Euthanasia and the Family Pet

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Thinking about euthanizing our old, old cat

March 2007

We have a very old cat whom we have had in our family since she was a kitten. She remains beloved by our children, but not so much by my husband and me because of her proclivity for urinating and defecating on the beds in our house. This is getting more frequent. She is not incontinent (she uses her box), but seems to do this when she is in a spiteful mood. When we have guests overnight, she almost always pees on the guest bed unless we close the door to the room. Then she pees on our bed.

I know that I will probably get a lot of abuse about this from the BPN community, but we are thinking about euthanizing her. The problem is that I can't imagine looking my kids in the eye and lying to them by telling them she got really sick and died. I also can't imagine telling them that I killed the cat because I was fed up with washing pee-stained bedding. Any advice or experience that you could share without too much judgment would be appreciated. Weary Laundress

Perhaps you've already done this, but in case you haven't: talk to a vet about your cat's behavior. There may be a medical explanation. If your vet isn't helpful, I'd encourage you to get a second opinion. If there is no medical explanation, your vet may still be able to help you with behavioral issues. If all else fails, there's always the option of getting a large dog crate (spacious enough for a litter box, food and water bowls, and bedding). Then crate your cat at night, so anything requiring clean-up is contained. I've also dealt with elderly cats over the years. My kids have told me, outright, that they're glad that I've taken care of our cats when they're old and sick. When I was a kid, my mother euthanized a cat. She tried to tell me a comforting lie, but I saw right through it. I felt betrayed, and never really trusted her again. I recognize that it's not always easy reconciling one own's needs with our kids' needs. I hope a competent vet can clarify the issues. cat fan
I remember my family having a simular situation when I was in high school. My mother really wanted to get rid of the older cat for the exact reasons you are mentioning. For our family the solution game by giving the cat a safe space in the garage to live. Us kids would go out and spend quality time with her and she seemed happy for her final years. Not sure it that solution is an option or not for you. Good luck. Anon
Here is my response to your dilemma: We have a 20-year-old cat, who has also been with us since he was a kitten. We are spending a lot of money keeping him going with medications, daily subcutaneous fluid administration, vet appointments and hospital boarding when we go out of town. Sometimes I ask my husband, ''How much longer are we going to do this?'' But I still love the little guy and get a lot of pleasure from him (I'm talking about the cat, not the husband!). Occasionally the cat vomits on the floor or carpet. but it isn't all that unpleasant. However, if he were peeing and pooping around the house, that would be the deciding factor for me. I wouldn't live with that. Maybe I would feel a little guilty about euthanasia, but not enough to outweigh the desire to stop that particular problem. I don't have young children that I would have to lie to. But if I were in your situation, I would tell them that the cat's messing up was a sign that he wasn't well. Nancy S
Try giving her 30C of homeopathic Hyoscyamus a few times before you make a decision. Put it in her mouth or her water bowl. It might help with the problem. Anon
We were in the same situation last year. Our 17 yo cat had taken to sleeping in the litter box and defecating everywhere else. Daily cleaning of the box proved useless. I agonized over what to do until I read an online article written by a vet that talked about how a cat can suffer silently long before they die. Cats will hide physical pain/suffering for some time. The article went on to say that often an owner will keep the pet alive for their own comfort level, not for the comfort of the animal. After reading it, we made an appointment at Montclair Vet.Hospital. The staff and doctor were so kind and understanding. My beloved kitty left this earth in a gentle sleep. I was sad afterwards, but understood that his time here was done. best of luck to you with this very difficult decision.. anon
You will have to do what your heart tells you, but consider the quality of life your old, old cat is having and weigh that against your need for them to be around. I finally euthanized my two cats 6 months apart a couple years ago. One had alzheimers and was going blind, the other stopped eating. They were about 16 and 17 and had lived happy, full lives. I held them in my arms while they got the first shot to sedate them and Albany Vet on Solano was fantastic about giving me as much time as I needed with them before and after. kl
As someone who enjoys and keeps pets but is not a PETA person - I totally support you in putting your family first before a cat that is defecating and urinating all over your beds and foors. Truly, there is nothing that ruins furniture and beds more quickly than cat poop and pee. Maybe your cat could be an outdoor only cat - my animals enjoy the outside so much more than the inside and it keeps them a little more independent. If I were coming to stay at your house and the cat peed on thebed I was about to sleep in I would be so utterly horrified. I think if you look at the situation with a little distance you will see that it is obviously no longer working. Grossed out by Poop and Pee on my Bed! Anon

Try to find a home for aging cat? or euthanize?

