November 20, 2008,
C.C. asks from Edgewood, NM on November 10, 2008
How Do You Know When It Is Time to Put Your Cat Down?
Our cat Patches is ailing (about 13 to 15 years old) and has lost much if not all her muscle mass likely from some intestinal issue/cancer (never got it diagnosed) yet the vet said her quality of life will soon be affected. She has been holding her own, w/ eating, drinking, making it to the litter box etc. She is not jumping up to windows any longer. She is having trouble walking a bit, w/ last night her back legs gave out and she rolled a bit. It almost looked like she was having a seizure, but wasn't? I called the vet and he thinks it is time. My question is for anyone who has had experience w/ this, how do you know when? I know we will need to, but at the same time, I don't want to end her life too early (this part is tearing me up inside). She has gotten off the couch a few times since last night, meows, rubs up on us etc. She is sitting in the kitchen (new place for her lately) while we are in there.
Second question, we have a 6 and a 4 year old...do you have them go with us to put her down? Our 6 year old knows about the 'shot' cats get as her K teacher told her class about her sick cat and how the vet helped her. We plan to bury her on our property. The kids are making a 'coffin' for her and decorating it etc. They have also requested to plant a tree over her resting place in memory of her.
So What Happened?™
Thank you everyone for you kind words and great insights to our situation of our cat Patches who will be leaving us soon. She is still w/ us and social, eating minimally and mostly people food...we figure if she's going, she ought to have what she wants and go happily. :) She likes to roam outside for 20 minutes or so and smell all the plants. She is still getting up on the couch to rest. When these things decline, we will know it is time. And if there are more episodes of the legs giving out (hasn't been another one since last week) we will also know it is time.
It is clear that having the kids come is a bad idea. I felt that initially, but wanted to hear from other folks as I thought I was just being an overprotective mom. How they are involved now, is just enough...loving her up, making her casket, thinking of a tree to get in her memory, looking at old photos (that's been fun). I appreciate all the books and websites, and great information from various sources. I wish I could email all of you...a huge hug from me goes out to you all...take care, C.
M.M. answers from Flagstaff on November 20, 2008
It's time now. It sounds like even the cat knows this. Keep it matter-of-fact and it's best for the cat. Great idea to plant the tree. You could even name the tree, Patches. A good place to remember all the good times the cat brought.
K.K. answers from Albuquerque on November 16, 2008
I believe It may be time. as a vet technician i would like to remember my cats the way they were, not the way they ended up. I would not want to remember my cat all old and suffering I know you will make the right decision. Im sorry
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C.M. answers from Phoenix on November 16, 2008
I feel like you are asking because you know it is close to time. I spent months (and thousands of dollars)trying to keep one of my cats alive only to have to put her down and the poor vet kept raising his eyebrows every time I suggested trying something else. I think the vet tech gives a good "math formula" for figuring out when it's time, but if you really focus on doing what is best for your kitty, you will know in your heart when she is ready. Also, if you have any other pets, they'll start avoiding her and that can be a clue.
I was with my cat when she died, and I appreciated that (and I think she did too). But I would think twice about taking children. Let them say goodbye to her, but they'll want to remember her the way she was.
BTW, there's two books I used to help my kids, one is called "cat heaven" and the other is called "Ten good things about Barney".
I'm so sorry about your kitty. I know it's hard.
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K.N. answers from Phoenix on November 16, 2008
Valerie pretty much summed up what I was going to say, I would just add one thing. As far as the kids are concerned, given there age, you want to make sure, once you do go through with it, that you tell them that your cat "died", or that the vet helped her die to ease her pain. Don't use the phrase "put to sleep." At their age, some children will transfer this to themselves and in turn have night terrors or sleep problems they hadn't had before, in fear that they won't wake up.
My son, now 6, was 4 when I lost my 16-year old cat to renal failure and 5 when I lost my 13-year old golden retriever. We always explained to him that the Dr. was helping them go to heaven where they could be young again and feel no pain. Where they could run and play like they did when they were kittens and puppies. It was much easier for him to understand. He still talks about them, but he will say, Duke was old and he couldn't get up anymore, now he's in heaven.
As far as knowing when its time, no vet will tell you they think it is if it isn't. But the decision is yours. Look at her quality of life. When her appetite declines, if she starts vomiting. Hiding in different places, not coming when you call her (assuming she used to). These can be signs that she is ready. I definitely would not take the kids, but would prepare them that when you go to the vet, she will not be coming home with you. As far as burrying her..make sure your vet will let you take her home (technically, it's illegal, but most will look the other way).
I hope this helps. Good luck to you and your family. Know that what ever decision you make, it is the right one for your family, 'cause no family is the same.
I'll keep you in my thoughts,
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L.G. answers from Albuquerque on November 16, 2008
I'm so sorry to hear about your cat. I had to put mine down last year when she was 17. She had kidney failure and I struggled with when it was time. I knew it was time when she barely moved, only groomed her paws and did not eat or drink very much. It's a call only you can make since you know your cat best. I also agree with the other moms when they said not to take the kids. My husband took my cat when it was time because I couldn't bare it.
