euthanasia-guilt

Guest post by Sarah Chauncey

For several days after the vet gently stopped my 20-year-old cat Hedda’s heart, I couldn’t get past the feeling that Hedda didn’t want to die, or at least, she wanted it to happen in her own time, naturally.

I had been one of those people who was adamant that I would not choose euthanasia unless I believed Hedda felt death would be preferable. I didn’t believe her life was mine to end. Nobody would likely look at a photo of Hedda, compared to her prime, and say it was too soon. But all I cared about was whether she felt it was too soon. I felt like I betrayed her trust.

I’ve heard people say that, in this situation, we choose the path that will give us the least cause for regret. With euthanasia, no regret is usually not an option. Except for those instances where an animal is in acute distress and nothing can be done, the timing for euthanasia is rarely clear-cut. It’s also largely influenced by our personal beliefs, and our resources.

No regret is usually not an option. Except for those instances where an animal is in acute distress and nothing can be done, the timing for euthanasia is rarely clear-cut.

During our last 24 hours together, I vowed that if there were any negative karmic repercussions from my decision, that I bore them wholly (I also really, really hoped there weren’t).

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Hedda

How Guilt Tries to Protect Us

Guilt is the mind’s resistance to what is, a futile attempt to change the past. In the context of euthanasia, guilt prevents us from feeling the full pain of having to say goodbye to a being we love. In a roundabout way, our mind tries to protect our heart by creating thoughts of guilt: “I should have…” “I shouldn’t have…” “I gave up too soon,” “I waited too long,” etc. Those thoughts—the mind’s incessant activity—keep painful emotions stuck in our bodies.

The thing is, guilt doesn’t change anything. It simply makes us feel miserable. And guilt compounds the grief, because as long as the mind is whirring, the heart can’t process its pain.

After Hedda’s death, I wanted to know that she forgave me. Because that wasn’t an option, I was the one who had to forgive myself.

I wanted to know that she forgave me. Because that wasn’t an option, I was the one who had to forgive myself.

Guilt and Inquiry

In the midst of all my inner turmoil, I came back to what I’d been practicing for several years. Guilt is simply a thought—the thought that I should have done something differently. So I decided to examine that thought.

The following is loosely based on The Work by Byron Katie, combined with questions a good therapist would’ve asked me. For each of us, the answers may vary. My answers don’t indicate what your answers “should” be—they’re what came up for me. The questions, though, can give you insight into how your thoughts of guilt may be trying to protect you.

Is it true that I should have done something differently? I don’t know. Let’s say “yes,” just for the purposes of this exercise. Let’s say I believe I absolutely should not have deliberately facilitated Hedda’s death.

Can I be absolutely certain that that thought is true? No, of course not.

Can I see a way the opposite statement might be equally or more true (i.e., that I absolutely should have ended her life)? Well, yes, but then there’s a story behind that, which is that if that was true, then maybe she had been suffering for a while, so I still wasn’t off the hook.

What if this was absolutely the perfect timing, and I didn’t do anything wrong. Could I see that as a true statement? Yes. [Huge energy shift here]

If I didn’t use up energy believing this thought, what would I have to feel? Pain, loss, grief, emptiness. It’s much easier to distract myself with thoughts.

If I didn’t believe the thought “I shouldn’t have had her euthanized,” what would I feel? Relaxed, calm, expansive. Appreciative of her love and our time together.

This series of questions helped to release me from the shackles of guilt. Not entirely, but substantially. I came to see that “guilt” was just a way of distracting myself from feeling the pain and sadness, the silence (SO MUCH silence), the ache in my chest. Guilt also prevented me from appreciating the mystery of life, of love, and of death.

I don’t mean to sound like “and everything was sunshine forever more.” It wasn’t. I still missed Hedda’s physical presence—even more than when I’d been distracting myself with guilt thoughts. Yet once I was able to feel the waves of grief directly, unencumbered by guilt, I found that each wave dissipated more quickly.

black-cat
Hedda

Finding Self-forgiveness

Letting go of guilt doesn’t mean the love is gone, or we miss our cat any less. It simply frees us to experience what we’re feeling in the moment instead of trying to change the past.

There’s a popular quote, attributed to multiple people, from Lily Tomlin to Jack Kornfield, that says, “Forgiveness is giving up hope of a better past.” We all do the best we can, with the resources we have, in each moment. A friend of mine, when thinking about the euthanasia of her cats, turns to another quote, from Jeff Foster, “Simply let go of the illusion that it could have been any different.”

