Yes, another question about pet euthanasia.
December 10, 2019 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to decide if it's time to euthanize my pet, and there are complicated circumstances because she's not old, and her treatments have gone beyond what I can easily afford. I'll put it all under the fold.

So, my cat is only 6 or 7, and yet a phrase I have heard, in association with her, more times than I can count, is: "She's not very old, but..." She's basically a genetic dud, and has had health problems for years.

One big illness a few years ago: took weeks to resolve, many stressful vet visits, months of stressful medication dosing, and a solid month of unpleasant daily home treatment which she never tolerated well and which caused her pain. Cost us above $2500.

One incurable chronic illness which will be lifelong. She's uncomfortable when she has an outbreak, but tolerates being dosed with meds. Yearly costs of vet visits associated with it + meds around $700 for each of the last few years, and will continue indefinitely.

Now, a new, different illness, one part of which is that she's peeing everywhere. She is in pain (though we are trying to minimize this with meds). The curative meds so far have not worked, so the vet has been trying different combos. She's had two stressful visits to the vet office. She's had a barrage of tests. In the last ten days we've spent more than our mortgage bill. More than our weekly take-home pay.

Today we found out that the second round of testing still did not provide any clues as to what's happening. The vet's next option is another round of testing with a specialist. A lot of money. The vet thinks there are three possible outcomes. Two involve major illness -- think: cancer -- and the third would be an illness involving lifelong meds. This is another $600 and the specialist isn't even available until next week.

In her daily life right now, she is sad. We have isolated her the only way possible, given the setup of our home: she is in our living room, kitchen and dining room, while our 3 other cats are confined in smaller areas. All the cats are miserable about this. Most of our furniture in these areas has been pushed aside or made inaccessible to her (so she won't pee on it). I have litter boxes throughout the area. I have wee-wee pads all over the place. I am living in a litter box.

I have been able to pay for all of this, but just barely. I am not wealthy. I have a kid who will be going to college shortly. Like so many, I have inadequate retirement funds. I could go on forever -- basically, it makes me feel shitty to say so but: why am I spending this money on a cat, even though it's a cat I love?

So, what do I do next? Do that test and see what it says, knowing I really, really can't spend money on more advanced treatments? Hope the outcome is the lifelong problem that can be handled with daily meds, and then pay for those for another, who knows -- six or seven or more years? Knowing she'll still have the normal chronic problem she has?

A week ago I was sure that we could spend no more, and if she didn't get better we'd have her euthanized. Part of me wants to do that. Part of me thinks this is just too cruel of me. She's an absolutely delightful cat. She's super friendly and purry and wants company all the time and cuddles and is the perfect pet. Except for all of this.

Please offer thoughts on what we should do and how to think through this. Please do not offer advice like "see another vet." I can't start over with someone else, subjecting her to more testing just to get another vet up to speed.

Thank you.
posted by BlahLaLa to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am so sorry you and your family and your cat are dealing with this. It’s very very clear that you love your cat and want the best for her, and you have gone beyond what many pet owners would do.

One option is to see if it is possible to try the meds without the specialist test, and see if it does any good? And if it doesn’t, or if it eventually stops working, then be at peace that you have tried it all within your ability to care for your cat and your family and yourself, and let your cat go?

If the meds aren’t an option, either because of vet advice or because of your own finances or both, then the kindest thing for everyone may be euthanasia. There’s a point where you need to give permission to yourself to admit that you have done your best within your capabilities, and you have been a loving owner, and the best option isn’t exhausting your resources as well as your pet, in hopes of one more medical diagnosis.
posted by umwhat at 5:29 PM on December 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

My qualifiers would be the pain, and the peeing and its consequences for her (embarrassment, isolation, confinement). I'm so very sorry. But I'd think it's time. We're never clear and always feel guilt over this, but -- it's time.
posted by Dashy at 5:36 PM on December 10, 2019 [14 favorites]

Oh I am so sorry. This is incredibly stressful for you and your family and that includes your lovely cat. I think quality of life is what matters. Her latest drugs aren't working; she's sad all the time; she has terrible things going on to make her pee all the time. Her quality of life is declining, and then it's even harder to tell when to say enough is enough.

