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My Cat is Dying... Is it time?

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
We have a sick cat. He's 14 years old. His brother died at the age of 4 or 5 with a heart defect. It was exactly to the day 1 year after our one-year anniversary that his brother died from Cardiomyopathy.

About two years ago, our cat was diagnosed with mouth cancer. The Vet told us that in most cases, cats with his condition had about 6 months to live.

We are now over two years past that date. Our cat is still eating, although he is losing weight. He moves and walks slowly. He no longer has the strength to run away from our children. We found the children playing roughly with him the other day. They had picked him up, put him in a large plastic shopping bag, and then put him in my daughter's baby cradle. When I found out what they were doing to him, I was first of all in disgust with the way they were treating him, but most importantly, I was worried that he no longer had the strength to get away from them.

I tried to explain to the children that Mulder is very sick and he won't be with us for much longer. I told them that they are to treat him with respect. They can pet him and scratch under his head, but that they are NOT to pick him up or try to play with him.

I still don't know how we will know when it is time.

Everyone that I have spoken with about this keeps telling me "When it is time, you will KNOW -- you won't question anymore". Is that really true? Will I just KNOW when it is time?

If anyone can offer any advice, or tell of personal experiences, I am listening.

UPDATE: It's done...

My husband noticed the other day how much weight he had truly lost (it is hard to tell since he has so much fur). Neither one of us has seen him eat for a few days, and his quality of life really wasn't there anymore. We could have waited longer, but after hearing others on her say they wish they had done it sooner, I do not regret our decision.

Around 11:00 AM the kids and I said goodbye to Mulder -- I told them he was going to join his brother Neelix soon. We left to go out for lunch and DH came to pick up Mulder while we were out. It was done at 1:30.
post #2 of 29
Hi there. I lost my 12 year old shephard last May (I put her down) and grappled with this same issue for over a year. Here is my insight.

No, it is not true that you will KNOW. Plenty of people wait until they "know" and at that point I believe they have waited too long. In my opinion it has mostly to do with the comfort level and quality of life of the animal.

IN your case, if your cat can't move about freely and interact with the family (just lays there most of the time and "can't escape the children") and doesn't chase toys or walk about the house...I would say the time is close. If your cat does eat, but is still getting skinny...another indicator that the time is drawing near. Other factors to consider are $$ spent on medications, any kind of bathroom issues, is the cat cleaning himself regularly?, does the cat have any odd odors?

All of these come into play when making the decision. Remember that your cat can't tell you if he is in pain. Also, for me it boiled down to quality of life. My dog could still walk and kind of run and she was still eating. What it came down to was that we were dealing with some emotional issues (she was increasingly getting seperation anxiety) and some bathroom issues around control, but she just layed on her bed all day, we were lifting her into the car for over a year, she was panting a lot (singnifying to me some internal issue) and, and here is the big AND... it was going to be a miserable hot summer here and I knew she would struggle. So I just did it. I contemplated over several weeks and just geared up to it. She could probably lived another few months, or maybe even another year...

I made the decision for her. I think this is were people make there mistakes and wait tooooo long.

It was very tough, but I know I made the correct decision. I would say to try and keep quilt out of it and just do what is best for everyone.
post #3 of 29
Many cats, when they feel death is imminent, will find a quiet out-of-the-way place to go about that business. When I saw my sick cat start doing this (she was an indoor cat, so she would curl herself up in a ball behind the drapes -- a very unusual place for her -- or under the bed or couch) that's when I took her in. But like a PP said, I probably waited a little longer than I should have. It was just such a hard decision.
post #4 of 29
I think that since you are asking the question, you know the answer...

I had to put one pet down so far. It was hard, but it was the right thing to do. With him, I did know right away - I had been gone at college and when I came back he was a different cat. Glassy eyes, clearly in pain. My parents were shocked - they said he was quiet but not obviously sick until he saw me. We all think he was just waiting for me to come home (wow, that was 15 years ago and I'm sniffling right now). That said - my cat was dying for a bit before we put him down, and he was just hiding how bad he was hurt. I have heard from many people that cats tend to do that.

I would recommend that you spend some quality time with Mulder. Just you and him. Have a long snuggle. Observe him. He's clearly on the decline, but he may or may not be ready to go. If you have time with him, you can figure that out. If he does not like being touched, if it seems like he tries not to move much, then he's in pain. If his eyes are glassy, he's in pain. But if he's just slow and creaky, but still can cuddle, you may have some time left.

I'm sorry. It's hard to say goodbye to a pet.
post #5 of 29
Thread Starter 
Ravenlunatic --

He still walks about the house. He can still get down to the basement to his litter boxes and doesn't have accidents yet. He still eats, he can get up the stairs and has started sleeping in the cat bed that we recently put on the floor in our bedroom.

He does have a horrible stench about him, but that's just because he can't really get around to his back side to clean himself properly. We do the best we can with helping to keep his area clean, but he clearly doesn't enjoy the process very much -- for the most part we just put up with it and open lots of windows. But he's been like this for a while.

