17.5 Year Old Senile Cat - Is it time to Euthanize?

by Angela

My Cat is now 17.5 years old and for the past 3 years she has been showing signs of senility. Signs and problems we/she is having:

She barely weights 2kg last vet visit and doesn't seem to gain any weight, no matter how much I feed her. I feel her backbone clearly when I pat her and her hip bones and everything, she is very delicate to hold. Vet tests revealed no underlying problem.

For quite a few years now I have been battling with over-grooming causing hairballs and occasional sickness after eating. The hairballs still occur regularly, although she does not appear to be over-grooming herself anymore. I feed her a mixture of senior and hairball formula dry food, and satchels of fish of a night and sometimes extra meals to try to fatten her up. The wet food has made her stools sloppier, but the fish seems better than the meat satchels. I haven't modified her diet in ages, yet her stools are increasingly becoming more diaretic and pale.

For the past 2 years she has been meowing loudly in the early morning hours and late at night, and sometimes even during the day. 3 years ago we moved house and she is not permitted upstairs, at first I thought it was separation anxiety making her demanding of attention, but as time went on I came to the conclusion that she was likely disoriented.

Whilst her eyes and ears have checked out with the vet, no deep investigations done, but no obvious visual signs of degeneration, I believe she is partially deaf and blind, hence the meowing behavior already mentioned and her susceptibility to being startled. She bit me once when I patted her whilst she slept because she was startled. I can call her, talk to her, even clap my hands and not get her attention, yet other times she seems to hear me fine. Same goes for the sight, she stares at nothing for ages and when I see her meowing, she is usually staring at nothing when doing so.

There are a couple cats that hang around the last year, but they are outside and she is inside. She has attacked the door a couple times, because the wandering cat has approached and scented around the door.

She has started defecating on the concrete within 1.5 meters of her litter tray for about 2 weeks now, even when the tray is clean, during day and night. So far her urination is still in the litter tray.

My husband has declared that it is time to put her down, and I am starting to agree, but am finding it difficult to commit to Euthanize a cat which does not appear to be sick or in pain. I feel disloyal and cruel even considering it.

Other advice here indicates confining cats who are middening , but I am concerned that if her "stress" is separation anxiety/loneliness, then that could make it worse and be cruel to her. I do have a dog cage which could fit her litter tray and bed with a little room between both, would that be too small? Its about 600x1200 estimate.

Answer by Kate
well it does sound like your cat is suffering from symptoms of old age, the meowing, weight loss and digestive problems all suggest that she is an old cat. However saying that I have always felt that unless a cat was in pain or was no longer eating or able to get around that euthanasia was not called for.

However only you can judge whether or not you feel your cat is in distress due to her situation. It is very difficult to say from a strangers point of view. Last year we had to put our 17 year old cat down because she broke her leg which would mean that she would have to have it amputated. She was very thin due to a thyroid problem which although being treated did not seem to be getting any better, she also had a heart murmur. She was eating fine and was generally herself and so if it had not been for the fact that she broke her leg we would not have had her put down.

Often mother nature will make the decision for you all of a sudden, where by you have a clear choice. If your vet has not found any medical conditions which could be blamed for her weight loss then this must simply be put down to age. and so must her other problems.

As for the middening well this may be caused by anxiety due to other cats in the area or it may be due to the fact that she does not feel herself and is a little distressed about this. the confinement method simply give a cat time out from worrying about a large area and so give them time to calm down again. Of course during this time they need to be visited lots of times during the day as this is also a comfort for them. I would say a room is better than a dog cage as that is a little too confining.

I know and understand that it is a difficult decision for you, its never easy but only you know your cat and can decide if it is kinder to let her go or not.

best wishes Kate

Comments for 17.5 Year Old Senile Cat - Is it time to Euthanize?

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Cats and old age
by: Lydia

Hi - i have an 18 year old cat and until recently was very under weight but eventually diagnosed with over-active-thyroid and the subsequent treatment has worked. So we now have something resembling a pack-donkey with a tubby-tum either side. But eating is now normal whereas before we couldn't keep up. She also has a heart murmur and suffers with Idiopathic Feline Cystitis but has done for some years. Although it seems to be under control now with Cystease, Zylkene. She is not allowed any dried biscuit food (bladder irritant) and we mix her senior pouch food with water to get more water through her system. Usually boiled kettle water but nothing with chlorine as it is a bladder irritant. She also has cat milk. But the dementia is becoming a problem with strange behaviour but so far no problems in the toilet department and still goes out to dig holes. Hope this input may be of use to others with similar problems.

