Help us make an important decision about our cat.
April 26, 2012 5:48 AM   Subscribe

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.

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?
posted by Tooty McTootsalot to Pets & Animals (41 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Her quality of life is pretty bad, we feel

Well, that's enough for me. If her quality of life is poor and the prognosis is more brain deterioration and perhaps a final, painful debilitating stroke, then I would make the decision to put her down.

On top of that, she's not eating and she's not getting water. What kind of life is that?

The plateau bit is a bit of mental misdirection. It's not as if she's getting better, she's just not getting worse at the same rate. The general trend is clearly still downward. I know it's tough, but if this is going to be your cat's life do you really want it to continue like that?

You've my sympathy. I wish you the best.
posted by inturnaround at 5:58 AM on April 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

I'm so sorry, but I think letting her go would be the right thing here.

What is the upside for her if you give her another few weeks or even a couple of months? Things are not going to improve, but will only get worse. I think it's maybe borderline right now as to her quality of life, but things are going to go downhill, and wouldn't you rather have her not suffer more than a little confusion and hunger, than wait until she is clearly in pain and distressed?

I'm sorry.
posted by lollusc at 5:59 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm so sorry you're going through this.

When I was struggling with the decline of my own cat, and knowing "when," another cat owner told me her own guidelines - she called it "the three A's". Whenever she was evaluating such a situation with one of her own cats she looked at its:

1. Appetite
2. Activity level
3. Affection

A healthy cat has some degree of all three A's (how much of each depends on the cat - your cat may have the appetite of a clydesdale horse, but be stand-offish; if that's just the way your cat is, that's just that). Whatever level each of your cat's A's is, she said, if it loses one, that's time to take it to the vet for a checkup. If it loses 2 A's, you get more concerned. But if it's lost all three A's, it may indeed be time.

The fact that she's still TRYING to eat is the only thing giving me pause; her appetite is still there.

I'd have a long talk with your vet about your concerns, and about your confusion; maybe hearing from the vet about what kind of lengths you'd have to go to, and what the outcome would be, could help you make up your mind. If helping her eat by spoon-feeding her could help her quality of life, you may be comfortable enough with that to decide to hold off for now. But if your vet says that "at this stage, tube-feeding her from a bag is the only way you can keep her nutritionaly supplied," then at least you'd also know that, and know more about whether it's time.

Good luck. This is always such an awful sucky decision to make, but the other thing to remember is your cat doesn't think about death the way you do; she doesn't think about the future or anything like that. She is living in this moment, because that is all she knows. And somewhere deep down she knows that you are doing your best.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:59 AM on April 26, 2012 [13 favorites]

I know this is hard, but from what you've described, your cat is in pain and it's quality of life has severely diminished. If you are home with her all day and haven't seen her drink water, that's a huge red flag. Your cat is probably having a series of mini-strokes that are making things worse for her.

If this were my cat, I would not let this continue. You've had 15 great years with her and she shouldn't suffer any longer. If she can't feed herself properly, can't use the litter box, and isn't drinking water, it's time. She may have her ups and downs, but her ups and downs are happening on a downward slope. I'm sorry, but it's time to give her the peace she deserves.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:00 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh sweetie. I know it is hard. However, you have stated that her quality of life is not good any longer. If she's not eating or drinking well, then letting this happen naturally means that she may die of starvation and dehydration. That's a painful way to die. Please take her to the vet and have her humanely put to sleep.
posted by onhazier at 6:01 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hard question, and there is not an easy answer. I had to have my two cats put down a few years ago and it was very difficult both times. One of them it was a much clearer decision - her liver was failing and she was obviously in a great deal of pain. The other cat's situation was closer to the one you currently face. She had gone almost completely blind and could not really jump up onto furniture anymore. She was still eating, but also throwing almost everything up and losing an alarming amount of weight. She would still sit with us and purr, but it just seemed like she had such a difficult time existing that when her breathing started to get labored we decided putting her down was the right thing to do.

I think you should give it another day or two, but really try to watch her objectively. After seeing the pain that our first cat was in at the end, we decided to end it sooner for our second cat rather than dragging it out to the bitter end.

