How Do You Know When It’s Time to Euthanize Your Cat?

As a veterinarian,  I realize how difficult it is to determine when to euthanize your pet cat. In this article, drawing on my extensive experience and expertise, I will delve into the question that many cat owners face: How do you know when it’s time to euthanize your cat?

The time will come when a cat’s quality of life significantly diminishes. In such a case, you may consider euthanasia to keep your pet from pain and suffering. It is a tough decision, so I will give you the signs to know when it may be time to consider euthanizing your cat. 

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Euthanize Your Cat?

You will know it is time to euthanize your cat when your primary veterinarian has given a terminal diagnosis such as cancer or kidney failure and the quality of life has been dramatically affected. There may be drastic weight loss, difficulty moving, and persistent breathing difficulties. 

A person gently cradles a black cat in their arms

Consider your decision based on whether your pet is suffering more than faring well. Although euthanasia can be heartbreaking, remember that it may be the most humane choice to free your cat from pain. Aside from consulting our veterinarians, here are key points to consider before making a life-changing decision.

Deteriorating Physical Condition

The primary reason for a cat’s physical decline is often an underlying disease that causes anorexia, discomfort, dehydration or weakness.

Loss of Appetite and Weight

Often elderly and frail cats may lose their appetites, ultimately causing them to stop eating. Sometimes, your pet may try to eat yet suffers from vomiting and diarrhea.

Refusing to eat and significant weight loss along with a terminal diagnosis are primary indications that it’s time to euthanize cats, especially if you’ve tried multiple ways to encourage eating.

Your primary veterinarian may prescribe an appetite stimulant and anti-nausea medication. During your comfort care appointment with Paws into Grace, our veterinarians will work with you to find ways to increase your pet’s appetite. You may also assess your cat’s quality of life using this scale. If there is no improvement and your cat’s quality of life has not improved, it may be time to consider euthanasia.

Chronic Pain or Terminal Illness

Most cats, particularly older ones, may experience chronic pain and degenerative illnesses. While certain medical disorders are treatable, other ailments may be progressive leading to suffering. 

You may consider euthanasia if a terminal disease compromises your pet’s ability to function. Here are some conditions for making that decision:

  • End-stage kidney failure: Euthanasia can be an option if your pet has renal failure and isn’t getting better with treatment. With this illness, your pet may suffer from seizures, severe dehydration, vomiting and generalized weakness.
  • Heart failure: Cats and dogs commonly suffer from heart disease. Cardiomyopathy accounts for nearly two-thirds of heart conditions diagnosed in cats. It causes structural heart abnormalities which lead to fluid accumulation in and or around the lungs. The challenge may be managing the symptoms and slowing down heart deterioration. Heart failure can not be cured and medications may help make your cat more comfortable for a time until the disease becomes too advanced.
  • Critical care: Accidents or an acute emergency such as difficulty breathing or severe anemia with internal bleeding may leave you with little time to make an informed decision. This may happen due to trauma or poisoning with rodenticide (rat bait) among others . Euthanizing your cat can be the best course of action if there’s a grave prognosis.

A black cat gracefully walking on a wooden table

The moment your cat stops responding to pain medications and symptomatic care such as anti-nausea medication may be the turning point. However, it may also be due to mobility issues, preventing your pet from reaching some body parts.

Loss of Interest

If your cat is losing interest in routine activities, in addition to having a weakened physique, an illness, and mobility problems, euthanasia may be the kindest gift. An unwell cat could become uninterested in playing or eating their favorite treats. 

Cat behavior expert Dr. Mikel Delgado says that some cats are more affectionate than others. For some, they will show love by wanting to be in the same room as you. However, detached cats may prefer to rest rather than have your attention. 

A previously affectionate cat may seek isolation with significant behavior changes or lethargy when it is time for euthanasia.

When to Euthanize a Cat With Seizures

It can be challenging to decide whether to put down a cat with seizures because every situation is different and depends on several variables, including the frequency and severity of the seizures, the cat’s general health, and lifestyle quality. 

However, if the cat can no longer function normally due to the seizures or if they are significantly distressing or impairing them, it could be time to think about euthanasia. To decide what is best for your cat, speaking with one of our veterinarians is crucial. They evaluate the cat’s quality of life and determine whether euthanasia is required

Congestive Heart Failure in Cats: When to Euthanize

Euthanasia may be the most humane option for a cat with late-stage congestive cardiac arrest when the lifestyle quality is poor despite medical management. Cats often experience labored breathing, lack of appetite, lethargy, and distress from fluid buildup as heart function declines. 

If symptoms are severe and unresponsive to diuretics, oxygen therapy, and other standard treatments, euthanasia can spare the cat further suffering. While always a difficult choice, it may ultimately be the most merciful way to relieve your cat when therapies no longer provide comfort. 

