Making my cat comfortable in what may be her last days.
November 4, 2006 10:15 AM   Subscribe

I think my cat is dying. How do I make her last days more comfortable?

First, a little backstory. I've had Polly since she was born: I had her mother, Sarah, before her. She's thirteen or fourteen now, and has always stayed active and been healthy and alert.

Lately, she has gotten very, very, lethargic. She doesn't want to go outside (which is odd, since she usually doesn't want to stay in and will vocally protest if you don't let her out), isn't eating or drinking or using the litterbox that we can see, and curls up in one place and refuses to leave (usually by a warm vent in my bathroom, though this morning she moved to the vent by my armchair). She's getting old, and has never acted like this before: she's not even meowing like usual. She's gone totally silent.

I'd take her to the vet, but I'm in a situation right now where I just don't have the money to, having just spent most of my money right before she started acting like this on updating my dog's shots.

What can I do to make her more comfortable in happy if she is in fact dying, or even just sick?
posted by Glitter Ninja to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Call as many vets as you can and tell them the situation. Surely there is one who will let you pay later to check the cat, and if necessary put her to sleep. It's a hard thing to do, but is definitely the most humane. I just went through this with my 15 year old collie.

Or perhaps call your local Human Society or equivalent. They may euthanize for no fee, or a small donation.

Don't be too proud to admit your financial situation, and I am sure you will find a good person to help you. Good luck. And sorry, I know how much it hurts.
posted by The Deej at 10:23 AM on November 4, 2006

Oh, and as far as comfort... just petting and holding is all you can do without a vet's help.
posted by The Deej at 10:24 AM on November 4, 2006

oh glitter ninja, this happened to me. My cat was eighteen years old and pretty frail, then one day she didn't jump on my bed to wake me up for breakfast, and I knew it was the end.

It actually took three more days before she finally died. I didn't want to take her to the vet because she was very shy and I was sure it would be better to let her die peacefully at home. In the mornings she wouldn't let me come near her, but at night she would sit on my lap for a little bit. She wasn't eating but she would lap up a little water from a dish I left nearby.

It was very hard for me though, and I'm not sure I could go through that again.
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:32 AM on November 4, 2006

what the deej said
posted by matteo at 10:38 AM on November 4, 2006

Sorry to hear this. I think deej has the right idea.

It's conceivable that she is not dying—I've seen animals with worms become listless and stiff. So do ask if the symptoms might be related to something else.
posted by adamrice at 11:01 AM on November 4, 2006

While it'd be a good idea to get the cat checked out by a vet if you have the money, if she is simply dying of old age I don't believe it's inhumane to let her die at home, at peace, rather than putting her down in a vet's office. Don't most humans hope to die like that? This is assuming she's just naturally reached the end of her lifespan rather than the victim of some ailment that is causing her a lot of pain.
I would make her a little bed by her favorite heating vent, with a heat pad if you have it, since she seems to like the warmth. Just spending time with her is probably the best thing you can do to make her happy.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:32 AM on November 4, 2006

13 or 14 is not that old for a cat these days. Call around, find someone. It could be a simple UT infection or if it is serious at least you'll have a chance to put her down. /rant Not having the money is a poor excuse. Pet owners need to be responsibe in these regards. /rant
posted by Gungho at 12:09 PM on November 4, 2006

On second thought, I agree with Gungho that 13 or 14 is not that old for a cat these days.

If your cat has been showing her symptoms for more than a few days, it's worth making sure that she is not just sick.

I still think letting an old cat die at home is the most humane way to go, however.
posted by maggiemaggie at 12:24 PM on November 4, 2006

Similarly, previously.
posted by rob511 at 2:30 PM on November 4, 2006

I second deej's advice. Get on the phone and start calling. You have been a responsible pet owner in getting your dogs vaccinated to maintain their health, extend that to Polly as well by calling vets for advice. It's quite possible that at 13/14 years old, she isn't dying but has a treatable condition, that won't cost the earth to fix or manage.

If you can't find a vet to advise you or let you pay later, ask relatives/friends for a loan for a just a diagnostic examination by a vet. if you have one and you can use it without busting up your financial situation badly use your credit card.

This isn't a suggestion for Polly's problem now, nor is it a dig at you, but a tip for your cat owning future - get yourself a good cat care book, written by a qualified vet which will have troubleshooting sections to help you to make an informed decision if a cat needs veterinary attention.

Good luck to you and Polly
posted by Arqa at 2:46 PM on November 4, 2006

My Cleo had similar symptoms, due to kidney failure. The vet gave her an intravenous liquids and she was able to perk up for a couple more years (although admittedly she grew more and more incontinent).
posted by Sara Anne at 3:24 PM on November 4, 2006

I've known a few cats sick from kidney failure to have these symptoms, just as Sara Anne pointed out.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:23 PM on November 4, 2006

I think my cat is dying.

I empathize, GlitterNinja, but remember: you really have no idea if your cat is dying or is simply suffering from an easily fixable, if serious, problem. Maybe offer the vet a payment plan with dates tied to your paychecks. Or ask your boss if you can borrow against your paycheck; I did that recently when I had to come up with vet bill money fast; my boss totally understood, which made me wish I'd asked much sooner. Even if yours doesn't, your vet almost certainly will.
posted by mediareport at 4:49 PM on November 4, 2006

Please, if she isn't eating or drinking, "force" feed her - place small portions of food in her mouth, hold jaw shut until she swallows. Please take a syringe or a teaspoon, and help her swallow some liquid - water, chicken broth, Lactaid. It takes very little time for a cat to develop fatty liver, which can be fatal, even if the reason she doesn't feel like eating is easily treated.

Polly is not that old. A good vet can evaluate her condition as many have said. Once you know what you're dealing with, you can proceed. Please don't give up on her too soon. She is your companion of many years.
posted by vers at 5:14 PM on November 4, 2006

Oh sweetie, a sick critter, especially one that you've had for a long time is always so hard. If you have a vet, I can't imagine that they would refuse to see your cat just because you're broke. I know my vet sees a ton of people that don't pay him because he cares about the critters.

13/14 is not "die from old age old" in many cases. My cats have all lived to 20+. My current old lady kitty will be turning 22 in January, and there have been a couple of times where I thought she was dying, but it was something that could be fixed fairly easily.

Most vets aren't open on Sundays, but many pharmacies are. If you go to a pharmacy and ask them for a non-needle syringe so that you can feed a sick cat, they'll give you one. (Walgreens has always been good to me about that sort of thing.) Get some kitten formula, and give her some via the syringe. It has a ton of nutrients and will get her some liquids.

Also, you can call your city pound, and ask them for a vet number. Generally those vets are much less concerned about cash, and more concerned about critters.

All that said, my thoughts are with you and Polly. I hope everything turns out happy.
posted by dejah420 at 6:10 PM on November 4, 2006

I have heard of veterinary technicians or assistants making house calls. I am not sure where you live, but that might be an option. They are cheaper than a vet visit, and might be able to could at least give you some idea of what is going on. Also, to second others posts, many vets will work out some type of payment plan, if you explain the financial situation. My cat had similar symptoms, and I really believed that he was about to die. He had kidney failure as well...Two days of fluids, he began to eat. That was 6 months ago, and he has never been healthier. Let us know what happens!
posted by engling at 7:01 PM on November 4, 2006

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