Jan 2007

I've searched the archives but did not see this particular topic...our cat is about 14 years and is now on 3 daily meds for hyperthyroid and inflammatory bowel disease. Our son is about to turn 1 year and for a number of reasons, we've realized that we really need to find a better situation for our dear kitty. With such a busy little boy, I can't give her the amount of attention I used to, at a time when she needs it more than ever. Not to mention being chased and pulled on by our exhuberant son is stressing her out even more.

So my question is: has anyone else been in a similar situation, and were you able to find a good ''retirement home'' for your pet or did you have to euthanize?

Other than being very thin from her health problems pre- treatment, she seems to be in pretty good health. She just needs a lot of attention and care that we are unable to provide. I hate to euthanize her because she seems to have a pretty strong will to live. Her quality of life has most definitely declined, but I have the feeling that out of such a stressful environment, she might thrive again for several more years. I'm worried too, though, that given her age and medical conditions, she's not very ''adoptable'' through something like Hopalong.

Thanks in advance for your feedback.

I sympathize with you completely because I had 3 aging cats when my son was little, and it was very stressful. You could try the VCA Bay Area Animal Hospital in Oakland (510-654-8375) and see if they would try to find a home for her. They occasionally have animals for adoption and they could provide the medical care while she's there. Another possibility would be to ask friends who attend church or a synagogue to try to find someone to take her. I lucked out at my church when a friend of a friend was willing to take in the dog of a homeless person. Good luck, and I hope you don't have to euthanize her. Nancy
You'd probably have to pay someone to provide board and care for your cat; most people aren't in the market for an older cat. Do you really want to euthanize your cat when you feel he has several years of life left to live? Why turn your back on an old friend? To make pill giving easier, you could try using a plastic device called a ''finger- saver'' available from most vets. Train your kid not to chase the cat, or separate the cat from your child by confining him to a specific part of the house. Or get another, younger cat to amuse your child. Since you don't have as much time to spend with the cat, you could get him a heated pet bed; cats love them. I hope these suggestions are helpful. anon
Hello, I posted the request for help finding a ''retirement home'' for my old and ailing cat...the kind person who responded mentioned the VCA pet hospital in Oakland. I called them and they don't take in animals for re-adoption; they just do rescue situations. Just FYI. Thanks for your help, though!FWIW, we also tried Hopalong and Island Cat Rescue (we live on Alameda). We also posted on Craigslist. We had no luck. I think the best bet is to post at the vet's office and, as you suggested, speak to friends and community members (eg, church/synagogue, etc).

Logistics of putting our cat down at home

Feb 2004

There is a good chance that we are going to put our dear cat to sleep in the next couple of days due to an advanced case of diabetes. We would like to do this in our home, he's in the hospital right now. I have read the recommendations for Dr. Feldman. My question is, where should the kids be at the time? I have a two year old and more specifially my five year old. Also, what do I do with the body. At the vet, there is the option of having it cremated and put in a little box. Is that an option with a home euthenasia? Also, what about the cost? Any advice greatly appreciated. Amy

After a long, long struggle with it, we finally had to put our 8 year old dog down on Nov. 1. Dr. Feldman was caring, but quick about it. It was a horrible experience for me as an adult, and I don't know that a young child should be present, as their understanding of death is very different than an adult's. As a child, I was present for the slaughtering of animals (I grew up on a farm) and that was ok, but when our family dog died, it was really awful and different than butchering animals to eat.

If you want to know what happens, he first gives the animal a sedative but it can make them throw up and our dog looked panicked before he could no longer keep standing up. Then, the drug that paralyzes the breathing muscles is given, and the animal gives a short grunt and that is it. You need to decide for yourself, but if it were my child I would talk to them about what was happening before and after but not have them present.

