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deni's avatar

Can you help me deal with (most likely) putting my cat to sleep?

Asked by deni (22665points) February 7th, 2015

I can’t believe this moment has come in our relationship. I’m beside myself with sadness. As many of you on here know Barnabas has been my heart and soul for the past almost 5 years. He is the most ridiculous legendary cat I’ve ever met. So amazing. I adopted him when he was 8 (said the Humane Society…my vet now says that was probably wrong, he was probably at least 10 then). He’s battled a lot of issues throughout our time together and yes he has been a difficult cat to own sometimes but had finally been improving. Anyhow I recently found out he’s in the last stages of kidney failure and it’s progressing fast. In the past 2 weeks he has gone from fairly normal (the vet said he looked particularly happy that day) to weak, barely eating, dehydrated, needing for me to administer subcutaneous fluids just to make him feel a little better.

The hardest part is I know euthanasia is probably the best option. He is not doing terrible, I am holding him right now and though he’s not purring he seems content. But am I just telling myself this to make myself feel better? I assume that’s at least part of it. Anyhow, the vet says he is not going to get better and at the most probably has a week or two left. With kidney problems she also told me because they aren’t filtering anything out he probably is just feeling worse and worse, although at his last appointment (Wednesday) she said he didn’t seem to be in any physical pain. I had intended on letting him ride it out and die at home, but I don’t want to regret that.

Talking to some people who have been in my position, two things stuck: if you euthanize, you can be there with him for his last final moments – rather than him dying in his bed alone at home. I am scared I would feel guilty about euthanizing too soon or too late – but from what I’ve read almost everyone feels that way. The other thing that stuck in my mind is that at this point, things are only going down hill. He’s not feeling well so why prolong it at this point?

Does anyone have any kind words or experiences to share? I know everyone in the world with a pet will probably face this decision many times in their life, but for me personally this is the first. I can’t even bring myself to pick up the phone and call the vet to ask some questions about making an appointment to put him to sleep. Even typing those words sends tears down my face. I can’t imagine my life without him – though I know those are my own selfish reasons.

I’m so sad and scared and I really just don’t know what to do. Any thoughts are welcome, thank you.

I took him for a car ride this morning (he loves riding in the car) and every time I petted him and he perked up I thought “maybe it’s not time yet”....or when he enjoyed chin rubs just now I questioned myself again. How do I stop doing this, is it normal, how do I get over it?!

My god.

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33 Answers

canidmajor's avatar

I am so sorry to hear about this, it is very difficult to go through. I have adopted a number of older (some sickly) animals and have had to make this decision fairly often. It is never an easy one and very often these days vets will not recommend euthanizing for fear of later legal action.

Think of this as a gift you can give your dear friend, a quiet end to suffering, with dignity. Be there with him, stroke him gently and talk to him sweetly during the process. I would like to have that option myself, when it’s my time.

As to when, you will likely second guess yourself for awhile, but consider the timing. When the not-good number of hours in a day are more than the good ones, I take that as an indicator.

Don’t beat yourself up about this, it is a positive thing that you are in a position, after caring for him for years, to do this for him.

Good luck with this decision, @deni , I wish you and Barnabas peace with the decsion you make, however you make it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh @deni. It’s going to hurt. For me, being there to reassure them was important to me. The vet seemed to find it odd that I wanted to stay in the room while they did it. It probably hurt me more to be there than it would if I had just closed my eyes, but it was important to me that I was looking at my Snuffs, and she was looking at me, when she went to sleep.

And that’s all they do, is go to sleep.

All I can do is virtually hold you.

deni's avatar

I want to pick up the phone and make an appointment for Monday, but I can’t physically bring myself to do it. I just keep second guessing and second guessing. I don’t know what to do!!!

deni's avatar

I would say his “good hours” and “bad hours” are hard to tell, he seems just fairly neutral. He’s not crying out but he’s also not eating a whole lot or drinking much at all. He lays down a lot but rarely closes his eyes – whats that about? He used to sleep all the time any time any place. Does that indicate discomfort?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Is he panting?

canidmajor's avatar

Not eating much and not drinking much is a bad sign. He’s kind of ushering himself out, it sounds like. I am sending this to Syz.

deni's avatar

@Dutchess_III No he is breathing pretty normally. Honestly now when I think about how he used to breathe I am unsure of the difference so I don’t think there is much of one. I am reading a lot about kidney failure right now and it seems like things can get pretty bad in the end – I don’t want him to have to experience that. But I also don’t want him to go “too soon” :(

longgone's avatar

Try to look at his life, as a whole. The last chapter – the one with you – has been a great one, hasn’t it? Barnabas has been well cared-for, and it sounds like you two have a special connection.