A black cat perched on a wooden table

Cat Lung Cancer: When to Put To Sleep

The decision to euthanize a cat with lung cancer is typically based on factors such as the severity of symptoms, the cat’s lifestyle quality, and the effectiveness of available treatments. As the lung tumors spread and grow, cats often experience labored breathing, coughing, loss of appetite, lethargy, and distress. 

If these symptoms persist despite chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, continuing treatment may only prolong suffering.  While the decision is heartbreaking, euthanasia can be a final act of kindness to relieve your cat’s discomfort when medical therapies are no longer effective.

When to Put a Cat With Heart Failure Down

A cat with heart failure should not be put to sleep without first seeing our veterinarians. There is no universally applicable solution since the ideal moment will depend on each cat’s health and quality of life. 

The severity of the heart failure, the cat’s age, general health, and capacity to enjoy life are a few things to consider. It could be time to think about euthanasia if the cat can no longer enjoy life. This can result from discomfort, breathing problems, or other symptoms that are not improving with therapy. 

Related Questions

Do Cats Know When They Are Dying?

While cats may know when they’re dying, there’s no real way to know. Cats are intuitive animals; some may detect weakness and physical deterioration, causing them to become more reserved.

Is Euthanasia Better Than Letting a Cat Die Naturally?

Euthanasia is better than letting your cat die naturally because it removes unnecessary pain and suffering. It can serve as your last help to your pet because Veterinary professionals will ensure your pet is comfortable with a more peaceful transition.

What Happens Right Before a Cat Dies?

A cat near death will become weak, tired, and may lose its appetite. It will sleep more and become increasingly difficult to rouse. Breathing may become labored and irregular. The cat will become quieter and calmer right before death as its body and organs shut down and it slips away.

Conclusion

If you notice behavior changes, mobility issues, chronic illness and pain, and weight loss in your pet with a terminal diagnosis, it may be time to consider euthanasia for your cat. Our veterinarians at Paws into Grace and your family together can help make an informed decision. 

Testimonials

I can't recommend them enough. I had to say goodbye to my 21 year old cat companion. I read the reviews here on Yelp and chose Paws Into Grace and they made an unbearable situation not worse - from the people on the phone to the amazing doctor who... read more

Renee C.

My absolute love Dante had heart failure three months ago. After having him on many medications to help him, his enthusiasm and appetite declined last couple of days. He was in pain and we decided to help him go to heaven rather than torturing him... read more

Diane C.

I wanted to thank you for sending Dr. Brown to euthanize our beloved Myleigh on March 4, 2021. She was compassionate and accommodating, she explained every step of the procedure, and gave us some alone time with Myleigh after she sedated her, but... read more

Terry A.

Renee C.

I can't recommend them enough. I had to say goodbye to my 21 year old cat companion. I read the reviews here on Yelp and chose Paws Into Grace and they made an unbearable situation not worse - from the people on the phone to the amazing doctor who came out to the house. She was so understanding and supportive. They were all so helpful, understanding and nice. My girl got to stay at home and say goodbye in the backyard (a hummingbird flew over and it seemed like a good sign too). So glad I didn't have to take her to a cold vet office.

Diane C.

My absolute love Dante had heart failure three months ago. After having him on many medications to help him, his enthusiasm and appetite declined last couple of days. He was in pain and we decided to help him go to heaven rather than torturing him with more medications which would make him even more miserable. I called and spoke to a very kind lady who was patient as I cried through making an appointment. We made an appointment for 1:30pm. Dr. Toni arrived. She was very kind, explained everything to us and gave us the time to be with our boy after the first shot. He wasn't relaxing enough so she gave him a second shot. We stayed with him throughout the entire process and I carried him to her car in the end. It was a very difficult decision but knowing that our boy is not in pain, gives us some peace. We are thankful to Dr. Toni for her kindness and compassion. They will arrange the cremation for us. Since we are in a pandemic, we had our masks on and said goodbye to our boy in our garden.

Terry A.

I wanted to thank you for sending Dr. Brown to euthanize our beloved Myleigh on March 4, 2021. She was compassionate and accommodating, she explained every step of the procedure, and gave us some alone time with Myleigh after she sedated her, but before she attached the IV. We were relieved that we made the decision to let her go to doggy heaven at home. It was a tranquil and serene passing for her, and it very much aids us in the grieving and healing process knowing that she passed away so peacefully. Based on the grace and compassion Dr. Brown demonstrated on one of the most awful days of our lives we would not hesitate to recommend Paws Into Grace for others facing this very painful time.
San Diego Orange County Cremation Office