When Is It The Right Time To Euthanize A Cat?

47 Comments on When Is It The Right Time To Euthanize A Cat? Share Email Pinterest Linkedin Twitter Facebook

When is it the right time to euthanize a cat? Deciding when to let a beloved cat go is probably the most difficult decision cat owners have to make. To say that the decision for euthanasia is emotionally loaded, fraught with confusion, and difficult to make with logic is an understatement.

Factors To Consider When Deciding When To Euthanize A Cat

There are many factors to consider, and you may already be too emotional about the situation to think clearly. Let’s break down the most important issues to consider as you go into this decision-making process.

In general, people who don’t mindfully consider the question of euthanasia in advance often wait too long, keeping their loved one longer than they should because they can’t bear to part with their friend. This can cause an elderly cat or a cat with terminal disease to endure suffering in their final moments that could have been avoided.

In these cases, people often experience extreme guilt and sorrow for causing their friend to suffer. The mental and emotional anguish of waiting too long can be acute.

Perhaps you believe that a natural death is preferable to euthanasia. However, cats that experience natural death often experience significant suffering that could have been avoided with humane euthanasia, which is pain-free. When you can, it is always best to end the needless suffering of our pets, not prolong it for selfish reasons or out of ignorance.

Sometimes, the best choice for your cat is humane euthanasia, but how do you know when?

While the best way to make end-of-life decisions for your cat is in partnership with a veterinarian you trust, there are several quality-of-life factors that you can use to help you decide when it is time to say goodbye.

Also Read: How To Cope With Losing A Cat

Signs That It Might Be The Right Time For Euthanasia

Loss of appetite

There are several indicators that it’s the right time to start considering euthanasia, including loss of appetite, inability to move without pain, severe weight loss, and the inability to control elimination (urinating or defecating uncontrollably).

Loss Of Appetite

In human hospice, a patient’s desire and ability to eat is considered an important factor to measure their quality of life. Even though some cats will never lose their desire for food, many elderly, frail cats, or cats with terminal disease or pain will stop eating.

Refusing to eat can be an indication that it is time to consider euthanasia, especially in conjunction with terminal disease, if appetite stimulants have already been tried and aren’t helping if multiple types of foods have been offered, and/or the cat is losing weight.

Ability To Move Without Pain

do cats remember being abandoned?

Arthritis is extremely common in older cats. Signs of pain related to arthritis can include things like such as refusing to jump up on a counter or walk up and down stairs.

Signs of arthritis in cats can also can seem unrelated to joint pain, like not grooming, increased aggression when painful areas are touched, or inappropriately urinating and/or defecating outside the litterbox because the cat is too painful to get in and out of the box.

Cats can experience pain from conditions other than arthritis. Bladder inflammation due to stress, gut pain, and dental pain are all common sources of pain in cats.

The good news is that most of these conditions can be successfully treated, and respond well to pain medication, however, if you have tried pain medication or other therapies without success, or if your cat’s condition is severe or terminal, then it may be time put your cat down.

Inability To Control Elimination

Urinary incontinence is the inability to control urination. This can happen because of weakened urethral sphincter muscles, or secondary to other conditions, like diabetes or kidney failure. Bowel incontinence is the inability to control bowels, and results in fecal incontinence.

Both are messy, annoying, and unsanitary conditions that decrease the wellbeing of everybody in the household. Furthermore, incontinence can lead to bedsores and worse in cats who lie in urine or feces because they can’t move or won’t move.

If a cat has untreatable urinary or fecal incontinence that is unmanageable or in conjunction with other terminal disease, then it may be time to consider euthanasia.

Uncontrolled And Severe Weight Loss

Uncontrolled weight loss sign it's time for euthanasia

If your cat is losing weight severely and uncontrollably, it may be a sign that it’s time to consider euthanasia.

Many things, including cancer, kidney disease, hormonal disorders, and gastrointestinal conditions can cause weight loss. Severe weight loss in the face of a terminal condition is a clue that you may need to start thinking about euthanasia.

If your cat is happy, interacting with you, and still eating, then it is likely that your cat has a good quality of life and you won’t need to address the issue today, but at some point in the near future, before your pet’s quality of life starts declining.

Uncontrolled Vomiting Or Diarrhea

Vomiting is a common problem in cats, so common, in fact, that some cat guardians think that it is normal for a cat to vomit daily. Let’s get one thing straight: daily vomiting means your cat feels sick, and should never be considered ‘normal’.

Inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal cancer, and hormonal conditions such as hyperthyroidism can cause chronic vomiting and diarrhea. If your cat has chronic vomiting and diarrhea that does not respond to treatment, it may be time to talk to your veterinarian about euthanasia.

End-Stage Kidney Failure

Kidney disease is a common problem seen in older cats. While many cats respond well to treatment and can live happily for years with kidney disease, some cats get very sick with kidney disease. Signs of advanced kidney disease include drinking a lot, peeing a lot or not peeing at all, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, blindness from retinal detachment due to high blood pressure, mental depression, and hiding.

