I need to have a life, but she will lose hers.
July 15, 2007 5:54 PM   Subscribe

My cat has had a great 20-year life full of affection, good food, lolling in the sun and catching mice, and though I'd like her to have more, I can't manage it. How can I think about this most wisely? I want to feel better than I do. I feel horrible. Conversely, is there some option I have missed?

I've done everything I can, and the only thing I have left to do next still doesn't feel right. I have set a date to have her put to sleep, the 24th. The backstory is complicated, but I will try to condense it. Basically, I need to go out of the country for a couple of months, and maybe longer next year, though by then I could probably take her with me. I need to go again to be with the one who loves me, the only person who did in these 40+ years. He couldn't get a visa to come here. Last year I left her alone with an expensive pet sitter to come and do the subcutaneous fluids daily. Honey (nickname) was freako from being alone. She depends on me for affection and serious tummy massage for her pain. She is very affectionate and doesn't mind being left with someone else in the house, but I couldn't get a real house sitter either.

I read these two threads on pet euthanasia but they don't quite solve my problem.

Her quality of life is good, despite the kidney failure, if I am here all the time to care for her. I work from home, so I have taken very good care of her. About once a year or so she has an episode. One was bleeding in her urine over several random days. One was can't eat and vomiting yellow slime. I take her to the vet and he gives me the technical fix and I go home and nurse her back to a stable state. I have been giving her subcu fluids for almost 4 years. She loves getting them. It's an 8-minutes' break of comfort and affection.

Were she a person, the person would say, "Let me live." I knew someone who died of cancer last week. He didn't choose euthanasia to avoid the decline, and I don't believe my cat wants to give up the ghost, though she was almost that bad during her episodes at times. But I need to have a life too. I have tried to get someone to care for her for a couple of months, but haven't found anyone who can cope with all of the above, and I can't really afford the pet sitter at $17 a day on top of everything else. She can't be in a kennel because she can't get the shots. Too weak. Ditto for getting her teeth cleaned again, too weak for anaesthetic. She can get a rabies-free certificate without a shot, and she might survive that one long flight in future if she gets the chance.

I had to euthanize a very sick cat before. I held him at the vet's office. He was basically on IV and would have had to stay on it. He was ready to go. I don't agree on avoiding the decline, as I don't believe she is "ready to die." I will take her to the vet and she will not be nervous or scared. She will go peacefully, and I will always have a wound of guilt inside me. It's like killing part of myself that's not ready to go. But I need to have my life.
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (59 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Why not take her with you?
posted by shivohum at 6:02 PM on July 15, 2007

If you euthanize the cat, you will be the sole source of sadness at that event. The cat can't be sad, because it's dead. It's not like the cat has a bunch of co-workers or family members that will miss her. Sure, the cat probably doesn't want to die. Living things tend to have that instinct. However, if the euthanasia works properly, she'll drift off to sleep (like you said) and she won't know what happened, ever.

I would recommend that you focus on your own perception of the situation and not worry about the cat, because the cat is irrelevant to her own death.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:08 PM on July 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I so completely sympathize - I put my cat down a few years ago, due to some problems that I could not fix. If you want to email me, email's in profile, your anonymity respected.
posted by tristeza at 6:09 PM on July 15, 2007

This totally made me cry and I am very sorry. Have you tried looking into local rescue homes that will take her and care for her when you leave? In Michigan, we have places like this. I feel like you have a chance and it appears that you care enough to look for similar locations and approach them with your situation. If you find somewhere near you, I would talk with them person to person as opposed to a telephone conversation.
posted by NotInTheBox at 6:10 PM on July 15, 2007

When I bought my first house, I took on the responsibility of caring for the very ill, elderly cat of the owner who was close to kidney failure -- so much so that he would never have made it through the quarantine in the country she was moving to -- and I considered it a privilege. Even though we didn't get as much time together as I would have liked, he was a sweet cat and I loved him til the end.

Have you considered taking her to a no-kill shelter and providing a substantial donation towards her care? Perhaps with the understanding that should you come back to where you live now, you will take her back, but you can't take her with you and don't want to put her down?

All the best in this very difficult decision.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:12 PM on July 15, 2007

I'm so very sorry that you're facing this terrible decision.

