Death is an unfortunate certainty of life. Your cat, not matter how much you love and care for it will eventually pass on. I am not going to sugar coat the fact that it will be a tremendous loss for any loving owner and will be a source of pain. I write this articles to hopefully offer a little bit of advice in these darker times of being a cat owner, to hopefully ease a bit of grief or at least make it a little more bearable when the moment comes to say good bye.
I lost my first cat very suddenly after being hit by a car, and even though we were only together for 6 months the loss hit me hard. Now I have a cat who is 13 years old and is starting to show the signs of slowing down. Her sight is nowhere near what it used to be and I just hope her hearing does not start to falter as well. She will one day leave me and that is a fact that that I understand, but I will still cry a bit when reminded of my limited time with her. Due to an injury sustained in her younger years she may also need to be put down earlier if the arthritis in her leg becomes too painful. In saying this, no matter how soon she will leave me, I know that I have loved her with all my heart and always strived to do the best that I could for her while she was alive. When she passes, I hope that she will have has a full life and that she is content.
What can I do to prepare for the death of my cat?
Well, the first step I would say is to talk to your vet while the pet is still alive. Ask questions and see what their standard procedures are when a pet needs to be put down. It will be a morbid conversation, but it will at least give you a sense of direction when the time comes to pass and you will not feel as lost with what to do. Some vets offer some type of burial or cremation, but not all vets offer these services. It is usually up to the owner to decide what to do with the remains of the pet once they have passes. Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to have a plan in mind with yourself and your vet so that at least that painful conversation does not need to happen when you are far more emotional and depressed.
How do I decide it is time for my cat to be put down?
Well this is another huge grey area for vets and pet owners. Usually there will come a time that a pet is in so much pain or discomfort that it is cruel to keep it alive. I have seen the ugly side of this when an owner refuses to put down a beloved pet. The dog in question was blind, deaf, could not control their bladder and was allergic to everything. I cannot imagine the misery that was that poor dogs last year, every time I saw her I only felt sadness and pain. The owners are not entirely to blame. They loved her so much that they did not wish to part with her and did everything they could to keep her happy and alive. They went to ‘natural vets’ and had her on a vert strict diet to keep her allergies at bay. To their credit, she far outlived what the vet had estimated, but it did come at both a financial and emotional cost. The dog thankfully passes away at the end of last year, in the arms of her owners who loved her dearly. But here is the issue, from an unbiased outside perspective, the dog did not have a great last year of life. I understand the owner’s feelings but it would have been less cruel to put her down 6 months earlier and given her a more dignified end to her life. When my cat comes to this age, I hope I am able to see past my own love for her to be able to identify if she is in that much pain. I do not want her to suffer and I hope to be able to send her off before her pain becomes unbearable. The point I am trying to make is that it is hard to say when it is time to say good bye. The best person to talk to is a vet who is only looking out for the well being of your pet, even if it means to end their life. Please read plenty of peer reviewed articles and have discussions with your vet to see when that time will be right for you and your pet, and always try to put the health and happiness of your pet before your own pain of their inevitable death.
How do I heal from the death of a pet?
Again, there is no easy answer to this question. My advice is to look after yourself and your mental health. Take a day or two off work, watch a sad movie and cry your heart out, eat your favorite meal, and hug a loved one for support. The point is you have every right to mourn the loss of your pet. Take as much time as you need to cry and process this grief, but do not let it halt your life forever. Every day try take one step forward to acceptance and peace with yourself, once you are ready, you can go and help another animal have a better life. You could even look at becoming a foster parent and help multiple animals find a better home. The death of a cat (or any animal for that matter) is not the end of the world, just a bittersweet end to a chapter of your life that you one day will look back on and remember.
I hope this article offers at least a little bit of helpful advice when dealing with such a sad time in your life. Just remember you are not alone, you can always talk to friends, family, or even me, an internet stranger. Just remember; you did your best, they are at peace, it’s okay to cry, and even more important, it’s okay to move on and heal.