If you have a cat with advanced kidney disease who has stopped responding to therapy, doesn’t seem happy, has lost a severe amount of weight, or is not eating, then it is time to talk to your veterinarian about end-of-life care.

Heart Failure

The signs of heart failure can be subtle in cats, and include sleeping more, hiding, loss of appetite, unkempt fur, open mouth breathing, pale or white gums, and rarely, coughing.

Heart failure in cats tends to cause fluid build-up in the lungs. This causes difficulty breathing and can cause severe distress to a cat. If your cat has progressive heart disease that has stopped responding to treatment, then humane euthanasia is likely indicated to alleviate suffering.

Other Diseases

Cat Lying on White Background Feline Leukemia

Cats with feline leukemia are immunocompromised, which may lead to a range of secondary health issues.

Other diseases that are progressive, untreatable, or terminal, such as cancer, blood disorders, feline dementia, severe skin disorders, or infectious diseases, like feline AIDS, leukemia, or feline infectious peritonitis are all conditions where the pet parent is going to have to make a decision to euthanize at some point.

In all these decisions, it is always better to make the decision earlier when a pet is still having some good days, then wait too late and cause the pet to suffer and decline. When in doubt on what is the best decision, ask your veterinarian for their opinion.

Critical Care Decisions

Sometimes, accidents or emergencies happen, leaving you little time to think or make decisions about your cat’s life. These can be the hardest because they are so unexpected.

Urinary blockage in a male cat, being hit by a car, abscesses, and poisonings are some of the many reasons why you might end up in an emergency clinic with your cat.

Sometimes, your cat may have a grave prognosis with or without treatment, or you may not be able to financial shoulder the burden of an unexpected emergency vet bill.

In these cases, if you are counseled to choose euthanasia to end suffering, it feels devastating, but you are still making the best choice for your cat that you can in the moment, and it is important to not beat yourself up.

The AVMA is a good resource for financial assistance with vet bills.

In general, when a pet has more bad days than good days, then it is time to think about saying goodbye.

Cat sniffing flowers

Tracking your cat’s good and bad days is the best way to determine whether or not it’s the right time to consider euthanasia.

You can use a paper calendar and put a smiley face on good days, and a sad face in a different color on bad days to help you keep track. Lap of Love, a mobile veterinary service that provides end of life care has several good quality of life assessment tools on their website that you can download and print out to use.

If your cat is suffering and there is no cure or way to mitigate suffering, then it is time to say goodbye to your furry family member. If you aren’t sure, a veterinarian is your best resource. If you need some more time, talk with your veterinarian about pain management and palliative care: there are many options available to help buy a precious, pain-free period of time with your beloved pet.

Ultimately, the decision to end a cat’s life is a very personal one that only you can make. You know your cat better than anyone else, so trust your gut decision, get support, and know that in the end, you honored your cat with a painless, peaceful passing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know when it's the right time to euthanize your pet?

It varies for every pet and is a personal decision. When your pet is doing well, what does a good day look like? What does your pet do? How do you feel? What does a bad day look like for your pet and for you? In general, if your pet is having more bad days than good days, then it is time to talk to your veterinarian about euthanasia or other interventions.

Do cats suffer when they are put to sleep?

In general, euthanasia is a very peaceful, pain-free experience. Your cat may feel a slight poke when pain medication and sedatives are administered with a needle, but after that, all pain is controlled, and most cats pass very peacefully and pain-free.

Is it better to let a cat die naturally?

Dying naturally can involve a lot of unnecessary suffering and pain. If your cat is dying or suffering and there are no treatments available, choosing humane euthanasia is a worthy way to keep your pet from continued suffering.

Avatar photo

About Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ

A 2002 graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sarah Wooten is a well known international speaker in the veterinary and animal health care spaces. She has 10 years experience in public speaking and media work, and writes for a large number of online and print animal health publications. Dr. Wooten is also a certified veterinary journalist, a member of the AVMA, and has 16 years experience in small animal veterinary practice. To learn more, visit drsarahwooten.com.

47 thoughts on “When Is It The Right Time To Euthanize A Cat?

  1. Lisa Hardwick

    Someone dropped off two kittens… one if the kittens eyes look terrible.. they are cery afraid of people, my husband tries to give it medicine but you cant get them to come to you.. not sure what to fo

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Hi Lisa, it would be a good idea to take both of the kittens to a veterinarian. If you’re unable to pick up the kittens, I would recommend placing some food or treats into a carrier and waiting for one or both of them to enter it so that you can transport them. Hope you’re able to get some answers soon!

      Reply
  2. Sandy

    My cat is 12 she is losing a lot of weight not easting very well seems to poop often sleeps a lot., and is vomiting every day some times the food but usually the water.