If it's any insight at all - I had my dog put to sleep because walking just got too hard for her. She had severe joint issues, and despite medications, she just was so uncomfortable. If she never had to get up, she was her wonderful self, but she was an 80 lb dog, and so we made the decision to release her from the body that failed her. It was a hard, hard decision, but honestly she was going to decline even further and she was never going to get better. It wasn't fair to her, for me to keep her going because I felt guilt.

There is no wrong or right answer here. But her quality of life is paramount, and it seems like maybe it's time to release her.
posted by annieb at 5:39 PM on December 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry. She's a lovely, loving cat, and, if even you had unlimited discretionary funds, no other cats, and no other family responsibilities, I'd still think that it was time to ease her passage. She's had significant health problems, and that's not going to change. Going forward, I would not knowingly attempt to manage pain issues for an animal in my care for years on end; there are compelling quality-of-life concerns. (For her, you, your family, & your other pets.)

I don't think it's cruel of you to be considering euthanasia in this particular situation. [And not that you've asked -- I think she's had a happier time with you and yours than she would have had elsewhere, because of your love and diligence throughout her life. Again, I'm really sorry.]
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:47 PM on December 10, 2019 [12 favorites]

In her daily life right now, she is sad.

This sounds very hard, I’m sorry. Let me share the advice of my late mother, a lover of hundreds of pets, and euthanizer of a few:

At some point you have to decide if you are keeping them alive for your sake or theirs
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:53 PM on December 10, 2019 [11 favorites]

My heart goes out to all of you. I've been there.

Her quality of life sounds poor, and I know from experience you will feel worse about it all.

Spoil her for a few days, and then say goodbye.

I will be thinking of you and her.
posted by jgirl at 5:53 PM on December 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

"One option is to see if it is possible to try the meds without the specialist test, and see if it does any good?"

That's what I would try, as my last attempt. It sounds like if this works, her peeing will stop and she will be able to mingle with the other cats, which would improve everybody's quality of life.

My cat says he is keeping his whiskers crossed for you guys.
posted by nirblegee at 6:07 PM on December 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

If you wanted to avoid the decision but give her a chance, most no kill shelters have medical resources to care for cats and are very effective at deciding if the cat will recover and what effective treatment looks like. Most of them have an "owner surrender" where you can just show up with your car, drop them off, and they'll take it from there. Workers as our local SPCA are some of the kindest people and treat pets with respect. Putting animals down is something they don't take lightly and I'm sure they will do it humanely if needed.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:22 PM on December 10, 2019

Given her history, even if the current crisis is resolved the possibility of a new one would be hanging over your head until she died naturally.

Worse, in the next crisis you might be forced to make the decision instantly based on the specter of emergency vet bill.

As sad as it is, I would take the time now to give her a peaceful and respectful death. It will allow some dignity all around.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:17 PM on December 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

IBD or intestinal lymphoma? Have a frank conversation and ask about pred -- might give kitty a few more years, and very inexpensive -- tell them you know that it's not textbook ideal but really need to go the practical route
posted by dum spiro spero at 7:52 PM on December 10, 2019

I am familiar with the workings of my local no-kill shelter, and would not sign my sick cat over to them to avoid making medical decisions. You know your cat. You know what a great cat she is! You know her medical history, and also her quality of life. No shelter is going to know any of those things. And shelter staff are great, but they can't give any single cat the quality of care your cat is getting now.

My vet was good at looking a couple steps ahead, and we skipped diagnostic tests when I ruled out the invasive treatments that would follow. There are pet quality-of-life quizzes on the internet, and I found those helpful too. From what you've said, euthanasia doesn't seem cruel at all. Just hard. I'm very sorry!
posted by mersen at 7:52 PM on December 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

I have been there and the one thing that I read that truly helped focus my dithering over euthanizing a cat was this question: what toll does this pet take on your own quality of life? You're allowed to consider that. I too had a cat who had health issues but was mostly fine, except for peeing all over the house. He had been crate trained for a month and was great, then within days he was peeing all over the place. And every time I walked into my house, it was weewee pads and crates and that one second he would get on the couch or the bed and there was cat pee everywhere and it was so stressful and disgusting.