NotInTheBox said what I wanted to: Since you feel so strongly that she is not suffering or ready to die, I think before you proceed that you should contact cat rescue organizations (for example, Alley Cat Rescue, and if you research "cat rescue" and your city or town name you may well find more). Although your cat requires an extraordinary amount of care, there may be someone out there who can help you, especially if it's only for a 2-month window. I think it would be better for your peace of mind if you attempt to exhaust these possibilities before euthanization.

If the 24th is the latest possible date for the euthanization and the rescue option doesn't work out: whatever you decide, this is a terrible place for you to be in. Please be comforted by the fact that you've given this cat a long and well-loved life, one so much better than the vast majority of animals get to have. You have my respect and my sympathy.
posted by melissa may at 6:24 PM on July 15, 2007

It's very, very hard for me to not be snarky in this context.

However, I think you should consider contacting the animal shelter or a local rescue group, and/or craigslist, in that order. Tell them your situation, tell them you would be willing to help pay for the cats care via a large chunk donation, you just can't imagine putting it down. Add to that list visiting a local animal store, NOT a chain--something mom and pop where the owners give half a crap. Tell them---they often have resources.

If you go the craigslist route, make SURE you interview people first to make sure they don't just want your moneys. There are good wholesome people out there, you've just got to find one.

With that said, I'd not take my animal to a vet that would euthanize a cat because its owner wanted to move.
posted by TomMelee at 6:27 PM on July 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was where you are with a 20 year old cat. At some point it really is the end. Is that good life really that good? If you live in central Jersey, well, with my wife's permission, I would be happy to sit your baby through her trials. I did it with my poor cat well beyond where I probably should have, but, well, ......... Really though, if you can take her and you can then that is what you need to do if you can't part with her yet. At some point you will know that you have waited too long. It won't be any easier to let go, you just won't be able to do otherwise as that would be worse. It sucks, it sucks so, so, so much, but, it gets worse. Some year it might be your parent, and not your cat. This is one of those parts of life that just rip at our souls. God bless you.
posted by caddis at 6:29 PM on July 15, 2007

Do you live in or near Tucson? Email me if so. If not, my heart and wishes are with you and your cat friend.
posted by Snyder at 6:41 PM on July 15, 2007

My parents got a dog a few years ago from someone who was about to have her put down due to the rapidly declining health of the owner (even though the dog was old but in good health). The dog was upset for the first few weeks but eventually came to totally love my parents. The dog's dead now, but she had a couple of really good years (especially since she grew up in a town but my parents have an acre of land).

So.. if you can't guess, I'm going with the "find someone really good to take her" approach. I'm not quite so keen on shelters, etc, because you can't really know who's going to get her. The benefit of finding someone also means you can exchange Xmas cards with the new owner and maintain a weak link with your cherished pet. My parents exchanged cards with the dog's previous owner for a couple of years before letting her know of her death, and the previous owner was very happy and reassured about how it worked out.
posted by wackybrit at 6:43 PM on July 15, 2007

Also, this thread should prove that if you say where you are, then it's likely you'll find someone with a really big heart in your state to take her in. I'm not really sure why the anonymity to be honest.
posted by wackybrit at 6:45 PM on July 15, 2007

There are certain shelters/sanctuaries who might take your cat, especially if you also make a donation. One that comes to mind is Pets Alive in New York State.

I don't know that I can really change my stance on owning a pet. Adopting an animal is making a promise to them that you will take care of them through the rest of their life. It's your responsibility to find a way for her to get taken care of if you truly think that she is not ready to die. I don't understand how you can afford all of these trips abroad for months at a time but you can't afford a pet sitter.
posted by tastybrains at 6:46 PM on July 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

Would you really trust a beloved pet with a stranger? Love is great, but you have accountability for your pet. Is there a way to just leave for a week here and there instead of months?
posted by melissam at 6:47 PM on July 15, 2007

The cat is 20. It has kidney failure.

So, it can either be put down now, painlessly, by its loving owner, having had a good, long, healthy life, or.....it can spend its last days alone, in a stinking, loud, scary shelter, in a cage, getting shots and meds all the time, and being sick. I know what I would choose.
posted by tristeza at 6:48 PM on July 15, 2007 [11 favorites]

I urge you to contact Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah -- website is www.bestfriends.org. This wonderful group takes pets that people can no longer care for. You didn't say where you live, and Kanab is kinda hard to get to from anywhere outside of Utah. But there are good discussion groups on the website to help people through agonizing times, and you might even find a Good Samaritan. If they can't help you, please contact a rescue group where you live.