The cost is expensive- I think it was $250 or $275. The reason we did it at home was that our dog was incredibly afraid of the vet's office and I could not bear thinking that his last moments would be spent in terror at the vet's clinic. We did have him cremated- there is only one place that does it really no matter who accepts the body for you- Koefran, I think it is. It was $105 for us because our dog was big- might be less for the kitty- call the Berkeley animal shelter and they can tell you the cost. My heart goes out to you, a pet is so much part of a family- I find myself crying about our dog still. But try to remember the good times with your cat, and maybe create a memory book with your kids to help remember how much happiness the pet brought you all. My best to you... Still missing Jackson

I had to put my cat down and can offer the following advice: 1) The vet did 2 injections - I think the first was a sedative to help her relax, and the second was the stuff that puts them to sleep. The vet said the sleeping injection can cause convulsions that do not hurt the cat but are alarming to witness. It didn't happen in my case but you never know. For that reason I suggest you do not have your kids present until after that cat has passed away - then they could come in to say good by. Also their witnessing the cat receive a shot that basically takes it's life away could be disturbing to them next time they have to get a shot at the doctor's.

2) Ask your vet if you could bring the body in for them to take care of getting it to the cremation people or at least give you the contact info of the person that does it. I think the cremation is a good idea so that you can have a ceremony with your kids and help them let go, be it scattering the ashes or burrying them in the yard.

3) If your cat is suffering, do it as soon as you can. My greatest regret with my suffering cat (she had cancer) is not putting her down sooner - the thought of not having her around was difficult, but once I saw her finally at peace I felt awful for the suffering she had put up with so I could have her company.

My sympathies for your loss. anon

I'm so sorry to hear of your cat. We finally had to put down our beloved dog almost 2 years ago now. My husband and I along with our 5 year old took her to the vet, not knowing for sure if it was time or not. The vet assured us that it was time. We explained what was going to happen to our son, and suggested he wait outside with me and my husband would stay with our dog while the vet put her down. My son was adament that he be in the room with our dog, and so, in the end, we were all by her side. My son has never spoken of anything but fondness for our dog since. Donna
I have put down numerous animals and recommend Dr Mckinney who runs the all seasons mobile vet clinic. He is pricey--I think it was about 100.00--but he comes to your house so your cat is spared the last trauma of a trip to the vet. He gives a shot intramuscularly which heavily sedates the cat--in fact it quickly becomes unconscious. Then he shaves a leg to find a vein and gives an intravenous dose that stops the heart. It's very nice that the animal is not awake for the shaving, and possible difficulty of finding a vein. Once he did have to put a mask on one of my old cats to gas it to death because it had no circulation due to kidney failure, and this was not my ideal way of euthanasia, but he did it as gently as possible, and I held, and pet, and talked my cat until it lost consciousness. This is a heartwrenching thing to do, and I cry every time, but I'm grateful that I can give my pets this last gift--a humane end to their suffering. He will take the body and dispose of it for an additional fee. I sent my large dog with him, my small dogs and cats I bury in the yard. I don't think the cremation fee is worth it--I doubt you are even receiving your pets actual ashes. This is dubious even with human remains-- that's why they never let you observe the cremation process, and the boxing of the ashes. A racket, in my opinion. animal lover
I also recently had to put one of my cats to sleep. I'm very sorry that you're going through this. It was the first time I ever had to do it and it was hard. Let me just say that while it sounds like your intentions are great, I would have it done at the hospital and especially without the kids around.

Even though my cat was suffering and I knew it was the right thing to do, it ended up being really, really emotional for me. At first the cat is given a relaxant that puts him/her to sleep. Your kids could even be there for that. But what I wasn't expecting and wish I hadn't seen was that when the vet actually gives the lethal shot, it tweaked the muscles so that his face looked like it was in a kind of grimace and he died with his eyes open. I'm sure he didn't feel it, and I certainly wouldn't have left him alone the vet to do it, but it's not the last image of my dear cat that I wanted. Just my two cents. Alison