If you can’t stop the torrent of thoughts, that’s okay, too. Try to show yourself the same compassion you’ve shown your cats. Grief (and guilt) are painful enough without adding an extra layer of feeling bad about feeling bad.

If grief or feelings of guilt are interfering with your day-to-day life, it’s okay to seek professional help. There are growing numbers of pet loss support groups, both in person and online, as well as one-on-one counseling options. You are not alone.

p.s.-i-love-you-more-than-tuna

Sarah Chauncey is the author of P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna, a gift book for adults grieving their cat. She runs @morethantuna on Instagram and Facebook, “a celebration of nine lives,” and she started #tunatributes, a support community for people grieving their cat. She lives on Vancouver Island.

163 Comments on Dealing with Feelings of Guilt After Euthanasia

  1. First of all , thank you all for the experiences, very touching subject.
    Yesterday 28-06-2022 we had to euthanize our cat Inno that we had for 11 1/2 years and i just cant believe how absolutelly destryoyed me and my wife are.
    We arrived in the U.K. and after some years one of our neigbours had a cat as had a few others in the houses around us. So , sometimes he would be outside the building door waiting for someone to open it so he coud get inside and head for the appartment door scraching the door with his little paws. Once i opened the door and the neighbour didnt seem to be around anymore, so we put some food and water outside our door,couple days went by and one day i looked at him and he seemed to be limping , so i examined him , he let , he trusted me somehow, even used to recognize my car arriving from work.
    So me and wife talk, go to the neighbours door , nobody in , and altough we didnt had much money at all, we called a vet , got in , did his first examination,washed, vaccines, neuterred, chipped , leg operation etc.And we take him now home with us inside as he had no fleas etc. NOW ,it was part of our family. Life is hard for everybody , and Inno helped us much more that we ever could help him.I had animal before and usually i create a strong bond if its my pet,not the first cat either, but WOW.
    He waked me up, with is little paws in my face every day, and would go stand on my chest before sleep, lay down besides on my side of the bed , lay there 5 minutes for couple strokes , and then go to his nest.he had 1 specific purr that he related to one word of mine.it toke some time to train, but he would do THAT one only in once circunstance after that word of mine, it was unbelievable. Neihbour once came back and wanted the cat back, nope and bye.we changed house and couldt let him outside so we got a cat leash that he toke as trust was main, and off to the front garden when possible.
    He was getting old , but 2 days ago me and my wife saw him having an episode where he was in panic not beeing able to walk , tumbling and going agains the wall, it toke like 10 seconds total MAX, we rushed to him, and in 30 seconds we calmed him down stroking his little fur . went on line check symtoms , and observed him during the reswt of the day, eating ,drinking lot water , resting.Next day was on the phone with my sister while getting an appointment, he had another episode, very scared, and went hidding in the closet breathing VERY fast , absolutly racing , open mouth,OMG my boy is not well .25 minutes later we are in the emergency vet , he lost a lot weight even after all the food changed we did over the years ,The vet starts talking with me and ive had years of sales, had lot trainning dealing with people and her speech just blancks me out as i understand the “prepare” underlying message. The Love of my life takes to 2 shot to see if he can breathe better, to see whats causing all this . The GOD DAM result is negative and he dont respond positivelly.
    The vet was a real professional, i thanked her later for beeing honest , but right NOW i want know what the hell is happening, so? She goes after more time and its several things, but his one heart dilation(late stage congestive heart disease, and i just cant believe.We consider bring him home , tomorrow maybe do tests , but he is not well, this is getting worse,more frequent,the vet says we cant fix this and the breathing is critical and i just die right there imagining my cat dying at home suffering for how long with my useless self just standing there ?We decide what i see costed me the most to do so far in my life.His blanket is not there , his treat neither, and i just CANT immagine the tough of seeing my Inno go lifeless in panic so im not there either and this is killing me.
    I know the reasons , i know the arguments , i just know , but my brain is just not computting nothing above superficial 10 secs toughts.Ive lost people before-friends and familly . weeks old sister, grandfather and one uncle marked me the most , but the crying and absollute crushing sadness and despair is just unbeliveable.Its like i have it printed in my eyes and everything i see its in the background of my cat. Ive lost i literal part of me , i dont know where it is , my chest hurst somewhere inside, and as a 46 year old male i just cant stop crying ,My Inno, my little chicken wing ( i used to call him that to tease him)wont be back, and i miss him terribly.