    Reply
  3. Frank

    I just want to say after reading your article I know I did the right thing for my cat Stewie who was put to sleep last Sunday August 22. He was a 15 1/2 year old Maine Coon and he had a lot of the symptoms metioned. He had lost weight and was down to 9 pounds (he was 18 pounds in his prime). His appetite had declined steadily for the last few months. I would make hime food just to try to get him to eat, and after a while he would hardly touch anything except cat treats or chicken. I knew the last 5-6 days before that this was it. He wasn’t sleeping in his usual spots, he was moving around slowly and navigating stairs very slowly and cautiously. Unfortunately he was not good with vet visits and I though it would do more damage than good. As he got older it would take him days to recover from the trauma of vet visits, he would get sent home with naughty notes because he was a danger to himself and others because he was so aggressive towards the vet. I would give him 200mg of Gabapentin a couple hours prior to a visit and he would still try to murder the vet staff, they hard a really hard time even getting him anesthetized to examine him, and he would growl while under anesthesia. Taking him in to get put to sleep was the hardest thing I ever did. Even though he was weak and frail, he still put up a fight so I knew he was still Stewie. I could just tell he was not happy anymore and that he was in pain and suffering because he started having more bad days than good days and his body language told me everything I needed to know. I have felt very guilty wondering if i did the right thing, I know nooow that I did what was best for hime, and that gives me some relief. We gave him a wonderful like, and he made our lives better too. I didn’t even like cats when my wife told me she wanted to get a cat. He was left in a box on the doorstep of a vet back in 2006 and was the only kitten left alive. He was hand raised and we took him in when he was 10 weeks old. He become my best buddy, he was a very loving and affectionate cat, I miss him dearly.

    Reply
    1. Mary

      Thank you, Frank for sharing your story. I had a cat put to sleep a while ago and the vet said ‘I have never seen a cat more ready to go’ which I thought afterwards was probably what he said to everyone. The decision is so hard. I am here today because I have to make this painful decision with another cat who kept me company all through the last 11 years and especially through the pandemic. If only cats never died. You gave Stewie a good life and didn’t let him suffer.

      Reply
    2. Gloria

      Thank you Frank for sharing insight into the life of Stewie. I too have a rescue Maine Coon about 17 years old. He might have been a year old when I adopted him. I’m the only one he truly likes. He hisses and growls at others in my visiting family but he certainly will come to the rescue of his two female companions if he hears they’re in danger. He never backs down from a dog or anyone for that matter. Great breeds aren’t they!
      My boy, Krispie now has chronic renal disease and I know it’s time, especially after reading your post and the article here. May God bless the pets and those that love them and care for them. It’s certainly heartbreaking as I had to make the same decision one month ago for my beloved husky companion, Nikko. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

      Reply
    3. Ron

      Your story touched me deeply.. I am in the same situation you were in before you made the decision that it was best for Stewie to be euthanized. My cat Kelli has been with since April of 2001. She is down to 4-5 pounds yet still has a rambunctious spirit which makes me wonder if she is just an old lady. I have the same guilt and thoughts of wanting her to stay with me. 21 1/2 years of her greeting me every day are now going to end and I am in tears constantly. Kelli has stopped eating for the most part. a few licks of the 3-5 cans of different food I try and the thing she loves the most is just deli turkey sliced thin. About three weeks ago I had to take her to the vet because I noticed she was not pooing and she had an enema and I was hoping things would be better after this. They were a little better but I think it made her weaker and she also bit several of the techs trying to weigh her. Feisty still. Kelli really enjoys sleeping on the floor when the sun comes in the door and sleeping on her chair, but when I see her wobble and fall over on her favorite chair and look at the ceiling as though mesmerized, then I know I might have waited too long. It is Sunday of Memorial Day and of course no vet is open so I need to wait until Tuesday. These are the longest 3 days for me. I slept out on the sofa next to her chair and woke her up which is a turn around since she usually wakes me up and just three days ago climbed onto my bed to meow me awake. As they say, when cats decline it is often a rapid decline which catches the cat’s caretaker by surprise , leading to panic and sadness and indecision. Kelli never seemed right after the enema experience and I know I want her to stay around with me but this article and your testimony convinced me that it is best for her. The emptiness has already seeped in and I have her unopened cat food already bagged and need to call a shelter to ask them if they want my 6 1/2 feet tall cat tower. I am going to be 74 and I was 52 when Kelli and her sister joined my life in the Spring of 2001. On Tuesday, Kelli will join her beautiful sister Molli. The house will be empty and the comforting sight of her just lying there and looking at me to rub her head will end. I am devastated

      Reply
      1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

        Ron, this was a very touching comment, and I’m so, so sorry that you’re having to go through this. Over twenty-one years is a long time to share with her, and I can completely see why this is devastating. Again, there’s nothing I can say other than to extend my sympathy. I know it’s what is supposed to be your last day with Kelli, and that must be a bizarre, sad thing to recognize. Take care. Feel free to email anytime: media@allaboutcats.com.