Hope this helps some - I know what a hard decision it is to make.
posted by pmccain at 6:03 AM on April 26, 2012

This is hard and I'm sorry you're having to make these decisions.

At her age, and considering that it seems neurological, it seems unlikely that she will significantly improve and more likely that she will continue to deteriorate. If your dear cat plateaus where she is, is her quality of life good enough to keep her going? It sounds as if you know what she needs, but it's hard to do.

In my family we tend to err on the side of ending things earlier rather than later. The guilt of missing out on a few good days is not nearly as painful as the guilt of hanging on too long. The gift of a peaceful passing is the least we can do for our beloved companions.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:03 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I were in your shoes, I would put her down.
posted by AugustWest at 6:09 AM on April 26, 2012

I've gone through this twice in the last few years. It's brutal.

There's a point in these situations where you're only keeping the pet alive for your own sake, and not for the pet's. It sounds like you've reached that point. A plateau in her condition might ease your personal discomfort and let you feel a little better about deferring a very difficult decision, because you no longer see her spiraling downward, but it doesn't improve the pet's quality of life at all. She's just stuck at 'pretty bad.'
posted by jon1270 at 6:10 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am sure many will disagree with me. I am Buddhist and though I am not very religious, I believe strongly that I am not to interfere with the way any living being is to leave the world.

Here is a story that may or may not help: my parents have a dog who is going to be twelve years old in a couple of weeks. About two years ago, he had suddenly had all sorts of bruising on his belly. He started to have an immense amount of blood in his stool and urine. The whites of his eyes then were bloodshot (like he was punched in his eyes and the entire whites of his eyes had filled with blood.) This was a matter of 48 hours. He was taken to the vet and after various blood tests, we found out he had thrombocytopenia. It is an autoimmune disease that afflicts mammals. People get it. Cats get it. Dogs get it. The vet referred us to another vet (2.5 hours away) in a hospital that specializes in animal blood transfusions. We went through 11 days of blood transfusions twice a day. Every day, we went to the hospital twice a day. I had spent my whole vacation going back and forth every day with my parents. We made chicken and livers and used a food processor to make it into a baby food consistency. We fed him the food through a syringe and gave him soup. We wrapped him in a towel like a baby and opened his mouth and fed him. He is now recovered. Everyone in the hospital said dogs who come in with thrombocytopenia dies. Mostly because those owners couldn't go through the treatments and didn't care for the dog the way we did.

Your decision is really about what you are willing to go through. We wanted to try everything to help him survive. We would have let him go if we had done all of that and he just wasn't showing any improvement. It was a lot of work and we still had to feed him with a syringe and administer medication every day when he was home. There was a log of how much food he ate and drank and when and also the medication was monitored. It took a lot of attention and a great deal of sacrifice. You have to think about your own emotions if you plan to take care of the cat the way we did with our dog. Are you ready to go through all of that and still lose your beloved cat or is it better to stop the suffering all around now?
posted by Yellow at 6:12 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think Kepler is probably not very happy. It is stressful and unpleasant for cats when they are not able to do cat-things, like eat, clean, and hide their eliminations. I know it is a very hard decision to make, but the humane thing to do is to end her suffering.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:12 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

There are different ways of "caring" for a pet. As others have said, one of the hardest things about being a pet owner is separating "what will make my pet happy" from "what will prevent me from feeling guilty later" and "what will make me feel better about this situation." It can make us feel noble and loving to go through elaborate rituals of care for a dying pet, but past a certain point it's more about us than about the pet.

Your particular situation sounds like it was teetering on a precipice and is just starting to tip over into serious and permanent decline. Not being able to use the litter and not being able to properly process her surroundings sounds traumatic for a cat to go through, and stressful for you and your husband to watch. I agree with others that it's probably time.

If you want to give her a few more days to see if she improves, I would make a nest for her in a cozy room that you can close off (to prevent her from having accidents in other parts of the house) and try and sit in there with her and read when you have time. I've had a lot of luck cleaning my elderly cat with baby wipes when he's going through a rough patch.

