Losing a beloved pet is very difficult. However, caring for your cat during her final days is an act of selfless love and compassion. In addition to providing you with a few last shared moments with your cherished pet, it will also offer you the chance to provide your cat with the best possible quality of life during her last days and to give her a gentle death.
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Take your cat to a veterinarian immediately if you see one or more of the following danger signs: difficulty breathing, trouble urinating or defecating, loss of appetite, excessive vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty seeing and hearing, bleeding, major pain or discomfort when moving, seizures or convulsions, lack of response or atypically dangerous or uncontrollable behavior.
Get a diagnosis from your veterinarian, even if you dread bad news. Your veterinarian can explain the disease or injury and make a prognosis, including possible treatments, any pain or discomfort your cat may have now or later and how much time your cat has. Discuss all options, including the effort and costs involved. Some cats require special food, medications like pills and injections, fluid therapy, cleaning of wounds or feeding by hand. This information will help you make the best possible decisions in your cat's best interests at this difficult time and help you prepare for the days ahead.
Talk with family and friends. You need their support and they must come to terms with the cat's illness and impending death. Discuss the diagnosis and the options and decide how best to take care of your cat.
Keep your cat as happy and comfortable as possible. If your veterinarian approves, give her special treats. Some cats may sleep more and look for quiet isolated spaces to rest and hide. Limit noise, stress and contact that could frighten the cat. Make sure that any children in the household understand that the cat is sick and make sure that they treat their friend gently and compassionately.
Decide when to let go. This is when medication can no longer control your cat's pain. Cats may show pain by crying, breathing rapidly, ceasing to eat or indicating discomfort when you touch him. A dying cat may also go into shock. Decide quickly and act so that the cat's suffering-and your own-does not continue any longer than necessary. Remember that as much as it hurts to make the decision to euthanize your cat, you are doing it out of love.
Contact your veterinarian and make arrangements to euthanize the cat. You may need to carefully transport the cat to the veterinary hospital, although some veterinarians will come to your home.
Prevent dramatic and drawn-out "goodbyes" that would traumatize the cat. The cat's welfare comes first.
Decide whether or not you will be stay with the cat. There is no virtue or shame in either decision. Veterinarians have experience and compassion and will treat your cat with great care. If you decide to stay, you will be sent into a private room. Your veterinarian or a technician will talk to you about the procedure. They may take your cat into another area briefly to examine him and administer any pain medications and sedatives. They will bring your cat back to you for a final goodbye. If you decide to wait in the lobby, the veterinarian will let you know when it is over.
Think about how you want to deal with your cat's body. Many facilities provide a number of options, including burial and cremation. The veterinary hospital can help you with arrangements.
Grieve. It is natural and understandable to feel bereft after losing your beloved companion. Remember that although you are hurting now, your cat is not. Time will help and there are many resources available to help you recover from your loss. As the grief recedes, you will begin to remember all the happy times with your beloved cat and the good life you gave him.
Tips and warnings
- Many people blame themselves for their cat's illness and death. Some decide later that they made the decision to euthanize "too soon" or "too late." In reality, there is no "right time" to euthanize a dying cat. Your veterinarian can advise you and you know your cat best. You loved and cared for your cat in life and death and you are not at fault.
- Some owners will delay euthanizing a pet so that a family member can "say goodbye." While this desire is well intentioned, a delay may not be in the cat's best interest. A dying cat may be disoriented and uncomfortable, if not in actual pain. Consider carefully whether a delay will cause your cat unnecessary suffering. Your cat needs you to put his needs first.
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