        Reply
  4. Jerry Szeluga

    My 18 year old tabby has lymphoma. She has been treated with steroids’ since June and has lost allot of weight, although weight loss has seemed to stabilize. We give appetite stimulants and my wife is constantly offering her different kinds of food, she mainly licks the broth from a wet meal. Dr now has me give her a B2 shot every week. Seems to give her constipation for a few days then lots of diarrhea. She is peeing all over the house and some of her diarrhea is outside of her litter box. She no longer wants to be with anyone very much anymore. We can barely leave the house as we are afraid of the mess we’ll return to or miss an opportunity if she wants to eat. Today she pee’d twice behind the TV on all the wires. She is also doing weird things that she never did before like wanting to sit in the shower or tub or today jumped into the kitchen sink. She doesn’t appear to be in pain but we can’t tell for sure. She is definitely not the same cat as she has no interest in snuggling and having her neck scratched. I know my wife will have great difficultly putting her down. I’m wondering if it’s getting close to the right time. Perhaps I’m just have difficulty dealing with the mess and restrictions we have not feeling comfortable leaving her for any amount of time, even with adult sons living at home. Is it getting close to the time to do something?

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Hello Jerry, thanks for reaching out. Between the uncontrolled elimination, significant reduction of interest in food, and loss of interest in snuggling and having her neck scratched, I do think it sounds like your cat is getting close to a point where it would be considered appropriate to put her down. However, there is no objective green light on this. Instead, it’s a conversation for you and your wife to have. It sounds like your wife has more of an emotional investment, so if you haven’t already, I believe it would be helpful for both of you to have a serious discussion of how much further your cat’s health would have to decline before you’d make this decision.

      Reply
  5. Tonja

    To Frank, I am very sorry for the loss of your Stewie. I am so thankful for your story as my boy is very sick too and really stresses out at the vet. I think for me the hardest part is knowing he still has it in him to fight.

    My heart says I can’t do it but I know I have to sooner than later. I cancelled last week but am trying to find the strength.
    My boy is 20. I got him at about 2 months. His highest weight was only about 6 lbs. Then 2 weeks ago he was down to 4 lbs. I noticed his appetite decreasing along with not grooming, clumps of hair coming out and stretching his neck to drink water. He’s been on RX food for 13 years for crystals, on RX for hyperthyroidism for about 6 years and now he’s been given an RX for kidney disease and pain. I have NEVER been able to give him a pill. I crush the thyroid pill up and mix it with 1/4 teaspoon of canned tuna juice twice a day. However the kidney pill is a fail. He fights me tooth and nail literally and I am so afraid of hurting him. The pain medicine is a little easier but he’s learned to hang his head and not swallow it. They prescribed 3 mg and he was out for 27 hours.
    I only give him 2mg every other day or so because he can’t poo. I told the vet he no longer gets in the windows, comes into the other rooms, gets on his heater (cable box) or can see good enough to play. Everything scares him and he clings to me like glue when I am home. Thankfully, I work from home all but 2 days a week. I was brushing him really easy but he is so thin he doesn’t enjoy it either. He is still using his litter box to pee but he poo’s beside his box and has for several years. I think it’s constipation from the thyroid meds. I could hear him screaming 2 weeks ago when I took him in for bloodwork and I really wish they would have made the decision then. I feel like I am torturing him trying another medication at his age. I love him so much. I want someone to tell me it’s time so I don’t have to live with the guilt. At this point, I can’t eat much either. Little fella still tells me when it’s time to go to sleep and he sleeps on my pillow at night. He comes up to my face to lick me and I can tell it hurts to do that and the odor is really bad. The vet said that is part of the kidney disease but I just don’t know.
    Any input will be greatly appreciated and Thank You for taking the time to read this.

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Hi Tonja, my heart goes out to you—it sounds like you are suffering terribly over your boy’s illness and the worry over whether or not it’s time to have him euthanized. It seems you’re beating yourself up over every aspect of this, which is understandable but unnecessary. You don’t have to do anything until you’re ready, even if that time never comes. There is no pressure, and no decision will make you any less an ethical person. I know you’re looking for that final word from someone else, but unfortunately, I can’t give you that answer. It’s up to you. You can seek advice from others—perhaps you can ask your veterinarian explicitly whether or not it’s a good idea or consult with someone who knows both you and your cat—but ultimately, this is your choice. Take some time to visualize how you’ll feel if you decide to have your cat euthanized this week versus how you’ll feel if you don’t. Don’t focus on the moment it happens. Focus on your own feelings in the weeks and months afterward. Do you anticipate feeling that it was too soon? Or will you look back and feel sadness but a knowing that it was the right time? Use your gut feelings in this visualization as your guide. I also want to remind you that there are alternatives to traditional euthanasia at the vet. You can opt for home euthanasia, which should be less stressful for both you and your cat. Considering this option instead may help to make the decision a little bit easier.
      I hope you’re able to find some peace soon, and please do take care of yourself.
      Best,
      Mallory

      Reply
      1. Gloria

        Dearest Tonja,
        I agree with the comments above and urge you to talk to your vet about how the process for putting your companion down works. Find a vet that says they have a two step process. First a shot into the muscle that will relax him and allow him to sleep. Not painful. Then when you’re ready they will administer the drugs for euthanasia, which he won’t feel at all. This is the only way you will know that he is not suffering and having the pain he is enduring now. Cats are strong and will mask their pain but as their other organs get weak they will become more susceptible for blood clots or heart attacks. I know you don’t want to give him up but you don’t want hime to face this unexpected stress and pain that could come. I was fortunate to find a patient, caring Dr that goes the extra for the pet and the owner. Find the right one. Your healing will come in time. I’ll be pray for you.

