Sometimes your cat has been living with a chronic disease for a long time. Other times, a diagnosis or change seem to come suddenly from out of the blue. Cats are very tricky about letting their people know they are struggling.
Although they can live long lives of greater than 20 years, most do not make it nearly this long. They seem to be much more variable in their lifespans than dogs. Most of the time, you as the one who lives with the pet will know when the time is right to discuss end of life options.
If you are not sure, a veterinarian can help you decide what your pet’s quality of life is and what options are appropriate given where they are medically.
Some things that I think about when deciding about quality of life..
1. Is the cat eating and drinking?
2. Are they going to the bathroom with dignity and comfort?
3. Do they know and interact with their household in a normal way?
4. Is this the best/most comfortable day that they will have for the rest of their life? If the answer is yes, then are they comfortable at all?
5. How are home medical treatments/medication administration going? Is the patient tolerating these? Is the management of medical issues interfering with the quality of life and bonding between the pet and their person?
Each household and pet has different answers for these questions, but they can help break down some of issues that are challenging at the end of life. In cats, sometimes these questions can be hard to answer depending on the household and lifestyle they lead. Taking in the whole picture is critical to deciding if your friend is struggling.
If euthanasia is an option you are considering then there are several things that may be helpful to think about ahead of time. Do you want your cat’s ashes returned to you? Would you like to be in the room when they pass if possible? Would you like some time with them before or after they pass?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help make the appointment go as smoothly as possible. If you have never been present for euthanasia previously, you may want to discuss what it looks like with your vet so you can have an idea of what to expect in terms of the process.