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How do you know when it's time to say goodbye?

(32 Posts)
DulcetMoans Sun 20-Oct-13 17:10:41

My cat is 21, coming up on 22. I have had him since I was 6 and I love him to bits.

Obviously a cat at that age, he's started to deteriorate. He's on tablets daily for thyroid, he's skin and bone because of it. Lately he gave up maintenance and we had to spend an evening clipping his fur as he became matted by his tail.

This week he's really gone downhill. He stopped eating completely and is now on very small amounts of food. No where near what he is used to. He's been sick every day (and without too much detail, it's gross sick too) and it really take it out of him - has to sleep straight away. He is sleeping most of the time and not even coming for cuddles.

I've talked to the vet in the week, we both know where this going but obviously not when. I'm concerned that when I do take him next take him in it will be the last time.

The question is then, how do I make that decision? If he was to just pass at home I could handle that but how can I make the decision to actually take him knowing he won't come back? Or even there, at the vets, when she asks. How can I make that call?

I'm actually crying typing this out. He could be better in a week or he could be really suffering. I just don't know what to do for the best.

cozietoesie Sun 20-Oct-13 17:19:58

Oh it's hard, hard.

One of the posters on here has said when there are more bad days than good days. I would agree - and I would also agree with others that it's better to take action a little too soon than a little too late.

I've been there as have most on this board and in at least one instance, I wish I'd acted sooner.

There's no good prognosis for the old boy and I think you have to ask yourself if he's enjoying living any more.

But yes -it's a hard call to make. The final loving thing we can do for them but still so difficult.

SunshineSuperNova Sun 20-Oct-13 17:23:26

It's very hard. I had to make the decision for my old boy (19) two weeks ago.

When I saw the vet we talked about my boy's quality of life. He was exhausted and finding it hard to breathe (heart failure) and I could see he wasn't enjoying life, despite cuddles.

I was with him at the end telling him I loved him. I see my choice for him as an act of love, even though he was my darling.

cozietoesie Sun 20-Oct-13 17:25:34

Oh - and once you make the decision, I would just take action, whether it's at the vets or no. Cats aren't aware of what might be happening.

RandomMess Sun 20-Oct-13 17:26:19

I agree it's very very hard, ours stopped eating - not even tuna and had disappeared for 24 hours and then come back so I knew it was time. I was so grateful he came back and I didn't have to go looking in neighbours garden for his body sad

Lonecatwithkitten Sun 20-Oct-13 17:38:01

It is a very hard decision to make, but I am going to play the dispassionate observer. From your post your cat is:
1. Barely eating
2. Vomiting daily
3. Is not grooming any more
4. Has lost loads of weight inspite of thyroid medication
On this basis I would say you are having more bad days than good days and I am afraid it is time to take the bull by the horns.
You have the luxury of this being a planned event it can happen exactly as you would like it to be either at home or in the surgery and almost certainly with the vet of your choice.

DulcetMoans Sun 20-Oct-13 17:45:01

When a couple of you say about having it happen at home, how is that possible? I didn't know this was an option.

This week it's definitely been more bad than good.

SunshineSuperNova Sun 20-Oct-13 17:54:11

Dulcet, vets will sometimes come out to your home. It depends on the vet, obviously.


VeganCow Sun 20-Oct-13 18:42:55

In my experience the vet will come out to your house to put the animal to sleep.
I'm sorry to say, but I would say you are already at that point.
Leaving it any longer would be actually cruel.
Its better to do it a week earlier than even a day later than you should. Its the last thing you can do for your cat and you owe it to him not to let him suffer.

I know how hard it is though, so sending strength your way.

Lonecatwithkitten Sun 20-Oct-13 19:08:41

A lot of vets will visit the house - it is more expensive. When I go to someone's house I take one of my lovely nurses with me. We try to fit in with what you would like to do. You can be there or not, you can hold your pet or not, you can have your pet on your knee, we can go in the garden, so many combinations. We can then take your pet away and arrange a cremation with or without ashes back.

DulcetMoans Sun 20-Oct-13 21:18:22

I didn't know that was an option. Ill think about it. I don't know if I would rather be there or not. I don't want him to be alone but I also don't want to watch it happen.

It's just all so sad. Just runs through my mind that he could be having a bad week and be fine next week but then how long do I wait?!

