When a beloved cat is dying, it can be very hard on you and your family. You are truly losing a family member, one that might have been with you for many years. Your children may have grown up with this cat, they might have been ‘toddlers’ together. It has been a daily companion and friend, has curled up on your lap at night for more nights than you care to count.
Sometimes a cat will slip away peacefully at night or in its sleep, just as some of us do. However, there are those other elderly cats whose bodies seem to just wind down like a clock that hasn’t been wound. The difficulties and challenges that old age brings can make it difficult for your cat to retain its dignity. Some cats become distressed by the loss of vital sensory equipment such as sight, hearing and taste while others will become upset at the lack of bladder or bowel control. Your cat could have difficulty climbing onto your lap or getting onto your bed at night. All these things add up to a loss of enjoyment in life.
It will be up to you, as a caring and compassionate person, to decide if your cat’s quality of life is good enough or not. This is not an easy decision. I’ve had to make it and each time it has been incredibly hard. Your decision needs to be made objectively, not emotionally. You have to weigh up the pros and cons of your cat’s life at this time.
You will need to know if your cat is in pain and has little chance of recovering, if it has a serious and/or debilitating injury or a serious disease that has no chance of improving. You are attempting to prevent further suffering while maintaining your cat’s dignity.
You will probably want to discuss your cat’s illness or quality of life with your vet. I encourage you to do this as he will be able to give you dispassionate and accurate advice. However, the decision to put your cat to sleep must be your own. Talk it over with your family as they will be affected as well. If there are children involved, let them know about how your cat would be feeling, especially if it was in pain or unable to care for itself. When I was told that the lump in Tikki’s abdomen was probably cancer, my daughter and I went home and cried. We then discussed what would be best for Tikki if the cancer proved to be inoperable. The only choice, and the right one, was to let her go while under the anaesthetic. Being the right decision didn’t make it any easier for either of us.
Many vets will allow you to be with your cat as it is put to sleep. Your vet will give your cat a combination of drugs which will be administered intravenously. These drugs will literally put your cat to sleep and allow her to die painlessly while sleeping. There will be no fear in your cat as your she is only sleeping. I suggest paying your vet in advance if you are unable to have a monthly account. You don’t want to be thinking about paying the bill after you have held your cat as she passed away.
You will need to prepare yourself and your family. You will be losing a family member and this isn’t easy. It will be up to the individual to work out the best way to prepare everyone. We did it by remembering all the good things Tikki had brought us, and how she would hate being the way she was, unable to care for herself.
Most vets will also encourage you to take your cat home to bury her in the garden somewhere. We chose a place in the garden that Tikki loved to be in. It is lovely and shady but catches the morning sun. We made her a headstone and buried her with the dignity she deserved.
Saying goodbye to a beloved cat is never easy. Take some time to mourn, and encourage your children to mourn as well. And remember the good times. One day when you are ready, you will choose another kitten and learn to love it as much as the one who has gone.