Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 10, 2023 by Crystal Uys
With cat guardians understanding the importance of regular preventive care, and with veterinary medicine becoming more and more advanced, cats live longer lives than ever before. However, despite all the advanced treatment options, some illnesses are considered terminal. In the past, euthanasia was often the only option pet owners would consider at that stage. An alternative to premature euthanasia that is garnering more attention in the world of pet care is hospice care.
What is hospice care?
The definition of a terminal illness is an illness for which there is no cure. It is an active, progressive, irreversible illness with a fatal prognosis. Hospice care provides an alternative to prolonged suffering and is designed to give supportive care to cats in the final phase of a terminal illness. The goal is to keep the cat comfortable and free of pain, with a focus on quality of life.
Hospice care is not about giving up, or even about dying. It may actually involve providing more care for a terminally ill cat than pursuing aggressive medical treatment, not less. The decision to provide hospice care should be made in conjunction with your veterinarian, who will become an integral partner in the process.
What does hospice care involve?
Hospice care focuses on keeping the patient comfortable. This may mean providing additional soft bedding with easy access to food, litter boxes, and favorite sleeping spots. Depending on the cat’s condition, gentle handling may be required because many terminal medical conditions create discomfort and pain.
Pain management, also known as palliative care, is one of the cornerstones of hospice care. Cats are masters at hiding pain, so it is up to the cat’s guardian to watch for even subtle signs of pain, such as hiding or avoiding contact with family members or changes in sleeping position. Work with your cat’s veterinarian to develop an appropriate pain control program for your cat.
Provide easy access to food and water at all times. You may need to experiment with special foods to get an ill cat to eat.
Sick cats may not be able to groom themselves normally. You may have to assist your cat with grooming by gently brushing, and keeping eyes, ears, the area around the mouth and around the rectum and genitalia clean.
There are many non-invasive, gentle holistic therapies that can provide relief to terminally ill cats. Energy therapies such as Reiki, Healing Touch, Tellington Touch and others are particularly effective.
A time of peace
Hospice care can present logistic and emotional challenges for cats and their guardians, but this can also be a time of peace and increased bonding with your beloved feline companion. Additionally, hospice care allows cat guardians to gently prepare themselves for the impending loss.
Diagnosis of a terminal illness does not have to be the end. Hospice care can provide a compassionate and loving final phase of life for both cat and human.
This article was previously published on Answers.com and is republished with permission.
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.