I have another cat, a 5 yr old, she's been quite needy this week. I wonder if she knows something isn't right and feels uneasy.

cozietoesie Sun 20-Oct-13 21:26:36

There's a difference between - say - a 3 year old cat who is ill and could pull through and your old boy whose outlook, forgive me, is very poor. I'd be considering the situation very hard if I were you.

Other animals sometimes do have another sense about things.

timtam23 Sun 20-Oct-13 22:04:08

I am so very sorry to hear about your old boy sad

I would say, in all honesty it doesn't sound like he is going to get any better from this. I have huge sympathy for you as I had to have my 18 year old cat put to sleep a month ago and it was a terrible decision to have to make as I had had her since she was a tiny tiny kitten & she was my companion through many life events. But over a few days she had gone from being old & doddery but with reasonable quality of life, to being totally off her food, withdrawing from me, making some strange lip-smacking gestures, very sensitive to noise and not wanting to be held or stroked (she had kidney failure & I think it had got worse quite rapidly). I couldn't see how any treatment would help her fo more than a very short time, and I didn't want to put her through anything invasive.

The worst bit by far was making the decision to have her PTS - this was a Sunday afternoon and it wasn't really a situation where I wanted/needed the emergency vet - and having to get through the rest of the day/night with it hanging over me before phoning the vet on the Monday. I think although she wasn't overly suffering I could perhaps have made the decision 24-48 hours earlier and it would still have been the right one - but had I waited even a day longer I think she would have started to suffer.

I had thought about asking the vet to come to the house (had already checked with them and they did do this but preferred to have 24 hrs notice if possible) but in the end I phoned as soon as they opened, and they really kindly allowed me to take her straight in before morning surgery started - I couldn't have coped with sitting in the waiting room with lots of people and dogs.

The actual PTS was in fact very very quick and peaceful - she was so tired & weak that within a second or two she had relaxed completely and was lying on her side as if asleep. I spent a while with her afterwards and stroked her and took a clipping of her fur. The worst bit was when a little bit of her leg was shaved for the injection as it made her jump, but I was holding & stroking her at the time too.

I had thought in advance about what I wanted done with her body and I was glad I had done this as it would have been a lot to have to think about at the time as I was only just holding it together. I had her individually cremated and I have her ashes back now although not sure what to do with them yet.

Sorry that this is such an essay but I do hope you are able to make the right decision for you and your cat. Thoughts are with you thanks

Lovethesea Mon 21-Oct-13 10:32:17

I had to have a much beloved cat put to sleep years ago.

He was ill and he wasn't going to get better. He stopped eating and I just couldn't risk him suffering.

I held him, stroked him, he purred, I kissed him, the vet gave him a jab he didn't notice and I held and stroked and kissed him til he was gone. I am in tears writing this now though it was many moons ago.

Jake was gorgeous, a stray that moved in, I groomed him and washed his wounds for weeks, he was black and white and would hang round my neck like a scarf and sleep next to me every night.

It was the last thing I could do to be a blessing in his life and I was so grateful it just took a jab and I could be with him making him feel loved and safe til the end.

TheNunsOfGavarone Mon 21-Oct-13 17:23:09


I am so sorry you are going through this.

I am a bit time limited here but just wanted to reiterate what others have said, it's better to have him put to sleep a bit early rather than leave it too late. I think it would be a really good idea to see if the vet can come to your house.

I have been through this very recently with my two darling oldies, who had kidney disease. I regret very much that I procrastinated over my 19 y.o. boy and that a crisis meant we had to rush to the vet. He was put to sleep there, instead of at home which was what I had wanted to happen. Unfortunately the surgery was full of dogs, which he hated. The nurse let us wait in an empty room but we could still hear the dogs barking and I regret terribly that I couldn't spare him that during the last minutes of his life.

I stayed with him and the nurse and I petted him while the vet gave him the injection. He went off almost immediately and when he'd gone I could see, in a way I somehow hadn't quite been able to earlier, just how sad, sick and frail his little body had become. I felt relief just then, that he didn't have to struggle on in it any more.

I promised I'd never let my 18 y.o. girl become as fragile as old boy. Her decline was sudden and very quick and because of the experience with old boy, I knew when it was time. Having her put to sleep was terribly sad but I don't feel the guilt over leaving things too long with her, that I feel in the case of old boy.

One thing I would suggest is that after he is put to sleep, you show his body to your other cat to help her realise that he has gone. I've heard cats left behind can get confused and upset when they don't know.

