Euthanasia means the painless ending of a patient’s life to end their suffering. It can be a very hard topic to talk about. But as pet owners, it’s very likely to be something that we experience. Cats in particular can be part of our lives for the best part of 15 years or even longer. So the thought of having to say goodbye can be extremely difficult. As much as we would all like to hope that our pets would pass away peacefully in their sleep, the likelihood of this happening is sadly very low. We are in a privileged position however, to allow our beloved pets a peaceful end.
This article will cover the process of making the decision to euthanase, and what actually happens when you do so. I will also give my thoughts on what I would choose to do if it were my own pet.
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Why would I consider euthanasia?
As an owner, I would be thinking about euthanasia as soon as I was concerned about my cat’s quality of life. For example, this may have been a long time coming. They may have had a long-term condition that has been well managed previously but now is no longer well controlled. It may also be the case if my pet was in an emergency situation, where they had been involved in an accident, or had become acutely ill. Essentially, if I was concerned that my pet was in distress or suffering and their condition was unlikely to improve, I would want to end this suffering with a peaceful death.
What are my options?
There is only really one way that we euthanise animals. The vet will place a catheter in a vein in one of the legs, and then give an overdose of an anaesthetic drug. This will quickly make them unconscious, and then stop the heart from beating. Some vets will opt to give sedative drugs beforehand too, if an animal is particularly stressed or aggressive.
You can opt to stay with your cat, or leave – whatever you choose is absolutely fine and will be respected. Personally, I would like to stay with them and give them lots of fuss while it happens. However, this can be very difficult to do, it is entirely understandable why some would choose to say goodbye before they go to sleep.
You may have a choice about where this happens. Some practices will offer home visits, meaning this can happen in the comfort of your own home. Not all practices offer this, especially due to the pandemic, so do be sure to check what service yours offers. If I knew my cat was not particularly a fan of travelling in the car, or going to the vets, I would definitely consider a home visit, to keep the experience as stress free as possible.
There are several options when it comes to deciding what to do with your cat’s body. Some people choose to take them home for burial, others choose cremation. This can be communal (you won’t be able to get your pet’s ashes back) or individual, where the ashes will be returned to you, sometimes in an urn or box, if you choose.
For me, I would choose individual cremation, as I would want their ashes back. Along with some favourite pictures, it’s a lovely way to remember them.
Remember, there is no right way to say goodbye
Like any vet or nurse having been involved in many family’s goodbyes, I understand how hard it is for each and every one. It is important to point out that every case is different, and what one family chooses for their pet may be different from another – and that is ok. Remember that your vet will always be there to guide you, and answer any questions that you have. The Blue Cross also run a Pet Bereavement service, and can provide support for owners who are grieving.
It is important to remember that while making the decision to euthanase is very difficult, it is a final act of service that we can provide our pets, and one of the kindest things we can do for them.