We had to have our oldest cat put down a few days after Christmas. I had hoped that he would die peacefully on his own, since he did not show signs of distress, but when he did become distressed, we knew we would have to do it. Of course, it was a Sunday. Dr. Feldman was unavailable that day (we tried that morning) and we didn't want kitty to continue in discomfort, and so we took him to a local vet (Broadway Pet Hospital-they have Sunday hours.) It would have been nice to do it at home, but the folks at Broadway Pet were great. Our 2 kids were there. I went with the cat, and we brought our oldest (almost 4) in to pet and say goodbye to kitty after he was gone. We had plenty of time to spend with our cat before they took his body away. I decided not to go with getting the ashes (I think it would have been over $200.) I have plenty of photos to remember him. Patty
In August, I had my 18 year old cat put down by Dr. Feldman while my kids were at the park with their dad. I did not want them to be present because I knew it would upset my 7 year old son way too much, and that he would think I was killing our cat (who had been my best friend long before I was even married or had kids). I would not use Dr. Feldman again, as he had some annoying little remarks to make about my not having my kids present, and he had to do the euthanasia shot twice, which freaked me out. I had nightmares about the whole thing for a week afterward. I would highly recommend Dr. McKinney, of All Seasons Mobile Veterinary Clinic 430-0366. He was very sensitive and great. He did the euthanasia for another cat of mine 2 years earlier, but he was on leave last August due to an injury. anon
there are a couple of vets that will euthanize at home, which we did for our dog. It was a big relief not to have to bring her to the vet, which was always traumatic, and would have been devastating for us. Easier to cry at home. The vet we used offered to take the body to our vet, to be sent to a place to be cremated. THe vet called us when the ashes were back, and we picked them up. Talk to your own vet and the vet that would do the euthanasia & monitoring about costs. Cremation is not the cheapest option (sending the body to a sort of ''mass grave'' is the cheapest), but may help your own mourning process, which could throw you for a loop if you're attached to your pet.

Putting sick cat to sleep?

Sept 2002

Our wonderful family cat has had persistent diarrhea since April. We've spent hundreds of dollars at two different vets trying to get to the bottom of the problem, to no avail. Apart from the diarrhea and constant hunger, he is apparently in good health. The last vet I spoke to said the next step would be to take a biopsy of the intestines ($300 - $500!) to get to the bottom of the problem. He wasn't exactly optimistic about what we could expect to find (he said the procedure usually reveals some kind of cancer, although not always). He even suggested it may be best to put our cat to sleep. I'm balking at the cost of the surgery, particularly given the vet's less-than-sunny prediction. As much as our family loves our cat, his digestive problem is affecting our quality of life (he occasionally goes outside his litter box, the box needs constant cleaning, and the smell -- even though the box is in the garage -- is truly awful). Could it simply be old age? We think he's about 10 - 12 years old. We've tried changing his diet, steroids, etc. I found that the prescription cat food (Hill's: three different varieties) I was feeding him actually made the problem worse, so now I feed him a combination of rice and chicken that I make at home which seems to help a little. What to do? I would love advice from anyone who has treated a cat with this problem or had to put a sick cat to sleep. Holly

Though I can't be certain that this is your cat's problem - sounds like he/she may be suffering from hypothyroidism. Our cat had similar symptoms for almost 2 years (they got progressively worse) My understanding is that it can be caused by a number of things, tumors often being the culprit and that it is very common in cats. Our cat was also urinating a lot and soaking the litter box. He was on three kinds of medication and at the end we were also giving him an IV for fluids as he would get dehydrated and was losing weight rapidly. IT was a VERY hard decision, but we finally made the decision to put him to sleep. I couldn't do it, but my husband took him to Broadway Pet Hospital and stayed with him while they put him to sleep. Dr. Gutlaizer was amazing and very compassionate. He actually sent us a handwritten bereavement note after. Hopefully this isn't what your cat has, but if you do decide that you want another opinion I would reccommend Broadway Pet Hospital's Dr. Gutlaizer. anon
We had to put our family cat to sleep about a year ago and were worried about how our two kids (3 & 4.5 y.o.) would deal with it. Nikki (the cat) was 12 y.o., arthritic, almost completely blind, without most of her hearing and was having a hard time making it up and down the stairs. It was painful to watch her navigate 'by bump' around the house. She had resorted to doing her business 'wherever' because chances were slim that she'd find her way back to her litter box. This was a major concern because we often had youngsters over for playgroup. After a few trips to the vet, we had to decide between surgery to temporarily alleviate a calcium buildup in her hips or putting her down. After some discussion, we decided to let her go. It wasn't an easy decision, but we hoped that it was the more humane choice to stop her suffering.

