I need advice on that final trip to the vet.
May 29, 2010 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Our poor cat is slowly dying. When it's time to go to the vet for the last time, what do I do?

We have a 17 year old cat whose kidneys are failing, and who is generally starting to just shut down. He's not in any pain at this point that we can see, and he's still fairly mobile but not nearly as much as he used to be. The vet has said that within the next 6-9 months he'll probably get to the point where he will be in enough pain that we'll need to decide when it's time to end his pain.

My wife has had this cat since he was three weeks old, and has already informed me that she will be unable to take the cat to the vet when it's time, which I completely understand. So I have been asked to both make that call when I feel it's necessary, and to take him to the vet once I do.

I'm OK with this - well, OK is a strong word but I'm willing to do it to save my wife that bit of heartbreak - but what I don't know is, when it does come time, how do I take a cat to the vet for the last time? Do I need to make an appointment or can I just take him in? What should I expect when I get to the vet - can I stay with the kitty? Do I want to?

I've never had pets before and I have no idea what this will be like, other than that it will suck, so I want to be as prepared as possible.
posted by pdb to Pets & Animals (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would make an appointment. You can stay with the kitty. I've been with several beloved pets when they've been put to sleep, it's very peaceful and I think it would be good closure for you. It's definitely better for the pet to have someone familiar stroking them as they gently fall asleep.

Some vets make house calls for this kind of thing, it might be worth considering if your cat gets stressed at the vet.

Losing the pet is very painful, but the actual process of euthanasia itself is simple and very, very peaceful. You will be devastated afterwards (you might not want to drive right away), but the appointment itself will be ok.
posted by ask me please at 10:12 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Last year I had a cat I dearly loved pass away. It appears many cats die of kidney failure. Towards the end he was showing his misery. Normally he was perfect at using the litter box or going outdoors (I live in forest, no neighbors). But he suddenly walked into the dining room, squatted and took a big pee in front of everyone. Then I noticed he took several in other places. Sprayed some furniture, all behavior he never does.

The next day I took him down and had the vet give him a very peaceful injection and he went to sleep.

I advise you not to spend a bunch of money in his/her last days of life that have no quality anyway. Don't wait until it suffers a lot. Time will pass the pain. Get yourself a kitten.
posted by nogero at 10:13 AM on May 29, 2010

I asked my vet about this recently, because one of mine has cancer. Basically, she told me that when they're no longer doing what they like to do, it's time. Eating, playing, cuddling, etc -- what is it your cat does that he really enjoys? When this stops, and there's nothing left to fix the problems, then it's time.

The other thing that really freaked me out when I put my 20 year old cat to sleep? I was with her, and the vet gave her the shot. She was calm the whole time, didn't even protest the car ride over (which she had done every other single time in her 20 years), and it was painless. But their eyes don't close as they fade away. If you're not expecting that, it can kind of freak you out; at least it did me.
posted by cgg at 10:13 AM on May 29, 2010

I have stayed with a cat and it was way, way, way more horrible for me than it was for her. I would do it again, but it was terrible for me. The cat just lay down and I patted her and she was calm the entire time.

We knew it was time because that morning she acted different than usual. She hid in a way she'd never hidden before. You can usually tell when it's time, though the signs are often different for each cat.

Your vet ought to know it's coming in the nearish future -- when it's time, phone the vet, they should be able to give you a same day appointment. You can also ask them in advance what they prefer you do.

Decide what you want to do with the body in advance, if possible, and be prepared for a surprisingly high cost: many, but not all, vets charge a lot because it's not fun for them, either.
posted by jeather at 10:30 AM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

We knew when it was time; we were able to call first thing in the morning and actually go in fairly early in the day. We took the cat's favorite blanket for him to go to sleep on. We had them dispose of the body (knowing I won't live in this house forever, I think burying the animal is a little creepy, for when other's people future children go digging in the back yard ...) and they sent us a bill in the mail because we were too upset to deal with it. (Ours was not very expensive, but I don't recall what it cost.)