        Reply
    2. Ron

      Tonja, My heart goes out to you and as I posted above I am in the same situation with my 21 1/2 year old Kelli. I can see her decline and she is only 4 pounds now and stares a lot at nothing. I have decided to take her for the end on Tuesday after Memorial Day. My heart is breaking and the tears don’t stop. I don’t want her to leave me but she is suffering and it is time. Best to you in this saddest of experiences.

      Reply
    3. Cathryn Pettigrew

      So sorry to hear you are going through this but just imagine what your dear cat is going through least alone the pain and the feeling dirty, cats are not dirty animals so must be very difficult for him. I do understand you love your cat to pieces so the kindest thing is to let him go with dignity and pain free. You will meet again, take care

      Reply
  6. jacqueline horry

    thank you for telling us your story about stewie – our jesse (after jesse james, cause he was a little devil) is 17 now and the last few weeks has lost weight and has irregular poo sessions – he still drinks water and when i offer food he wants it but after a bite or two turns his face away and wobbles of – have tried steak, lamb and chicken raw and also boiled and cut into fine pieces, he liked crocs and we bought a big bag of hills, which he loved, but then it was no go dont want them, so tried whiskas for older cats and he would only eat the yellow ones, so sorted though the whole bag for them and my husband would feed them to him one by one – he has a lot of patience – we tried all sorts of cat food available, even the cat soup, but still no way – this has gone on since august and so he is as thin as a rake you can feel all his bones and he has difficulty sitting down, very slow, he sometimes looks at me as if to say i’ve had enough – he still purrs and is my little jesse – today we told the vet we thought it would be best to have him put to sleep – of course they try to say, yes we will try to find out why he doesnt eat – but she hasnt seen him yet – it breaks my heart and i cry a lot – but it will be best for him wont it?

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      I think that you’ll have a more definite idea of the best thing to do once you’ve brought Jessie in to the veterinarian. They can tell you whether or not they agree with your assessment, and this should give you much more confidence in whatever decision you make. Wishing you all the best.

      Reply
  7. Suzanne

    Hi I was wondering could I have some advice please, my lovely little cat is nine years old and very special to us, about 2 months ago I discovered a lump on her neck, the vet advised us it was cancer and needed to be taken away. On the day of her operation I got a call to go to the vets, she was still under sedation, the vet told me because of the position of the lump they couldn’t remove it, as she was still under sedation the vet asked if we would like to euthanise her, but I couldn’t as to me she was still healthy. Over the next few weeks she was fine until one day she started snoring this happened before when she was younger, I brought her back to the vets where she got a shot of steroids and some to follow up with. I asked the vet a few more questions but he said inevitably the lump would grow so big it would obstruct her breathing.

    My question is how can I tell or how do I know when to put her to sleep. She’s eating, peeing pooping and grooming as normal but she has a snore that’s very loud sometimes but peaceful at other times.

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Suzanne, I can’t tell you whether or not it’s the right time to euthanize, but generally, we’d not consider this until the cat has stopped eating and no longer seems to enjoy life. Our cats can’t tell us in words whether or not they are in pain, but they can tell you with their behavior—not eating, extreme lethargy, no longer using the litter box, and no longer engaging with the family are all signs that their lives probably aren’t very much fun anymore. I hope this helps. Sending hugs to you and your kitty.

      Reply
  8. john

    Our cat started to have episodes a few weeks ago. I guess I could call it seizures but it only lasts for a fraction of a second. What happens is when someone first walks into her room (she has her own room so she does not hurt herself when having the seizure) she will look up, meow and then flip on to her side usually, but sometimes all the way over, which can be explained by her quick jerk/ bend to the right and then lay there for fear of another episode. She is not “in pain” but she is tired and anxious and fearful of the next episode which could be when you pet her or offer her food or water. Its almost like an electric shock but she does not seem to be in pain, she just flips and then lays there. To comfort her she lays between my legs so she has protection and control when she “flips”. We had blood work done and its not a disease. We are trying to give her medication that is usually for epilepsy. If it s a brain tumor it does not appear to be getting worse. But after a day or two she is refusing the 1/4 pill in her food. She is barely eating. She is not in pain but is certainly not happy and is living in fear of her next flip. I do not know if its the right thing to do by keeping her alive and having her live with such anxiety.

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      I would advise talking with your veterinarian about this, as they will have both the experience with your cat and background treating other feline patients to give you a more educated opinion on whether or not it’s the right time to euthanize. I’m sorry you and your cat are going through this and wish you all the best.

