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Euthanasia is the most difficult and most loving decision any cat lover has to make. But how do you know when it's time? We've got some tips in this week's post.

Euthanasia is always a difficult decision. Photo CC-BY-NC-ND julicath

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitites:

My cat, Chesney is 16, he has two teeth, he meows constantly and eats lots daily. He seems to have arthritis and is senile. He has been missing the cat litter tray and vomits from time to time. He has a couple of lumps on his body. I have had him checked at the vets and they have done blood tests and can’t find whats wrong. They say he’s senile. He can’t have much of a quality of life and I think its time to put him down, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it. I have booked him in once but cancelled. Can you help please?

~ Michelle

Thomas: Oh, Michelle, we’re so sorry you’re going through this. Euthanasia is the hardest decision any cat lover ever has to make.

Bella: We can’t tell you whether or not it’s time to let your cat go, but we can give you some tips on getting through the decision-making process and what you can do to prepare yourself for Chesney’s passing.

Tara: In fact, Mama just interviewed a certified grief coach about euthanasia and the decisions that lead up to it. We think you’ll find some good advice in that article, and we’ll share our personal perspective here.

Thomas: As you may know if you’ve been reading Paws and Effect for a while, Mama’s had to make that decision for a couple of our former fellow columnists over the last several years. The most recent of these was our beloved Siouxsie Mew.

Bella: Siouxsie was almost 19 years old when she decided she’d had enough and told Mama so.

Tara: Mama was prepared for this time because she knew as Siouxsie aged, that there would be a lot fewer tomorrows than yesterdays.

Thomas: As with your Chesney, Siouxsie didn’t have any major health problems. She was hyperthyroid and was on methimazole to treat it, and unlike a lot of senior cats, she didn’t show any evidence of kidney disease in her blood work.

Bella: But she was pretty arthritic in her hips, and she was on pain medication to help her with that.

Tara: Mama had taken the time to think through what she would do when Siouxsie died, or if she needed to be helped along with euthanasia.

Thomas: One thing Mama worked really hard to do was not to fret over that day but to be as emotionally and physically present with Siouxsie as she could.

Bella: It was hard for her, though. She describes what she went through as “pre-grief,” the knowledge that Siouxsie was going to pass soon and the sadness that came with that understanding.

Tara: What Mama did for Siouxsie is that she said, many times, “Siouxsie, you can always let me know when you’re ready to go, and I’ll respect and honor your wishes.” And she meant it.

Thomas: At the end of her life, Siouxsie got a severe urinary tract infection that made her unable to hold her pee in. Mama had the infection treated with antibiotics, because at that time it seemed like she still wanted to stick around.

Bella: But when she got another infection a few weeks later, Mama went to the vet again and got more antibiotics. But one evening it happened. She fell asleep in her chair and when she got into bed, half-awake, Siouxsie was waiting there and she said, “Mama, I’m tired.”

Tara: Mama was half-asleep enough to really hear Siouxsie’s wishes. And she told Siouxsie, “I hear you, and like I promised, I’ll respect your wishes. But just to let me know for sure, could you come to me in a dream or give me a sign so that my logical mind will also hear you?”

Thomas: So Siouxsie got up in bed and curled up between Mama’s arm and her body, which was her favorite place to sleep. When Mama rolled over, Siouxsie peed all over the place, and Mama’s logical mind knew it was time, too.

Bella: You see, she didn’t want Siouxsie to lose her dignity any more, and being incontinent would have caused a severe blow to her dignity.

Tara: Between the arthritis, hyperthyroidism, recurring UTIs, and now the incontinence, she knew it was time. She called the vet the next day and made the euthanasia appointment.

Thomas: And she cried even as she made the call, and she cried afterwards, and her co-workers gave her hugs and compassion.

Bella: She had an animal communicator talk to all of us the day before Siouxsie was due to cross over, so we all knew what was going on. Of course, we already did, to some extent, because we’d heard Siouxsie tell Mama she was tired. But it was really nice of the animal communicator to reassure us that everything would be okay, even if we would be sad for a while.

Tara: So, Michelle, our best advice to you is to really listen to what Chesney is telling you. Is he ready? If so, then it’s time to make that heartbreaking, yet incredibly courageous decision.

Thomas: You may find some comfort in talking with an animal communicator. She or he will be able to tell you what’s on Chesney’s mind and whether he’s ready to go. If you want some recommendations, Mama can give you the name of the animal communicator she worked with.

Euthanasia is a heartbreaking but loving decision.

This is Mama on the day she took Siouxsie to the vet for her final visit. She was lucky her good friend could drive her there and hold her as she cried afterwards.

Bella: Euthanasia is never an easy decision, but when the decision is made with love and compassion, and you can reach past your fear of death, you’ll be able to help Chesney cross over when it’s time for him to do so.

Tara: What about you other readers? Do you have some tips or support for Michelle as she goes through this difficult time? Please share your thoughts in the comments.