Best wishes to you and your household, this is an awful thing to deal with.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:28 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Her quality of life is pretty bad, we feel

For me, this answers the question in just a few words. My perspective is that as an ethical pet owner, one's focus needs to be on quality of life, not quantity of life. When the quality of life gets too low, it's not right, in my eyes, to make the animal continue to live in pain or discomfort. I very much doubt that you will look back years later and wish you had put off the euthanasia longer, but you might well look back and wish you had done this sooner.
posted by Forktine at 6:31 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I could have written what you wrote a few years ago about my wee Jock. I miss him every day. Each and every day! I still sometimes get out a few photos and have a chat with him. He understood me, you know? He chose to spend his little life with me. And at the end, I knew I was saving him the pain that you describe, but it still broke my heart. And I don't know if I will ever forgive myself. I hope that I honoured his love and loyalty by gently helping him into that next place. But I really miss my friend.

I want to congratulate you on not being selfish about this.
posted by Sutekh at 6:34 AM on April 26, 2012 [10 favorites]

Y'know . . . since it's neurological, it's entirely possible that she doesn't know if she's 'suffering' or not. With humans, it's said that many patients entering nursing homes for neurological reasons report that they are happy -- they adjust and find some level on contentedness with smaller lives. We imagine Kepler remembering her kittenish days, but we don't know. She might spend her days waiting for you to settle in front of the TV so she can curl up nearby . . .

Personally, I think it's reasonable for you to decide to put her down. But I also think it's reasonable to postpone the decision. Decide you'll re-evaluate in 2 weeks. My goal would be that you both have peace about your decision -- I don't want you walking out of the vet's office without your cat, second-guessing yourself. My hope would be that you could walk out thinking: I miss my friend, I was so lucky to have her, I'm so glad I was a good friend to her . . .
posted by MeiraV at 6:38 AM on April 26, 2012

Best answer: We just put our 16-17 year old cat down who was in a very similar condition. She would stumble around and walk in circles, making the same circuit around the room for a while until she got exhausted and plopped down wherever she was. She would almost never use the litter box but would poop or pee wherever. We think she had a stroke or a brain tumor. It was one of the hardest things we've ever had to do (for my wife especially, who had a really amazing and affectionate relationship with this cat) but ultimately we decided to do what was best for the cat.

The morning we were going to do it, after resting for a couple hours, Quill suddenly got up and started batting a ping pong ball around. She did this for a few minutes, batting it again when she'd feel it under her feet, and then again laid down, exhausted. The vet came to the house and while she didn't pressure us one way or another once we made our decision she told us it was the right thing to do and the cat probably wouldn't have lasted another week. She pointed out things that we hadn't noticed, like the yellowing of her gums and eyes.

We bawled while it happened, but in many ways it was peaceful and beautiful. When it was done, our cat looked like she was sleeping but she was no longer in pain or stumbling. We buried her in the yard and by the next day, though we missed her, we were content that we did the right thing. We still miss her but we don't have the daily heartbreak of wondering if she's suffering or not. She's not.

My point is you need to do what's best for this cat, and the best thing to do is to put her down. Her life is not going to get any better. This decision is not about you, it's about the cat. It's a difficult decision and it sucks that you have to make it but when it's over you'll ultimately be better off when you no longer have to watch your cat suffer.

Remember too that there is nothing natural about keeping a cat for a pet. Were she in the wild she would not have lasted this long. So don't feel like you don't have the right to interfere with her natural progression. This has already been done, even before she was your cat.

I'm sorry about your cat.
posted by bondcliff at 6:38 AM on April 26, 2012 [16 favorites]

Your cat has already had a good life. It's time. I am very sorry.
posted by Silvertree at 6:45 AM on April 26, 2012

This decision is always hard, always. Even when it seems like it's definitely time, there's always that doubt, that "she was purring the other day," that "what if she could live another three years and I'm cutting that short?" It's not always or only about the selfish desire to keep your companion around, but it's also the matter of wanting to do right by her. You don't want to cheat her out of her time. You don't know for sure whether she wants to keep going or how much she's suffering, because she can't tell you and might not even know herself. All you can do is make your best guess.