Another great resource is the wonderful Larry Powell of Dallas, whose site is www.readlarrypowell.com. He doesn't confine his animal-saving efforts to the Dallas area; he has "correspondents" from all over who e-mail him about needy critters, abusive pet owners, money-short shelters, etc. He and his network have helped pull many doomed dogs and cats (probably gerbils, hamsters, parakeets and rabbits, too) from the brink. E-mail him! He does a great job of tugging at animal lovers' heartstrings.

And please don't kill your cat before giving someone a chance to save her life.
posted by Smalltown Girl at 6:48 PM on July 15, 2007

Over here many vet clinics board cats, with an emphasis of looking after chronically ill pets that can't go to a normal kennel or cattery. We were going to board our terminally ill cat with our wonderful vet a couple of years ago, sadly he died first. They have normal cattery staff giving attention to the cats, and vet staff who are able to give the medication/ monitor her condition.

Call around, see if there are similar services in your area. Start with your vet first as they'll know your cat and know how much she means to you and what a good owner you are. And if they don't board pets ask if they know of anyone who may help or if there are any options you haven't thought of. It could be that a smaller cattery may be able to look after your cat properly with the medication and all.

I'm sure there are still options for you to explore, you'll just need to start ringing organisations and asking for help. Good luck!
posted by shelleycat at 6:54 PM on July 15, 2007

You seem to be almost daring someone to suggest that living your life and seeking your happiness as an individual supercede your responsibility to your ailing and very elderly cat. Well, they do.

An animal which is "ready to die" is an animal which is very far gone indeed and in great pain. Conclusions based on the premise of what your cat would say if she were a person, or comparing what your cat wants to what a person with cancer wants are false conclusions, because your cat is not a human being. She has NO abstract conceptualization of her life or its end.

I have given a very elderly cat daily subcutaneous fluids after treating it for diabetes for five years. I understand that you have gone a very long way for your cat. I am not a person who discounts the life of a pet frivolously. But your cat is at the end of its life, her life contains more pain than you realize, subjecting her to an international relocation would not be humane, nor would forcing her to try to acclimate to a new owner. And the necessities imposed by the facts of your life right now are not selfish reasons for making this decision now.

It will always, in the end, be a decision. The timing of it will always be fundamentally arbitrary. I know it doesn't feel that way but that is the objective truth. These are the vexing realities imposed on us by the responsibility of euthanasia we have for creatures which are feeling and sentient but which do not have any abstract, intellectual conceptions of anything.
posted by nanojath at 6:59 PM on July 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry. You obviously love your cat and want to do right by her.

(On preview) I'm in intellectual agreement with nanojath, but here's my emotional take on it: I lost a cat to oral cancer last year. Her prognosis was four months, and we hoped she would have one last happy summer with us with a grassy back yard she could roam in. But we took her to the vet for the last time after only three weeks, when the wire around her jaw broke off, putting her back into real pain bad enough that she stopped eating again. She had several bad days between her first signs of illness and her diagnosis and initial treatment, two good weeks where she was relaxed, playful, ravenous and purring, then at least one bad day before the end. I still really regret not having the nerve to take her in while she was still feeling good, rather than the day after the wire broke, when she tried to hide from me that morning, fought the gentle vet's needle, puked from the sedative the vet administered, fought the needle again, and finally had to have anaesthetic gas administered before the final injection could be made.

I now feel that if any pet of mine is well and truly ill, and already has undergone some bad days, I should be ready to take it to the vet while it is still happy and unafraid. I am never, ever delaying like that again.

I no longer think about how much longer a cat, or any other pet, would want to live. I think that our pets generally live in the moment. They remember bits and pieces of their past, but they don't settle down to sleep each night feeling entitled to another morning. If they're in pain NOW, that's what matters to them. I don't think our pets can figure out that eventually, if they're lucky, the pain will end and they'll be happy again.

It sounds as if your cat is very, very ill, and you have been heroic is keeping her alive as long as you have. But she probably has some very bad days ahead of her whether she stays with you, travels with you, or stays with a kind, quiet person, let alone some potentially stressful shelter environment.

I think the fact that you are making a choice that seems selfish to you is distracting you from the fact that even if you weren't leaving the country, you would still have a very, very ill cat who, as you said, is ready to go with you to the vet peacefully and unafraid.

This is your decision. This is your beloved pet. It may seem selfish to euthanize her now, but it actually may be the most selfless thing you can do. You will mourn her, but she won't mourn herself. Her last days and last moments can be calm and happy if you are prepared to take on this terrible but necessary responsibility.