If I were you, I would want this last chapter to end peacefully. I know the decision is an impossible one – but once you’ve made it, it can’t be “too soon”. It’s over, and Barnabas won’t be in any more pain. You will be, yes…but you are already, because you know what’s coming. Barnabas sees your fear, and he is most likely alarmed at the grieving that’s already started. You’re right to grieve, of course, but at the moment, it is not doing the two of you any good. Barnabas is likely confused, and because he is still alive, your healing process can’t start.

When our old family cat had to be euthanized, we asked the vet to come to our house. We were able to hold him, and I think he felt safe right until the last moment. Might that be an option?

deni's avatar

@longgone That is an option where I live. But I also really like his vet and kind of want her to do it. I just tried to call and make an appointment and had to hang up when they answered. I’m going to try again. But then I go and look at him and he looks “okay” even though I know “okay” is not equal to “good”. This sucks so bad.

deni's avatar

I made an appointment for him to be put to sleep Monday morning. The vet was not in and she has to call me Monday AM to confirm since it’s last minute and she has a lot of other stuff going on that morning. But it is 98% confirmed, just the time is up in the air. Now what do I do with myself.

I hate to say this but I already feel a small sense of relief. I feel so so so bad.

canidmajor's avatar

You will miss him just awfully, but you know him best, this is probably a good call. Taking on an older pet for adoption is a wonderful thing, you gave him the best anyone could hope for.
Spend the rest of the weekend loving him up a lot. My last kitty didn’t eat much, but certainly thought that the rotisserie chicken from my hand was a lovely last coup[le of meals!

longgone's avatar

@deni Good for you. Don’t feel bad – relief is healthy. You’ve done enough, you’re exhausted, and you should feel proud of yourself.

As to what to do with yourself: Does Barnabas have a bucket list? What does he want to do?

Every time my poor dog begs for human food, I promise her that her last days alive will be filled with hot dogs, pancakes and cheese.

jaytkay's avatar

@deni My sympathies, I know how hard the decision is. I had a cat for twelve years that I loved dearly. The one consoling thing for me at the end was that I stayed with her and held her in my arms – she didn’t have to go out alone. It was years ago and I still often think of her and how fun she was as a housemate.

dxs's avatar

When I was 5, my parents got a cat. She lived with us for about 11 years. One night, my dad let her outside and she never came back. She was very moody, so it was lucky that the last night I spent with her was one that involved feeding her and holding her. It will be good that you’ll know when the last moments with your friend will be. I feel sorry. He’s such an adorable cat.

Aster's avatar

I am so sad about this but have not faced it yet. All I’ve heard is that kidney failure has no pain associated with it; people and pets simply go to sleep. Now, if this is true, and knowing me, I would wrap him up in a blanket (lined with plastic if necessary) and let him eat as much as he wants to eat if anything. I would talk to him and pet him and sleep with him next to my stomach until the end.
I am really so sorry. ((( hugs )))

JLeslie's avatar

It breaks my heart. Be prepared for it to be very upsetting. You might want a friend there, and to drive. It sounds to me like you are making the right the decision, but it doesn’t make it easy. I wish your vet wasn’t going to be in rush that morning. Hopefully, one of the assistants will be there to help comfort you.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

You have done what you had to do and treated that beautiful creature with love and mercy. Have no doubt that you are doing the right thing. I truly feel your pain as I can’t imagine having to do that to my beloved dog. Find consolation in the fact that you had a lovely friend and companion that will be relieved of extra pain and misery.
Take a look at some Youtube videos of people having their pets put down. While heartbreaking, it will help you deal with it all. You may even cry your heart out and face Monday with a braver heart. Bless your sweet kitty and may it peace.

sahID's avatar

I concur with @JLeslie about having a friend accompany you on Monday. You will need a caring shoulder to lean on, both before and after. Maybe more so after than before. Between now and then it is more than ok to cry your eyes (and heart out)—it is a necessary part of the healing process.

One part of any healing process is finding closure in some way. If it is at all possible, plan and carry out a quiet, tasteful burial ceremony in or near an outdoor spot he loved to hang out in. I speak from experience when I say that it helps.

Coloma's avatar

I’m sorry you are having to prepare to say “goodbye” to your dear Barnabas,
He has been a lucky guy indeed, to have you and to be adopted as a mature animal as well.
I have a kitty very similar, I have had him 3 years and the shelter estimated him to be 5 years old as well, but…it’s impossible to say for sure.
I love him dearly too.

