Pet Euthanasia
Knowing When To Let Go

Pet euthanasia is a difficult subject to talk about. 

I have been very lucky and have only ever had to make the decision twice, with my old cat Tigger and my dear Little Mo.

On this page I will discuss cat euthanasia, what it involves and the various aspects of the decision making process.

Hopefully I will provide you with enough information so you can feel certain that when the time comes, you will feel confident that you are doing the right thing for your cat.

What Is Animal Euthanasia?

Basically euthanasia is a treatment administered by a vet that allows your pet to drift into unconsciousness and then stops their heart from beating. This gives them a quick and painless death, usually when no more can be done for them medically and their quality of life is diminished to a point that they may be in distress.

Sounds simple doesn't it? But it's not. It is a great responsibility on your part to make that final decision and when it involves a beloved family pet, it can be a hard one to make.

After all, the loss of a pet can cause us great emotional pain.

However it is something that we should all think about before that day arrives. Finding out about what is involved in advance will make it easier in the long run, especially if the decision has to be made unexpectedly.

My Experience of Cat Euthanasia

Tigger, my old ginger tom was beginning to show signs of old age and he was suffering with a thyroid problem which was becoming worse even with treatment. I didn't want to be unprepared and so I found out all I could about pet euthanasia long before any decisions had to be made. I'm very glad I did, as the day came very unexpectedly.

Tigger staggered in one day, looking like he had been in a terrible cat fight and had come off very badly. I had never seen him so distressed. We took him straight to the vets who after examining him told us that his heart was struggling, he was in pain and that he was finding it hard to breath.

The vet was very supportive but advised us that due to his age and poor health, there was not much more that could be done for him.

All I knew was that I could not let my beloved friend suffer any more and my final gift of love for him was to put an end to his pain, quickly and painlessly. It was all over in seconds.

I found it too upsetting to stay to the end, but as I walked from the surgery, tears rolling down my face, I felt a great relief and a sense of calm knowing that he had gone to a better place and that I could remember him the way he use to be. A very loving cat, often found balancing on the end of the banister so that he could give us a friendly head butt as we walked by.

When Should You Consider Pet Euthanasia For Your Cat?

Unfortunately only a small number of cats die naturally of old age. Generally they become so ill that it is kinder to ask your vet to "put them to sleep".

However just because your cat is old and sick will not mean that the vet will suggest euthanasia straight away, so do not be afraid to take your elderly cat for treatment.

When there is doubt as to the quality of life your cat may be leading, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are they in pain or discomfort that cannot be controlled by medication?

  • Are they able to walk and balance steadily?

  • Are they eating and drinking? If so, do they vomit afterwards?

  • Is their breathing OK?

  • Are they able to pass urine and faeces regularly and easily?

  • If special care is required to enable your cat to live a happy life, are you able to provide that care on a daily basis?

If the answer to any or some of these questions is negative, then a discussion with your vet may reveal that it would be kinder to let them go and to consider pet euthanasia.

Should I Be There At The End?

As I have said, I was not there at the end, but many people feel that it is important to share the last moments with their cat.

Many feel that by being there, it helps them to come to terms with the pain of pet loss and also lays to rest any fears that their pet would feel alone at the end.

It is an entirely personal decision and one that should be your decision and not someone else's.

I had total trust and confidence in my vet that they would treat my Tigger in a gentle and loving way and that they would make sure that he felt cared for at the end. The process is so quick that he was probably gone within minutes of me walking from the room.

If you DO wish to stay, it might still be a distressing experience, so you must be prepared. Try to make sure you have a friend or family member with you for support.

Remember, you are helping your cat in the long run and freeing them from more pain and discomfort. It is an act of love and kindness.

If you do NOT stay till the end, try to make sure that your vet will carry out the pet euthanasia straight away after you leave. Some surgeries have a policy where they wait till the end of the day. This is not fair to your cat.

Myths About Pet Euthanasia

Many people feel that cat euthanasia is murder or may feel guilty for taking the decision to put their trusting feline friend to sleep. People can often be put off the decision based on myths surrounding euthanasia.

These myths include:

  • Euthanasia is unnatural:

Many say that nature will decide when we die and that we should not interfere with this process.

They conveniently overlook the fact that by providing treatment and medication to our pets we are extending our pets life long after their natural lifespan anyway. In fact euthanasia is a way of ending the artificial extension of life.

  • It is selfish:

Many say that cat euthanasia is used so that we do not have the trouble of looking after a sick cat, or that we take the decision too soon.

Many have guilty feelings of not trying hard enough to make them better. But if you feel guilty you must be the sort of person who cares and caring people do more for their pets than any one else.

I say that it is more selfish to hang on to a cat that is possibly in pain and in distress just to satisfy our own needs.

  • My cat will tell me when they are ready to go:

Many believe that your cat will give you a sign to let you know that it is alright to "put them to sleep" and that they are ready to go.

Unfortunately this is a myth put around by people who want the burden of the decision to undertake pet euthanasia to be taken away from them.

The Final Decision

The truth is it will never be an easy decision because the pain from pet loss can be so great. The dangers are that you either leave the decision too long and cause your pet more distress, or you have guilty feelings that you took the decision too soon.

The best advice is this. Yes your pet would eventually die from their illness anyway, but we have the power to decide how that end will come, quickly and painlessly or prolonged and with some discomfort.

Pet euthanasia really can be the kindest solution.

"If you are suffering the pain from the loss of a pet, please read my other pages all about pet loss, the grieving process and pet memorials. Kate"

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