We explained her condition to our kids and brought them with us to the vet. The process was done by injection and the kids saw that Nikki passed away peacefully. Of course, it was sad to leave Nikki that day. We talked about it and explained that we were very sad too, but that it was so that Nikki wouldn't suffer any more. There were a few more relapses following that day.. like when the kids found a couple lost cat toys underneath the sofas. But we got a kitten about 4 months afterwards and things have been fine. The kids still reminisce fondly about Nikki, and seem like they adjusted well. Whew. The only heartbreaking thing that happened was when we had to leave the new kitty with the vet while we went on a short vacation. Both kids suddenly burst out in tears while we got on the freeway. They only knew that we we left the vet again without the cat and thought that the new cat was being put to sleep too. rk

My cat had diarrhea at one point. Amoxicillin treatment for coccidia didn't help, so when someone recommended children's Kaopectate, I tried it; it worked. Dana
I'm so sorry to hear about your cat's condition. What a hard, hard situation to be in. Our beloved kitty of 15 years became ill in a similar ongoing way (vomiting, in his case). After myriad tests, we also received the ''probably cancer'' diagnosis. We went through a few lesser procedures, I learned to inject him with fluids to keep him hydrated, but basically we knew it was just a matter of time. When his condition didn't improve and the vet suggested our remaining options were a very expensive, very invasive procedure that might extend his life for a couple months or sending him in for ultraexpensive kitty ultrasounds, which could confirm the cancer diagnosis but offer no new treatment, we knew our time together was over. It sounds like your difficulty is that you don't know how sick your cat is. You say that besides the diarrhea and constant hunger, he's healthy, but that doesn't sound healthy. How does he seem to feel? When our cat's sickness got the better of him, we knew it. He wasn't himself. I think you know how your cat's doing. If his condition doesn't improve, is he well enough to enjoy his life as he is now? And at the risk of sounding too crunchy, if you're miserable about dealing with his condition, he'll know it and it'll affect his quality of life as well.

One final note. I was happy that before we had our cat put to sleep, we found out that vets will come to your home to do it. It was a comfort that his last experience didn't have to be one of fear, being shoved into a carrier and hauled out of the house. Still sad

Having had two cats who went through extensive and ultimately unsuccessful treatments for cancer, my one thought is that if my current cat gets sick, I'll choose euthanasia a lot faster than I did last time. It's not the expense, although boy, it gets really expensive fast, it's just that the treatments are so hard for the animal to comprehend. So you go through a long period of your cat being sick and miserable, you being miserable with whatever gross thing the sick animal is doing (one cat had bladder cancer and peed everywhere, constantly), and then you have to give the cat endless pills, or take it to the vet constantly, or do various other things that the cat perceives as torture. I agree with the previous poster that it's hard to know what to do when you don't know how sick the animal is, but I would say that once you get an indication that the problem isn't going to be easy to cure, think long and hard about how much suffering medical treatment itself will bring to both you and your pet. I've loved my cats like they were children (okay, a little bit less now that I actually have children, but still a lot) and yet what I ended up coming to is that trying to prolong their lives when they were seriously ill (and pretty old in cat years) wasn't doing them any favors. BTW, I've always used Berkeley Dog and Cat as my vet, and I really trust their diagnositic and treatment skills. When they euthanized my animals, it was done in such a loving and gentle way that I still well up when I think about it. But if you can get someone to come to your house to do it, even better. nelly
I assume the vets have checked the kitties thyroid value. Hyperthyroidism is very common in older kitties and leads them to eat more and develop diarrhea. The other thing I would consider is a trial of an enzyme called pancreazyme. Older cats can develop a deficiency of digestive enzymes. They eat a lot and develop diarrhea because they can't get the nutrients in the food through their intestinal wall without the enzymes. The stool usually smells awful also because there are lots of bacteria feeding on the undigested food. The pancreatic enzymes are sprinkled on the food, or given as a pill at the time of eating. You should see improvement within one week if it will help. The vets you have seen should be able to give you the medication for a short period to try. I usually feed the cats meat baby food (make sure there is no onion powder in it) during the trial as this is one of the most easily digested foods for most kitties. a local vet
Hi, I'm sorry your cat is so ill. I've had cats all my life, and I expect to outlive all but the last one. Whether this is the time for your kitty to go to Kitty Heaven or not, I can't say; but when that time comes, I'd like to recommend Dr. Bruce Feldmann, 525-1404. He is a ''housecall'' vet. In addition to routine vet care, he will put your pet to sleep at home. He is well prepared and compassionate and charges about the same as the ''office'' vets. Namaste Louise