Good luck, and take care.
posted by maudlin at 7:21 PM on July 15, 2007 [6 favorites]

If you're within a couple hundred miles of Chicago, e-mail me! I just ordered a custom "Pet Friendly" vanity plate for my car. I'm a fantastic animal caretaker. I have references. :)

To answer shivohum's question: because taking a pet to another country usually involves things like 6 months' quarantine.

And to address the poster's questions: I don't think I could do it; I think I'd probably wait for the cat to die before moving. I mean, really, and I'm not being snarky at all, how much longer could she possibly live? But I'd rather wait until it's her time (or until euthanasia seems like the best option due to her health) than to euthanize her now. That said, I don't guess I'd think any less of you if you decide to go that route.
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:22 PM on July 15, 2007

(PS: I've been "lucky" so far ... having had a lot of pets, they've all died pretty quickly on their own when it came time, or in the case of my only cat to die, she was diagnosed and euthanized the same day because her condition was so severe. I do not look forward to having to make hard decisions like that and I do not envy you. Best wishes.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:24 PM on July 15, 2007

Your cat has led an extremely long life. She has been loved and well-cared for. As an animal lover myself, I can sympathize with how you must feel.

I am going to disagree with the others who have suggested that it would be more humane to place her in shelter or to give her to a stranger. She's 20 years old, attached to her human, and such a drastic change would probably be very traumatic and emotionally painful for her. She would likely feel confused and abandoned.

She doesn't have the concept of time that you and I do. If you don't put her to sleep now, chances are you would still have to make that decision fairly soon - 20 years is already a very lengthy lifespan for a cat.

I would give her a week of complete pampering. Rent some bird and rodent documentaries. Feed her some fresh tuna and small pieces of cooked chicken. Give her lots of attention. Then, let her pass on to the next world.
posted by Ostara at 7:30 PM on July 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

Right after I moved away from my childhood home, across the country, the cat I had grown up with my entire life become very ill and had to be put to sleep. I had a feeling this was coming when I left home, and was able to say goodbye to her in my way. My father called to tell me the news some days after it had happened, and I was pretty comfortable with it. However, a couple of days later he sent me this email, which I saved, because I felt it put into words quite perfectly the attitude we have to have about such things. I hope you find it helpful, and I'm sorry that you have to go through this.

"It was good to talk to you last night, and I'm glad to hear that things are going basically well. I was sorry to have to tell you about Felix, but didn't want to email you about it.

The deaths of pets have always been very hard on me, and makes me think I shouldn't have them. People who get a certain kind of dog one after another, and just have the old one put down and go out and get a new one, are lucky, I guess. I couldn't do it.

The thing to remember, which I have to remind myself about, is that we give pets every day of life that they have, by letting their parents have pups or kittens, or in our case by letting a lost kitten stay with us. Then we shelter them and care for them throughout their lives, protect them from coyotes or the bully-cat next door, etc., get them rabies shots.

When they get old, we have to take the responsibility for that too, and not prolong their lives beyond the point that is natural for them. Dear Feely was never going to dash up a tree or race around the kitchen chasing a cork again, never lead a cat's life, in other words. She was just going to be sick and in pain.

When you get the cute kitten or puppy, you have to remind yourself that this day will come and that you can't just refuse to face it by spending huge amounts of money on a lost cause. As someone once said, there's no cure for the common birthday.

Anyway, I just wanted to say how much I appreciated how loving and affectionate you always were toward Feely, maybe more than anyone in the family, so much so that she never forgot you even when you were away for long periods. I think you were her favorite."
posted by autojack at 7:48 PM on July 15, 2007 [10 favorites]

If you do find someone to care for your cat, you need to be prepared for the worst while you are gone. The cat may pass on naturally, from mere age. Or, in the really worst case, the cat starts going bad, and the keeper needs to make a decision about treatment/putting it sleep. Very clear instructions and authorizations would be good.

Best of luck
posted by Jacen at 7:48 PM on July 15, 2007

I have had many cats, several of which lived to nearly 20 years, and with one exception, when I had them put down, I was there with them and held them during the process. My vets sedate them before euthanizing them, so they drift off to sleep in my arms before anything scary happens. The actual euthanasia then takes seconds, and is just an overdose of anasthesia. If you've been put under before during surgery, you know how it would feel if you were aware, which isn't bad at all. The only thing that would make it hard for us to exit this way is that we have the gift/curse of time perception... but our animal friends live in the eternity of the instant. As far as kitty knows, it's just a routine trip to the vet, and she's made many, it sounds. They learn about death for the first time when they die.