I found the Blue Cross helpline very helpful in the days following the loss of my old boy, when the grief and the guilt were at their worst. They also provide support for people who are facing the decision to have their pets put to sleep so I thought I'd post the link in case you want to call them

DulcetMoans Mon 21-Oct-13 19:26:00

Thank you all. You've been so supportive which I have really needed. I didn't really know where to go to talk about it where people wouldn't think I was being stupid for caring so much about a cat.

To keep you up to date, he is still here. I realise I may be edging onto keeping him home selfishly but I didn't feel ready to take action that could mean he isn't here anymore. I bought him some recovery cat food which is full of protein but no lumps, just mush. He had a few mouthfuls but not much really. He hasn't been sick today though. Yet.

I am probably coming around slowly to what I need to do but its hard, all the while he wakes up to greet me when I come home I just struggle to do it. But I have a phone appointment with the vet tomorrow to talk about it where I imagine she will ask to see him later that day. Then I just need to work on preparing myself for that being the last trip we take there together.

cozietoesie Mon 21-Oct-13 19:30:55

I'll be thinking of you and the old boy tomorrow.

timtam23 Mon 21-Oct-13 20:42:42

Dulcet they are such a big part of our lives and it is a very hard decision to have to make. Best wishes for tomorrow.

I still cry over my old girl but there are lots of happy memories as well, 18 years of them, and they are starting to take over from the sadness of when she had first died

TheNunsOfGavarone Mon 21-Oct-13 22:32:27

DulcetMoans it's so sad to think anyone would regard you as stupid for caring deeply about a living, breathing, loving companion of 20+ years. They are family, not "just cats" (as I've heard some people say). It's good to have places like this where we don't need to face that sort of judgment and lack of empathy.

I will be thinking about you both tomorrow.



cozietoesie Tue 22-Oct-13 17:41:56

How did it go,Dulcet ?

DulcetMoans Wed 23-Oct-13 18:36:29

Hi Cozie, and all you lovely ladies.

Well we went to the vets this evening and talked through the situation. Part of the difficulty is that, whilst he isn't eating and he is being sick and he has stopped talking care of himself he is still very mobile, very loving when he does come to you and he doesn't seem to be in any pain. The vet said that, because of everything he would be happy to put the poor boy down but if I would prefer they could try giving him a steroid injection. He has had it before and it is supposed to stimulate them and perk them up a little bit which will hopefully means his appetite picks up again. So I opted for this.

The vet was clear that this is borrowed time and we are quickly heading towards the end but all the while he is mobile and not in pain he was happy to give him the injection. So long as I promise to cuddle and love him lots too which there is no problem with.

Now we are home, he has some high calorie recovery food which I can try to syringe into his mouth if he won't take it. He only weighs 2.5kg now, was 2.9kg before the summer so he is clearly deterorating but the vet says he doesn't seem to be in pain so if I can keep him a couple of weeks more then I will.

I hope it doesn't sound like I am being selfish and keeping him with me but I am reassured by the vet saying that he is well enough to take home this time. And it gives me a bit more time with him, getting used to the idea that he won't be here for much longer. I will still have to make that decision but I feel much more prepared for it now.

Flumpf Wed 23-Oct-13 19:41:00

What special food are you giving him? I'm asking because we're in a situation here ourselves. My cat has been off his food for a few days, so we took him to the vet today. He has a tumour under his tongue, the vet said that it's likely that he will quickly go down hill. He's 13. At the moment, he is walking around and purring. Maybe if I can get some special food into him, it could help. We would still need to go to the vet every 4 weeks. Not sure what to do for the best. sad These animals break our hearts.

cozietoesie Wed 23-Oct-13 19:43:17

You've got a lot to deal with Dulcet. Thinking of you.

DulcetMoans Wed 23-Oct-13 19:46:40

Oh flumpf, how horrible. Good you got to bring him home again though. It is tough though, you're right.

It's recovery food, link below. It's high in calories and protein; design for post-op recovery to give the cats everything they need when they aren't feeling themselves following an op. Vet said the 5mls of it is the same as having a tin of food in terms of nutrients. He's had it before and its good because its like a paste rather than chunks which means it can be syringed. Also, heating it up is a good idea if they struggle as it makes it smell more appealing. I get it from the vets, not sure if its in the shops.

Flumpf Wed 23-Oct-13 21:18:25

Thank you for the info Dulcet. smile I have just bought him some posh senior pate food. He's yumming it up. He's been off his Whiskers chunks for a few days, so it's nice to see him eating. We're just going to take things one day at a time. Hope you and your cat are doing ok this evening.

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