      Reply
  9. Mike

    My 16 year-old girl was diagnosed with large cell Lymphoma a year and a half ago. We’ve managed pain and treated for as long as we can, but I’m thinking it’s time. Recently she is down to under 5 lbs, (her max weight was only about 9 so she’s a little girl), has stopped grooming, she vomits at least once a day, she won’t let anyone touch her belly (presumably due to pain), loses her balance on her back legs, and has had some issues with urinary incontenence. She often just stares off into space and seems to be zoned out in a fog.. Symptoms seem to have gotten rapidly worse of late and we were warned that eventually the drugs would lose effectiveness. She does still like to sleep in your lap and be pet, but this is really all she does. I know elderly cats sleep a lot but she’s probably up to 20-22 hours a day. She’s made it longer than expected after the diagnosis and I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s probably time, but my vet seems to want to go with more medication to try to extend her life. Because she’s such a sweet cat she loves the attention from the girls at the vet office and thus the vet seems to think that she is still happy and can go on, but I see what she goes through every day and most of the time she is not. It’s killing me because I feel like the vet thinks I’m making this choice too soon based on the small time she sees her when she doesn’t get to see the day to day.

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Mike, you know your cat best, and this is ultimately your decision. I think you might feel better about it if you can get a second opinion from another veterinarian.

      Reply
  10. Terry

    My Wiggles doesn’t wiggle any more. About a week and a half ago I notice she was drooling a lot. A closer look
    I notice there appeared to be swelling on the left side of her mouth. in fact the swelling appeared to be in her mouth.
    she was still eating but with difficulty. (eating on one side of mouth).. soon after she began bleeding from the mouth.
    Each day her swelling was getting bigger, I notice she was getting clingy, following me throughout the house. I found her sitting in the kitchen alone which she don’t do. I finely found a Vet that was reasonable and dealt with dental. I was
    hoping it was perhaps a abscess, tooth can be pulled and given some antibiotics and that will take care of the problem.
    The diagnosis is cancer. She has a cancerous mass in her mouth. My cat is 17 yrs., old. shes always been perfectly healthy. I’ve had her as a baby. (newborn) The Vet asked about euthanizing her I refused. I brought her home. I Was given gabapendant for pain. Started given her baby food, also puree tuna and tuna broth. At first her appetite was good. then it began to decline. “But what happen was,’ when I poured some juice from the tuna into her dish tiny pieces of tuna slipped into the dish and she began to chow down on it. ( oh I meant to add the swelling has gone down a lot. ) Truth be told I don’t know what’s going on with my wiggles. The vet didn’t give me any paper work , If I could afford it, I’d take her for a second opinion. Perhaps I’m in denial around Wiggles health. I can’t even afford to have her euthanized but God is good. He always makes a way.

    Reply
    1. Allison

      My cat has oral cancer and it’s in the early to mid stages. We will have him euthanized at home this weekend even though I am sure he could live another month or two. Why? Because I cannot live with myself if I make him suffer through his last days. I want his last days to be mostly good – not mostly bad. He has been with us for almost 13 years of good days, so why should the last weeks of his long and happy life be full of suffering? I will not wait until he is struggling through the basics of life (eating, eliminating, etc.) to have extra cuddles with him. He knows I love him and I know he loves me. We don’t have to suffer together to prove it.

      Living with the knowledge that he is suffering is worse than the pain of loss. And I will experience the loss regardless. I would much rather put him and his comfort first, which happens to also save myself another few weeks of mental anguish and emotional torment. I want to grieve and find peace. With him here and suffering – even if it’s not extreme suffering – neither of us have peace.

      I encourage all to think about the adage “Better a week too early than a day too late.” The guilt of knowing that we are causing extra suffering is worse than the sadness and emptiness we feel when we are brave enough to give them the gift of an easy exit. Summon the courage to give both you and your pet the peace you seek earlier rather than later. It is an act of selfless love. They would do it for you and they want you to find your peace, too.

      Reply
      1. Margaret

        Thanks for this! I think it’s time for my cat- yes, she could “live” longer but she has partial renal failure and something wrong with her liver, likely a tumor (she is not great, vet didn’t recommend biopsy or anything, I live in Taiwan and the vets are not as aggressive with treatment). She has stopped eating and has already lost a ton of weight when she WAS eating (now about 5 pounds). She stopped eating today and threw up everywhere (nothing in it, just watery stuff). She was on morphine and had been doing OK but without eating, I can’t give her the morphine that prevented suffering. So, yes, maybe it’s a little soon but this is only going one way, I think it’s selfish to keep her around for me. I just don’t want the vet to think I don’t love her and just want to get rid of her…

        Reply
        1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

          I believe vets have worked with enough loving pet owners to know that this decision is not usually made by people who don’t love their cats; to the contrary. Wishing you all the best.

          Reply
          1. Margaret

            Thanks! I did it this morning and it went well, glad I did it- she was throwing up and peeing and pooing on herself. Down to 2.8 kg from a healthy weight of 4.5kg. It was time. The vet was understanding and I made the right decision.