The vet said most owners stay in the room, but it's okay not to. He explained in advance what was going to happen, physiologically. (We could see when the light went out of his eyes and he died, but the body makes a couple of various shudders/spasms after that, which was HORRIBLE and would have done me in had I not known that was coming.) We held him for the shot and petting him until he was gone, and then they gave us a few minutes with the body if we wanted it.

It was peaceful and easy for the cat. Rather horrible for the people.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:36 AM on May 29, 2010

My most fabulous kitty died, aged 20, from kidney failure. In retrospect, I waited one day too long. He had stopped eating but seemed content just to curl up with me. The following day he began having seizures, and that was unpleasant to watch.

I was in tears and called my vet. They said to bring him right in and when I arrived they were waiting for me. They took him from me for about 5 minutes while they inserted an IV-type-thing into him and then brought him back. I held him while they injected whatever it is they inject and within about 15 seconds the little dude was gone. The vet offered to leave the room and give me some time with him, but I really didn't see the point. I asked for the cheapest cremation/ash holder, paid for it with my credit card, and asked them to call me when it was time to pick him up (which was a few days later). I was actually more upset picking him up in the little urn than I was having him put down - it seemed less stressful and more final.
posted by meerkatty at 10:41 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with having the vet come to the house. It is quite common and you do not have to deal with the difficulty of getting your kitty into the car, making the drive, carrying him in. All that can be really, really difficult.
I would call and make an at home appointment. If your vet doesn't do this, he or she can probably recommend someone who can.

We have found a nice place in the yard, or living room, where we sit with the kitty, maybe their favorite spot, and when the vet shows up, he or she will take care of everything, explaining it as they go along. It is nice to have them make all the decisions and you can just focus on being with your kitty.

It is so much of a nicer experience, and you can make the experience into something beautiful and peaceful.

You also won't have to deal with the mind numbing experienc of having to leave the vets and drive home.

I am so sorry you are going through this.
posted by Vaike at 10:41 AM on May 29, 2010

Pay for the procedure in advance. Wait in the car afterwards until you are
safe to drive.

You can greatly reduce the cost of putting your pet down if you "dispose"
of the body yourself. I try to cover my dead pets with at least 3 feet of soil.
As soon as possible, bind your pet in the burial position, just in case you
don't finish the hole before rigor mortis.

Watch out for buried pipes and cables, and try not to do this if you have a
really high water table. A rental electric jackhammer (like a hitachi 40 pounder)
is an amazing aid for hole digging, and surprisingly cheap to rent for a day.
Digging a hole is very strenuous, so be careful.
posted by the Real Dan at 10:48 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Our cat, Miles, was sick with diabetes and related complications before he died. We talked about it many times, but on the morning we went to the vet, my husband and I both just knew it was time. We fed him a last meal of cat treats and cheese and made the call to the vet, who gave us the quickest appointment they could that morning.

At the vet's, my husband elected to wait outside, and I volunteered to stay with Miles. I don't recall the vet pressing me for details as to why we had chosen to put him to sleep. She was familiar with his history. The process is quick and painless for the animal - a shot. Within a few minutes, he was gone. I made the mistake of looking at his face, not thinking about the fact that his eyes would still be open. This was upsetting and disconcerting. Make sure to look at the cat and say your goodbyes beforehand if this would be upsetting to you too.

We had 3 options for after - to let them dispose of the body (cheapest), to get back ashes that would include our cat, but also other animals (more expensive) and to get back ashes that were just our cat (most expensive). We live in an apartment, and didn't really have a place to sprinkle ashes, nor did we want to display them, so we chose the first option.

You and your wife have my sympathies. If people give you guys a hard time over your grief, ignore them. This is a living creature that has been part of your wife's life for 17 years. It is a loss, and should be grieved.
posted by booksherpa at 10:49 AM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

the Real Dan: "Pay for the procedure in advance. Wait in the car afterwards until you are safe to drive."

Seconded. And whatever composure you can maintain until you get there will be appreciated by the other people (and their children) waiting to have their own pets' appointments.

In the room my clinic sets aside for the purpose, they have on display varous funeral home-type "upsells" - i.e. urns for the ashes, etc. As a matter of principle, I encourage you to avoid any such purchase you haven't decided on in advance of the day.

