Hello, Ask MeFi. My partner and I are struggling with a really hard decision and decided this morning to turn to you for perspective and advice. Our cat is very sick, and we thought we had clearly decided to have her put to sleep on Friday, but this morning we are doubting our decision and need to hear from others what this looks like from the outside.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot to Pets & Animals (42 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I am going to try to stick to the facts, because I know that my perception of this is 1) biased and 2) changeable. So:
About six weeks ago, we noticed that our cat Kepler had a very squinty eye. We took her to the vet and learned that she could no longer see from that eye. The vet told us that it might be as simple as an infection, but it also might be something neurological. We decided, since she's 15 years old, not to do any invasive or stressful testing, because we knew that if it was something bad (and in this case, it was either going to go away with antibiotics or it was something bad) we wouldn't do any aggressive treatments.
Unfortunately, she has deteriorated enough since then that it's clear that the problem was neurological. About two weeks ago, she started having more serious problems. We don't know if she's had some strokes (maybe just one, but if we had to guess, we'd say two), or a growth in her brain, but at this point, here are her symptoms:
1. She can't walk very well. She can get around okay and isn't, for instance, running into things constantly, but she does sometimes run into things, stumbles a lot and outright falls over a few times a day.
2. She can't clean herself, though she does try. She was just trying a moment ago as I'm writing this. She just can't keep her balance well enough to lick her paw well to clean herself, and she certainly can't contort like a cat usually does when cleaning herself. Kepler is a very skittish cat, so holding her down and cleaning her would be very traumatic. We just try to get some of it now and then when she's chill, and we brush her a lot.
3. She can't really eat anything but turkey and chicken baby food, though she also will lick all of the juice off of wet food. Her eating process is very slow and appears to be fairly torturous as she tries to get herself oriented well enough to eat. Sometimes she has to circle the plate a few times to get it right. She is definitely interested in food, but I'm not sure how much she's really getting into her system.
4. She doesn't use the litter box any more.
5. She wanders aimlessly a lot. She will go in circles, and a couple of times she has walked through food bowls or water bowls and doesn't even seem to know she just did it. This makes us feel like she's really confused and not all there.
Symptoms 1-4 really seem to be because she's got some paralysis going on--it looks like half of her body just doesn't want to work well. Here are some points we have in favor of putting her to sleep:
1. Her quality of life is pretty bad, we feel. She must hate being unable to clean herself and use the litter box, and her constant wanderings seem distressing.
2. We're really worried that she's starving. She can eat, sure, but a lot of it gets on her and we're not sure how much is getting into her belly. Also, turkey/chicken baby food does not contain all of the nutritional things that cats need, to survive. We can start adulterating it with, say, taurine, if she lives on, but I just don't know. We can put out two to three jars of food for her a day, and I'd guess she eats maybe half of it? The calories might be okay, but... I just have a hard time believing that she's getting enough food, with the way she struggles to eat.
3. We're not sure she's drinking water at all. She might be getting enough liquid from the baby food, but this is worrying. I haven't seen her drink water, and I am home with her all day.
Here is the argument in favor of not putting her to sleep:
Her deterioration is not strictly linear and seems to have sort-of plateaued about a week ago after what we think of as her second stroke (though, really, who knows--maybe that was a growth pushing into a new part of the brain. We're wildly guessing, here). Now, my partner and I are not entirely in agreement about this. I think that she has good and bad days, and some days she's more stumbly than others. My partner thinks it's pretty clear that she's just getting worse every day. It's hard to say what's true, but if it's unclear enough that we disagree, I can at least say that it's not a clearly obvious huge rapid downward trend.
So: What if she really did just have a stroke or two and could recover a bit and have a decent, if slow and a little messy, life for a few more months?
This is not easy for us to think about. Can you give us your perspective? Would it be selfish to keep her around? Should we let her go? Or should we hang on with her and wait and see?