I say all that to convey my sincere advice for you to try and keep yourself from anthropomorphizing the cat, and to gently suggest that she will not hate you! It's just not there.

Your only choices at this point seem to be grieving over her death, or grieving over leaving her with a stranger. Either way, you're going to grieve the loss. With one, you'll grieve with certainty and with the other, with a great deal of uncertainty. THe outcome will be the same soon, either way. Kitty can't last much longer with all this going wrong.

It does not mean you are unkind, nor does it mean you are a bad person for being interested in yourself now. You've done well by her all these years, and it's no kindness to prolong discomfort to a friend. It will come to the same point soon, regardless.

I do think that no one will know or care for the animal like you do, and her comfort level will decline with another 'owner', so a handoff is a cruel twist that again, will end in the same result very soon. Better you than a stranger to be there when she is put down.

I am sorry for your loss either way. We put a lot of love into our pets, and it is hard, hard, hard to say goodbye to them. A thousand hugs to you.
posted by FauxScot at 8:36 PM on July 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

When you bring a cat (or any pet, but I'm a 5 cat mom)home you take on the responsibility for their entire life. They give you the joy and unconditional love of their young and mid years and you give them the care of their old years in return. To the end. If your lover truly cares about your life he would be patient for this part of your life to draw to a close.

I have a 17 year old diabetic, arthritic old ladycat who I love though I've never been her favorite. We've brought her back from the brink twice. We won't do it again since it's getting just too hard for her to come back from these things. And it will break my heart. You have a responsibility to this 20 year friend to accurately judge her quality of life and when it declines let her go, but not before, if that means you put your life on hold for a bit, then you do (we haven't been away for than 4 days in the 5 years since our cat was diagnosed with diabetes)because of what she gave you in the previous 20 years. You can't abandon her at this late stage, there's no doubt it will kill her. Cats may live in the eternal present when in pain, but they do form bonds based on history and I believe love.

Think hard about whether giving her the subcu fluids is keeping her in good quality of life (we've decided against that for ours) and if it is, then stay. If you are prolonging and she's in pain or not doing her catly things, then let her go. But you have a responsibility.
posted by pywacket at 8:41 PM on July 15, 2007

I'm sorry. This is a difficult decision to make.

I had to euthanize my cat last May because of renal failure. I regret waiting until I thought he was "ready to go", because when that time came he was in a lot of discomfort/pain.

I raised an eyebrow when you said that your cat enjoys getting subcu fluids...I have yet to encounter any animal that "enjoys" getting subcu fluids. Repeat needle sticks and cold liquid under the skin isn't fun.

I think that setting a date is a very humane decision to make, and like Ostara suggested, pamper her for a week. 20 years is a long time for a cat, and it sounds like she's had a good life. Good luck.
posted by bolognius maximus at 8:47 PM on July 15, 2007

I'm sorry, but I do not agree with the people who suggest you place this cat in a shelter or find a new home for her, animals live in the moment, they care about quality of life, your cat's quality of life will suffer greatly if you send her away to let her live out the rest of her days with strangers in a strange place. Letting her go a bit earlier than she might have done otherwise, but still while she is happy, comfortable, and with you there, is the right thing to do in my opinion - she won't know that she's going to the vet to be put down, but she definitely will know if you are there with her, and she sure as hell will know if all of a sudden you're gone and she's somewhere she doesn't recognize with people she doesn't know.

If you take her to the vet (or better yet, have the vet come to your home) and have her humanely euthanized she won't know or care that she's being put to sleep, she will have you there, stroking her and talking to her, which is probably the greatest comfort she knows in life, she will go while she is happy and comfortable and knowing you are there. I think it's the worst kind of misguided anthropomorphism to think that a twenty year old cat in poor health would be better off being uprooted and put through the stress and fear of being placed in a strange home at best and a shelter at worst to squeeze out a few months of life (a life which will in all likelihood be shortened even more anyway, because of this stress), than being peacefully euthanized in familiar surroundings, with her oldest friend there with her. And I say this not only for the cat's sake, but also because there are so many animals who are healthy and young in desperate need, the biggest donation won't change the fact that this cat would be taking a space a healthy young animal could have. The cat is not only very elderly, but also has a terminal health problem, let her go in peace and do not feel guilty for it, at this point, what you owe your cat is a pain-free, spoiled-rotten life with a minimum of stress (even if it is somewhat shortened), not eking out every last second of existence until someone (who doesn't know her like you do) decides that she's had enough.