You have my sincerest condolences.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:03 AM on May 29, 2010

After the procedure for my then-girlfriend's cat, before we paid and took care of final business, the vet let us take our time and walk around the block to compose ourselves. Don't think you're trapped in the office. Go outside, chill, and come back.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:08 AM on May 29, 2010

when i put my sweet kitty down, it was the rest of the day and that evening -- at home with no kitty -- which was really trying.

you could plan some sort of thing for the evening -- maybe scrapbooking all of your favorite kitty pictures together, a nice meal or your wife's favorite treat while you do so. that would probably make the time pass in such a way that you're not trying to avoid the memories, and can just sit with them for a while instead, together. your wife may not be into that sort of thing, but if my partner were to plan something like that for me, i'd be immeasurably thankful, and would feel very loved.
posted by crawfo at 11:08 AM on May 29, 2010

I think that the most selfish thing I ever did was allow my dog to die. I was told he was sick, and I was told that his death would not be painless, but I waited because I didn't want to part with him. In the end, he died a painful death. It's been over 20 years and I feel guilty about it to this day.
posted by brownrd at 11:15 AM on May 29, 2010

Now is the time to check with your vet and see if they make house calls for euthanasia. Also ask your vet what the options are for cremation or burial. This is such a hard thing to go through. You're a good person for helping her with this.
posted by runtina at 11:26 AM on May 29, 2010

For my kitty, I waited too long. When I realized that it needed to be 'now,' the vet's office wanted to make an appointment. But they let me insist.

-I stayed with him in the room and petted him and talked to him while they gave him the shot.
-Held his body for a few minutes afterward and gave him a little kiss good-bye.
-Asked for a cremation, and buried his (tiny amount) of ashes under a brick in the patio, with his name scratched into it.

My daughter went with us to the vet, but stayed with my husband in the waiting room. She was sobbing too hard and couldn't bear to go any further with him.

Like brownrd, I feel badly, years later, that I did not take him in earlier. He suffered the last few days, and he shouldn't have.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:29 AM on May 29, 2010

Yeah, you can stay with your pet during the euthanasia. As others have already said, this can be really tough on you, depending on how you react to such things. The last time we had to say goodbye to one of our cats, I stayed in the room with her so she wouldn't have to leave the world surrounded by strangers.

If you feel you can do this, please do, but I was very upset afterward and absolutely cannot fault anybody for not being able to stand it. Years later, I still tear up when I think about it (like right now, for example).

If you're not sure how you'll react, and you'll need to drive home afterwards, I strongly encourage you to get a friend or relative to do the driving, just in case you're not up to it. A house call, if it can be arranged, would make this easier for sure.

It sounds like you can expect your wife to be really upset as well. One thing that might help is to pack away all the kitty stuff somewhere out of sight when you get home, just so your place isn't full of little reminders and triggers.
posted by FishBike at 11:30 AM on May 29, 2010

You can stay with your cat during the euthanasia but don't feel bad if you feel you can't. When we had to put our very sick cat to sleep, my mother was currently dying of cancer and I was nearly hysterical with the thought of watching my beloved cat die at the same time I was watching my mother die of a horrible disease.

We did bury our cat afterward, it was just too much for me to be there while she was euthanized. I'm sorry about your cat.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 11:40 AM on May 29, 2010

I've been through this twice now and it can be really TERRIBLE (once, a bad situation made worse by a bad vet who misdiagnosed my cat, agree to put him down, then changed her mind an hour later --!!!-- leaving me to travel all the way across town to my mom's vet who discovered idiot vet's misdiagnosis far too late, which made the whole process worse).

I hope and pray none of you ever have to go through what I did that day. It started out with him making it very clear to me the night before that he was ready -- he stayed up all night sitting on me (which was unusual), saying his goodbyes, and then I just knew he was ready.

I've also done this with a cat who had similar health problems to yours, and it was very fast and simple. One shot, and it was all over. I feel strongly about staying in the room with them. Unless your cat has misdiagnosed blood pressure problems (as in my first example), it's a matter of minutes. Just give him some last pets and kisses, and tell him you love him.

Like FishBike, I'm tearing up just thinking of it, but I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself if I hadn't stayed.

