There comes a time in the life of many cat caretakers when they must make the decision to humanely euthanize a cat whose quality of life has deteriorated due to illness, severe injury, or advanced age. While this choice is never easy, giving it some thought can help you make the right decision.
Making the Decision to Humanely Euthanize a Cat
Making the decision to end the life of a companion animal is often the hardest decision you will ever make regarding your special friend. Many owners second guess their decision to have their cat euthanized, wondering if they made the right choice or if there was something else that could have been done to give their feline friend a little more time.
Although there is not a set criterion to determine when it is time to humanly euthanize a beloved cat, there are certain factors that help in making this decision less difficult. Talking to your veterinarian about your cat's medical condition is often helpful, but remember he or she cannot make the decision regarding ending your cat's life.
Assessing Your Cat's Quality of Life
Taking an honest look at the quality of life your cat is living is one of the most important aspects of deciding when the time has come to humanely end the suffering your cat is experiencing. Think about how your cat's life is affected by its condition and its overall current life experience in the following areas:
- Arising from a laying position
- Eating and drinking
- Interest in playing
- Using litter box
- Ability to show affection
- Number of artificial life prolongation methods being used
Assessing Your Cat's Level of Pain
Sadly, your cat cannot use words to tell you if it is experiencing pain. As the cat's caretaker, you must look for any signs or indications of pain, such as:
- Crying when changing positions
- Moaning when changing positions
- Unexplained crying
- Stiffness when moving
- Only moves to eat or use litter box
- Inability or difficulty climbing stairs
- Inability or difficulty walking up an incline
- Difficulty breathing
Put Yourself in Your Cat's Place
Known as the insight method, ask yourself the following three questions, and answer as your beloved companion would:
- Is life still enjoyable?
- Do I want to go on living?
- Am I ready to go?
Asking yourself these three questions from the cat's point of view often makes a cat caretaker realize it is the human companion that is not ready to let go.
Saying Your Goodbye
Once you make the decision to set your companion free from its suffering, make the appointment with your veterinarian. Many veterinarians come to the home to perform the procedure, or you may choose to take your cat to the veterinarian's office.
Let family and other furry family members say goodbye in the way that is right for them. This process is different for everyone, and there is not a right or wrong way. Some people choose to have a candle ceremony. Others spend special time cuddling and petting their cat companion and may go to a favorite place or prepare a favorite food that the cat has always enjoyed.
Humane Euthanasia Protocol
Make sure your veterinarian follows the protocol to humanely euthanize a cat.
- The cat is tranquilized or sedated before euthanasia to eliminate any distress or pain.
- An IV catheter is put in place, and it is flushed with a heparin saline solution.
- Family is given quiet time with their cat to say goodbye.
- The veterinarian administers two shots: a sedative and the euthanasia solution.
Following the humane euthanasia protocol eliminates all stress or panic from the cat. Some veterinarians prefer the direct technique of injecting without sedatives because it is quicker and less expensive. As the cat's caretaker, request and make certain that the human euthanasia protocol is followed.
Additional Resources and Information
The following websites provide additional information on this difficult decision:
- Nature's Corner Magazine provides a quality of life and pain assessment evaluation with scores to help you understand and chart your cat's condition.
- The Rainbow Bridge Vet provides information about choosing at home euthanasia.
The hardest decision a pet caretaker makes is the last act of love and respect they give their companion animal by allowing it to die with dignity and grace.