Part of the responsibility of owning a pet is that we must take responsibility for the quality of life of our furry friends. Sometimes a cat passes away peacefully in the night. More often than not, however, the end of a cat's suffering must come as a result of its owner's decision to have the pet put to sleep by a caring, competent veterinarian. Making the decision to end a terminally ill cat's pain and misery will probably be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do.
How will you know?
How can you possibly make such a decision? What can you base it on? First, you have to assess objectively the cat's state of health and its level of comfort. If it's a young cat suffering from a serious but curable illness, most owners would choose to do anything possible to save the animal. If that same illness struck a 15-year-old cat, though, the decision might be different.
If a cat is in terrible pain and has little chance of recovering, most owners would make the decision to have the cat put to sleep, whatever the pet's age. Likewise, if an elderly cat could no longer walk and had no control of its elimination habits, most owners would likewise decide to have the cat put to sleep.
I think the key factor in making the decision is in attempting to prevent needless suffering while still maintaining a sense of dignity for the cat. If the pain my pet is enduring cannot be ended or minimized, and if the indignity and suffering becomes all too apparent, I can, with regret, come to terms with the reality of the situation and make the decision to put an end to the pet's physical and emotional suffering.
It's still not easy
I don't write these words lightly. I have gone through this several times and can tell you it is not easy. People without pets sometimes make light of the grief and suffering pet owners face toward the end of a companion's life. The truth is that a pet is a part of the family and is loved and cherished. Losing a family member is grievous; having to make the choice to put one to sleep is doubly so.
I can't pretend to tell you exactly how to go about making the decision to put your cat's suffering to an end. All I can say is that it is a decision for you and you alone to make. By all means talk it over with your veterinarian so that you understand exactly what the medical options are. But don't let someone else convince you to do something your instincts tell you isn't right. If you don't make the choice, you won't be able to live with yourself for a very long time. You owe it to your cat to decide when the time is right on your own.
The only advice I can give you is this: Don't pull off the inevitable just because you can't cope with the thought of it. That is, in my opinion, a selfish act. Try to think only of the cat's well-being and not your own. Your feline buddy gave you many years of love and companionship; respect this by making a selfless decision at the right time.
Excerpted from The K.I.S.S. Guide to Cat Care by Steve Duno
Copyright 2001 by Steve Duno.
Excerpted by permission of Dorling Kindersley Publishing Inc.
All rights reserved.
No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.