Trust me: you'll know when it's time. Either your cat will stop doing everything you're accustomed to (playing, grooming, etc), or in the case of sudden total failure, like my second cat, you'll see yellow tint to the eyes and ears (it's really distressing, but it's also a sign that it's time to take him in).

Most vets will let you call and come in right away -- they understand. To prep for this, though, you might want to call during a nonbusy time of day and find out what their policies are, or even if they are willing to do housecalls.

I hope this goes ok for you.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:52 AM on May 29, 2010

something that surprised me when we put our dog to sleep years ago, and something to ask about or expect (i don't know if it is typical): my expectation was that once the vet gave the injection, there would be a few minutes to be there as our dog drifted off to sleep. i was rather stunned to discover that the effect was instantaneous.

maybe this is one of those things that everybody just knows and i didn't, and it wasn't explained beforehand by the vet, but i found it way disconcerting within an already difficult experience.

it was still something i would rather have done than not done, to be there as it happened.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:56 AM on May 29, 2010

Yes, call the vet and explain the situation. Quite often they'll have you come in either before or after regular office hours, since you'll be understandably upset and they probably don't want to alarm any folks in the waiting room. (This has been my experience, anyway.) Truth be told, when it came time for that final "shot," I've never had the heart/courage to be there and either my brother or husband took kitty inside - I said my goodbyes at home and/or in the waiting room. My heart goes out to you and your wife, and bless you for helping her through this very painful time.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:00 PM on May 29, 2010

1. what fallacy of the beard said. we were not prepared for that at all.
2. do it sooner than later. i'm glad we got another 7 months with our cat after he was brought back to "normal" after being diagnosed with lymphoma, but in retrospect i'm not sure either party really benefitted from it, emotionally, physically, or financially (well, no burden on the cat there, but it cost us some serious $$$).
3. if you have other pets, do it @ home. we didn't and our other cat still thinks he's around now and then when we pull out old suitcases and such.
4. if there's an optimistic way to view it, it's that you're doing a very good thing and bringing kindness and compassion to another being. good luck.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 12:43 PM on May 29, 2010

If you have somebody you can visit immediately afterward (or have that person visit you) with a shoulder you can rest your head on, do so. That helped me a lot.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:45 PM on May 29, 2010

If you have other pets, please consider asking the vet to do this in a housecall. This will let the other animals see (or smell) the body of their companion.

When I had my 16yo cat, Amber, put down, my brother made all of the arrangements long-distance (he's in Florida, I'm in Jersey) because I couldn't even talk about it without crying. He arranged for the cats' doctor to come out to my apartment. The procedure was really quiet and quick and peaceful. I stayed in the room with her and, after she was gone, was able to cuddle her body for a few minutes. Having it done at home let my other two cats see Amber's body and, afterward, no one went around searching for their missing sister (if they had, that would have made my grieving ten times worse).
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 12:51 PM on May 29, 2010

I had an 18 year old cat who was going through slow renal failure. The vet said to keep an eye on her and to bring her in if she was in obvious distress. For several months, Maggie slowly got skinnier and skinnier, but she still ate and played and cuddled as usual. She had more problems jumping up onto the bed, but otherwise seemed in pretty good shape.

Then one day I was running down the stairs while Maggie was on the same staircase a couple of steps from the bottom. The sound of me running startled her so much that she fell the last two steps and hit the floor hard. I got down there and didn't try to pick her up right away, but apologized and petted her -- and she tried to get up. And she tried again. It took her 30 seconds before she got up on her own. I checked her and nothing seemed to be broken or obviously painful, but I LOOKED at her with fresh eyes, and not only was she thin all over, she had almost no muscle left in her hind legs.

I felt horrible guilt about causing the fall and for not really SEEING how much she had declined, and I never wanted to have her fall and struggle like that ever again. I called the vet immediately, said it was time, and they booked me for a slot a couple of hours later that day. I used that time to make a courtesy call to my ex (who had chosen Maggie from a batch of tabbies many years before) and to cuddle the cat and feed her all the treats she loved, and then I took her in where the vet was kind, deft and quick. I was holding her as she slipped under sedation and her eyes mostly closed and her body seemed significantly heavier when it went limp. A last push through the IV and it was over for her.