He still goes outside and enjoys sitting in the grass and watching the world around him.

I've had conversations with him before and I looked him straight in the eyes and told him that he has to let me know when he's ready, and he hasn't let me know yet. I've just gone over to him now and I see he's lying in the hallway (a typical hang-out spot for him) and I went up to him and started patting his back and he started purring right away.

Annie Mac -- I noticed that Mulder did that a few months ago. He started hanging out in the closet inside a shoe rack. I also found a bad smell in there around the same time, and realized shortly thereafter that he had left a present in the closet. But since then, he has gone back to "normal". I mean, he's obviously aging and getting older, slower, his breathing is heavier. But Mulder has always enjoyed eating the most and has always been a fat cat. We did change his food to a healthy seniors formula within the past 6 months, and he has definitely lost weight. But I don't know how much of the weight loss has been because of the change in diet and how much is because he is sick.

Lit Chick -- I just went to Mulder to see how he was doing, and to ask him the question again, if he's ready to go. He looked the same to me as he has always looked. His eyes don't look glassy, he purred immediately when I started touching and petting him. He actually didn't smell that bad today (maybe the other cats helped to clean him up a bit today? They do that for him... I know, yuck, right? lol...)

After observing him today and sitting with him for a few minutes just now, I am sure that he's not ready yet.
post #6 of 29
Thread Starter 
After observing him today and sitting with him for a few minutes just now, I am sure that he's not ready yet.
Immeditely after I finished typing this, I went downstairs to clean the litter boxes. I found Mulder just lying there in the box. I came with my shovel and started cleaning the bits I could get to, expecting him to leave me to do the job, but instead he whined at me. I lifted him out and he immediately tried to go back. I finished up quickly and as soon as I was done, he went back and laid down in the box. I've never seen him do that before. I wonder if this is his way of coping with incontinence?
post #7 of 29
o my prayers are with you and your kitty. and sending a big hug
post #8 of 29
We put our nearly 17 year old female down right after Labor Day. We knew it was time yet we didn't. DH freely admits he needed me to push him into doing it. We wished she could have passed at home but because of her specific health problems, I felt it was cruel to make her die in pain.

In the weeks leading up to it, we were at the vet at least once a week for various test and med adjustments. While we knew there wasn't tons of time left, in hindsight, DH and I were completely blind to the fact C was in very, very bad shape.

The vet mentioned to me the Thursday before Labor Day that we should starting thinking about what we wanted to do, what their hours were over the weekend, who was on staff, what we could do if things went down him very quickly and so on.

I was like "what are you talking about? You think she is that sick?" and the vet, in the gentlest way possible, gave me a big reality check. By Tuesday morning, we had to admit that we wanted her alive for us but the best thing for her was to let her go.

The indicators that led us to the decision - she could not longer use the litter box (couldn't get in or out unassisted) she was having difficulty eating and drinking, she wasn't interacting with us or her "brother" cat. Not being able to clean themselves is a big indicator with cats.

I really feel for you OP.
post #9 of 29
Thread Starter 
Caneel -- As I was reading your post, I observed Mulder start to walk down the stairs. I called to him, he looked up at me, and then continued along on his path. I believe he's going down to the basement.

He is still moving around considerably. I believe that his health is deteriorating, but... I don't know -- this sounds a little strange for me to even say, since I do not have any strong spiritual beliefs (quite the contrary, actually). But I can sense that, even though his health is failing, his life force is still very strong. I don't know if that really makes any sense. How can his life force be strong if his body is failing him? But I just don't get the feeling that he is suffering tremendously -- I just think that he is in that final stage of life but is still LIVING it...

I don't know if I'm making any sense at all. I certainly don't think I'm making any sense.
post #10 of 29
We had our 17 year old cat euthanized in January. It was a hard decision to make, but in retrospect I wish I had done it sooner. He was suffering and no longer able to eat/drink/groom when we finally did it. It was very sad to see him in that state.
post #11 of 29
Thread Starter 
I am still sitting on the fence. All day today he looked okay. He went down to the basement to the litter, he spent a good chunk of the day sitting outside in the grass (a favourite spot), and now he's upstairs in his cat bed next to DH. He looks to me like he's still "living". He may be in moderate pain, but he doesn't look to me like he is "suffering".

I don't know... I'm not saying all of the above because I am emotionally attached to him. In fact, I would probably say that the opposite is true. He has been with us for a long time, but I made peace with the fact that he was "dying" over a year ago. I kind of want it to be over already -- but I just don't want to end his life prematurely. I don't want to feel regret that I had "killed" him before he finished his life's purpose.
post #12 of 29
It sounds to me like Mulder does have some time left. Probably not a lot, but if he seems pretty content most of the time, then don't feel bad about not putting him to sleep. Keep a close eye on him though.
post #13 of 29
What about making an actual list of all the things that Mulder does or did that signal quality of life to you? That list can help more objectively show where he is in terms of QoL rather than just wondering. If you really want to get scientific, you could even weight all the items.