I love animals, I take pet ownership very seriously and have little or no sympathy for people who treat pets as disposable, but nobody should be trying to make you feel guilty for deciding to put your very elderly, very ill cat to sleep under these circumstances. You love your cat, you have done right by her so far, you would not be doing her wrong by letting her go while she is still happy (and in my humble opinion, you would be doing her much harm and enormously mistaking her real needs by placing her in a strange place to live out the last days of her life).
posted by biscotti at 8:55 PM on July 15, 2007 [16 favorites]

My gut reaction is "Keep her as long as you can! Put your life on hold! Don't end it yet!"

But I've also been through the end of an ailing, sick pet. My parents put my dog down maybe a year ago. I had been away at college and hadn't seen her for a year and a half--partly because I couldn't bear to. Their descriptions of her life for the past two years was terrible. When I left for college she was neurotic, prone to going to the bathroom in the house, and sometimes achy in the joints, but still had happy moments. At the end she could barely move, was running into things, couldn't distinguish between indoors and outdoors, went to the bathroom everywhere if my mom (her primary caretaker) was away for more than an hour, and had stopped eating and drinking. It was terrible. She was not happy or enjoying anything--indeed, it's possible she was no longer mentally capable of it. Her body and mind had been collapsing for a long time and because of the occasional few good days she had we ignored the many, many bad ones.

Animals remember people, they remember other animals. They form bonds. But they do not reflect on the events of their life, do not look forward to the future, and do not have a hold on life outside of the basic survival instinct the way people do. Your cat is old and sick. I agree with those who say it would be cruel to give her to a new owner now. It would be confusing and new and painful--it's hard for healthy, young cats to adjust to that, not just old, sick ones.
posted by schroedinger at 9:18 PM on July 15, 2007

This is from the poster:

"* I didn't realize about no-kill shelters, so I will look into that in the morning.

What I would say if I could reply to the group is that it is a two-month window now, but it is going to be longer next year. She would be okay with someone for 2 months. She's been with others when I travelled before she was sick. However, it is true that if she has an episode or meets her end while I am away, that will be hard on her as I don't think anyone would have the patience for her that I have when she is unwell. She is rather attached to me. The kidney failure has been almost 4 years and the LDR has been 3. That is a long time to be apart. The international trip would be too hard for my cat, and it would have to be repeated. I already tried craiglist. No luck. Of course.

*Ostara, I have indeed been giving her lots of chicken. If I could mark best answers, it would be nanojath, maudlin, autojack, jacen….

The vet -- euthanasia was an option nearly four years ago when she was attacked, lost a cruciate ligament and then got poisoned by the painkillers (at a different vet office with an idiot substitute vet) and went into kidney failure. It was subcu or euthanasia."
posted by tristeza at 9:39 PM on July 15, 2007

My gut reactions have nothing to do with your karma, only my own. However I would be remiss in my spiritual duties not to remind you of your own karma, and the choice you make here is bound to have a consequence. Is it a consequence you can live with? Only you can answer.
posted by desjardins at 9:41 PM on July 15, 2007

More from the poster:

"* Southwestern BC. She loves people, is very
affectionate, doesn't like terriers and cats but
doesn't mind some calm larger dogs. Because she's
old, really best with someone who knows cats but
doesn't have one right now.

* Someone asked how I can afford "all these trips."
My answer: I took one trip for two weeks. The pet
sitter cost $200. I have seen my love for one trip of
10 days in 3 years. What "all those trips"? The
problem with the pet sitter is my cat was freako. The
problem wasn't the short term high cost. But right
now it would be $1100 for the pet sitter, plus about
125 for her usual supplies, plus she would still be
freako, so another say $500 for someone getting a
pittance to have her in their home. We're way over
$1500 for 2 months, and that is something I can't
start or keep doing. I can make this trip but I am
losing two months' income, and I still have to cover
my mortgage. Yeah, there are homeless people, but any
reliable ones? It ain't easy. Judgmental
incomprehending people are the reason I posted
anonymously. I can afford 2 months at my love's home
because he paid the plane ticket and we will stay in
his little apartment and ride our bikes and live dirt
cheap in one of the lesser EU nations. I seriously
thought about emailing petsounds last year when he
wanted a place to hang out and read. But I thought
that was a crazy thing to do.

