23 answers

How Do You Know When It Is Time to Put Your Cat Down?

Good Morning,

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.

What can I do next?

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.

Featured Answers

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.

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

More Answers

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.

1 mom found this helpful

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,

1 mom found this helpful

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.

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.

Hi C.-
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.

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.

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...

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.

We had an old dog and our vet, whom we adore, told us that you make a list of three things they have always done and loved doing. For example, for our dog, it was eating, laying on the couch and going 'bye bye' in the car. When they reach the point that those three things are no longer do-able for them, then it is time. I am a firm believer that if you watch their queue's, they will tell you when they are ready.

I think the choice to bring the kids with you is a very personal decision and really should be based on your child's developement. I personally would not bring mine and my oldest is 7. If possible, if it is something you plan, I would maybe have a family night the night before and let everyone honor Kitty by making her a picture, telling a story about her etc.Then I would let them participate in the burial since you are burying her at home.

I hope you find peace in the decision you make, I'm am sorry for your pending loss.

I am sorry to hear your cat is so sick. I just went through this process with my dog. He got very sick over the summer and went down hill very quickly. My best friend told me I would know the right time, that Kirby (my dog) would let me know. She was right. He had a seizure while I was at work and then stopped moving, eating, and drinking. When he looked at me, I knew he was in pain. I knew he had had a good life and lived 11 years with my family. I also knew it was time.

I did not take my 8 year old to the appointment to the vet. I made sure he knew what was going to happen and allowed him to say his goodbyes before the appointment. I cried very hard at that appointment and the vet allowed me time to say my goodbyes and be with him during the porceedure except when they put the IV in. The process was alot faster than I anticipated. My son asked alot of questions but I still felt 8 was too young to attend the proceedure. He was better able to handle letting go of his buddy by not being there. This was his first experience with death but ended up being a good one. I was very honest and he knew Kirby was sick for a few months.

It is a hard decision to put a pet to sleep but sometimes it needs to be done. You will know when the right time is.

Sounds like your cat is trying to be with you - take some time now to spend extra minutes to love her and let her know you will miss her when she's gone. I wouldn't put her to sleep deliberately until she can't or won't do things normally like drink, eat and use her box - or really starts having severe problems. I wouldn't go by what the vet says, he just does it as a routine. I wouldn't take the kids along when you decide it's time either. Hopefully the "coffin" (and decoration) is of bio-degradable materials because the tree is a good idea.

we gave our 12 yr old cat synovi granules G3 it helped with mucsle mass & she was going down quick- but after starting the supplement she lasted another 4 years! It was amazing - I think you should try you can order it at www.dvmpharmaceuticals.com good luck

Hi C.,

I'm sorry to hear about Patches. I had to put my cat down 3 years ago because she wasn't eating or drinking. I was having to use an eye dropper to help her drink until I could take her down to have her put down. I would say that as long as Patches is still eating and drinking, etc. that you should keep her, but as soon or shortly after she stops eating, etc, then it will be time to put her down. I know that its really hard around the holidays (I put my cat down shortly before Thanksgiving) and she was 18 years old.

I wouldn't take the kids when its time to put Patches down unless they want to go. I would just explain to them that she'll be in a better place where there's no suffering and that they'll be able to see her again at a later time. Your kids have a GREAT idea by putting a tree over her resting place to help keep her memory alive for them and you as well. I hope that this helps.

I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. If you need someone to talk to about this, my email address is ____@____.com.

I. K.

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.

Hi C.,

I have lost 4 pets in 4 years, due to old age. I was always asking myself that very same question, "How do I know when it's time?" I would second guess myself. As someone who has had pets for the last 20 years, that I loved dearly, that I didn't want to end their life prematurely, that I wanted to know that I was doing the right thing, the answer is really simple and I promise it will happen to you. You just know. One day, one morning, one afternoon, you will look at your beloved pet, and you will know, with all certainty, it is time. It's remarkable.

