Stewardship

Jane and I are struggling a bit. One of our kitties, our favorite, has terminal cancer. The vet has prescribed pain killers, along with some other fun things. And we've been instructed to pay careful attention to her level of comfort and when it appears she is suffering, we should euthanize her.

On a logical basis, I know this is the right thing to do. It is our responsibility to our pets to care for them as best we can. Personally, I would want someone to help me end it when the pain became unbearable. The only difference here is that I expect I would be able to communicate my desires when the time came. The thing that scares us both is that we won't really know when it is the "right time." So we are going to have to make the decision to kill a being. And realistically, it will likely be too early, or too late.

We got the pain killers today. We knew our kitty had been ailing. She has a mass growing on her face, and when she finished her first round of anti-biotics she started smelling really foul, as if she was rotting. (Which btw, is what the vet said is happening with her tumor.) Occasionally she would pass on her food and Jane would spend significant time coaxing her to eat. But our kitty still wanted to hang with us, and she would purr when we petted her. We had no idea she was in pain. After her first dose of pain killer, she was much more playful and her purring was louder. So is she stoned, or had she been suffering and we missed it all?

We love this cat. I mean, really love this cat. She is our child. Our other kitty is great, but he is a pet. This cat has a real personality. Neither of us is happy with the idea of putting her down. She's almost 16. She's had a better life than many people on this earth. But how do you actually make the decision to kill another being? Even if it is the compassionate thing to do?

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Comments

  1. A horrible decision to have to make. I was there 8 years ago and haven’t had another pet since :(

    Just trust that whatever you decide, at whatever stage, it will be done with love xxx

  2. A moving post and a horrible decision to have to make. I agree with @Kate – your intention is what matters most: so long as you’re acting from love, however difficult your choice may be, it will be for the best.

  3. I am facing that same decision for my beloved feline companion, Tuxedo. He has terminal bone cancer. Probably tomorrow I will go to the vet and have to kill him. I have been through this 8 times already and it gets harder each time. When faced with this situation I suggest a sign, especially a dream to guide me. Plus we know our animal companions, they are eloquent in communicating what they need from us if we pay attention.
    I don’t understand though what you mean about your other cat being a pet. Some animal companions are more aloof then others, some very affectionate, but to me,they always have a personality and are individuals worthy of being referred to as more than the pejorative “pet.”

  4. I am so sorry your facing this decision – It’s a most difficult one; and the most important because of the love of your kitty. I had to make the decision last month…. for my ailing 18 year old dog Midas. It’s certainly not easy.

    What I can tell you is this… that you will know. My cat who I lost last year was the same – somehow, they can communicate that it’s their time. It’s in their eyes… and their expression…. When they hurt so badly, nature has a way of permiting the brain to become “unfocused”… and you will see this in her eyes. Your kitty will be absent from you before you even make the decision to let her go completely.

    Even so, you will question if you did the right thing. This is natural too. This will all heal as time passes and your thoughts become clearer.

    Comfort yourselves and each other that kitty had a wonderful life…. I’m so sorry for the sorrow you face.

  5. I’m so sorry you two are going through this. I’ve never had to deal with it myself but from what I’ve observed while helping friends through this, it seems like you’ll know when the time is right based on her behavior. The hardest part will probably be knowing it’s time to say goodbye for her sake but wanting to continue to hold on for your own. Instead of focusing on the void that will be left without her, try to think of the joy you had together and know you provided a loving, nurturing home for her for so many years.

  6. Thanks for this great post. We have lots of rescued cats and, believe it not, are faced with the euthanasia decision about once a year. It NEVER gets any easier. Here is what I wrote last year about my experience with our cat Paco.

    http://ginnymessina.blogspot.com/2008/05/euthanizing-paco-our-tabby-cat.html

  7. I’d hate to be in your shoes. I remember when my cat, Blackie, died a few years ago and I kept having dreams about him afterward walking in the grass for the last time. He was 15 and diabetic and took a few weeks to die on his own. So sad. So hard to watch. I don’t know what the right answer is. I hope you will know in your heart what to do.

  8. My heart goes out to the two of you. We had exactly the same experience with our old cat who died in March. Euthanasia is the hardest decision to make, especially when it’s an old friend who has become part of the family. I still well up just thinking about it.

    It is poor comfort I know, but your decision when it comes will be borne of love and compassion and at soul level your cat will understand this.

    I hope you are able to enjoy the time you have left and don’t worry about giving too much pain medication. She will be happier for it.

    My deepest sympathy,

    Sandy

  9. When we’ve made the decision we’ve always tried to make the decision on what’s best for our cat, and try to put aside our own feelings.

    If we felt that our cat had no quality of life (was withdrawn, not interacting with us, not eating or drinking, not wanting to go outside) that may prompt the decision. We also rely on input from a trusted vet to estimate the level of discomfort.

    As attached as you are to your cat (and I can really sympathize with you) it’s really important that your decision is based on the cat’s perceived quality of life and not your own feelings or reluctance to kill.

    I guess if you believe that assisted suicide should be legal (and I do) then it’s not so much of a step to euthanize an animal. I certainly do not want to end my life with weeks of pain, and I wouldn’t want it for my pets.

    Best wishes. Sean

  10. One of the best, most rewarding things about writing a blog is that you get so much support from the people who read your blog. Thank you all for your kind and compassionate comments.

    It is reassuring to hear that we will know when to put her down. Since we’ve had the ketamine, she seems to be happier, purring louder and more often. But we know it’s only a matter of time.

    and to Tristan… What I meant by the statement that our other kitty is “just a pet” is that, although he is a beloved member of our family, he does not have the same personality as his “sister.” She is a special cat, and this will be a very difficult loss for us.

  11. Ohmygosh, I am so sorry! :'(
    I hate losing my pets even naturally; I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to make that decision.

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