  2. I just put my big beautiful orange boy to sleep on two days ago and the pain is unimaginable. He was only four and we’d only had him since September 2020, less than half his life. We love him so much, he had such a big bold personality he was my best friend, protector and constant companion and now he’s just gone. He had crystals in his bladder that were causing blockages, including in the catheter they were using to try to flush the crystals out. He was in an incredible amount of pain, crying out even through opioid and sedatives and I just couldn’t bear seeing him like that. We could’ve kept trying, kept reinserting catheters and pumping him with meds and fluids to try to get him well enough to face surgery but I just couldn’t do it. I know he was sedated but he just seemed so tired so we made the choice and haven’t stopped crying since. My partner and I both feel like we murdered him. That we gave up too soon or didn’t act in getting him help soon enough and we’re the reason he’s not here with us now. We’ll miss him and regret this decision forever.

    • My wife and I just went through the same thing on June 24th with our 7 year old orange tabby. He had bladder stones and crystals blocked his urethra and vet said he probably would t make it through the anesthesia he was so week and his kidneys were shot. We euthanized him and feel so guilty that we could have done better, we just don’t know. Vet said could have been going on awhile and crystals were even in kidneys. Vet said even if he lives through Catheter to unblock he will probably still die from kidney damage.

  3. Our 14 year old kitty Freddie started acting abnormally about a month ago: very sluggish, no appetite. After a few days like this, we took him to vet who performed an X-ray and blood tests.

    The X-ray revealed bladder stones and a large mass in one of his lungs. A subsequent Ct scan found more tumors in his lungs. Since removal of the large tumor would have been major surgery and chemo/radiation would have only bought a month or two we made the difficult decision to euthanize. We had a previous cat that we waited too long with to make this tough choice and he suffered. Freddie’s euthanasia went as well as anything that sad could go. We had it at home with my wife cuddling him as the vet gently put him to sleep. It’s been three days since the event and I feel terrible grief. Right now I feel like I’ll never stop crying. We loved Freddie like we’d love a child.

    • So very sorry for your loss. My beloved Hobbs had cancer and we tried to save him but only prolonged the fight. It’s been 3 years now and still miss him. I feel for you.

  4. We adopted Shy and Lacey, two beautiful sisters from the same litter, about 11 1/2 years ago. Last Friday, we made the decision to put sweet Lacey to sleep. For over a year, one of them had been marking all over the house. Maybe longer. It was about a year ago that I discovered what was going on. There was no odor, and how “she” did it without me ever seeing her, I’ll never know. We got some security cameras and placed them in places where we could find out who was doing the marking – it was Lacey. And since then, I was continuously using black light to try and find old and new markings and using enzyme cleaners.
    Could I have done more than what I did? I’ll always tell myself yes. But at the time, I was certain it was because there was jealousy between the two cats as they were getting older. I proceeded to try to keep up with the markings, and make sure I was giving each of them equal attention. (I have to say that after we adopted them at 3 months, there was essentially no background given to us from the rescue place. It began to become clear that they must have been feral, because they seemed to have had hardly any socialization. All these years they have not been comfortable around humans, except for me, and that was still not a regular comfortable. We loved them and loved them, and they still never took to my husband, who feels so bad. Lacey was more reluctant than Shy.) And then lately, the two girls started having confrontations with each other, like they didn’t want the other around. Bloodwork was always normal and no other physical issues were ever had except for both of them having had lots of gum problems and having to have many, many teeth removed. I take (and took) them to the vet regularly and kept them up on their vaccinations, and loved them and loved them. I hoped I was being a good Mommy, especially since they were so weird. We loved them along with their funny, weird, weirdness, and accepted them as they are.
    I finally took them to the vet last week, earlier than necessary for their next annual and told the vet what was going on. After bloodwork and all that, Dr. said that what is going on is in Lacey’s mind, that it’s not a physical issue causing the spraying. He suggested Prozac for a couple of months to see if MAYBE that would work. Honestly, I knew the stress this whole thing has also caused me, all the worrying, cleaning, stressing, My mental health was also compromised, and I knew I could not do another couple of months or so of letting Lacey mark all over the place. I just couldn’t handle it. Especially after the Dr. said, “and if that doesn’t work”……..
    So then the suggestion was to confine Lacey to one room for the couple of months on Prozac so I’d just have one room to go over. You know, I could have done that. I said, ok, I can do that! I went home and then pictured Lacey being in a room all by herself alone most of the time, for at least two months, and knew in my heart that she would not have tolerated that mentally. It would have tortured her, Prozac or not. I couldn’t do that to her. Not to mention how it might affect Shy.
    All I knew for sure was that Lacey was not happy, had not been happy for some reason for quite awhile, and I did not know how to fix her. I had to let her go, for her sake and for mine. I am devastated that she is gone. I am torturing myself, I am a monster for not letting her mark all over the house anymore, for not wanting to shut her in a room all by herself, for not going to the ends of the earth trying to fix things. I failed her. She was my baby and I let her down. I want to know she forgives me. I want to know that Shy forgives me for her sister being gone. I HATE it. I HATE this part of loving a furbaby. Lacey was my baby and she’s gone. It’s only been a few days, but I ache all over. I am constantly seeing her face looking at me in my mind. Constantly thinking about what I did, what I could have done, what I should have done. I know I made mistakes. Was it my fault she started marking?
    Shy and Lacey looked almost identical, so now when I look at Shy, I also see Lacey. It’s like a constant reminder. I’m sad and hurting beyond belief. It’s so hard, but I have to act like everything is normal around Shy now, so I can help her with her own grief. Even though they didn’t get along much these last two or three years, I know they loved each other. And I see Shy looking around for her. She knows.
    I know time will help, but It feels like I can’t get past this pain. I’m sorry for rambling. My thoughts jump around in my head chaotic and they won’t stop. I want to lay down on the bed with Shy and go to sleep so I can wake up from this horrible, horrible dream. But it’s not a dream. I want to believe I did the best I could, but I keep hearing that little voice that tells me otherwise. This is hard beyond words. This has been wrenching. Thank you for listening. Please send White Light for Lacey so she’ll know that I loved and love her with all my heart and I will miss her forever.