From the symptoms you describe, it sounds highly unlikely that Kepler will recover. She may have better days now and then, but she won't be her fully functional self.

I'm sorry you're going through this. It's painful either way.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:53 AM on April 26, 2012

Given her age and condition, and given that you're counting her potential recovery in terms of a few more months, I think it's time to put her down.

Yellow said, "Your decision is really about what you are willing to go through." I think that's true, but not in the way Yellow meant it: this isn't about how much effort you're willing to put into caring for your cat--clearly you're willing to put in a lot of effort, as you already have. Instead, I think this is about whether you're willing to take ownership of assessing her current condition and making a decision. It's a hard thing to do. You second guess yourself. You wish it were a clear yes or no. You wish nature would make the decision for you. It's hard to watch her deteriorate and suffer, but in some ways that's easier than making a decision to have her put down because at least you know you're not jumping the gun and having her put down when really she could have recovered. I think that there are many situations in which the best thing a pet owner can do is to be willing to live with that uncertainty so that her pet's suffering can end. It sounds like you are probably in that kind of situation.

I'm sorry you're going through this. I know this is hard, and painful. I hope you're able to make a choice that feels as right and as healthy as possible.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:06 AM on April 26, 2012

I have been more or less involved in this decision for five pets now. One time, we waited too long for our own reasons, and he suffered and died without being put down by the vet. That was about 1993. That is the one that I feel sorry about and wish could have been different.

The others were all hard at the time, but it makes me feel proud in retrospect that I made the best decisions for them I could, not only caring for them in the good times, but also at the end. My happy memories of all of them are still with me, and there's no pain about the end trips to the vet.

If you know it's time, and you sound like you do, I promise that in retrospect you'll not regret having her put down. Be strong and make the best decision for her, not you.

I'm sorry. It sucks that our pets don't live as long as we do.
posted by fritley at 7:09 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm so very sorry that you guys are going through this. We all know when we take on our pets that we have the responsibility to make this decision at some point, but it's unmistakeable how hard it is when it presents for real.

I try as much as possible to think about these things in terms of treating them the way I'd want to be treated. If I didn't feel very well, and if I was very disoriented and clearly unhappy, I would want to be able to be let go in the least stressful and most loving way possible. I know that sounds distorted and crazy, and I'm assigning feelings to animals that maybe they don't have. I still think the yardstick of how I'd want me or a very sick loved one to be treated is a pretty good one.

From what you've said, I think it's time to let Kepler go. It's okay to do that. It's probably the most loving thing you can do for her at this point.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:18 AM on April 26, 2012

I've been in your shoes more than once. And most recently it was just a few months ago when our beloved 19 year-old cat was dying. I had said before that when her quality of life was no longer apparent, that I would do the right thing. When that time came, I found it incredibly difficult to follow through. I hesitated. I felt guilty that I was somehow letting her down.

Grief and emotions mess with your ability to think clearly. Not a bad thing, really. It brings out the better part of what make human beings what they are. But you get to a point where you do have to make a decision for this little creature. Look at what a great life this cat yours has had, being loved and safe. If your cat is like mine, she's probably hanging on because that's all she knows what to do.

It won't look like it to you right now, but your ability to put a quick, painless end to her suffering is one final kind gift.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 7:32 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry you're going through this. When I had to make the decision with my 19 year old beloved Stripe, who'd I'd had since I was 7, it was the hardest thing I'd ever had to do in my life. Dammit, I'm tearing up yet again, and i'm been almost 10 years.

My only regret? That I waited too long. I took the good days (and hours) as a sign she still had some quality of life left in her. But in reality, it was me who wasn't ready to let go. I was holding on to her for me, and the end result was some unnecessary suffering on her part to get through those last couple of weeks and days.

You're asking for an internet strangers opinion, and I'll give mine -- it's time. I'm pretty sure you already know it's time, or you wouldn't be asking the question.

I really am sorry for your loss.
posted by cgg at 7:43 AM on April 26, 2012

I'm so sorry for what you and your partner and Kepler are going through. It sounds indeed like she's deteriorating (I hate that word, so much) and as much as I could never end an animal's life before its time, you are her mother and she deserves the easiest, most merciful passing you can give her. I agree that you should not let her suffer. We can't know what's going on in her head, but she can't not be suffering. However...