Trust God to guide you and she is your pet and she will tell you too. Talk to her and tell her to tell when it's time.

That sounds corny but I believe, after spending over a decade with my pets, that we did have a "communicating" relationship. Somehow they could understand me and vice versa.

I don't feel that the children should be in the room. If you want to involve them afterwards, that may be suitable with some discussion. I always had my pets cremated and the ashes returned to me. I have their remains in urns. I never buried them at our home, in case we moved or whatever.

You've already received a lot of good advice, and I will add to that my sympathy as you prepare yourself for the loss of your friend. Sometimes the things that are hardest for us to do are truly the best things for those we love. When the bad days outweigh the good days...you will know. Enjoy your little friend and love her, knowing that when her soul is at peace you, too, will be able to feel that peace as well. It sounds like she has had a wonderful life and trust me...she knows how much you love her and that you have nothing but her comfort and happiness in mind.

I wouldn't bring my kids to the vet for a euthanasia unless they were a little older (just a personal preference, I agree that it might be a little scary for them and certainly emotional for you to have to grieve yourself and worry about their reaction at the same time). What they might like, though, is to make a pawprint for each of them to keep as a reminder of her. You can use Sculpey clay (they sell it at craft stores) and make a little pancake just a bit larger than her paw. If she'll tolerate it now, you can press her paw into it (keep it on a flat surface), or you can have the vet or technician help you after she passes. You can use a paperclip to write her name in the clay and then bake it according to the package directions. It's a very nice reminder of how she's touched your life, and they can hold it if they are missing her.

Hang in there and know that others care and are thinking of you!

If she doesn't appear to be in pain, I would not put her down yet. But I would be prepared that she may go on her own or if she does start to show she's in pain.

My in-laws had two dogs in similar circumstances. One was showing age and having some problems, but didn't appear to be in any pain. He died on his own, which was harder then taking them to the vet, because they weren't prepared or expecting so soon. The other dog had gone deaf, blind and had some other ailments to the point he could no longer walk and appeared to be suffering. They decided after some time it wasn't fair for the dog to live like that and put him down.

If you do decide to euthanize, have a friend take the cat. It will be easier emotionally on you and the kids.

I remember taking my cat when I was around 8 after she had been hit by a car. Even though you don't usually go to the back during the procedure, I was an emotional wreck, knowing what was going to happen. I wouldn't suggest taking your children. I would grieve in the comfort of your home.

I think it's a wonderful idea that your children are making a casket for her. We didn't make a casket, but my father planted something( I can't remember what it was, but it was a perennial plant, so it would grow and bloom every year) and I that was my plant to take care of in place of my pet to help me grieve.

i think you have to go by what your vet says and trust him. we are selfish and dont want to lose something we love so we tend to make them hang on as long as possible. i learned that first hand last summer. someone tried to break into our house but my faithefull Dallas didnt let him get beyone the yard. the kid picked up a brick and hit in the back and broke his back. we were out of town and when we got him he was crying and was having trouble walking we rushed to the vet at 1 AM . our vet is wonderful. he told us that he woudl never be able to walk again and that we should think about putting him down. i jsut couldnt bear it so i asked if he would just give him something to make him comfortable and we coudl take him home to die. that was the worst mistake i have ever made, in retospect. he spent 4 miserable days on my living room floor. i made a bed for both of us and i stayed by his sied the whoel tiem. he could no longer pee or poop so i had to manually exract the urine when he looked bloated. i fed him water and broth with a dropper throughout the day. i kept gving him his pain medicataion and he would try to sleep but he jsut kept starting at me like saying please let me go. his eyes followed me everywhere i went. he would try to move so he could see me so i just stayed by his side the whole time. he finally died 4 days later in my arms. even my son kept telling me to take him to the vet to be put down during those crazy days but i couldnt bear to see him go. we have a ranch and are planning to build a new house so that seemel like a perfect choice for burial we go out there every weekend and i always take him stuff and go talk to him. my husbnd thinks im nuts. well maybe a littlenuts but i loved that dog so much. my son didnt greive as much as i thought he would but i think he was a bit tired of watching me care for him and having to step over him inthe living room.

