Cat Hospice: Help our kitty enjoy her last time with us
March 27, 2013 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Our wonderful kitty was just diagnosed with cancer. We are waiting today (I took the day off work for it, I am such a wreck) to hear more details, but the initial findings were very bad. So, what can I do to help her enjoy her last time with us? I know the vet will give us more information about pain meds (tho she doesn't seem to be in pain) and diet, but I wonder what other thoughts people can give. For example, it was from a friend that I learned it was OK to give her Pepcid A/C (confirmed dosage with vet), and I think that has been helping her tummy. Also, through googling I discovered that it is possible to euthanize in-home, which gives me some comfort for when her quality of life slips below an acceptable threshold. Anything else come to mind?

Doc said tumors are messing with her liver, kidneys, and pancreas.

Right now her main issues are:
-Difficulty going to the bathroom: going outside the box, seeming to strain, running around like a mad cat afterwards, diarrhea or constipation seems to alternate.
-Lack of appetite. The pepcid helps this a little, but we have been squirting wetfood+chickenbabyfood+Nutrical+water into her mouth once a day to make sure she's getting enough food water.
-vomiting. Pepcid seems to help this a bit too, but last night she was up and down barfing and trying to poop about five times.
-because of the above, she's lost about 2 pounds..she's down to 7 lbs :(
posted by Calicatt to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am so sorry about your kitty. When my cat had pancreatic cancer, they gave him an appetite stimulator as well as the Pepcid, but I forget what it was called. We had to start giving him subcutaneous fluid injections because he wasn't drinking enough or getting enough water from the little food he wanted to eat, but he was very good about it, probably because subq fluids meant lap time, which he loved. If he was refusing his food, my husband also would dropper-feed him baby food, primarily of the chicken and ham varieties. He LOVED ham when he was healthy, so we were usually successful in getting him to eat a lot of ham baby food even when he was refusing everything else. (As an aside, ham baby food may be the most vile substance on earth, but I cannot be 100% sure.)

The vet also gave him some steroids, which can help with inflammation and comfort level. We had some pain meds for him too, but he was either really good at hiding his discomfort or wasn't in much pain, because he was pretty much his happy, purry lap cat self almost until the end. We did have him euthanized at home - we got a recommendation for a vet who does house calls. I absolutely think that is the best way to go if you can find a vet who does this service, because we were all able to surround him and love on him and he was able to hang out on his favorite spot on the sofa instead of being at the vet.
posted by bedhead at 8:55 AM on March 27, 2013

I'm sorry for what you are going through.

The pain meds can help with the pain/issues with the litter box. When our cat passed from cancer, he was often cold and liked to be snuggled in a blanket. However, due to fluid in his lungs, he had to stay "loaf shaped" to be comfortable.

There are anti nausea drugs and appetite enhancing drugs that the vet can give that might help - it's worth asking about. We had to give our little guy with cancer some of those in his last few weeks.

About euthanasia (this may be a bit difficult to read):

There are a couple different ways to euthanize. We actually had to put down two cats within 8 hours of one another - one due to cancer and the other due to kidney failure. We use a vet facility that has several vets on staff. One vet chose to sedate the cat (Cat #1) and put in a small IV tube so the euthanasia was very low key. The other vet chose to inject the drug directly into the cat's femoral artery (Cat #2). The first option was MUCH better, for me and for the cat. He really wasn't aware of what was happening and didn't struggle. The second cat struggled for about 10 seconds to get away from the tech (until the drug took hold), and it made me (still makes me) really upset to think that his last moments were panicked.

I would go with a home euthanasia if you can swing it. Much better for the animal and you.

Also, you don't need to be present for the actual injection. I was, but my husband could not be. He said his goodbyes and then left the room, while I stayed with the cat. Choose what is best for you, don't let someone tell you what is better or worse.
posted by RogueTech at 9:04 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

From what you describe, I think her quality of life has already dropped below what I would personally find acceptable: large weight loss, disinterest in food, pain and difficulty when going to the bathroom, regular vomiting. Cancer is a very painful process, and pancreatic the most painful. I think you should strongly consider euthanizing your cat right now, that is how you can help her. Cats are incredibly stoic little creatures.

I am very sorry, it is difficult to lose a pet and also to make that decision.
posted by nanook at 9:05 AM on March 27, 2013 [16 favorites]

Sunbeams. Warm, warm, warm. Very soft beds with pillows to lean against.

I bought, in desperate optimism, a new cat bed about 24 hours before my cat died of cancer. I gave it away a short time later, but I don't regret buying it. He was always up for a new bed.

Actually, it was a dog bed - most cat beds are too small, and require the cat to sleep in a circle. This gave him plenty of room, and I could even put a regular-sized bed pillow in it.

A folded comforter (the pillowy kind that resembles a down comforter, but machine-washable) also makes an excellent, cushy, large cat bed. You can re-fold it if it becomes too furry, or put a cozy shirt or something on top that's easier to clean.

A friend of mine took her ailing cat to a park on his last day. He got to nap on pine needles and drink from a little stream. It sounded nice, but your cat may want more home comfort.
posted by amtho at 9:14 AM on March 27, 2013

I'm so sorry. We had a few "borrowed" months with our kitty before he died, and we just let him do whatever the hell he wanted. No yelling, no correcting. (What was the point?)