Kidney failure is no fun, I have lost several cats to renal failure over the years, one of the most common ailments of senior kitties.
It is vital to keep him hydrated right now but he is feeling poorly no doubt. Toxins building up in his system account for feeling poorly as well as weakness in general and weakness from lack of adequate nutrition.
If you can afford it I highly recommend home euthanasia.

Many vets will make house calls, usually around $200.
It is comforting to the pet, alleviates the stress of transporting to the vet and you can then either bury him at home or take him to be cremated.
I am sorry for your pending loss but, be strong for his sake.
Better a day too soon than a day too late. :-(

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I’m sorry Barney’s health has deteriorated further @deni. From what you describe, he’s not going to improve from here so your decision is just making sure any suffering isn’t prolonged and that he can pass peacefully, while you’re there to cuddle him and fill his last moments with love. Rather than worrying that you’re taking time away from him and doing the wrong thing, perhaps try to focus on the positives. You’re ensuring he doesn’t suffer and that his end takes place in a gentle, loving way. I agree with @Coloma that if you can organise for the end to happen at home that would be perfect. You may not be able to do that and that’s okay, you’re going to be there with him, to stroke him and make sure his end is peaceful and gentle.

It’s going to hurt you but he won’t suffer. You don’t need to feel guilt. You’re doing the right thing for him.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I’m really sorry. We just had to put one of our kitties to sleep not too long ago, and it was extremely difficult. I highly suggest that you take some pictures and maybe even a video of you talking to him and petting him. They help, after a while, and they’re things that you’ll probably want later on.

Ask about a nice cremation urn – our vet’s gives them to people for free if they want them. Again, I’m sorry. I know what you’re going through and I’d offer hugs if I could.

syz's avatar

I waited too long with both of my Siamese, and I’m in the veterinary field and knew exactly what was going on with them. In hindsight, it was me giving in to what I wanted rather than what each of them needed.

Only you can make the decision, and it has to be one that you can live with. But take your cue from him.

We euthanize sick animals all the time. Seriously, sometimes dozens a week. And it hurts my heart when people leave them alone with strangers in their last moments. I get it, I do – some people just can’t handle it. And we hold them and comfort them as best we can. (There’s many a reason for compassion fatigue and burn-out in this field, and that’s one of them.)

But rather that Barnabas dying in pain or sickness, you have the option of giving him a painless ending. Ask the technicians to place a catheter ahead of time, and when you’re ready, they can give him a sedative while you hold him in your arms. Once he’s asleep, they’ll give him an overdose of anesthetic and he’ll going quickly and painlessly.

It’s an incredibly hard thing to do. I beg my animals to die suddenly and peacefully in their sleep (gallows humor), and they never do. I’ve had to euthanize each and every one of them, and it never gets easier.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

It’s comforting to know that even experts get it wrong sometimes @syz. Thanks for this post. I think it probably helps many of us who’ve had to euthanize our loved pets and know we left it a bit too long.

deni's avatar

@syz thank you so much for what you said

All of you, thank you, seriously. The kind words are so appreciated. I hung out with friends and their dogs today and talked about it a lot and hung out with barnabus outside in the sunshine :) it helped a lot to speak about it out loud.

deni's avatar

I had an appointment for Monday morning, but Barney just died peacefully on his favorite blanket. I had been holding him 20 minutes before. And for how weak he was he was a little restless. So I put him in his room and left for a few. When I came back he was gone. I could not be happier. (You all know what I mean). It was a very peaceful end and he is the most beautiful creature I’ve seen, even now, lifeless. We are burying him in a special spot with a view of the Rocky Mountains. He deserves it. He is a king. :’)

jaytkay's avatar

RIP Barney

You were loved.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@deni, I’m so glad for you both. A special spot with a view of the Rocky Mountains sounds like a pretty perfect place to rest peacefully.

canidmajor's avatar

I am glad he went in peace. I am sorry you had to go through this, but what a lovely home you gave him for his last chapter!

fluthernutter's avatar

I was just checking in to wish you good luck today. I’m glad he went in peace on his own terms instead. Under the circumstances, I don’t think we could have asked for better.

Thinking of you today.

Coloma's avatar

Awwww….R.I.P. beloved Barney. sniff sniff

Dutchess_III's avatar

I seriously have tears in my eyes. I’m glad he went on his own. You’d always be second guessing yourself. Rest in peace, Barney.

Mistygirl's avatar

First I am feeling very bad for you and yes I had this problem. Does coming home from school and seeing my dead cat shadow in my dads arms count? I felt so bad I was not able to spend time with him before his slow death. He died because he was sick. I think you should just get it over with. Some vets have a type of medicine that will put him to sleep. They did that to my brothers pet rat once. Again it is so sad. I hope you get over it soon.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s done @Mistygirl. He died at home.

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