older cat with eyes closed
It is never easy to say goodbye to a cat that has been part of your life for many years. This is even truer when your veterinarian suggests that you consider euthanasia. However, euthanasia may be the most humane way to care for a beloved best friend that is suffering.

Is It Time to Say Good-bye?

The term euthanasia comes from two Greek words meaning “good death.” This mirrors the American Veterinary Medical Association’s description of this procedure as giving an animal a “humane death.”

When a cat is in pain and seriously ill, and there are no more treatments available, euthanasia can spare your pet further suffering. Still, deciding when it is time to say goodbye is one of the hardest decisions you will make about your cat’s health and life.

You are not alone in making this decision. Your veterinarian can help you understand your cat’s health, explaining which conditions are likely to cause pain or suffering. He or she can also explain any treatments that are still available and whether there is a way to improve your cat’s quality of life or relieve its pain.

However, only you know what your cat’s health and quality of life is like at home. When talking to your veterinarian, keep these questions in mind: Has your cat’s eating habits changed; is he or she still able to use the litter box; does he or she meow more often than usual; does he or she hide in new places?

Together, you and your veterinarian can consider all the options available. This includes talking about the cost of treatments or other procedures. It also means making decisions about whether you will be able to provide adequate care for your cat at home.

Questions to Ask First

Before you decide on euthanasia, talk to your veterinarian about your cat’s health and the options that are available for treatment or relieving suffering. As you do, ask these questions:

  • Is my cat suffering and how much?
  • Are there any treatments still available for my cat’s condition? How much will they cost?
  • Will these treatments cure my cat’s condition, relieve his or her pain or prolong his or her life?
  • Will I need to provide care for my cat at home? What will that involve?

You can also ask yourself these questions about your cat’s health:

  • Is my cat suffering? If so, how much?
  • How many of my cat’s usual activities is he or she able to do?
  • Will treatments make my cat more comfortable or happy?
  • How much longer might my cat live? Will his or her quality of life decrease during that time?

What to Expect

If you decide that euthanasia is the best choice, you will feel better knowing that you and your veterinarian considered all the available options.

An owner’s authorization is always needed prior to euthanasia. After you have signed that, you can decide whether you want to be in the room during the procedure. You can also choose to say goodbye to your cat before the procedure or view his or her remains afterwards.

If there are children in your family, talk to them openly about what is about to happen and why. Avoid describing euthanasia as “putting a cat to sleep.” Younger children may be confused by these types of phrases. If you have time to prepare your children beforehand, you can choose to have the entire family present during the procedure.

Your veterinarian will also ask you about what you would like done with your cat’s remains. Some owners take the body home and arrange for burial or cremation on their own. The veterinary clinic can also make the cremation arrangements for you and return your cat’s ashes to you, if you wish.

The procedure itself is done by a veterinarian or by a staff member under his or her direct supervision. Your cat will be given a barbiturate anesthetic (sodium pentobarbital) that will quickly result in a loss of consciousness and death. Your cat will not experience any anxiety, distress or pain during the procedure. Your veterinarian may also give your a cat a mild sedative beforehand.

The loss of a beloved cat can be a challenging time, filled with sadness and a sense of loss. Allow yourself time to grieve. Eventually, you may decide to adopt another cat in need of a loving home. This will never replace your deceased cat, but it can help ease the grief that you feel.

If you feel your aging cat is suffering, contact our office to learn more about your cat’s available treatment or care options.

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