So I really pondered that question of my quality of life, and I recognized that Bobo had 11 very nice years but he was really making my home disgusting and my quality of life was miserable (like I could smell subtle hints of cat pee all over me, all the time), so after years of meds and CBD and retraining and working with a cat behaviorist, finally I put him down. It was not easy but I am so glad I did.

It is very nice to come home and not have to worry about cleaning up pee and the smell is gone.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:59 PM on December 10, 2019

She's a lovely cat, but she's suffering a lot. When a person is sick and suffering, it's possible for them to understand what's happening and that can be a comfort through terrible circumstances. Your cat doesn't understand what's happening. The cat just experiences pain, confusion, fear, and trauma.

Spend some last good days together. Cuddle and spoil her and then bring a euthanasia specialist to your home and let her go in a place she feels safe and loved. She doesn't need yet another scary trip to the vet nor do you need to wait for the next crisis. I'm so sorry. This is so hard and you've done the right things. But, now you have to do the most difficult right thing.
posted by quince at 8:02 PM on December 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think a very clarifying conversation with her vet would be to say, "I feel like we are about at the end of what is feasible here, can you talk to me frankly about quality of life and making the decision about letting her go?"

Many vets won't go there until you indicate you are also pretty much there, because people freak out and threaten lawsuits/physical violence if they bring it up first. What you're looking for is suggesting euthanasia and the vet rearing back like "wtf no! there's still reasonable things to do!", which...honestly is probably not what's going to happen. It sounds like you've exhausted the reasonable solutions. But it's useful to have the vet say that.

I'm sorry. Like the others say, plan for a few really great last days, and have someone come to the house. Take some pictures together, even have a friend come take some with decent lighting if you can. Give the best snacks, make some memories, and let her go before it gets really horrific.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:35 PM on December 10, 2019 [9 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this. I'm not sure if this will help, but having gone through several pet euthenasias, one thing I've learnt is that there is never a perfect time to do it. If you do it while they're still relatively ok, you worry that you did it too soon - maybe they would have recovered? And if you do it when it's clear that it's time because they are suffering, well - you let them suffer and that feels terrible too. There is no True Right Time to do euthenasia that you can get wrong. When this has happened to me, it's felt like a terrible bind because of the guilt of spending money that I can't really afford, while at the same time how can I not spend money if that might help my animal - how can I hold back on paying if that might help them? It's a tough place to be in. Please be kind to yourself. All the decisions you've made are out of love, and in trying to do the right thing. Whatever you decide, that will be the right decision. My thoughts are with you and your sweet kitty.
posted by Zumbador at 10:35 PM on December 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

Have you euthanized a pet? It's painless and quick. When I've had to do it, a cried a bit for myself, but I also thought I had just given my beloved companion one last gift.
posted by tmdonahue at 5:01 AM on December 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's untenable. She has poor quality of life. You can't afford to continue getting specialized care. Spend a day cuddling and loving her, and ask the vet to do a home visit so she doesn't have that stress. I have no doubt that this is the loving option. I'm so sorry, you have been a great pet caretaker.
posted by theora55 at 8:04 AM on December 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

A minor update: she took a turn for the better, so with our vet's blessing we have canceled the specialist appointment and are taking a wait and see attitude for right now. Doing a bit better means she can be reintegrated into normal daily household life, which at the very least makes her happier.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:50 PM on December 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

posted by nirblegee at 7:14 AM on December 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wanted to just wrap this up by saying that while all this went down in December, by mid-February she had another outbreak of this same issue. We went back to the vet, but as we ramped up again to do meds and testing and separating the other cats and moving the furniture and bringing out the extra litter boxes and the wee-wee really hit me that it'd only been 2 months since we went through this. I could not fathom continuing this for the foreseeable future, given the young age of the cat and the persistence of the issues and the underlying mystery of what exactly was wrong with her. I made the hard decision that it was time to euthanize her. It was awful and sad and I am going to be sad about it for a very long time.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:09 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]

I’m sorry for your loss.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:02 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]

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