17.5 cat
by: Debbie

I am going through the same thing with my 17 1/2 year old kitty. She was diagnosed 2 years ago with kidney failure. We have been taking her every two weeks for fluids, to flush the toxins out of her system. This gave her a great quality of life. She was eating, drinking, going to the little box quite well. I thought last year we would lose her, she got sick and didn't eat. This lasted for three days and then one day she perked up, started eating and we continued with her treatment. It was not a cure, just done to make her more comfortable, and it worked. However, this last week, she is not eating very well, still making it to the litter box and still drinking water. I guess I will have to just keep an eye on her, but if her quality of life changes, then I will have to make that dreaded decision. I too, wish nature would take that decision off of me, but you have to do what you have to do. I love my little girl.

Still kicking at 21 years old
by: Angela (Brisbane)

I just wanted to share with others that my cat Squirt is still alive and now 21 years old.

The battle with Hyperthyroidism and old age is ongoing and we struggle to keep her weight above 2kg, however since starting her medication 3.5 years ago most of her other senile behavior has eased.

Of course 21 is rather old and with this age have been other health issues such as Osteoarthritis, Loss of Muscle Tone, suspected deteriorating Kidney's, and very long claws which no longer shed.

Moving about is a problem for her due to the poor muscle tone and long claws.

Today I took her to the vet to have her claws trimmed and she has an infection from them curling under into her paw. Hopefully the Antibiotic Injection will rectify this. I have also bought some glucosmine and condroitin powder for her arthritis.

Good News
by: Angela

I'd like to thank Kate and Gina for taking the time to respond to my questions.

I would very much like to share with you all my good news.

I took my girl to the vet again last week, desperately hoping for a solution and guidance.

She was UNDER 2kg, and so we ran the same blood tests that we had run before for the past 2 years as well as some urine tests.

She has a Urinary Tract Infection which is being treated by Antibiotics, she is on a short course of special food to try to get some weight on her, and this time, she has come back positive for Hyperthyroidism and has commenced twice daily medication for this. The vets also recommended I add a second litter tray.

Immediately the middening and urinating outside of the litter tray has ceased. The early morning and late evening meowing has ceased, and Oh my goodness she is turning into a little fatty.

Using my own scales today to weight her in my arms, I have determined that she is now approximately 3.5kg.

Let me just say what a happy mother I am, to have my girl looking so healthy, behaving well, and eating well.

Obviously it is a lot more work now medicating her twice daily and having an extra litter tray to keep clean. It's all worth it.

Right now she is sitting in my lap purring away happily.

Comment from Kate
What great news. My cat had the same thyroid condition and she lived for many more happy years. You get used to giving the tablets in the end and its a great feeling knowing that you are making your cat feel so much better.

i wish you both many more happy years together ;)

Unconditional Love
by: gina

One thing I wanted to add. I was in the room when my beloved cat went to sleep. I needed to love him until the end. He knew I was there and wasnt going to let him go alone. I would of never forgiven myself had I not of been there and let him go alone. Please, stay for them. You should put them first, you owe it to them.

Unconditional Love
by: Gina

I had a cat that had kidney failure at age 13. He was the love of my life. Had him since he was 8 wks old, he pretty much 'grew up' with me. He quit eating- I tried giving him anything- chicken broth,melted vanilla ice cream,can of tuna, anything I thought any cat would love. He had no interest in any of it.I was so distraught knowing that the end was near. I prayed for God to take him naturally so I wouldnt have to make the decision. He clearly didnt feel well anymore. One day we were lying on the floor together when he gave me a long odd stare. It was as if he was saying he didnt feel well anymore and it was time to go. Ive heard people say your pets will give you a 'look'. I didnt believe it until it happened. They will tell you in their own way. Listen to them. Dont be selfish to keep them around for you when they are ready to go. As hard as it is- dont keep them in pain. Please dont leave them at their time of euthanasia, they need to know you are their at their final breath giving them comfort and love. We owe it to them for their lifetime of unconditional love.

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