One thing I wanted to mention is that there are mobile vets that will make the trip to your home, so that Patches can pass in her own environment; without fear of being in strange surroundings. It makes the event much less stressful for both you and your pet!

It's so wonderful that you are letting Patches choose her own time to pass! When an animal has had enough "Life", you will truly know and there will be no question. Never an easy thing to face, but wonderful that our animals are given the advantage of passing in their own time.

Blessings and good wishes!

I went through this wih my cat last year. My dad said somethings that put my mind at ease and helped me with my decision to put her down. He asked...Do you want to see her get worse? Do you want to see her go through more pain? I didn't. I didnt want to be the person who couldn't put her to sleep because I didnt want her to go without thining about how she was in pain. Only you know your cat though so that the hard judgement call you have to make.

As for the children, I didn't have to go through that. Mine wasn't around then.

I don't know where you take your cat, but you should check that you'll be able to bring her home after you put her to sleep. Some places won't let you.

I'm so sorry to hear this aweful news! It's hard to make that decision when it comes time, but at the same time, that is what we have to do for the better of the animal. It sounds to me like it definately is time for your cat. The thing I look at is: would I want to live like this? If she's haveing trouble walking, can't jump up as much (or at all), is looking "sick", I would have her put down. When it comes to your kids, I personally would not take them with you. All I can think is that your kids will see you take the cat to the dr., she will get a shot, and die. Some vets will even say "it's like she went to sleep". Both of these are not good for kids to here. First, they will think if they go to the dr. to get a shot, they might die. Second, and more important, they might be afraid to go to sleep b/c of the comments made while there at the vet. Good luck with whatever you decide. This is the hardest part of owning an animal and having them a part of your family. My heart goes out to you!

I'm very sorry to hear about your kitty. I've been a vet tech for 8 yrs and this is the advice we give to pet owners in your situation: when LESS than 50% of the pet's days are spent being comfortable and happy, then it may be time to consider euthanasia as an option. It sounds like your kitty is actually doing quite well for her age despite her ailments. The seizure-type episode you witnessed (possibly a stroke not a seizure) may have been an isolated incident and I wouldn't base your decision solely on that. Maybe your vet is trying to make the decision easier for you by recommending it; I'm not sure. If she seems to be declining rapidly or is simply unhappy, it might be time. Cats tend to become antisocial and hide or refuse food when they're ill. Those would be signs for you to look for.

As far as bringing your children to the euthanasia appointment, I wouldn't recommend it because of their age. At 4 and 6 yrs old, the process may frighten them and be difficult to understand. I want to caution you about this because not all vets follow a set protocol for euthanasia and sometimes it can be unsettling even for an adult to watch depending on how your vet performs it. I'll give you some information regarding the process so that you can prepare yourself for what you may experience. Many vets will give a sedative shot first which will calm the pet and make the final injection more peaceful. Depending on the drug, the sedative may sting and cause the cat to jump or cry out before becoming subdued. After the sedative is given, the vet will typically leave you with your pet for 10 minutes or until you are ready. He/she will then give the final injection. Because it's uncertain how your kitty's body will react, I would suggest leaving the kids at home. If your cat jumps, cries out, or takes a deep breath it might be disturbing for your children to see and I don't think it would be a good image for them to carry. I think the coffin and planting a memorial tree is a great idea and that way they can feel that they have said their goodbyes to your beloved kitty. I wanted to share a poem with you that while it is very sad, it helps many pet owners to cope with the grief of their loss. http://www.petloss.com/poems/maingrp/rainbowb.htm

I hope my information has been helpful. I know it's difficult to discuss and I don't mean to sadden you any further, but from my experience, it helps to know what to expect so I thought I would share that information with you.

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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