  11. Larry and Rosemary Acker

    Cant tell you how much these articles seem to help my wife, our cat is named midnight and was a feral cat we captured and raised from a teacup sized kitten.She was raised inside and that was a blessing as we live in Carlsbad California and outside cats are subject tp predators. We purchased a yearly plan to cover vet and dental cleanings so we are current with vet visits as they remind us and it has been cost effective.Midnight has lost weight and probably weight 8 pounds from a high of maybe 12pounds. We took her to the vet the other day and they did tests and her counts were low and she has kidney issues. She got up this morning after a bad day even after receiving fluids and antibiotics and a stimulant for eating and anti nausea seemed to perk her up. She seems like she has deteriorated more wants to drink but cant seem to like she has dementia all of a sudden .We love her dearly but this is no life for anyone makes me think how we take health for granted so sad.

    Reply
  12. Becky G

    I am at a loss as to what to do with my cat. He is 16 years old. Eats and drinks well. Regularly urinates and defecates. He throws up maybe once a week. He loves attention and will come out to greet guests and will roll over and purr loudly when he is getting attention otherwise he’s in his cat house sleeping. He has stopped grooming himself. There is a grape sized lump on his right shoulder. His hearing and sight seem fine. He seems like he could live a few more years. The problem is this….he howls and cries all night long. I know this usually signifies an issue. What do I do? Is it worth putting him through tests and treatments at his age? I don’t have unlimited resources so spending a lot of money to find out there isn’t anything that I can do isn’t a possibility.

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Hi Becky, thanks for commenting. There are a few reasons why a cat might start meowing all night. The first one I think of is dementia—your cat might be confused or disoriented at night, and that’s why he’s making all of that noise. Other causes include pain, hyperthyroidism, and other health issues. If your cat’s stopped grooming himself, I would wonder if he is in pain due to arthritis or another issue. Do you have any idea what’s caused the small lump on his shoulder? It could be a fatty lipoma or cancer…it would take veterinary attention to determine what’s going on there. I’m not a vet, but I would wonder if some kind of pain medication plus omega-3 supplements for inflammation (including arthritis) might be able to help. Hyperthyroidism is also very common in older cats and manifests in a generally healthy-seeming (or even extremely energetic) cat who’s skinny and eats a lot. If you did find that your cat had hyperthyroidism, treatment can be expensive, but there are solutions to help the cat live a long, happy life post-diagnosis. Again, I can’t give any recommendations or tell you conclusively what is going on, but these are a few ideas. A sixteen-year-old cat doesn’t necessarily have one paw in the grave, and it sounds like your cat has plenty of “go” left in him. I would think it’s worth it to look into some tests to see if he has any treatable condition. There’s a good chance that you can greatly improve his quality of life with a few small, inexpensive tweaks. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  13. Gen

    Thank you for sharing this. Earlier this year my cat was diagnosed with feline hepatitis. We adopted sweet Cleo when she was a bit over a year and she just bypassed her 8 year adoption date (Valentines day!) We’ve watched as she’s lost so much weight that she feels of skin and bones and her hind legs give out often. She secludes herself – barely eats or drinks- and gets confused. Then we are blessed with days where she seems to want to be around us more and will come and curl up with me on the couch. We’ve taken it day by day then week by week with our vet hoping improvement. Cleo has been a constant in my life these past 8 years and having her trust after coming from an awful home was an honor. I feel as if I’m still in denial about everything. I think deep down I know the right decision but I can’t help but try and cling to whatever small good thing happened days ago and think maybe she will get better. Our vet already advised us in the beginning it’s not a great survival rate. I just can’t keep the denial away and hopes to maybe tomorrow she will be better. I would never want her to be in pain and it’s just so hard. What if I make the wrong decision?

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Gen, I’m so sorry your girl Cleo is sick and that you’re all going through this. It’s a rough situation, definitely. To answer your question, what happens if you make the wrong decision is nothing. The outcome will be the same whether it’s the right or wrong decision—the question is how you feel about it. I don’t think any cat guardian is ever fully ready, so I think we generally need to lean on the guidance and support of others. Asking your veterinarian and others who’ve been in a similar position will help. Wishing you all the best.

      Reply
      1. Kai

        I am going through the same thing right now. Lynn has been my sweetie ever since we brought her home from the SPCA about 7 years ago. She decided that she loved me right away and eventually warmed up to my partner. I always say that I am her second favourite thing in the world (treats are number one). She is so sweet and affectionate, always wanting to curl up on my chest or next to me in bed. She is about 13 now, and recently started showing lack of appetite. We used appetite stimulants and she would always improve, but the past week she has stopped eating and has lost so much weight and is so bony now. She has spent the past few nights in the hospital without showing any improvement. They did an ultrasound to try and see if there was something more they could do, but I am not hopeful. She is just as loving as always, so it doesn’t feel like it is supposed to be the time to say goodbye and it breaks my heart to think it is; I don’t want to let her go, but I also don’t want to be cruel to her and starve her to death. We love her a lot and don’t want her to suffer and we want to do the right thing, but it is so hard.