    • I’m so sorry, Jacki. It’s always hard to have to make the euthanasia decision, but when it’s for something like what you went through, it’s especially difficult. Most people wouldn’t have done as much as you did for Lacey, and I hope you can eventually find some level of peace with your decision. Based on what you shared, I agree with your assessment that Lacey would have been very unhappy being confined to a room. If anything, it took courage for you to make the decision to let her go. My heart goes out to you.

  5. I’m in tears reading all the beautiful stories here. I’m with you all as I put my beautiful boy down two days ago. I too was so brokenhearted I couldn’t look at him. I was sobbing so hard with my hand covering my eyes because my other cat had a terrible ending with her eyes wide open looking at me terrified. With my boy two days ago I had someone come into my home and he told me that it’s normal for their eyes to remain open. But I couldn’t look him in the eyes. I’m struggling with guilt but I know he knows I loved him with all my heart. I don’t know if our pets go to heaven but I’m praying that they do and then I’ll see them again one day. I had a dream of my first one after she went that she was playing and happy in a field and it made me feel so good. I’m hoping that I’ll have a dream about my boy. He was the sweetest cuddler. I know I’m gonna be heartbroken for a while. Thank you all for your words here— it’s really helped me.God bless you all.

    • I feel your pain. I just put my cat down. Poor guy had stg4 kidney failure. I could not stand seeing him suffer any longer.I find myself looking for him but I know he is gone.I really miss him. I was there to the end when the vet put him down. We brought him home and buried him in the back yard. I might sound crazy but I go to his grave and talk to him. I miss you Ash. Good bye buddy

      • Michael…my condolences to you. I am sitting on a couch right now with my cat, Bella in my lap. She also has stage 4 kidney disease and is scheduled for euthanization tmrw morning at 9:30. She would be 14 in October.
        Her condition came on very fast and aggressive. She has deteriorated in her numbers just over the past month. Now she is barely eating and has trouble going up steps. I hate saying goodbye but I refuse to let her suffer.
        My biggest issue is taking her tmrw to the place she hates the most…the vet. She will be scared and upset and that will stick with me forever.
        I’m going to give her feline gabapetin an hour before the appt to lessen the stress. But I know she’ll be frantic.
        This is not my first time saying goodbye to a beloved pet. It’s heartbreaking on every level. I’ll be with her till the end, knowing she had a good home for all these years. She was a rescue at ten weeks.
        I’ll stay with her tonight on my lap but i know that’s more me when the guilt creeps in for months to come.
        My other cat will miss her as well
        I hope the memories of your beloved Ash carry you through.

