The hardest question for every cat lover is: “When is it time to say goodbye?” Making the decision to let go of a beloved friend is never easy and there are several things to consider that will help you make an informed and caring choice for your ill or aged cat.
- Does your cat have an appetite? Eating or at least an interest in food is a basic quality of life. If simply eating has become exhausting and stressful your cat may have lost interest in life.
- How is your cat’s mobility? Is there constant pain and exhaustion that medications can no longer manage?
- Is your cat responsive and interested in family and surroundings? Can s/he sleep comfortably? Does s/he enjoy resting in a favorite spot and the company of family?
- Are there more good days than bad?
- Has the difficulty of caring for a sick or old cat become too much of a strain on the family?
Many times these questions do not have clear answers, and this is where your veterinarian can help. Your veterinarian can discuss your cat’s condition in a more objective manner and can help you decide what is best for your cat. Delaying the decision is not merciful and will just prolong your cat’s suffering. Making an informed choice by considering your cat’s needs first will help you make a decision you can live with. You must ask yourself, “Is my cat truly getting enjoyment out of life, or am I delaying the inevitable because I am unable to let go?” Many people try to avoid this decision by having their cat die quietly ay home, but this can mean needless misery for your cat. Discussing your cat’s condition with your veterinarian might even result in treatment options that could make your cat comfortable longer, so you can prepare yourself emotionally and be better equipped to recognize when it is time to say goodbye.
Once you have decided the time is near, another question to ask yourself is, “Do I want to be present?” Some people feel that the last loving act they can perform for their cat is to be with them at the end, whereas others are not up to it emotionally and this may not be how they want to remember their cat. Each situation is different and no one will think badly of you no matter what choice you make. If you decide against being present, be assured that the veterinary staff will treat your cat with the utmost care and respect.
Should other family members, such as children, be present? Very young children generally do not understand what is happening and may be too confused by the situation to gain anything by being there. Some older children may derive some comfort from being present depending on their personality and maturity level, but if you think your child may become too upset or be traumatized it is important not to force them to be in the room. You know your children best, and should decide what is best for them. Please also see our section on Children and Pet Loss for more information on helping your children cope with the loss of their pet.
Remember, each person approaches this kind of decision a little differently and there’s no absolute rule. Knowing that your decision was guided by love and respect for your cat will help you through this process and you’ll know you’ve done what’s best for you and your cherished companion.