So yes, you can stay with your cat. It will be hard, but they will take some comfort from your presence versus being left alone with even the kindest vet. A good vet, like mine, will take you on short notice if you have to make your decision quickly, but planning ahead is probably easier for you all.

As I've said here before, when dealing with a pet who is terminal, I'd rather bring them in a little too early than a little too late. I don't think animals expect any more days and that they live in the present. If an animal starts suffering, it just knows that it's suffering now, and doesn't have hopes of getting better. If you have days, weeks, months to spoil and lavish affection on your pet, then choose to bring it in while it's still having pretty good days, you won't have to bring your pet in on a bad day when it's scared and in pain.
posted by maudlin at 2:00 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Assuming you decide to go through with it, be sure to talk to the vet about how they will hand over the body. We had it done when we weren't present. We later received our cat frozen solid, in a green plastic garbage bag. Really.
posted by schrodycat at 2:58 PM on May 29, 2010

Stay with your cat when the vet euthanizes him. A friend of mine is a vet tech who has had to put down many a pet, and she says the worst thing in the world is when the owner leaves the room before the pet is euthanized, because the pet *always looks for the owner*. Always.
posted by tzikeh at 3:25 PM on May 29, 2010

We had to go through this a couple of weeks ago with our buddy.
It is very difficult for the people and very easy on the animal.
Everyone needs to make their own decision on being with the pet or not. I find that being there for them eases their passing and gives closure. Same with final resting place of the remains. There are a number of options, the vet should give you a choice.

If possible, decide on some of these options so that there is not the pressure of making a decision on that day. Speak to the vet ahead of time and find out what options are available.

I share your pain with you.

The pain we feel in their passing is far overshadowed by the joy of their lives.
posted by Drasher at 3:34 PM on May 29, 2010

My cat is sick (my first pet), and I'm planning to do it at home. I see you're in Portland - I googled "portland oregon pet euthanasia at home," and came up with this site: www.drlorigibson.com. I'm sure there are others. Good luck, and sorry.
posted by anshuman at 4:01 PM on May 29, 2010

I went as a driver/companion for a friend of mine who had to put her cat down last year. Because the vet she went to dealt mostly with pets suffering from cancer or other terminal outcomes, they had separate rooms with nice comfy chairs and boxes of kleenex for the pet owners. We sat in the room as two vets who had treated the cat came in to say goodbye. Then one of the vets took the cat out of the room for 5 minutes to put in an IV that would let her inject the medicine when my friend had said her goodbyes and was ready. She gave my friend a towel to put on her lap in case of voiding of the bowels at the cat passed away. (There wasn't anything, maybe because the cat hadn't been able to eat or drink much by the end.) The vet placed the cat on my friend's lap, and when my friend said she was ready, the vet injected the solution that put the cat to sleep. He went almost instantly. Paperwork had been completed beforehand, so once my friend said her last goodbyes we were able to leave, and I did the driving. I had also taken the carrier out to the car before the cat was put down so that my friend wouldn't have to leave the vet carrying the container the cat had arrived in.
posted by MsMolly at 4:18 PM on May 29, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody, for the advice - I really appreciate it. All of it.
posted by pdb at 4:41 PM on May 29, 2010

I'm so sorry for your impending loss. I had to take a 20-year old much-loved kitty to the vet on a very rainy day over 20 years ago, and it still tears me up thinking about it.
Our beloved 7-year old Spot got cancer, and when we knew he had no quality of life, we called the vet (Spot *hated* the car), who came over the next day.
It was quiet, peaceful, and I'll never do it any other way.
They're such good friends, it's hard to say goodbye.
Peace be with you.
posted by dbmcd at 4:58 PM on May 29, 2010

If you don't do a housecall, have someone go with you to be your ride in case it's hard for you to drive after.
posted by radioamy at 5:07 PM on May 29, 2010

IAAV (I am a vet)

Q. How do you know when the time has come? When it is necessary.
A. This has probably been answered well several times above. My personal feeling is there is rarely a "right" time. For most people it becomes a quality of life issue. Deteriorating quality of life in these renal failure cats can probably be seen as anorexia (not eating), increasing vomiting and diarrhoea with or without blood (from the toxins building up in the body), lethargy and weakness and in end stage disease not drinking anymore. Usually after this they will progress to collapse, seizures and death. I guess it probably helps to decide ahead of time at what point you will make the call. Remember though that there are often things we can do to improve quality and length of life temporarily for these animals so if you are not ready it is always worth asking if anything can be done. Sometimes these require tests, hospitalisation etc but can result in more time if you want to try.