K.R. answers from Phoenix on November 18, 2008
It's a very hard decision, but a very personal one. A couple years ago we had to put down our cats. It was very difficult but we knew when it was time. Our oldest cat was calico and had large patches of white, including all of her paws. She kept them pristinely groomed and hated them being dirty. When she no longer did this we knew she needed to go, she was having kidney failure and stopped eating or drinking much. The other cat had a tumor in his leg and had it amputated. A few months later he suddenly had a new huge tumor show up, it was cancer this time and fast moving. My sister had to put him down two days before Thanksgiving because you could tell he was miserable, but I couldn't be there as I was on bedrest. My dh put his childhood dog down not long after, he ate a towel (no surprise) and it blocked his intestines and at his age he wouldn't have made it through surgery. He said that he was glad to be there but that it was very difficult at the same time. I wouldn't bring the children, but I would go as an adult. One day you'll notice that her quality of life has declined so much that it's time.
S.L. answers from Tucson on November 16, 2008
Your kitty loves you and wants to be with you. She is also very old and very ill. I agree with the vet- it is time. Imagine how you would feel if you came home, and found her in pain from a fall- and you didn't know how long she had been there all by herself.
I wouldn't have the kids go with you. It will be pretty upsetting for them to see you cry like that (and you will.)
Honor kitty by being with her and present for her last moments- many vets will allow you to hold her. She'll feel much better about her transition. Sometimes the vet cries, too. It's OK. They're usually very understanding.
It sounds as if your children are well-prepared and ready for the funeral.
When my old, old kitty had to be put down- she had problems remembering where to use the bathroom, etc., and was showing the kinds of weakness you are talking about- I felt horrible afterward, because her body relaxed at her death. She had been one of those 'rubber kitties' when she was young, but she had been stiff for a few months at least. I realized that she had been in pain, and was unable to tell me. I recommend sooner rather than later, especially with the legs giving out. Cats hate being out of control. (Well, we all do)
Hope it helps- S.
D.H. answers from Phoenix on November 17, 2008
Our dog, Penny, was fighting for her life and we had the same question about putting her down. When she could no longer jump on our bed, and only laid there panting, we put her down. We felt that we could read the pain in her eyes and couldn't watch that. But no, do NOT take the kids. It was extremely difficult for us - and the kids may blame you for standing by while she is "killed" if they watch it. One of my dogs raised up and stared at me when we put him down and it haunts me. Otherwise, it was just a medical procedure that they missed. They are free to grieve without malice. They could put up a picture of her to remember her, too... one that has her happy and alive, like she used to be.
K.C. answers from Phoenix on November 16, 2008
If the quality of life is not good then its time.
As long as she can eat, drink & use the litter box she is still ok.
If you would have gotten it diagnosed(?????) you could have gave her comfort meds/pain meds.
It sounds like its almost time. If her back end is weak dont let her jump up & down on things. Pay more attention to her & feel around her body to see if anything is reaction pain to touch. Give her a lot of love & affection. Ease her mind.Take some pics of her.
If you are going to bury her make sure its deep enought (like 3 ft) that another animal wont dig her up. Also if you are renting the house you may want to consider cremating her & getting a cute Urn w/ a nice pictture of her on it.
You are oging to have to explain it to them. I dont know if they should ask them. But you need to stay with her during the whole process, its scary for them. you can hold her while they sedate her & put in the meds...
A.D. answers from Phoenix on November 15, 2008
I am so sorry for you and your sick kitty! I definitely know what you're going through. We just lost our cat who had been sick for about a year. She was in renal failure...but sadly, she most likely died from a flea/tick product we used (Hartz flea/tick drops...do not use, they are not safe). Anyway, we had a hard time with the idea of putting her down before it was her time. We decided that it wasn't our decision to make and we did the best we could to keep her comfortable until she decided it was time. I had a very hard time accepting her death when I found out that it was probably caused by the Hartz product, but now that I look back, she had a hard year. She was a tough kitty and lived a good life and really fought against her renal failure, but at what cost? I think that if your cat is not playing anymore or is being very lethargic then maybe you should consider it. However, if she is still trying to be a part of the family and wants to be loved and play, then she might have some time left. You could ask your vet if they can give you some pain meds that would help her pass in her sleep if given the right dose...that's what our vet said she would do for us. I had to put a kitty down through injection and it was not pleasant, I personally would not take children to it. I am concerned about the lack of a diagnosis. Our cat had a significant weight loss and her renal failure was almost missed because our vet was looking solely at stomach/intestinal issues. If it is renal failure, there are things you can do to help her feel better and live longer, but it would be expensive and very tedious (you would have to give her IV fluids and meds every day). I know it's much easier said than done, but trust your heart and your gut. You'll know when it's time. I was so scared I'd come home or wake up and she'd be gone, but I could tell when the time had come and I'm glad I was able to be with her. Good luck.