        • I sorry to hear that so sad.We just got a new kitten today. It should help with the pain of putting Ash down.Hope all is well. Sorry about Bella.
          Mike

  6. I have the exact same regret. I was behind my 21 year old Kitty holding her head, but I should have been in front of me so she could see me rather than the vet.

    • I relate to this comment SO much. Our sweet girl was euthanized nearly 9 months ago after an unsuccessful short fight with an aggressive inoperable feline cancer and this exact thought was one of the recurring thoughts I continued to feel guilty and agonized over after it was all over and done with. I so badly wished I had sat in a chair on the opposite side of the table positioned in front of her face so we could see each other in those final moments and I could speak softly to her and comfort her as she faded away. Instead I was behind her holding her gently and my husband was sitting in front of her. Everything was happening so fast and we just didn’t have time to better plan it out. I regret not being stronger for her in her final moments. I carry guilt and regret in my heart over some of my choices on that day even still all of these months later and the pain of her absence still lingers. I miss her so much.

      It’s interesting how much we can beat ourselves up mentally and emotionally despite euthanasia being the ultimate final act chosen out of love, selflessness and mercy. We do it not only because we must but because we love them so deeply we have to find the courage and strength needed to make difficult decisions like this when they count on us the most. It’s truly a pure selfless act out of unconditional, unwavering love and yet still we tell ourselves we could’ve/should’ve done things differently and can’t seem to forgive ourselves.

      Please know that you loved her enough to realize when it was her time to leave this realm and you loved her enough to not allow her to suffer needlessly. You must forgive yourself just as I must forgive myself because in reality we did everything we could for our feline friends in their final moments (and it was enough). We were enough for them.

      I sincerely hope you find peace with this as I hope I will. Know that you are not alone out there and random commenters on the internet like myself wish your heart can find the peace it needs to be whole again.

  7. I had to say goodbye to my 21 year old cat, Kitty, yesterday. She had skin cancer on her nose for over a year, and it had started to affect her quality of life substantially. I scheduled a mobile vet to come to our home, but she couldn’t come any sooner than 3 days away. After a bad night and morning I decided to take her to her regular vet. They took her back to put the catheter in and then brought us in. I had a couple of minutes with her, but I regret that I didn’t stand in front of her so she could see me easily. They laid her on her side to sedate her and I was behind her holding her head. Although I was there with her, I wish she had been able to see me in front of her rather than the vet. She really was the sweetest kitty.

    • So sorry for your loss. 21 years, that is amazing! Cats have amazing senses – even though Kitty couldnt see you, she knew you were with her.

    • It’s so hard when you lose someone who has been a major part of your life for so long. I know your pain because I made that difficult decision 3 months ago. He was 10 and the light of my life. It was a sudden illness. It happened over just 36 hours. I wasn’t prepared to let him go. I miss my Mr. Kitty every day. I live with regrets too. I admire you for having the courage and the strength to be there till the end. I did not. I said goodbye but in the end I was too emotional to watch him go. I will always regret that. In my heart I know he understands. Cats give unconditional love. Always. I know Kitty is thankful for the wonderful 21 years you had together. It helps me to focus on his life rather than his death. His life was so much more important. I hope you find peace and healing. Know that you are not alone.

      • Thank you for your story and kind words. I know your cat understands, and knows you love him. It’s strange how it’s easy to see that for someone else, but it’s hard to tell ourselves that for our own situation.

  8. We’ve made the difficult decision to let our beloved 21 year old Maggie go this Thursday. Just when I was having second thoughts. Maggie vomited and again reminded me she is in renal failure. We can continue to give her Cerenia to treat this symptom but it’s not going to help that much. Maggie has continued to amaze our vet and the vet techswho have seen her on weekly visits to give her Epigen that has kept anemia at bay.

    I’ll be reading this book as soon as I get it tomorrow and crying all the way until we let her go on Thursday. She’s been blind since August 2020 and dementia also make it hard for her to get around, though she never stops trying.
    Reading others’ comments helps me get through this. As my husband put it, she’s lived with us longer than we lived with our parents.

  9. Thank you so much Charmaine for taking the time to reply. It means so much to me. I am so sorry you are going through this. I cried all my waking hours for a month after his death. I relived his last days over and over in my mind. Wishing I had made different decisions. I felt like the wonderful memories we slipping away while I was caught in my grief and guilt. I didn’t want to lose them. So I searched the internet for comfort from people that have been in my situation. I couldn’t find much but I did read a few things that helped and I’d like to share with you.