Q. How do I take a cat to the vet for the last time?
A. I will assume you are asking this as a literal question. Put him in a cat cage or cardboard box with a towel in the bottom. Some cats prefer a towel over the top as well so they don't get freaked out by seeing out of the box.

Q. Do I need to make an appointment or can I just take him in?
A. Most vets require an appointment. Call your vet now to find out their opening hours, when they require appointments, if they can be accommodating if the time comes suddenly, etc. Also investigate options if you decide you need to do this when your regular vet is closed. Emergency vets are an option and usually don't require appointments. Housecall vets have also been mentioned though might not be a good option if your wife doesn't want to be present. Again, investigate now so you don't have to scrabble when the time comes.

Q. What should I expect when I get to the vet?
A. Depends a little on the vet.
- The procedure of euthanasia involves giving your cat an injection into a vein. Usually into one of the front legs. What is injected is usually a very high dose of a barbiturate. This makes your cat go to sleep and then depresses its vital functions.
- Usually it takes about 10-30 seconds for your cat to go to sleep and then pass away. Sometimes a little longer in very old or sick animals. For them it is like having an anaesthetic. There is no pain or suffering. They quite literally just go to sleep and then a few seconds later stop breathing.
- I do warn most clients that on occasion the animal may gasp once or twice. When this happens they are already asleep and not feeling anything. It is essentially a reflex.
- At this point you can usually spend a little time with your pet if you are staying or leave.
- I highly recommend paying before having the procedure done. It means you can leave quickly afterwards if you are upset.
- Another note is that I personally always put an intravenous catheter into my patients prior to euthanasia. I do this out of site of the owner. This is to avoid troubles if the animal has a difficult to inject vein (common in old sick animals), accidentally injecting the solution outside the vein (it can sting if this happens), the animal moving at an inappropriate time, and other hiccups that cause a slower or less smooth procedure. It also means the owners can hold the cat if desired without my getting in their personal space trying to give the injection. I highly recommend having this done, there is a much lower chance of complications like needing to give multiple injections or an unhappy kitty because the solution is stinging under the skin (not in the vein).
- Have a think about options with your pets body now. As a general rule there are 3-4 options available:
1) Bury at home. I don't recommend this in most circumstances. To do it properly you need to bury 4-6 feet deep, cover in gravel and chicken wire. Burying improperly can result among other problems in your pet being dug up and poisoning other animals. This does happen particularly in rural areas. You would also need to check the legality of burial where you live.
2) Some vets will take care of disposal for you. This is sometimes a group burial situation, sometimes group cremation, etc. You don't get your pets remains back.
3) Pet cemetery - Investigate in your area. Most will pick up the body from your vet.
4) Individual cremation - You usually get the ashes back in an urn/scatter box, etc. Most will pick the body up from the vet.
Talk to your vet about the options they offer.

Q. Can I stay with the kitty? Do I want to?
A. Most vets are happy for you to stay. Ask your vet on the phone beforehand to make sure. I guess it depends on if you are ok with the procedure described above.
posted by NeatBeat at 5:15 PM on May 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm really sorry for your impending loss.

People have added some wonderful suggestions. I wanted to reinforce 2 things that people have said above:

1) It's really important to decide up-front what you will do with the body. I was unprepared when I had to do this with one of my cats years ago—I just completely didn't think about it beforehand. (Stupid, I know, but I wasn't smart enough to ask other people, like you're doing now.) When the vet asked what I wanted done, and offered either for me to take the body or for him to dispose of it, I opted for the latter. I don't know what "dispose" entailed in this case, but now I can't forgive myself. How can I let a dear friend be disposed of like trash?

2) I second someone's suggestion above about bringing in your pet sooner rather than later. Not too soon, but definitely before they are obviously in discomfort, or pain, or unable to stand, etc.

