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 and is republished with permission.

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17 Comments on Hospice Care: An Alternative to Premature Euthanasia

  1. My almost three year old, Little
    One, was dropped off in our subdivision at five weeks old. We bottle fed him. He was diagnosed with Diabetes at the
    age of two. He is now in the
    emergency clinic and has been
    for four days. He has Diabetes
    Mellitus and we are now trying
    to decide what is best for him.
    These comments have helped
    with our decision to help him pass over the rainbow bridge.
    He has brought so much joy to
    our lives in his young life. Thank you and may God bless you all.

  2. My Leo has cancer and we have been giving him hospice care with meds but its agony watching him only have energy to eat a few bites or drinks or litter box and then be exhausted. This is not care its torture. Today we meet with his vet to decide the next step.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Laura – it helps to see because our Simon is in a similar situation and we’re trying to bring ourselves to make the difficult decision as well. I imagine by now Leo has found his way to the rainbow bridge, and I’m sorry for your loss <3

  3. My 18-19 year old kitty, Pepe Le Pew, has kidney failure and I know she won’t be here much longer. She lives with my dad so I’m not with her 24/7. For the last 3 weeks or so, I am afraid everyday is ‘the’ day. I’ve been through kidney failure with several other cats so I basically know the progress but Pepe seems to be holding on longer than my others did! At this point , like your article talks about, we are just trying to make things easier for her and we are going through lots of cat food just trying to keep her eating. I love my Pepster and it breaks my heart knowing she won’t be around much longer but I know I’m very lucky to have had her in my life as long as this. I will never be ‘ready’ to let her go but when the time comes, I will so she can cross the Rainbow Bridge and run free and play with the other kitties who went before her.

  4. I felt like I was doing Hospice care for Squeaky that passed towards the end. I tried to make him comfortable. I did not know about pain management. When I knew it was time I toke him to the vet and stayed and held him during Euthanasia. He would not go on his own and he was suffering. And my Charlie who got real sick last year I pretty much did Hospice type care as he could hardly take care of himself. Luckily he pulled through his illness. I always learn something new from your articles Ingrid. Thank you.

  5. Ingrid, did you know there is a professional animal hospice organization?

    The International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care is dedicated to promoting knowledge of, and developing guidelines for, comfort-oriented care to companion animals as they approach the end of life.

    The key to providing this kind of care for companion animals is to be sure the care is comfort-oriented. Hospice care and euthanasia need not be exclusive of each other, but owners do need to be educated as what to expect over the course of the process.

  6. Thanks for this Ingrid. I am currently giving hospice care for my cat Luci. She has late stages of alimentary lymphoma. She is getting shots every 3 weeks but getting slower and less able to control her bowels. I am grooming and keeping her comfortable. Right now, I won’t spend the night away from home. Just can’t leave her. I hope I will know when the time comes or she will let me know. Tami

    • I completely understand about not wanting to leave Luci, Tami. I have no doubt that you will know. All my best to you as you go through this process.

  7. I am dealing with this right now and you are right, it’s the only thing I can focus on. I wish vets in my area made house calls, but they don’t and a 40 min. car ride is exhausting for both of us.
    How I wish some days I had someone to be here to help ease my worries and anxiety.

    • I can’t imagine what you are going through.. 🙁 so sad. I think that more vet services such as house calls no matter what the distance, need to be set up for situations like this. My thoughts are with you 🙁

    • I’m so sorry, Janet. I know it’s all consuming, especially when you’re on your own. All my best to you as you travel this hard road.

  8. Good information Ingrid……some of us would much rather take the journey with our cats at the end than opt for euthanasia – it’s hard to say goodbye either way but I think most of us just “know” the right thing to do.


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