I emailed that Larry Powell guy someone mentioned, so
thanks for that, too."
posted by tristeza at 10:36 PM on July 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you take her to the vet (or better yet, have the vet come to your home) and have her humanely euthanized she won't know or care that she's being put to sleep, she will have you there, stroking her and talking to her, which is probably the greatest comfort she knows in life, she will go while she is happy and comfortable and knowing you are there.

That is so sane. It's also worth mentioning that biscotti is a (former?) vet tech who has a long history of giving great pet-related advice in AskMe. Her advice above is once again spot on.
posted by mediareport at 11:09 PM on July 15, 2007

I cannot believe all the people suggesting you take her to a rescue.

This is a twenty-year-old cat. She knows you and loves you and trusts you. She lives comfortably in your home. She feels safe and cared for.

If you send her to a shelter/rescue/etc, she will not adjust well. She's twenty years old, and she's sick. Sending her to a strange environment at this age and in this state of health is extremely cruel.

It drives me crazy when "animal lovers" think they're doing a domesticated pet some enormous service by keeping it alive above all else. She's a cat. Her mind isn't like your mind. She won't think "Well, here I am in this strange environment without my beloved human, BUT AT LEAST I'M ALIVE, I'm so happy and grateful!"

She'll be freaked out. The odds are very good that the stress will push her already-worn-out body beyond some invisible line, and she'll die in this strange place.

I think the kindest thing you can do is find a vet who will come to your home and put her to sleep while you hold her and pet her in her familiar environment. The second-kindest would be to take her to a vet's office early in the day so there's no frightening waiting around.

Don't listen to the people who are trying to guilt you into feeling like you're pondering doing something terrible. This is a beloved cat, but it's still a cat. And the "please let someone save your cat's life" business- guys, the cat is twenty years old. Its life is close to being over no matter what the poster chooses to do. Is it really better that it dies in a strange environment with people it doesn't know?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:56 PM on July 15, 2007 [6 favorites]

I second thehmsbeagle. Put her to sleep before she experiences a lot more pain and suffering. You'll feel guilty; expiate it with a charitable act towards other animals by volunteering at a shelter. What is most significant here is your emotional attachment to your cat who has already survived far past her normal span because of your love and care. The act of euthanasia is not an immoral one, especially when other cats are dying every day for lack of a home. But it is an emotionally significant act, and I hope you can have a period of respectful grief rather than agonizing over the decision.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:42 AM on July 16, 2007

She has had a very very long life, and a good life. If it were my decision, I would let her go while her last moments can be spent in the arms of the person she loves the most.

Whatever you choose, it will break your heart. If she died peacefully in her sleep tonight it would break your heart. Whenever I read these threads, I look at my 8 year old (and currently very healthy) dog and think of the future, and my heart breaks a little. But they are so worth the pain, aren't they?

My best wishes and sympathy to you.
posted by happyturtle at 4:19 AM on July 16, 2007

If it is any consolation, even when your cat is in the most miserable of states it is not easy putting them down, and there is still some regret, still some remorse. I think you're doing the right thing.
posted by furtive at 5:25 AM on July 16, 2007

Putting her down now strikes me as your least worst option. It will make you feel like crap. All I can advise to help you deal with it is to keep reminding yourself that 20 years is a very long life for a cat, and that she had a good time right up to the last minute of that very long life, and that's because of you.

Also, if you're going to do this, you must, must must take full ownership of the decision and the deed. Blaming the one who loves you for putting you in the position of having to kill your cat is not something you ever want to end up doing.
posted by flabdablet at 6:18 AM on July 16, 2007

I'll take a few approaches with this one. You should know, before you read the rest of my (REALLY LONG) extended posting: I think you should euthanize your cat. If you don't agree with that choice, or you don't want to know why, skip right now to the attribution at the bottom of my post and start reading the next one.

People will tell you "don't kill your cat," but there's a moral judgment wrapped up in that statement, obvious by its biased use of the word "kill". It makes you feel like you're murdering your cat. You're not murdering her, you're making a decision that she's incapable of making. That's your job, as her owner and protector, to keep her from harm and from suffering. You signed up for that duty when you adopted her.

Since you're anthropomorphizing your cat, allow me to continue that cycle for you: Your cat, if she were a human, would be able to choose the method of her passing (moral and ethical debates aside, it's something that we humans can technically do).