    Try not to dwell on his last moments. Make his life more important than his death. Because it was so precious and special.
    Animals have unconditional love mastered. They know that the reason we couldn’t bear to watch them go is because we loved them soo much. He would have understood why we made that decision. Although we wish we would have had the strength to stay.
    Also, it may sound silly but I wrote my cat a poem. I folded it up and put it in his favorite spot. It did help to put my feelings on paper. And I felt that I was close to him in those moments.
    It’s been 8 weeks tomorrow and although my heart is still broken, I am healing. I know that nothing I say will take away the heartache you carry. But I hope that my words will give you comfort. Know that you are not alone and I know exactly how you feel. I hope your grief eases and healing begins soon.

  10. Try and remember the love and affection you shared with your beloved friend; and remember you did everything you did out of love. Peace will come to you but grief is a process – it is the love surviving the physical presence of those precious to us….

  11. 3 weeks ago I had to say goodbye too my cat Tyson. I had him for 14 amazing years like literally for half my life. January was a hard month for me New Years Eve I had Covid, lost a dear friend of mine and 2 days after I got better from quarantining I had the hardest decision to make of my life. I noticed Tyson was very distant from me less cuddly. He’d use to greet me at the door and I didn’t see that. Didn’t touch his food he kept pooping far away from his litter and was meowing in pain. I spoke with my mom over the phone she knew that maybe it was his time and that I should talk to my vet first thing in the morning. Immediately I took the day off work because my vet said the same thing. Yet there was medication they could give him but even he’d still feel some pain. I couldn’t bare to let him have that anymore. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing to do he was 17 years old and my best friend. Sometimes I feel like financial problems get in the way like “I could’ve done more but would prescribing meds be the answer he still feel some pain.” I feel like I did the right thing but i don’t know I’ve been feeling sharp pain in my chest like I have been stabbed. Sometimes I can hear a distant meow from the other room and this feeling like he’s cuddling right besides me. I’ve talked to people and my therapist I’m just in so much pain. But in my mind the pain he was in is gone and is waiting for me at the rainbow bridge.

    • This… brought a tear to my eye because it sounds so much like me. I had Cass for my entire adult life and losing him felt like losing a part of myself. He knew me better than anyone and we talked all the time

  12. My 17 year old cat suddenly stopped eating and deteriorated over a couple of weeks she had blood tests and a vitamin and antibiotic injected which didn’t help, I was adamant that I wanted to let her die naturally of old age at home in the warmth of her bed but then I was scared her death wouldn’t be natural so decided to get her euthanased. I couldn’t fault the experience even though I felt absolutely horrible for taking her out of her bed to take her to the vet, she was sedated then euthanased and it was all peaceful but I am feeling guilty that for some reason I was not facing her when she went so she didn’t see my face just my sons I was stroking and talking to her but can’t get this out of my mind, why didn’t I think of that

  13. I lost my 13yr old girl this Sunday gone, to a tumour, and I just feel so empty, impossibly sad and wracked with guilt.

    I’ve been desperately searching for answers if anyone here PLEASE has any?

    I’d hoped her death would be quick and painless (we opted for at home euthensia to ease her stress) but it was far from the peaceful experience I’d hoped, and I’ve been beating myself up every day since and feeling so guilty.

    The vet seemed in a bit of a rush. She was running behind schedule and we definitely got the impression she wanted it over and done with.

    It felt as though not enough time was given for the anesthetic to set in looking back.

    My girl screamed as she put the needle in, trying to get away, and the awful guilt of holding her down against my chest to force her to die eats me up inside.

    She began heaving violently then vommitted all down my shoulder (I didn’t care about that) I just panicked and asked the vet what’s happening, but she seemed to not reassure us or give much of a response.

    Then, she slowly went limp and I adjusted her to lay comfortably in my lap for the actual euthenasia shot.

    Her eye was very slightly open but unmoving at this point. She was breathing softly. I knew this was normal.

    BUT, as the vet administered the shot, her eye opened wide and she stared at me, dead in my eyes, like she was terrified but couldn’t move or do anything about it.

    Me and the family stroked her repeatedly again, talking to her softly through our tears and managed to gently brush her eye half closed again.

    THEN, the vet administered the last of the dose and her eye opened AGAIN. Like she was terrified and fully aware of what was going on.

    Her tail also puffed up. All full and bristly (she was short haired). And I know for definite that she only did that when she was scared. She also wet herself a little.