I would revisit the idea of doing a full round of tests on her with the vet. It sounds like she is worth the expense, to put it crassly. If it was an infection causing neurological problems or something medication could fix, I would want to know as the owner and at least have an informed decision. Many things can cause a stroke or paralysis. I'm not a vet, but I would take her in for the full work-up before making your final decision. I know it sounds like the end, and I don't intend to give you false hope, but listen to your hesitation about this. It sounds like this is her time. Once again I'm so sorry, for the pain and for the difficult decisions involved.
posted by Sayuri. at 8:17 AM on April 26, 2012

Best answer: I know you asked, but please take blunt advice from strangers on AskMe with a massive grain of salt.

For me, the missing piece is what your vet says.

When I went through this process about seven months ago, I relied on the assessments of my vet and listened carefully to what he was saying and what he wasn't. I also was not afraid to ask him directly what he would do, if he were in the same situation. You need a vet to speak frankly and openly to you about quality of life, prognosis, added value of more tests and treatments, and your cat's pain (if there is any).

I love my fellow MeFites, but they don't know 5% of what you know about this situation, and *any* advice you get here is going to be conjecture. This is the life of your friend that is in question here, so go talk candidly with your vet, and if s/he hesitates about giving an opinion, push back. It sounds like you need it.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:31 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry.

I am not in a position to tell you what to do, but I wanted to second what cgg said. The only thing that is worse than making the decision to euthanize your best friend is waiting too long to make that decision.

Please remember that your sweet little Keppler will never be far from you so long as you keep her in your heart.
posted by Seppaku at 8:42 AM on April 26, 2012

There was a very good discussion of this question on the radio show Fresh Air here.

If I remember right, the conclusion was that more often people wait longer than they maybe should, but the discussion was pretty nuanced, if that's the discussion I remember.
posted by salvia at 9:14 AM on April 26, 2012

I had to do this three months ago. It is so hard.

It sounds to me like you need to get with the vet again. Baby food is not workable for more than a few days, nor is the lack of regular drinking. The litter box and cleaning will also need to be addressed.

Your vet can tell you whether you can come up with alternative ways to address these challenges.

If this is as good as it is going to be for Kepler long term, it may be time.
posted by freshwater at 9:24 AM on April 26, 2012

I would let her go if I were you. It is a heart-wrenching, difficult decision .... but it's going to be heart-wrenching and difficult whether you do it now or a few weeks from now.

Animals can't understand pain the way we do; she cannot tell you that she is hurting or uncomfortable. Dogs and cats are so fantastically loyal that sometimes I think that they hang around for us, even when they know it's time to go. Tell her it's OK, it's OK, she can go. And then you can give her a quiet end to her life.

I'm so sorry that you have to make this decision. Been there too.
posted by Ostara at 10:51 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Jeez, I just did this on Monday.

About 9 days ago, my cat was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure, on top of which she had a massive kidney infection. Not to get too far into medical details, but the best antibiotic for a cat kidney infection is one that depresses appetite renal failure is to get them to eat and drink sufficiently; dehydration and weight loss are killers on their own.

My cat did great the first three days on the antibiotic and then started having problems. Long story short, she had a horrific weekend; she lost 4 pounds over the week, and I was down to syringing water into her mouth every couple of hours, trying to keep her hydrated. She was so weak, her back legs went the opposite direction of the rest of her body when she tried to walk. She refused any food at all by Saturday, and spit out anything I syringed into her mouth. She would use the litterbox if I put her in it - she was too weak to jump in herself.

She was 16 years old.

There were LOTS of options to keep her going; I could take her in and have her force fed and hydrated. I could do this every two weeks, until the shut down of her kidneys was complete. I could give her a baking tray as a litterbox so she wouldn't have to try to climb over the high sides of her usual litterbox. I could put her on a totally liquid diet to keep her fed and somewhat hydrated.

