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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food matters most
by: Anonymous

I think it comes down to nutrition for any cat. My next cat will have homemade food and supplements. I will not feed my cat the awful stuff they sell. She was eating expensive food most of her life and still developed kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. She was not senile when I put her to sleep at 17,5 years old but very sick and anemic. Next time I will not wait so long and end the suffering faster. I tried all to heal her but Cats do not die well at home, which is something no vet told me. Don't let any cat suffer too long if there is no hope.

Cat with dementia
by: Jill

I know exactly how you feel. I have a 17 year old cat who is deaf (the meowing is beyond noise from a two year having a temper tantrum) and has a form of dementia. He sits in the hallway and meows for a good 2-3 minutes. When my husband and i go to bed, he again comes in the hallway to express his unhappiness that we have gone to bed. So yesterday he wandered from room to room like he was lost.i have decided its time for him to go to kitty heaven...my heart is heavy😿😿

by: Anonymous

Sadly my beautiful Demi died just before Christmas, she would have turned 18 on Christmas Eve, she is sadly missed.

I still have 3 cats, Simon,the 14 year old is also suffering with hyperthyroidism, it’s such a dreadful disease.

Heartbreaking to see a healthy looking cat lose so much weight.

by: Anonymous

I have a 21year old cat who has always been clean loving and gentle he’s now lost lots of weight sleeps most of the time and poos and urinates all over the house disputes that I have several clean litter trays I’m really struggling with this and the smell no matter how much I clean I worry when my grandchildren are here eating and dropping there food I feel sorry for my cat my vet says medically he’s fine and can’t believe how he looks fir his age but o don’t know. what to do please advise

What can I do?
by: HazelAnonymous

I have a 17.5 year old Female cat, she used to be quite a big girl.
She has suffered from hyperthyroidism for some time now, she has been treated with Methamizole paste twice daily, but still lost weight, tests show she has not responded, I am trying to give her tablets twice a day in her food, she is still feisty and doesn't miss a trick, she refuses the food with a crushed tablet in it, I have tried giving her the tablet by mouth, but she gets so distressed.
I won't put her through radioactive treatment, too traumatic.

What can I do to keep her comfortable, she is so thin.

My Elise
by: Anonymous

My Elise is 15 years old and same your story I have a problem with her Appetite. I know how you feel that' why in her case, we decided to give her a pet hospice so she will no longer struggle in pain. She diagnoses cancer in the bone and some complication also.

Lots of very loud caterwauling
by: Anonymous

My 17 1/2 year old neutered male tabby has chronic kidney disease and, I suspect, thyroid disease. He’s also deaf. Based on guidance from the vet, I’ve been feeding him a high quality canned food mixed with a lot of water. Because some of his caterwauling seems to be due to anxiety, I give him Rescue Remedy for cats and Happy Traveler mixed into his canned food. He loves his high quality kibble which I continue to give him even though he should be exclusively on canned food based on his quality of life. I also give him 1/4 Pepcid AC per day which definitely helps settle his stomach —he throws up much less frequently. He’s definitely more needy and demanding of attention now. The caterwauling often significantly interferes with my sleep. It does seem to be an expression of distress and, possibly, suffering. It’s a tough decision because he’s still eating —making frequent trips to his food bowls eating small amounts each time — drinking quite a bit of water and using his litter box normally. Except for the amount of urine, his output is normal. However, his caterwauling and neediness make me think his overall quality of life has declined enough to warrant euthanasizing him. It would be a much easier decision if his kidneys failed completely or he was losing weight but the food and 1/4 Pepcid AC has allowed him to regain some of the weight he lost. He’s also not isolating. This would be the earliest phase in the end of life that I’ve ever put a cat down. None of my other cats did this — i.e,, the frequent, very loud and, to be honest, very annoying caterwauling. My doctor advised me to eliminate the cat from my bedroom years ago due to his interrupting my sleep and the impact on my health. Every time I am on the phone with that doctor, the cat caterwauls and rats me out! Based on the increased frequency, volume and tone of his caterwauling lately, I think it probably is time because he does sound distressed and like he’s suffering.

by: Anonymous

Hi, I'm sure I found this post years later but I can at least put my two sense here for the next person. I am a veterinary nurse that works for a large referral and emergency center in my area. I get asked all the time, "what would you do if this were your situation?" I honestly don't like answering that question to our clients because 1) I don't want them to think I'm saying I'd try to treat my cat because I want them to spend thousands of dollars on diagnostics and treatment and 2) I don't want them to think that I'm giving them an ultimatum if I do say I'd euthanize. It's different on here because I don't have that power of persuasion. So here's what I would do: I would euthanize. And here's why. Your cat has lived a long and happy life for 17 long years. She's extremely lucky she made it to that age without some other underlying condition such as kidney disease, heart disease, or cancer. So many older kitties fall victim to those diseases. However, she is extremely thin meaning her body is not able to hold onto the nutrition that it needs to function properly. She isn't acting herself anymore. I always tell clients (and I know I'm not the only one) to pick 3 things that their pet always loved to do. If they don't do those things anymore and their condition isn't treatable, then it's time to let go of them. It's a difficult decision, but we have the option to be humane and put our pets at rest when they start slowing down or when disease takes over. They don't have to suffer until they just don't wake up one day; not like how we do. But it is your decision to make and yours only in the long run. Today I was put in a hard spot with a cat who is only 7 years old that we diagnosed with heart disease. He came in with labored breathing and xrays showed that his lungs were surrounded by fluid. So we gave him medicine to help get the fluid off of him and stuck him in an oxygen cage until his owners decided what they wanted to do. They asked me what I would do. It's hard because if it were my cat I'd try to treat his condition now and manage his heart disease, but that's a road that people need to commit to if they chose to go that route. So if they euthanize him, I also would understand. How do you tell somebody who is thinking about euthanizing that you'd treat it if it were your cat? It's hard and in the end it's their decision. Just like how in the end it's your decision. What do you think is best for your kitty?

Old senile cat.
by: Wendy

My cat is 19. She meows constantly for food, we feed her constantly. She forgets and meows again. She is also now competing with dog for attention which means she is constantly under foot. I am worried I will fall over her. At home I put her out at least twenty times because she is asking to be fed. She is lovely albeit she dribbles but I'm worried she is going to drive me demented.

by: Joni

It is time today to put my sacred and beautiful 18 year old cat to sleep, because of kidney failure. He stopped eating two days ago, and his urine smells awful. It has a weird odor. He went blind and deaf,guessing about few weeks ago. He knows his route, and senses me when he is alert. I guess that he started peeing on rugs when it basically began,. Does anybody have any input on this? Please tell me.
Anyway I am devestated. I will be leaving here at about two o'clock today. It is January 12th, 2017, and this is one of the worst days of my life. I love him so much. I have to get going here. Also, any comments on preventing or knowing what steps can be taken to avoid this horrible disease. I had another male wonderful cat who I put down years ago who died of kidney failure at age 13,and I firmly know that it was the tuna fish that I gave him frequently, because he loved it. The mercury in the fish killed him. I was aware of this several years ago,and stopped giving that to him. And, about 30 years ago someone told me that and I didn't listen, but have paid the price, At this present moment my cat is eating some dry food, and had some water,. DO I PUT HIM DOWN TODAY HAS PLANNED, OR WAIT UNTIL HE TOTALLY STOO,. PLEASE ADVISE at this site or my email below. THANK YOU.Joni jonipets@comcast.net

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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