advice on explaining cat being pts to 3 year old DD(21 Posts)
Our cat is elderly (between 15 and 20, not 100% sure as she was a rescue, she was an adult and have had her 13 years), this week she had to have surgery to clean tartar and remove a few teeth.
While she was being operated on, the vet found a swelling on her palate/ side of face that she thinks is a tumor. She offered to pts there and then, but i decided that she go ahead with op as planned and we would have cat back for a week or two (to make fuss of her and say our goodbyes) before making the decision. I also didn't want Molly to suddenly disappear as DD had been told that she was going to the doctor/vet to make her mouth better.
Molly (cat) is back at home now and seems back to her old self, but I have to start explaining that she won't be with us much longer.
Any advice? DD is very attached to the cat.
Our dd1 was similar age when our elderly cat was pts but unfortunately was a bit more sudden so less time to adjust. We kept his collar in a special box and she drew a picture and sellotaped a furball from behind sofa to it.
Dd1 still blames the vet, but had kind of special last night with cat who slept on her bed hs last night which was v unusual.
We didn't rush to get another cat, just brought home a cat this week 2 years on.
we have another cat but she's more shy and keeps out of DD's way.
The elderly cat is a lap cat that will happily be cuddled and fussed over by DD.
From what I've googled we should be quite direct and avoid phrases like gone away or gone to sleep. So I've been saying that Molly is very old and is poorly and that the vet can't make her better so that she will probably die soon.
It's also quite hard to know what they understand at this age.
All the things that make things easier for adults, including "put to sleep" are confusing for small children. You are right to be direct that the cat will die. My dds went through this at a similar ages with our much loved cats and were surprisingly matter of fact about it. They remember the cats fondly, even many years later. Both cats had oral cancers, they develop fast so do keep an eye out for discomfort, it's a horrible decision to take when the time comes, enjoy your last time with her.
My 4y/o niece was asking me about my cat who was PTS a few months ago, I tried to tell her the cat had an accident and I only have one cat now. I didn't want to upset her by being too direct, but maybe it would have been better, because she thought the cat had done a wee where it shouldn't have.
Would a child that age understand the 'circle of life' concept? Perhaps read a book to her that explains how all living creatures' bodies wear out and their lives come to an end. There is a book in the Mog series where Mog the cat dies, although the family get a kitten straight away and this could confuse her?
I always use elderly pussy cats body is broken and even the vet ( I) can't fix it so we have decided that to stop elderly pussy cat being in terrible pain we are going to end elderly pussy cats life and she/he will die.
I find most three year olds are desperately upset for roughly five minutes and then move on to the possibility of a new cat/dog/hamster.
I think it is really important to introduce the concept that bodies can be broken beyond repair.
Your vet will need to include all the clinical history which will include the cats sex. I would contact the insurance ASAP and explain hopefully your vet has included this in the clinical notes so it will match up.
I agree with lonecat and then explain that's why we make good choices and take care of ourselves and our pets to put off this inevitable stage. That said, I'm secretly hoping the rainbow bridge is true (sap). My 7 yo dd is keen on funerary arts - she's decided she wants our elderly pets' ashes as necklaces when they pass on.
It's not a bad time to explain death. The way I did it with DS (it was a relative who died, not an animal) was to explain that everybody gets old and the older we get the less well our bodies work until we are very old and our bodies stop working completely.
Also that people and animals can get ill, there are different kinds of illness, like when you've got a cold or infection and need to go to the doctor, that's not a dangerous kind of illness and we can make it better very easily, but sometimes, especially when people/animals get older, they can get a very bad illness that if the doctors can't make it better the person will die. (This is also useful to help explain vaccination to them, that vaccination protects us against some of those very bad illnesses which could make us die).
And then the third way to die is if we have some kind of accident and our bodies get broken. Again, useful to relate to - this is why we need to be careful around roads, high places, etc.
Do not be afraid of her grief. It's alright for her to feel it and it will be very helpful for her to feel safe coming to you with this huge weight of feeling. There is a tendency that we want to make it magically better or spare them that pain that we know is horrible, but it's fairer on her in the long run to be honest and let her feel it. It won't be the last time that she's bereaved in her life and it will help her process things much better in the future if she has a good model this time.
And yes PP are correct that 3 year olds tend to feel things very strongly in the moment but then move on very fast. So it might not be as bad as you're fearing.
Thank you, your answers have been very helpful. I know she will be sad (as we'll all be) but I'm less worried about that than confusing her or creating fear (like of illness or doctors).
I'm also not quite sure what happens for the procedure and afterwards re body.
You can call your vet in advance and ask so you know what to expect. IME they usually have a couple of options - you can have the body back to bury/do what you want with or they will take it away to be cremated for a fee. When my cat died there were two options for cremation, one was a communal one and it was a bit more expensive for a private one.
When we've had pets put to sleep what's happened is that we've been called into the room as usual and then they chat with you a bit, make sure you're okay and then they ask you to hold them or stroke them while they do the injection, it's clear when they're gone or the vet will say and they normally allow you to stay in the room for as long as you like. Vets are normally animal lovers and pet owners themselves and they know how hard it is to say goodbye.
Take a comfy blanket or towel for the body if you like, if you don't bring the body home it's a bit nicer to leave them all wrapped up, it just feels kinder somehow.
Had our elderly girl PTS a month ago. 3yr old DS asked where she was, replied that she was poorly and her body was unwell and that she wouldn't be coming back. That she was now in cat heaven running around or sitting in the sun. He seemed happy with that and didn't question anymore. He still mentions her, but yesterday we got two kittens so it's in that content "will they grow big like x"?
Got a lovely card from our vet afterwards. I didn't stay with her when they did it as couldn't have handled it, I was in floods as it was. We had he communally cremated. Sending un-mumsnetty hugs
Molly has majorly deteriorated in the last week, so I'll be making the appointment for tomorrow.
Had a chat with the nurse. she said the injection is pretty instant if in leg vein but that often they can't do that on older cats so they inject in abdomen which takes about 20 mins.
I'm dreading it even more now.
Unfortunately I have seen lots of animals put to sleep through old age mostly. It's always been very peaceful. I think it's best to be honest. Let her say goodbye. Let her be sad. Let her do something tangible to help express her grief. Light a candle to wish her happy thoughts perhaps. Maybe she could put something to make the box comfortable that you take her in , put straw or a blanket. You might not want her to see a burial, that's a real personal choice, but maybe she can plant some bulbs or a shrub there to remember her. All these might help you too. It's so sad but you have given the cat your best.
Molly was pts a few weeks ago. It wasn't quick but very peaceful and she died being cuddled and stroked.
DD still occasionally asks where she is but seems to accept the explanation that " molly died because she was old and her body was broken".
Glad to hear that her last moments were peaceful. That's a nice way of explaining what happened.
Sorry to hear that. I found Goodbye Mog explained things in a really lovely way that helped my four year old recently.
I'm sorry for your loss. I'm glad it was peaceful and DD is doing OK.
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