Finally, thank you for being the kind of person who cares about this.
posted by StrawberryPie at 7:10 PM on May 29, 2010

I was with my kitty almost a year ago now when she was euthanized, and I'm so glad I stayed with her. The vet let me sit in the room with her until I was ready, and I held her the entire time. She just went to sleep -- no shudders, no scariness about it at all. I closed her eyes myself and sat with her for a while. Leaving the room and leaving her there (I had her picked up for cremation) was almost the hardest part of it.

I personally didn't call ahead -- it was suddenly made clear to me that morning that it was time, and I just put her in her carrier and showed up at the vet. They'd been seeing a lot of my cat in recent weeks, and were very kind about getting us into a room -- and even though they were busy, they didn't rush me at all. They also did not bill me a penny for the euthanasia.

So sorry you're having to go through this, but good for you for thinking ahead -- it does help.
posted by OolooKitty at 11:35 PM on May 29, 2010

I would second asking the vet on the phone beforehand. I'm heartened by the way most people in here have said they were able to stay with their pets, but when I was 14 we had to put down a cat that my family had had since before I was born, who I lo
ved more than anything. I think it would not be unreasonable to say that I was her favourite, too, at least I was the one she always sought out to cuddle up to sleep with.

Like most cats, she was skittish about riding in cars, so she had to be in a cage the whole way which meant that while I was sitting next to her on the back seat, I couldn't comfort her or cuddle her. My mother carried her into the vet and handed her over, at which point I piped up and asked if I could have a last cuddle to say goodbye.

I was refused. My mother later told me she was surprised, but she didn't object and so neither did I. I have really never quite gotten over the fact that I didn't get to say goodbye to one of my best friends.

So, you know, call first if it's important to you.
posted by lwb at 3:46 AM on May 30, 2010

I just put my beloved cat down. I had a vet who only makes house calls come. (I didn't want to take him to his regular vet's office, as he hated it there and always got so aggressive that they had to fully sedate him to examine him; I didn't want the end of his life to be full of trauma and in a place to transformed him from my sweet boy to a fractious animal. His regular vet sometimes makes house calls for euthanasia but wouldn't with mine because of my cat's reputation.) This new vet was exactly the person I needed her to be.

Some things to know:
1. I knew what I needed to do--I lay on the floor with my cat for three hours, waiting for the vet to come, believing he was suffering--but I was even more clear when the vet asked me these questions: What are your cat's three favorite things to do? Can he continue to do them if we were to successfully treat him?
2. The vet told me that in her experience, no one has ever said that they regretting putting their animals down too soon, but many people say they regret waiting too long.
3. We took care of all paperwork and money ahead of time.
4. We sat on the floor of my bedroom in a place my cat often napped.
5. The vet put a towel on my lap in case my cat peed while I held him. He didn't.
6. The vet told me what sounds to expect. My cat did start snoring--he was in such a deep sleep and, with her help, out of pain.
7. The vet gave him a sedative and then a shot (of anesthesia?) to put him down. And 15 minutes later, gave him another shot. And then 15 minutes later, another shot. He was a big cat, and he did everything on his own terms. I held him the whole time, petted him, told him I loved him, and told stories about him to the vet who asked lots of questions about our life together. I am confident that he didn't suffer, and I am grateful I could comfort him and be with him.
8. The vet carried his body to the car and took him to the crematorium. She delivered his ashes to me a few days later.
9. The next day I sent an e-mail to the people who either knew my cat or knew how much I loved my cat. Almost everyone responded immediately and wrote the sweetest messages; I reread them a lot over the next couple of days. I was a little worried that I came off as a crazy cat lady, but either people get it or people have the sense to act as though they do even if they don't.
posted by pittsburgher at 1:45 PM on June 1, 2010

Our departed 21-year old cat had the same thing. There is an alternative to the last-visit-to-the-vet.

We did at-home hospice care, since even though she was deteriorating, she seemed happy. Fortunately, she died in her sleep, after a final afternoon in the sunshine.

The hospice care was pretty tough on the humans, though.
posted by coffeefilter at 12:31 PM on June 8, 2010

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