(Note: This post is about making a decision on putting a loved pet down. It also talks about the final moments and such. I have made this a “read more” post meaning the bulk of it is after clicking the link below. This post is not meant to be argumentative or take a stand, rather explain one person’s thoughts going through everything.)
When is it ever the time to make the decision regarding life or death when it comes to a pet?
I know I tend to usually stay more on the lighter side of things on my blog, but I recently had to tackle this subject. And I researched. I talked to people. I didn’t come to any decisions lightly.
Beyond this post, I’ll have something else about my pet in the coming days. Something I have also been working on writing.
But over the past week or so with my postings being so sporadic (or lack thereof at all last week), I wanted to dive into what others may think. You’ll see why blogging has been far from my mind.
My cat was a little more than 16 years old. Throughout her life, she went through a couple of phases – loveable, hard for others to deal with (she could be a hissing meanie to some, though not to the few she knew well), and back to loveable and extremely personable.
She never was a fan of going to the vet though.
She was, however, always pretty active. She slept like all cats do, but she also moved around and jumped around. She stayed active. She ate (and was picky about what she ate) and drank plenty of water. And she would meow … oh how she would meow for attention.
The only issues I truly remember her having was an occasional bout with constipation, in which she then needed to get a laxative for a few days and she’d be back to normal.
She was also a strictly indoor cat and she never attempted, nor seemed to want to, ever run out and get away. She was content peering through windows and staying warm inside, or loafing in front of or near a fan when it was hot.
But things went downhill sort of quick with her.
Over the past month, give or take, she had lost some weight. Then she stopped going and eating very little. So we gave her the laxative, which seemed to kind of help a little. But she wasn’t regular. She lost weight and you could feel her bones a little more (though you couldn’t tell too much just by looking). I finally started getting worried when she wouldn’t go at all, so it was off to the vet.
That’s where the doc said she seemed dehydrated. He didn’t feel any masses or anything and everything else looked OK, but he thought they should keep her for a bit to see what they could do. They gave her a shot and some other stuff and the next day, she went home. She pooped and ate. Everything seemed to be back on the mend.
A couple of days later, it went down again. She was more lethargic. No eating. A little drinking. A lot of loafing. And her meows seemed a little off – more like a kitten. So she was taken to the vet again last Tuesday.
It was then that we got some awful news. They took x-rays of her and it turns out she had a cancer in her intestines, which thickened them more than they should be. This wasn’t something they could operate on or anything like that. I, of course, looked it up later that day or so and I then realized that it was basically a death sentence. My cat was dying, which was something I was going to have an extremely hard time with.
She stayed at the vet Tuesday and Wednesday. They hooked her to an IV. This was utterly heart breaking for me. However, I said even if this was a decision I was going to have to make, there was no way I was going to leave her in a kennel until that moment. She’s been too important to my life.
So Thursday, after work, I went up to see her. When I opened the cage, she came right to me. Her meows seemed better, almost like she was asking me to take her home. I pet her and asked the doc what he thought. He said it couldn’t hurt to send her home. So I took her home that night and she seemed to like being home.
Still, you could see there was a difference. She couldn’t seem to control all her functions and she definitely wasn’t what she used to be. Her meows lacked a lot of sound. She stayed as close as possible and wanted affection, but she also went off and hid a few times – such as in a dark closet. I truly think she knew.
She got progressively worse Friday and though she showed affection, you could see a distant look in her eyes. She did take a few full droppers of water and she nibbled at some tuna, though not much. It was almost like she wanted to eat … but couldn’t stomach it.
She also couldn’t groom herself. This cat was pretty impeccable about that, too. She was always a thing of beauty with her calico fur shining. She was changed now. Even after cleaning her with some warm water and soap Friday, she seemed to still not care. This was one of the most heartbreaking things I knew I was going to have to ever deal with.
How does one make that decision?
Friday night, she stayed pretty close to me. I researched different things about cats and if everything that was happening was reversible. She was more than 16 years old, too. I just didn’t want her to go. I kept checking in on her. I pet her. I was near her. I did all I could to make her last moments, however long they’d be, good and comfortable.
But sometime overnight, she sought that closet again. I took her out Saturday morning and placed her on the couch. She smelled a bit (again, she couldn’t control all of her functions) but laid next to me and curled up. Looked closely at her and she gave a faint meow. She also had a little wetness around her mouth, but it didn’t look healthy.
The vet was called and the two at the local animal hospital are ones I trust. The one I spoke with Saturday is somebody I’ve known most of my life and he was honest with me about my cat’s chances. He gave me a few scenarios to think about. A little while later, I took my cat to the vet, carrying her in one of her favorite sitting quilts (no carrier this time). She showed a tad bit of adrenaline on the way up, moving to peek out of the window and such.
When we got to the vet, an examination was given. Things were spreading and he could see some things in her mouth. She was dehydrated again. He said she likely wasn’t in pain, but she wasn’t eating or drinking, so she was preparing herself to die. She didn’t fuss with him, either, which was shocking as my cat used to hate the vet and would hiss and swat at touch. She likely only had a few days left in her and she’d probably be finding her dark and quiet spots.
I had to do the humane thing.
I stayed with her with it. It was peaceful. She went with class, dignity and grace. I stayed petting her and had the chance to say my goodbyes. Don’t get me wrong, I lost it and was a bit of a basket case. But it was something more for her. She had live full of life and now she was but a shell of herself and getting worse.
I’ll be sad for a while with this. I’ll remember a lot of good about her (and I will have a post this week about my cat in a different light), but I also know that this wasn’t her at the end. I felt a weight lift at that final moment, too, almost as if she was giving me the power to accept what happened. The vet even asked me if I felt her go through me (I was petting her the whole time) and, in an odd way, I very well may have.
These decisions are extremely hard. I read a lot about it leading into this and I have a feeling nobody ever comes to this lightly. I utilized some family and professional advice throughout the course of this and it still was hard. But, in the end, I know it was right because she wasn’t going to get better and I didn’t want her to have to suffer, even if it wasn’t a physical pain. They may say she wasn’t in pain or suffering, but not eating and drinking can’t be comfortable in some way shape or form.
I held out with an optimistic home for as long as I could, but I knew that as much as I cared for this cat in life, I also had to care for her at the end, as hard as it was.
I’m curious how others have come to this decision? I dread ever having to do it again, but at the same time, I know one day I’ll want another pet. I’m truly glad, however, that I have a couple of vets I fully trust and that they were humane and have great “bedside” manner, which makes it easier for people to understand what they are saying. They treat animals with respect and dignity, which is a great thing. After all, these animals aren’t just pets – they are part of a family and should be treated as such. I truly do believe I’m lucky to have an animal hospital like I do in this area and am lucky to have vets who care as much as the two there do.
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