10 Things to Understand About Cat Euthanasia

By Alberto Roy

Published on:

We know that one of the only constants in life is death; and even if our kitties truly had nine lives they would still inevitably reach the end of their journey.  Sometimes the journey is beautifully long, but it’s never long enough.

Sooner or later, you may find yourself faced with tough decisions such as whether or not to euthanize. While this is a complex decision with many things to consider, at-home cat euthanasia can provide a peaceful and compassionate end-of-life experience for your beloved pet. Here are ten things to understand about cat euthanasia:

Understand About Cat Euthanasia

  1. You are not alone: Most families struggle with the decision to euthanize their cat. It is important to know that you are not alone in this difficult process. Your veterinarian can help you assess the medical struggles your cat is facing as well as recommend support groups of other families facing the loss of a beloved pet.
  1. At-home cat euthanasia: at-home euthanasia is an option and allows your cat to pass away in a familiar and comfortable environment, surrounded by loved ones. This is of particular benefit for our feline friends that become stressed when placed in carriers or while traveling to the vet clinic or hospital.
  1. The process: The medications and equipment used in the euthanasia process are the same whether at-home or in a veterinary clinic. There are different euthanasia protocols a vet may use but these choices are made based on the cat’s needs rather than where the euthanasia is performed. Usually, your veterinarian will use a small needle to administer a sedative to help your pet relax or even drift off to sleep before administering the final injection: a large dose of anesthetic. A stethoscope will be used to confirm that the heart has ceased to beat.
  1. Timing: Deciding when it is time to say goodbye can be one of the most difficult aspects of cat guardianship. This is an extremely personal decision with differing philosophies coming to bear. Some families feel that any loss of dignity or sign of an impending disease signals that it is time. While others pursue palliative care and make their pet as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. Regardless of where you land on this spectrum, consult with your veterinarian. They can help in navigating this process and point you to resources for assessing quality of life.
  1. Preparing for the passing: It is important to prepare yourself emotionally. Grief doesn’t wait. You may experience anticipatory grief before your pet has passed as you process through the thought of losing them. Some families find it helpful to create a “bucket list” for their cat with such items as a special fish dinner, a rousing game with a catnip-laced toy, or a luxurious nap on a formerly forbidden fabric.
  1. Saying goodbye: Take the time to say goodbye, whatever that may look like for you and your feline. Slow down and spend quality time together. Consider documenting it with a simple cell phone video or perhaps a home photo shoot by a professional photographer. However you choose to spend this time, remain present. It can be a difficult but important step in the grieving process.
  1. Aftercare: There are several options for how to care for the body after a pet has been euthanized. The two main categories for aftercare are cremation and burial. There are many factors to consider before making a final decision as well as different choices within the categories of cremation and burial. Your veterinarian will discuss aftercare options available in your area prior to the euthanasia and can help facilitate arrangements.
  1. Grieving process: The grieving process can be different for everyone. We’ve already touched on the possibility of anticipatory grief. Another important reminder about grieving is that the process doesn’t always follow a direct path from one stage to another. You may pass through different emotions of anger, sadness, or guilt only to cycle back through them again, and again… That’s okay, allow yourself to feel sad and take the time to grieve the loss of your cat.
  1. Support system: Lean on your support system. Allow loved ones to help you, whether that is practical assistance or providing a shoulder to cry on and listening. Talking about your feelings can be helpful in the healing process; whether it’s a grief support community, a trained grief specialist, or someone in your circle, lean on the resources available.
  1. Honoring your cat’s memory: Although we are often lucky enough to have many pets throughout our lifetime, no two are the same. The unique bond we feel with a beloved cat is worth memorializing. How we pay tribute can be as unique as the bond itself; ranging from a memorial such as a service or act of charity to a physical memento like a clay paw-print or commissioned portrait. Find the way or ways that feel right to honor your pet.

No matter how long (or how many) lives they live, our cats will eventually reach the end of their journey. But we can honor the joy they’ve brought and provide them with a respectful departure. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if euthanasia is the right option for your cat.

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