If he peed on the rug, we just cleaned it up and added more litter boxes. If he licked the butter off our plates, that was ok...and we gave him a little extra, even though it probably wasn't good for him. If he wanted to drink out of a glass on the floor, that's what he got - even though he would always knock it over. Then we canceled as much as we could, and just stayed on the couch with him as much as possible.

Sorry, getting dusty in the office here...
posted by JoanArkham at 9:17 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

We put stepstools near all his favorite spots (couch, bed, windowsill) because he didn't get up and down so well near the end. Just things we had around the house, like a dining room chair pushed up near the window so he could get up in two jumps instead of one big one. Ottomans, storage chests, stepstools, low chairs, even sturdy boxes.

We also set out a lot of folded blankets in his favorite spots because his bladder got a little leaky, so we could just wash them and it wasn't a big deal or something he was getting in trouble for.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:39 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would agree with nanook that the kindest thing to do is to euthanize the animal in the very near future. We recently put down a cat under similar circumstances, and as hard as it was, the thought of prolonging a low-quality life made me feel sick. Like your cat, he had lost 2 pounds, and wasn't eating much, and the vet told us that she could offer only palliative care that would give us "extra days". Our cat seemed outwardly normal, but it was hard not to notice his lack of appetite and weight loss over the last couple weeks of his life. I don't regret anything about the decision (in fact, I had him euthanized as soon as I got the diagnosis).
posted by deadweightloss at 9:46 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry this is happening. You must know that today is the best day your cat is going to have for the rest of her life. It may happen slowly, but it's all downhill from here (and sounds like it has been downhill for some time). I believe it's our duty to the pets who rely on us to make sure every single day they have on this planet is a positive one, free of pain and discomfort, and that their last memories are not ones of suffering, confusion, or fear. Considering the lack of enjoyment of food and the major bathroom problems you are describing (it sounds like going to the bathroom is extremely painful for your cat), I, personally, would not subject her to "hospice care" and instead would euthanize her now. It's such an unbelievably hard thing to consider, and is by far the worst possible part of owning a pet, but by doing this, you'll be taking her physical pain and making it your emotional pain. And though it will hurt, you can take some solace in knowing you did what was best for HER, even though it was difficult for you. I don't think there are many worse guilts one can feel than knowing they allowed their animal to languish for too long because it was too painful to say goodbye.

Again, I'm so sorry this is happening. Whatever you decide, you are in my thoughts. <3
posted by srrh at 9:47 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

This may not apply but don't be tempted to let her outside because she's likely to look for a place to hole up and wait to die.

It's a hard thing to deal with. Sorry.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:57 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry to hear about your cat. My dog has cancer right now, but the tumor doesn't really seem to affect him and we can still have fun for the next couple of months (or however long he decides to stick around). It sounds, sadly, like your cat is past the point of having a graceful goodbye.

Rapid weight loss, difficulty going to the bathroom . . . Your cat is not having a good time right now.

I've had two beloved cats die. One was in a similar situation to yours. Everything failed, seemingly at once, and my dad found her hiding a box in the basement soaked in her own urine, waiting to die. We put her to sleep later that day. Our other cat passed away from heart disease over the summer. He did not seem to be miserable, just kind of tired, so my parents let him die at home.

You won't regret putting your cat to sleep too soon, but you might regret letting her suffer for too long.

Here's a breakdown on how to consider your cat's quality of life.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 10:07 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, I'm so sorry. I've been there. :(

*Heating pad on low with a towel on top to keep the cat warm.
*Tuna juice or broth to get the cat interested in taking in fluids.

Old towels or "puppy pads" for the cat to lay down on and soil if necessary.

You'll know when you're ready to say good-bye. Mr. Nerd and I have put down two cats so far, and both times we've rescheduled the appointment because he wasn't ready to let them go just yet.
posted by luckynerd at 11:43 AM on March 27, 2013

With our little old kitty, we focused on whether she was still behaving "normally" (being a goofball, mostly), and on just making sure she had all the things she enjoyed. She was diagnosed with kidney failure in February of last year, when we noticed that she was even thinner than normal and lethargic. A change of food and subcutaneous fluid injections, along with anti-anemia shots, helped a lot for a while. Unlike bedhead's cat, she always HATED subq, even though it was totally obvious that it was helping.

Actually, that was one of the markers that she was done: the very last time, she just sat listlessly while we filled her with water. Also, at that point it was also almost entirely impossible to get her to eat; we even fed her raw chicken tidbits in the last couple of days, because what the hell: she spent her whole life trying to finagle that stuff out of the trash, might as well let her get some.

If the vet has some things that will help a bit, give it a shot; when Sasha was first sick we were sure she'd go right away but the treatments really did help. I'm glad we had those last few months. The end was really obvious, altho no less difficult, when it came about six months later.

We are lucky enough that our vet is at the end of our block, so we walked with her in a laundry basket to be euthanized. She had one last day of lazing in the sun, sipping a bit of tuna juice, and getting petted.

Sorry if I'm rambling. It is really tough.

ablazingsaddle's quality of life considerations link is really good, and I think those are the things that we were considering even if not consciously. When she got too fussy to eat the kidney-health food, we decided that feeding her anything she liked, even if it wasn't the best for her, was important for quality of life reasons. It wasn't worth prolonging her life at the cost of spending that time fighting over food.
posted by epersonae at 4:11 PM on March 27, 2013

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