I *could* do all those things. But she was 16 years old. And miserable. And watching her try to drag herself across the floor to come sit in my lap damn near broke my heart. I could keep her alive...but I'd have to repeatedly put her through hell to keep her that way.

I couldn't do it to her. At that point, it would be about me not wanting to let her go, instead of doing what was best for her. I spent Monday morning with her, holding her and stroking her, and saying goodbye. Then I took her to the vet's office and held her while the drugs to stop her heart were pumped in. I think I cried for 12 hours straight afterward, but I knew, in spite of the technology that can keep her alive, the best thing for *her* was to let her go.

YOU know. You know what Kepler's life looks like when it is good -- and what it looks like when it is not. It doesn't make the loss easier, but it does help you be at peace with the decision.

You have my sympathies; it is very, very hard. But it is the last responsibility you have to your pets - to let them go when it is time. Hugs to you and Kepler both.
posted by faineant at 12:12 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

okay, a little shaky -- the best antibiotic for a cat kidney infection is one that depresses appetite. The major problem with cats in renal failure is to get them to eat and drink sufficiently, etc.
posted by faineant at 12:13 PM on April 26, 2012

Another thing to consider: for all the time, effort, and money you could be putting into your elderly cat, you could adopt another cat and give it a great life. This may seem like a cold comment, but others have hashed out the quality of life issues for your cat. Think of the good you could do for another kitty.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:35 PM on April 26, 2012

Here's my personal perspective:

It explains how I knew when it was time to make 'the decision'.
posted by matty at 1:52 PM on April 26, 2012

My God, Matty - please tell me that the next thing you did after that was to go punch your "friend's" lights out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:55 PM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I didn't read all the responses, but here is something that helped us when we were in a similar situation, trying to figure out if it was really, really, really bad enough:

"There is a day when you will know, unequivocally, that your animal is in such pain that euthanasia would be a mercy. That day is one day too late."

Meaning, right now you don't want to put her down because she's in the "gray zone" -- but what the quote's trying to get at is you really don't want to discover the territory beyond the gray zone. It's not a mercy to her or to you to go there.

I'm sorry Tooty + Kepler -- I know it's really hard. Best to you all.
posted by hungrytiger at 2:17 PM on April 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry to have to agree, Kepler's time has come. Please accept my sympathies.

A friend who is a vet assistant was telling me about the extreme lengths people go to keep their pets. We were talking in particular about a neighbour who was bringing her dog to pee in the park in a wheelbarrow because he could no longer walk.

The friends said that we should not the fear of our own grief be what causes us to keep our pet alive for too long.
posted by peagood at 2:41 PM on April 26, 2012

Run out and get a copy of Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant.

It is a children's book,but really great for everyone. My cat and dog both died last year (along with both my parents and my favorite aunt--not all at the same time but it was the most shitty year of my life--and I still think I am not back to where I want to be, and maybe I will never be again)
But get that book--it will help.
posted by chocolatetiara at 4:23 PM on April 26, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks so much every single one of your responses everyone, they have really helped us. All of them. My partner and I read through this thread multiple times.

Kepler passed away on my lap this morning. The vet agreed without hesitation that it was time.

For what it's worth, we had tried antibiotics in case it was the one thing that was treatable, and they didn't have an effect. The only other option was either she was having a series of strokes, or it was a brain tumor. She was such an old kitty we didn't want to do any aggressive treatment, especially not with her skittish temperament.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 10:54 AM on April 27, 2012

I'm very sorry you had to do this but you did the right thing.
posted by bondcliff at 10:57 AM on April 27, 2012

I came back to see what happened. I was actually hoping she would pass away so you wouldn't have to go through putting her to sleep. I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by Yellow at 4:39 PM on April 29, 2012

Response by poster: I really appreciated your response, Yellow, it made us think hard about this decision.

In our case, there was no treatment, she was never going to get better no matter what we did. And it wasn't just the physical problems, mentally, she just wasn't there anymore. Physically, it was only a matter of days before she wouldn't have been able to move, mentally, she barely responded to us. She was suffering, and all we could do was end her suffering, we couldn't fix it for her.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 8:04 PM on April 29, 2012

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