        Reply
  14. Rianna

    My cat turns 20 this year and so far she has been doing alright. We’ve had her ever since she was a little kitten (she was a stray that we took in when she was about 6 months old), and apart from her spaying and front declawing (I know how bad this is, my mom wanted it and I was too young to know better), she has never been to the vet. I also know how bad this is, when we got her we were in a really tough financial situation and we really only got through it recently. Right now she is almost completely blind and in the past couple of weeks she has started urinating outside the litterbox (like, not even close to it. the litterbox is in the basement and does it on the couch upstairs). Other than that, she seems fine, she doesn’t seem to be in pain or anything. She’s even seemed younger and more active ever since getting our new puppy. But my mom is really frustrated with the urinating, and she just mentioned putting her down. I had given it a thought, but since she doesn’t seem miserable, I don’t know. I’m just torn and emotional about it

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Hey Rianna, thank you for commenting, and I’m very sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. It sounds like you’re in a really rough place with your cat and feeling kind of powerless—that’s difficult. I’m guessing the stairs are the main issue here. At age 19, it’s very likely that your cat has developed some arthritis, which could make it painful for her to go downstairs to use the bathroom. On top of that, cats with impaired vision also tend to have issues with stairs. So simply bringing the litter box upstairs, perhaps even placing it near the couch where she likes to go, could spell the end of these issues right away. If you’d like to learn more, we have an entire course dedicated to this topic, and it’s completely free.

      Bottom line: your cat sounds fantastic, and I definitely don’t think she should be put down over this. It sounds like she’s just not happy with something in the litter box situation. The stress of going up and downstairs with achy joints and bad eyesight is my number one suspect for a cause, but you may have to do some more trial and error to find out what’s wrong. I hope you can all get this figured out—I’d hate to see a happy, healthy kitty miss out on a few years of life over some stress around the litter box.

      Wishing you and your cat all the best. Don’t beat yourself up over things you can’t control, and remember that not taking your cat to the vet is far from the worst thing you can do. She’s made it to age 20 (almost) and sounds like she’s doing great. If you keep seeking out information like this and doing your best, I’m confident that you’re a fantastic cat owner.

      Best,

      Mallory

      Reply
  15. Michele Curtis

    Good morning. I have a 16 1/2 year old and he is loosing control of his bowels, even pooping in his sleep, he staggers and his back end is very wobbly. He still enjoys his food, in fact he eats a lot, but also uses the litter box a lot. I’m constantly cleaning up drippings all over the house. It takes him quite a while to find a comfortable position to lay down. I personally think it’s time to say good bye and I don’t have a lot of money for any kind of treatments if it’s something else other than aging.

    I’m trying to make sure I’m not being selfish by considering putting him down.

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Hello Michele, I would recommend talking with a veterinarian to figure out exactly what is going on with his help and make an informed decision. I know this is a very difficult decision and wish you and your cat all the best. Thank you so much for stopping by.

      Reply
  16. Jason Bunn

    My long term companion “bodge” has been with me from 6 months and turned 24 in March. She still eats 3-4 pouches of food but lately has been refusing to come back indoors (despite being a house cat all her life) I often look out the back door to find her staring blankly at the wall for up to 30 minutes at a time. She sleeps all day waking only to eat and she is drinking three or four times what she used to. She seems ok in herself and still moves around fairly well but has lost a drastic amount of weight and her fur has started to get very thin in places. She still grooms herself but she now looks very forlorn. She is almost completely deaf and her eyesight seems to only extend to about 5-6m. I am going to be heartbroken to see her go but am I just waiting for her to become in pain before I consider PTS

    Reply
    1. Lindsey

      Has Bodge been tested for feline kidney disease by the vet yet? Sounds like your cat has all the symptoms my cat has. I’ve found many medications and supplements that have helped extend her life such as daily IVs of 100cc fluid, nausea medication (Cerenia), aloe vera juice, slippery elm bark supplements for cats, the Kidney Tonic from The Pet Health and Nutrition Center, EZ Complete (food topper/ “completer”, and renal care food purchased from my vet. I’ve heard that cats can live years with kidney disease if treated well. Best of luck to you and Bodge.

      Reply
  17. Lindsey

    Thank you for writing this. My cat has advanced feline kidney disease and hasn’t eaten in a week and for the last month has only minimally eaten. We have all the vet and internet medications, supplements, and supplies, but today she can barely get up. It’s been a very difficult decision for me to make, but now I feel better now making this heartbreaking decision. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  18. Jilly

    Hello,
    My beautiful cat, Saffy was diagnosed with mouth cancer last week. She’s not eating now, but still drinking and grooming herself, and she is sleeping 23 hours a day, Very unusual for her.
    The thing is, I have a distrust with vets. Years ago I took another cat in to the same vets, I’ve been using them for years, and was told she had cancer and it would be best to have her put to sleep. She was only 5 years old so I didn’t think that was right. A few months later I had to take her in again as her tummy was swollen, a different vet said she had a womb infection and operated. I took her back to the same first vet to show him she was ok and never had cancer. He was so shocked, he couldn’t even talk to me. There was no cancer and she lived for another 9 years. If I had listened to that first vet, she would have been put to sleep and I would never had known. Always get a second opinion. That first vet left the practice shortly afterwards.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *