As cat owners, we hope to provide lifelong care to our special feline companions. Unfortunately, sometimes cats just aren’t able to battle illness and injury. So how do you know when it is time to euthanize your cat?
How do I know when to euthanize a cat?
If you want to know if your cat no longer has a good quality of life, look at these signs.
- Not eating or drinking
- Appearing to be lethargic, restless, anxious, or unhappy
- Having obvious difficulty walking or moving around
- Having trouble breathing
- Having trouble controlling urine or bowels (inappropriate urination and/or defecation)
- Increased aggression
- Whimpering, crying, or meowing loudly (due to pain)
- Inability to groom, self-feed, or use the litterbox
- Loss of interest in people, other pets, or favorite activities
- Constant pain or discomfort that is not relieved by medications
- Constant vomiting or diarrhea that cannot be controlled by medications
- Seizures cannot be controlled with medications, especially if they are becoming more frequent
- Confusion, lethargy, disorientation, excess sleepiness
Do cats know they are dying?
Yes, they do. Although they may not know the exact circumstances of their death, cats can recognize symptoms of old age and illness and know when their body is giving up.
Cats are good at hiding symptoms of illness. They can hide the pain for days or even months until their disease becomes critical or life-threatening.
In the wild, cats conserve their energy as much as possible to survive. They don’t advertise when they’re sick or in pain because it would make them vulnerable to predators and rivals.
Because of this, cats are good at hiding illness and injuries from us humans. They don’t want us to know they are sick because we might take them to a vet where they will be poked and prodded with needles, thermometers, and other scary instruments.
Signs of a cat dying include hiding away and no longer engaging with other pets, or perhaps just not wanting to leave your side. Cats will also display changes in behavior such as becoming less vocal, less active, more aggressive, or more nervous than usual. They may also develop strange habits such as sticking their head into corners or obsessively grooming themselves.
Cats really don’t want to die at home so they tend to find somewhere they like and hide away until they know the end is near. Typically the cat will go and find a quiet isolated place where they feel safe. It could be under the bed; it could be in the garden; it could be in a cardboard box.
Can I put my cat to sleep at home?
If you need to put your cat down at home and are unsure about how to do it, perhaps consider hiring a vet who specializes in euthanasia. There are a number of vets who will make house calls, specifically for euthanasia. Such vets can make the whole process more peaceful and painless for you and your cat.
Euthanasia can be performed at your home or at a veterinary hospital. Euthanasia is generally less stressful for the pet when it occurs in the home environment. Euthanasia can cost anywhere between $100-$300 depending on the location, the vet, and the size of your cat.
Putting a cat to sleep is usually done by injection into a vein. It is relatively painless and quick. The veterinarian will also administer an anesthetic agent first to help your cat relax and lose consciousness before the injection is given.
Did I put my cat down too early?
“I had to put my cat down a few weeks ago. He was 10 years old and I took him to the vet because he had been having a lot of accidents around the house, his appetite was off, and he was sleeping more than usual. The vet told me he has kidney failure. She gave him some fluids and sent me home with some food that might help with his lack of appetite. A week later he stopped eating completely and I took him back to the vet. She said he wasn’t getting any better, but that there were still things we could try to up his quality of life for a little while. I decided not to try those things because my cat was miserable, lethargic, and no longer himself. He would have hated living like that even for a little while longer. I feel like I did the right thing, but I can’t help wondering if it was too soon. Did I give up on him?”
I’m so sorry for your loss.
As you are grieving, remember that it was not your fault that your cat died. We don’t know exactly why your cat has kidney failure, but it is not caused by anything you did or did not do for your cat. If she were able to talk, she would tell you that you made her life better by caring enough about her to take her to the veterinarian when she became ill.
There comes a time when you know it is time to put your cat down. If the cat is in pain and has no quality of life, then it is the humane thing to do. If you feel guilty, imagine how he would feel if you let him linger on in pain or discomfort. You are doing the right thing.
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