Saying goodbye to a beloved cat is difficult. Especially when you have to decide when to put her to sleep. Find out here when the right time has come, how euthanasia works, and how you can best support your cat in the last few hours.
Whether or not to euthanize your cat is not an easy decision. Because it is not always easy to recognize when the right time to say goodbye has come. Assessing whether an old or sick animal still enjoys life or whether it is suffering so much that death is salvation must be decided on a case-by-case basis.
When is Death a Redemption for Cats?
The most important thing is that the cat owner makes the decision to put him to sleep independently of his own personal needs and feelings, but acts solely in the interest and for the well-being of the cat. Under no circumstances should the trouble and burden involved in keeping a sick or old animal be a reason for euthanizing an animal. Taking a cat’s life because it’s “not perfect” or uncomfortable is totally irresponsible and amounts to a crime.
On the other hand, it is also irresponsible to tolerate the pain and suffering of an animal and to turn a blind eye to it. Even your own fear of the painful loss must not lead to the cat having to suffer. This is misunderstood love – at the expense of the animal. As an owner, you have a great responsibility for your cat. It is dependent on human care and must be able to rely on it.
Criteria For Putting a Cat to Sleep
Under the burden of responsibility and worried about not being able to correctly assess whether a cat is suffering or not, many pet owners ask which criteria are decisive. Whether, for example, a blind animal still enjoys life or whether an animal with a tumor or paralysis has to be put down. Understandable, after all, you want to avoid taking your pet’s life too soon or letting it suffer unnecessarily. But they don’t exist – the universally valid and unambiguous criteria for suffering and joie de vivre.
An animal with a very calm character will not miss much if its freedom of movement is restricted, while a whirlwind can suffer greatly from this. A cat that loses an eye due to a tumor does not necessarily lose its zest for life. However, if the tumor presses on the nerves and brain so that the animal can hardly perceive its environment, you should consider sparing it with this torment.
Criteria that should be considered and weighed in relation to putting a cat to sleep are, therefore:
- type and extent of the disease
- general health
- age of the cat
- individual nature of the cat
First and foremost, you should pay attention to what your cat is “telling” you. Because it will definitely signal to you when “the time has come”: cats that are in severe pain and suffering a lot will behave differently than cats that still enjoy life and can live well with an illness.
Signs that the cat is suffering can include:
- The cat withdraws, no longer takes part in human life.
- The cat eats little or not at all.
If these situations occur, it is in many cases a sign that the cat is suffering. Especially when she can no longer eat, this is usually a warning sign. As long as a cat is eating well and appears alert and interested, it is probably not the right time to put it to sleep.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide when it’s time to put your cat out of its misery. Unfortunately, nobody can make this difficult decision for you. If you have any doubts or need advice, you should contact your veterinarian and ask for their opinion and experience.
Does My Cat Suffer When Euthanized?
The technical term for euthanasia is euthanasia. The word comes from Greek and means something like “dying well” (Eu = good, Thanatos = to die). However, many pet owners still worry that putting their cats to sleep may not be “good” but rather painful. Terrible rumors of four-legged friends being tortured by spasms and convulsions in their death throes fuel this concern. Wrongly! If a cat is professionally euthanized, it will not experience any physical pain. She does not feel the onset of her death!
Here’s how cat euthanasia works:
- Basically, animals are euthanized with an anesthetic.
- A so-called narcotic (barbiturate) is knowingly overdosed, i.e. injected into the bloodstream in “too large” quantities.
- The cat is first put under a deep anesthetic so that it does not feel when the effects of the overdose are taking place.
- In the deep anesthesia, she stops breathing, her heart no longer beats.
Cats are usually treated with a sedative, a so-called sedative, or neuroleptic before they are actually put to sleep. This injection is simply given into a muscle of the cat and causes it to first fall asleep. Only when she is sound asleep is the actual anesthetic injected into the bloodstream. This “two-step procedure” prevents any complications or delays that may occur during the injection into the vein.
Although the cat is under deep anesthesia, its muscles may twitch or it may urinate or defecate when death occurs. What looks horrific to observers is not a sign of pain or awareness from the animal. These movements are purely mechanical, similar to reflexes – the animal does not perform them consciously, it does not feel or notice anything!
Do Cats Sense the Approaching End?
Cat owners do not need to worry about what cats feel physically at the moment of their death. In addition, however, the question remains as to what the cat feels and experiences “mentally” in its last days and hours. In the wild, animals often withdraw before they die or separate from their group: they anticipate the impending farewell and instinctively prepare for it.
House cats also often feel that their time has come. They mourn, but they don’t seem to be afraid of the impending death. Not panic and fear of death, but rather the certainty that the time has come seems to shape her feelings. Usually, it is more the grief and anxiety of the loved one that causes anxiety in the cat.
Supporting the Cat in the Last Hours
Cat owners can support their cats in their final hours. It doesn’t matter whether the cat already senses that death is approaching or not: if the human has decided to put his cat to sleep, it will feel exactly what this decision means for him and triggers in him. Therefore, keep calm as much as possible and exude security towards your cat.
Well-intentioned gestures such as particularly tasty meals, extra-long and comforting hours of cuddles, or intensive conversations are only of limited use to cats because they convey to them that something “bad” is about to happen. No one can or will forbid you to grieve – after all, the death of a faithful companion is extremely painful – but for the sake of your cat, try not to let her feel your own despair and helplessness.
Prepare For Euthanasia Properly
It is important that the external circumstances are designed in such a way that the cat is spared unnecessary stress and frightening excitement in its final hours. If you have decided to euthanize, you should consider the following points:
- Have a calm conversation with your veterinarian and get all the information you need.
- Ask your vet if it is possible for them to make a home visit and put your cat to sleep in their familiar environment.
- If your cat is to be euthanized in the practice, you should definitely make a special appointment. Place this right at the beginning or at the end of the consultation hour so that you don’t have to wait long in the hustle and bustle of the practice.
- Decide beforehand whether or not you want to be with your cat for the last few minutes.
- Deciding this spontaneously at the last moment could overwhelm you. The resulting restlessness could also be passed on to your cat and become a burden to her as well.
- Consider asking a loved one you trust to help you through the difficult moment.
What Helps With Grief?
Despite the certainty that it was salvation for the cat, her death is anything but easy for the owner to overcome. The loss hurts, one mourns and is desperate. Words of comfort like “It was better that way. Think about the good times you had together” are often of little help. Everyone deals with their sadness differently. For some, it helps to distract themselves, but for others, it is precisely the intensive confrontation with their grief that they need. Ultimately, it may help to seek comfort from other animal lovers who can relate and understand what is going on inside you from their own experience.
It may also help you to think back to the time you spent with your cat with gratitude. On the fact that your cat had a beautiful life and enriched yours. In addition, you can always remind yourself that you, as the owner, have lived up to your responsibility towards your cat to the end.
What Happens to the Cat After Being Put to Sleep?
There are basically two options as to what happens to your cat after it is euthanized:
- You leave your deceased cat in the hands of the vet. He takes care that she is taken to a so-called animal carcass disposal facility. There the corpse is heated and parts of it may be further processed.
- You take your cat home with you. In that case, however, it is your duty to bury the corpse in accordance with legal regulations or to have it buried in an animal cemetery.
Discuss this with your veterinarian before you put him to sleep. If you choose the second option, you should prepare that before you put him to sleep.