When Is the Right Time to Put Down a Geriatric Cat?

Mobility's not a problem for this one.

Mobility's not a problem for this one.

It goes without saying that letting go of a beloved pet is one of the most heart-wrenching decisions you'll ever make. When the time comes, it’s natural to be torn between a desire to hold on a little while longer and to do what’s best for your elderly and ailing pet.

Quality of Life

Assessing your pet’s quality of life can help you to determine whether it’s time to let go. Hiding away, refusing food, limited mobility and emotional withdrawal are typical indicators that Sheba is no longer enjoying life. A "quality-of-life scale," which you can find online, can help you to make an objective assessment at the emotionally difficult time. However, it’s also important to trust your intuition. If your pet still enjoys cuddling, playing and looking out the window, she is still enjoying life. if you believe Fluff is telling you she isn’t ready to go, take steps to make life more manageable. Providing litter boxes in more areas of your home, placing a heating pad under her bed and making arrangements such as steps or ramps to give her access to her favorite sleeping places can help an aging cat make the best of life, providing she isn’t distressed or in pain.

Loss of Appetite

Refusing food and drink is always a warning sign that something is wrong; it indicates that your pet is in pain or discomfort. If, despite appropriate treatment for the underlying cause of Fluff’s loss of appetite, she continues to starve herself, it might be time to think of letting go. Her health will continue to deteriorate if she isn’t receiving adequate nourishment, which is distressing for you and your pet.

Hiding Away

Elderly and sick cats sometimes hide away in dark, enclosed spaces because life no longer holds pleasure for them and they want to be left alone. If your pet spends more time sleeping under the bed or behind the wardrobe than she does with you, she is either in pain or simply too weak and lethargic to engage in life. It indicates her quality of life has deteriorated to the extent that euthanasia might be the kindest choice, particularly if she also refuses food and has difficulty moving around. Keep Fluff indoors, because some kitties choose to go away and hide underneath a deep undergrowth or bushes when they are close to death.

Seeking Professional Advice and Peace of Mind

Unlike friends and family who may want to spare your feelings, your vet will give you an honest, professional opinion about what is best for your beloved companion. If, for example, a blood test determines that a cat suffering from chronic renal failure has very little kidney function left, your vet may advise euthanasia to spare Buttons unnecessary suffering and distress. Don’t be afraid to ask about medications that might improve his quality of life, as well as prolong life, or to seek a second opinion if your vet isn’t receptive to exploring alternatives -- the peace of mind that comes with knowing you did the best you possibly could for your pal is priceless in the weeks, months and years that follow; it will help to alleviate the unnecessary guilt that is often part of the grieving process.

 

About the Author

Based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Elizabeth Burns began writing professionally in 1988. She has worked as a feature writer for various Irish newspapers, including the "Irish News," "Belfast News Letter" and "Sunday Life." Burns has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ulster as well as a Master of Research in arts.

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