    This is the point I had a panic attack and couldn’t catch my breath. Again the vet didn’t really help but said something I couldn’t comprehend over my panic.

    I felt so disgusting doing this to her and getting the sense and signs she was scared and fully aware she was being killed.

    Can someone please provide me some answers/explanation as to why her tail puffed up for the last dose?

    And why her eye would widen each time a shot was given and stared at me as if in shock and pain (even though she was given anesthetic first??)

    Thank you in advance

    • I’m so very sorry you had such a traumatic experience losing your precious girl, Jade. I reached out to Dr. Debbie Boos, owner of A Tender Passing, a veterinary feline-only house call practice in the Washington DC area. I sincerely hope that what she told me will help ease your pain at least a little. This is what she told me:

      “When Ingrid (King) asked me to read and possibly comment on a post concerning a not-so-peaceful home euthanasia, I was not expecting the range and wave of emotions that I would experience.
      The piece by Sarah Chauncey was beautifully written. The comments that followed left me deeply saddened for all who experienced the loss of their own beloved kitties.

      Having performed many home euthanasias, I find each experience to be unique, but always as humbling as my first. As I was not there, I cannot pretend to know what happened during this very unfortunate situation where all seemed to go wrong.

      That the owner felt the procedure was rushed is very sad. Unfortunately, some kitties do not accept sedation as well as we would like. Although few in number, some do not accept it at all and we have to adapt quickly. We as veterinarians choose a combination of sedative and analgesic drugs that we are most comfortable with and are most predictable in their affects. At times I need to counsel owners if I feel I might need to alter my routine due to the kitty’s current condition. Sometimes my patients are so close to death that the sedation alone is all that is needed to help them cross the bridge.

      These drugs can affect the nervous system causing reactions that manifest externally such as tremors, twitching, change in pupil size or even puffy tail. Most kitties will not close their eyes while sedated or even after death. These involuntary reactions can be unavoidable and do not necessarily mean the kitty is experiencing any pain. Of course, we never want any of this to occur as it can be so unsettling for the owner. My heart goes out to anyone who has experienced anything but a smooth transition.

      I always say a little prayer before I enter a home, that all will go smoothly and that my clients and their fur babies will have a peaceful good-bye. As difficult as it is to let go, that day always comes. I never thought I could possibly be the one to euthanize my own beloved Simba, but when the time came, I knew it could be no one else. In his own home, his favorite spot with his favorite human boy present, he left us in no more pain. Tears flow as I write this but all of his memories remain precious.

      I am so very sorry for any of you whose experience with home euthanasia was distressing. Maybe the procedure could have, should have, been less traumatic. I just know from my heart, that I (nor any of my colleagues) would ever want a client to regret this experience and pray mine never have.

      Please try to hold tight to the happy, wonderful memories of the furry gift that was given to you. And remember, as hard as it was, you were there.”

  14. My best friend and cat companion Leo was euthanized on december 30th so its been a rough start to the new year. He came into my life nearly 10 years ago from the streets after I had already been caring for another street cat Miko (who passed last year after 9 years). Leo really helped me to heal from Miko’s sudden death, but at the time I knew Leo was diagnosed with cancer and his condition would only get worse in a matter of months. He seemingly went from a m being good to horrible in a matter of days, and I knew when he stopped eating or drinking and was drooling at the mouth constantly, I had to take him in to the vet.

    The vet ran scans and tests and immediately told me that he would not be able to leave the hospital and would not improve. They told me he is suffering greatly and suggested euthanizing him. I, like many used to say I would never euthanize my pets, but after losing Miko so suddenly and not being able to be there in her final moments, I knew I didnt want to let Leo suffer. I chose to believe the doctors and stayed with him for his final moments too. I got to bury him in my garden, and now I visit him morning and night. I will try not to feel guilty about my choice to euthanize him, because he is in a better place now. I had a dream of him laying out in our garden, in the sun where he used to love to be before he got sick. Our pets know our love and pain, and we need to let the guilt go. I hope this helps whoever reads this as it really helped me to write it.

