sounds better than taking them to the vet. It is so much nicer to do it right there at home where they are comfortable and it makes it so much easier on the animal.
    That looks like a great website and thanks for this good information.

    Reply
  18. JesseJames the outlaw (Karen)
    August 25, 2010 at 9:49 am (8 years ago)

    Thanks for that information and that website. That is such a hard thing to go thru and be able to let go and not let them
    suffer anymore. The next time that I need that service
    that is something that I would like to consider.

    Karen

    Reply
  19. hani
    August 25, 2010 at 9:00 am (8 years ago)

    ya i have that experience too…lucky me, the vet still one of my relative…so she come to my house…doing euthanasia with love and care, seeing my cat going in deep…deep slept…and never woke up..but still…even we let ‘them’ go peacefully…and maybe we want our pet knew that we love them until the end…it still hard to loosing them…

    Reply
  20. animalartist
    August 25, 2010 at 8:46 am (8 years ago)

    They just can’t let go properly when they have to pick up and go somewhere strange and uncomfortable near the end, it’s just not right. It can be difficult to have the memory in your home, but you have all those other memories from a life together to balance.

    Reply

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