Should I leave my sick/dying cat alone?
October 16, 2015 6:55 PM   Subscribe

My cat is very sick and has gone into hiding. I'm trying to decide if I can give affection without adding to her stress.

My 11 year old cat has been very sick for 5 days, and without getting into a lot of details it's seeming more and more likely I might decide to put her to sleep soon, possibly in the next day or two. For the last few days she's spent most of her time in her safe place under the bed (where she goes when company comes or when he super powers of perception tell her a vet visit is imminent) with occasional forays to her other favorite spots. Through yesterday, she actively responded to petting and brushing (her favorite!), purring and pushing her chin into the brush, etc. Today, after our return from the vet, she retreated to the under bed safe spot and when I pet her (I pulled the bed out a little) there's no purring. I pulled her up on the bed at one point as I'd done yesterday with good results, but this time she aggressively pulled away from me and jumped down.

So my question is, when a cat feels terrible and is dying and I want it to be as painless and stress free for her as possible, is it best that I just pull back and let her be alone?
posted by cilla to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's time to call the vet for a home visit. Your cat is suffering.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:58 PM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

Can you handle her dying at home? Because it's time.
posted by Ruki at 7:05 PM on October 16, 2015

Wow, I'm very sorry. The behavior you're describing is identical to how my two cats were behaving when they were in severe pain at the very end. I would leave her alone if she doesn't want to be petted, as physical contact may inadvertently make the pain worse (as was true for my female cat).
posted by thomas j wise at 7:12 PM on October 16, 2015

If she is so sick that affection causes her discomfort you owe it to her to end her pain and suffering by humanely euthanizing her.
posted by slime at 7:14 PM on October 16, 2015 [13 favorites]

I think you need to leave her alone. Talk to her, and if she responds at all, pet her. Otherwise, leave her alone.

Hugs for you. This so, so hard. It's not fair.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:24 PM on October 16, 2015

I should probably have included more (or less) info. I haven't euthanized her yet because there's a very slight possibility that test results due tomorrow will show there's a treatable infection. Not likely but I and my vet decided it was worth an extra day to find out. Thank you thomas j wise.
posted by cilla at 7:24 PM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's hard to know if she's sick enough to be put down without details. My cat was very sick a few years ago, no purring, no interest in my attention and more worryingly little interest in eating. Now he's 100% fine and has no memory of that time everyone thought he was dying. He was only four though, and I don't know what's up with your cat. But if you don't feel like it's quite time yet, I think it's ok to keep giving her some little affection when she's up for it. I think most good pet owners develop an instinct for when it's time.
posted by zutalors! at 7:24 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is it possible she was just mad about the vet visit and worried you were about to take her again? Try again tomorrow?
posted by Kalmya at 7:24 PM on October 16, 2015 [11 favorites]

Oh I posted before your update. Based on that yes give affection and wait! My cats have had several expensive but treatable issues during which they did not like purring or petting. It sucks but you're doing the right thing.
posted by zutalors! at 7:34 PM on October 16, 2015

I know they mean well, but the people who are suggesting humane euthanasia are in no way qualified to say this. That's a decision for a doctor of vet medicine to make with the pet's owner, after seeing the pet in person.

Sorry you're going through this. Hope she makes it through. She's lucky to have you for a cat mom.
posted by balmore at 7:43 PM on October 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

Can you offer affection without forcing it? Perhaps just chatting to her while you look under the bed, offering your hand for her to rub against or get skitched if she wants, or maybe placing a treat underneath the bed, without removing her from under the bed or forcing your hand underneath if she backs away? That way she can be aware of your presence and take some comfort from it without worrying about being dragged somewhere, and could possibly choose to come and get physical affection. If she likes your voice that might be comforting too, even without petting.

This sounds very difficult for you; I think your asking this question shows true compassion, in that you want what is best and most stress-free for your cat.
posted by Hypatia at 8:05 PM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

Is there something else you could do for her that wouldn't involve touching her? Maybe a cat-appropriate heating pad or other source of heat?
posted by cogitron at 8:08 PM on October 16, 2015

A tough position to be in. Kudos for all you've done, you're a good person.

I can't tell you what to do, but I can tell you what I would do. With one of the four footers in this situation, I would probably grab a sleeping bag and pillow, put it on the floor next to the bed, curl up in/on it and be available to the cat, responding gently to any calls for attention.

Be peaceful until the test results are returned, you'll make the right decision when you know more.
posted by HuronBob at 8:16 PM on October 16, 2015 [10 favorites]

I know they mean well, but the people who are suggesting humane euthanasia are in no way qualified to say this. That's a decision for a doctor of vet medicine to make with the pet's owner, after seeing the pet in person.

That is absolutely true. I am not qualified to offer you any veterinary medical advice.

I think it is best for you to give her space. If she wants to hide, let her. Check in on her, offer her love, and if she isn't in a place where she feels like accepting your physical affection, let her verbally know you love her.

I am a veterinary technician who has worked in an veterinary emergency room for some time. I work the late shift or overnights so I frequently see animals who are very ill. When it comes to euthanizing pets who have been chronically ill, people have often expressed to me their deep regret about how long it took them to make the choice to end their pet's suffering. It's something that I personally regret delaying with my own cat who struggled with chronic kidney disease. It's an incredibly hard decision to make. So that's where my knee-jerk response came from. I'm sorry, I should have known better and taken the time to compose a more thoughtful answer.

I know you have you cat's best interest at heart and that you deeply care for her as demonstrated by your question and your concern for her.
posted by slime at 8:54 PM on October 16, 2015 [9 favorites]

I had an eight year old cat suddenly dying this year. I found what might have been a fang broken off in his face, he had some serious neurological symptoms. I dragged him out from under his death spot and sent him for a night at the vets. All they could find was maybe some bladder infection, days of antibiotics and he came out of it. It took two months before he could jump up on things again, but he is completely well. Eleven isn't so old for a cat. My old cat died at twenty.
posted by Oyéah at 10:12 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm 45 and have lived with cats ALL of my life. All types of cats now, sensitive ones, wise ones, and the heroic badass kind...

Speak gently to your cat in a soothing tone from time to time, but leave her be for tonight. If a store is still open, spend $20 and buy some Feliway spray to put around her safety spot to make her feel calm (it's like pot w/out the paranoid feelings for cats! Very soothing :))

Tomorrow, do whatever is best. Tonight, radiate Calm and Love.

My best to both of you.
posted by jbenben at 11:12 PM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful and kind words. Especially for the reminder that the sound of my voice and just being nearby and available may be of some comfort to her. That’s what I needed to hear… Thanks again.
posted by cilla at 4:15 AM on October 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Tonight, radiate Calm and Love.

Oh, also this is so important. My friends convinced me to go on a planned ski trip while my cat was still sick, and they came to check on him the two days I was away. When I got back he was 60% better in part I think because I wasn't hovering over him anxiously waiting for him to be better already.
posted by zutalors! at 4:37 PM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

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