    • I said goodbye to my cat caramel after 15 years yesterday. Similar to you, she was diagnosed with mouth cancer on Tuesday. They said prognosis was bad but gave her a steroid injection and we agreed to check in on thurs. she seemed a bit better so the vet said I’d bought her more time though not much. Then Friday morning I woke up and she was drooling blood heavily from her mouth. It was heartbreaking. The earliest the vet could see me was noon so I spent those few hours trying to calm her and brush her. I took her in and as I expected they agreed only way was to euthanise her there and then. She died peacefully whilst I stroked her. It’s so sad and I really feel your pain. They become part of the family and seeing them suffer is. Hard. I has another car who has grown up with her all that time and he too is very confused. . He is looking for her I think. It all happened so fast sending you strength ❤️

  15. I lost my 13-yo boy last week, about a year after having lost my 14-yo girl very unexpectedly. I didn’t realise last year how much Robert helped me to get over the grief of his sister’s death (she had a tumour in her throat). So this situation is double hard in some ways (we have no other pets and I never had any other pets in my adult life). Robert had several health issues over the years, it started with him coming to me as a few months old foster cat with what we called then “cat plague” (some kind of virus that took down kittens mainly). They wanted to put him down but I treated him and he pulled through. I couldn’t give him away after that. Later in life he had allergies (I think mainly food related so in the end he was eating special allergy foods) and recurring pancreatitis flares. Somehow he always pulled through ( we had a fantastic vet and clinic) and the past months was very healthy and I was so grateful EVERY DAY for having a healthy cat at last. Last week when I took him in because he lost appetite, several different doctors took ultrasound of a 5cm something in his belly. No one had seen anything like that before so the option we had was to perform a surgery and take a look. He had one day at home with us before the day of the surgery. Our planned surgery was cancelled the last minute that morning (I flipped out…) so we had to find a hospital to perform it preferrably that day because he had been without food and I just wanted answers and not let him linger possibly in pain and discomfort (although he acted quite normal, he just didn’t want to eat and was quite slow). We found a hospital, surgeon took him in and later that day performed the surgery. She found a cyst caused likely by malfunctioning of pancreas and after she had removed it and tried to fix the connection ways between pancreas and guts, she said there was a complication and pancreas wasn’t emptying properly. She said he would have likely been in pain and not healthy even if woken up again. So we made the decision to let him go.

    I can’t get over the feeling of guilt. Not because of the decision – I am believer in dignified death over poor life quality. I feel horrible guilt of the fact that he had to spend these few last hours of his life among strangers in a hospital and I could not have been there. (I would have but obviously it wasn’t possible.) When his sister died, she died in my hands. It was somehow easier to take. Now, although I was ready to let him go mentally, all I can see in my head are those last hours of his life being scared and alone. I am trying to rationalise but my brain is blocking sensible thought. Instead of thinking of what big love we had for each other for all those years I am lingering on this now. It’s heartbreaking.

    I am grateful for this space for letting me write this out of myself. If anyone sees this, thank you for reading.

    • I’m so sorry, Riv. It sounds to me like you did everything you could under the circumstances and every decision you made was made out of love and to keep him from being in pain. That doesn’t make it any easier that you couldn’t be there with him at the end. My heart goes out to you. Be gentle with yourself as you mourn you boy. I hope in time, memories of your years together will allow the thoughts of his final moments to soften and blur.

    • I am so sorry for your loss. I am grieving too. I lost my 10yr Mr. Kitty on January 3, 2022. It all happened so fast. Over about 36 hours. We brought him to the vet hoping for the best and trying not to think of the worst. But he was already in kidney failure. We made the difficult decision to euthanize him. The vet said it was our only option. He was suffering. Because of covid pet owners weren’t allowed in. But the vet allowed us to be with him.. Here’s where my guilt eats me up inside.. I was devastated. Crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t watch him go. So I left. I left my precious boy alone in his final moment. I know mentally and even physically, I wasn’t myself. I was unable to handle this… I wish I stayed. I want that moment back. I’m having a tough time forgiving myself. I love him so much and his illness took him so fast I just didn’t have time to process it. Although my circumstances are different I do feel your pain.
      I keep telling myself that Mr. Kitty knows. He knows i loved him with all my heart. And he forgives me. Because he knows. Maybe that thought will help you too.
      P.s. If anyone has any negative comments please consider that people that post here are grieving and fragile. So please be kind with your words. Grief is a very personal process and it’s hard to say what we will do in the eye of it. So please be kind to our broken hearts

      • Holly, I feel your pain. We took our 15 year old cat to the vet yesterday and based on the diagnosis, made the decision to euthanize. We were given the option to be with him but declined. I immediately regretted that decision but it was too late and now I am devastated and riddled with guilt. I can’t help feeling like I let him down when he needed me. Since I cannot turn back the clock, I need to come to try and stop tormenting myself about it and focus on the love we shared for the 15 years he was with us.

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