I had to have my heart dog pts in August but that decision was as easy as it could be: she had hemangiosarcoma that was detected only when a tumor burst; there was nothing to be done and the vet assured me that she only had a matter of hours left. We spent an hour with her after the diagnosis and when her breathing slowed and she was closing her eyes for longer and longer we had the vet come in - it was very peaceful.

Could you ask your vet for their honest opinion? Even though I knew what had to be done with my girl, hearing the vet say that she felt it would be more humane to do it sooner rather than later really helped.
post #14 of 29
Originally Posted by Lit Chick View Post
It sounds to me like Mulder does have some time left. Probably not a lot, but if he seems pretty content most of the time, then don't feel bad about not putting him to sleep. Keep a close eye on him though.
This sounds right to me. But, like the other posters said, sometimes you never know and then it may be that you waited too long.

I was told that cats have an incredibly high pain tolerance and when they do start showing signs of pain or discomfort, it's bad. We were also told when they stop eating is when the end is near.

Sounds like Mulder is still hanging on but maybe for not much longer. I am so sorry. I hope that he can die at home but if not, I hope that you find the strength to help him ease out of this world and into whatever is next.
post #15 of 29
Saving him from his last moments of suffering is the last kindness you can offer. Do it.

I had a beloved elderly greyhound--my companion for 12 of the hardest years of my life. I waited too long. His last day was horrible. It's been five years, and I still regret waiting. I will likely always have that regret.

Looking back, he didn't get so much out of that last week. I didn't get so much out of that last week. No one gained anything from him laying in the sun for a few extra days. It was all procrastination. I didn't want to say goodbye. I waited until it was undeniable. His last day was full of pain. I hate that I did that.

Take your lovey in now, and give him a gentle release. Make his last day a good one. It's an awesome, life affirming gift to save him from the suffering.

Much love to you, Mama. It's so hard to say goodbye.
post #16 of 29
My recommendation- find a good vet and talk to him or her. Really.

My husband is a vet and it can make a big difference in many, many ways. They can never tell you "the moment"- you have to trust your heart on that- but they can tell you drastic changes, they can note themselves changes that might be hard for you to see from the outside, they might be able to give hospice type care (pain meds, etc.), they can help carry the burden of deciding, and... really good vets will listen. The very best will know that this is never easy and you will leave your appointments knowing that you have a partner in this decision who has everyone's best interests at heart.

Our greyhound died in May. We had to put him down after a leg break due to cancer. My husband could not do it and we turned to one of his colleagues (another vet) who literally held our hands as we cried and in our sadness repeated the same things over and over and she pet our dog with loving strokes and kind words as we said our goodbye under a beautiful tree, outside in the sun. She made a plaster print of his paw for us to keep and she arranged everything for the body and called us twice the week after to check up and sent us a card. We knew her only professionally before this. I think knowing that the process was hard but can be a final act of kindness and parting and that there are others who understand this difficult time can be helpful in knowing that when it *is* time... it is OK.

There are vets that can even come to your house so you can have privacy and the animal can be in the comfort and happiness of their own space. If you are interested in this, ask your vet. Even ones that don't offer this as "a service", may be willing to do it after their regular hours or may be able to reccomend someone who would.

I would say, instead of worrying about the *exact* right moment, think about what you really want for Mulder in his passing, find or talk to your vet about all of it, plan it out to be a meaningful and gentle time, and then let your heart be open.

post #17 of 29
Well, my oldest cat is about 19yo now. He sometimes limps when the weather is cold and he spends most of his time lying in one of his 'spots' but I can tell he is OK. He still eats, no bathroom issues and loves cuddles and snuggles still. Sometimes I can even get him to play still!

I have thought about taking him to the vet for a check up, just to make sure he's OK but I do think that once he stops enjoying life it will be time for me to get him put down. You know your cat. You know if he's enjoying life or not. Take him to a vet and get him checked out and see what they say.
post #18 of 29
Thread Starter 
UPDATE: It's done...

(BTW, someone mentioned about getting a good Vet... That's not an issue for us -- our vet is DH's Uncle, and he's a VERY good vet (and practically gives is free everything...).

Anyway, back to Mulder: My husband noticed yesterday how much weight he had truly lost and how bony he was. (it is hard to tell since he has so much fur). Neither one of us has seen him eat for a few days, and his quality of life really wasn't there anymore. We could have waited longer, but after hearing others on her say they wish they had done it sooner, I do not regret our decision.

Around 11:00 AM the kids and I said goodbye to Mulder -- I told them he was going to join his brother Neelix soon. We left to go out for lunch and DH came to pick up Mulder while we were out. It was done by 1:30 today.

Thanks everyone for your comments. They helped a lot.
post #19 of 29
post #20 of 29
rest easy Mulder.
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