If she were a human, she may be thinking, "Hell, my best friend in the entire world is leaving, and I can't go with her because the trip will kill me. I don't want to go live in a convalescent home. I can't survive on my own, and there's nobody else I trust to keep me alive. I've outlived all my friends (20 years is a VERY long life for a cat), and that life has been filled with love. I'm not getting any better, and my suffering is going to get worse. I choose to go out on top, as they say. I want to die with my best friend holding me in her arms."

Yes, that may be a bit of a stretch, but if you're going to attribute human characteristics to your cat, don't attribute a specific personality as well. Consider that her personality is unique and unknowable, and you can't predict what she'd want.

And then, when you've realized that you're in an impossible position (because you can't possibly predict what she'd want, and she can't possibly tell you), consider this:

She's a cat, and doesn't have that kind of foresight or self awareness. You are empowered with making her decisions for her. That's your job and duty as her owner. She can't survive on her own, and her life has already exceeded expectations. She is terminally ill, and will deteriorate in time. That deterioration will occur even faster if you take her with you, give her to a rescue, or leave her with a stranger for care. And natural death is rarely peaceful.

Maybe you're the religious sort (I'm not, but hey, if the angle helps, so be it), and you don't believe you have the right to end the life of another of God's creatures. If you're Christian or Jewish, remember: God gave humans the job of overseeing the animals. You are her steward. It's imhumane and potentially sacrilege to refuse to make the humane choice.

My final thought: Instead of thinking, "should I be the one to end my cat's existance?" try thinking: "Do I want my cat to die, struggling and gasping, without me?"

Of course not. Nobody would, that would be cruel and inhumane.

If you act now to end her life, you will naturally end her good moments as well as her bad ones. The vet can come to your home (many vets are willing to make housecalls for this sort of thing), and will give your cat a shot. Within seconds, she'll be asleep. Seconds more, and she'll breathe her last breath. If she's normally docile with shots, she'll be docile with this one. She'll relax in your arms and ... it will be over.

And then you can reflect on the wonderful times you've had with her in twenty years with your loved one in Europe, free of worry. You'll feel guilty for a while, and that's natural. But you did your duty as the steward of your pet; you made a compassionate choice to prevent a tortuous death.
posted by Merdryn at 7:35 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

What thehmsbeagle said, times a thousand. I have a friend who has to give up her two cats to move in with the man she plans to marry, who is violently allergic to them. But those cats are two years old. They can go to another home, where they can spend years being loved and learning to love another family.

No one else is going to adopt your cat. Your cat doesn't want to find a new owner. If you take it to a shelter, yes, you're "letting it live" for a few more months- but it'll likely be living in an unfamiliar area, or at worst a cage, spending its remaining days wondering when you're coming back for it. I'm sorry if that's depressing- in fact I just teared up writing such a scene- but it's important to ask yourself if you really, truly think that'll make you feel "better."

You ask about what the cat would want, and said it would say "I want to live." I don't think that's it exactly. Your cat wants to live with you. It also wants to die with you.

Let it. Please.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:18 AM on July 16, 2007

Your cat wants to live with you. It also wants to die with you.

Let it. Please.

The above might be misconstrued. The owner should keep going, by all means.

I have put two cats "to sleep" at the end of very traumatic, long illnesses (them, not me), staying with them and petting them as they died. Both times, it was upsetting. Both times, I was more upset than they were. Both times, I thought later that they might have been better off I had let it happen earlier.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:26 AM on July 16, 2007

I cannot believe all the people suggesting you take her to a rescue.

Neither can I.

Sending her to a strange environment at this age and in this state of health is extremely cruel.

Agreed. Beyond cruel.

I can understand the guilt you must be going through. But let her go in a loving environment, in your arms. May we all slip towards death so peacefully!

Please let us know how it turns out, and please don't feel guilty. You obviously have done the best for this kitty. She is lucky to have you.
posted by agregoli at 8:28 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I hope I can sound as compassionate writing this as I feel, and maybe a little more coherent.

I think there is so much more going on in your post than sadness around your cat. I think there's sadness around having felt lonely in the past, maybe anger around the one you love not being able to come to you, guilt around doing something big to make yourself happy.

I say that because I believe that really, pets are almost entirely mirrors; we have them because of how they make us feel, not because of how they feel. I have two lovely young cats who I adore, but who are probably less sentient than the pig I ate for breakfast on the weekend. If I were to have them both painlessly euthanized at home this morning I would not be doing them harm, yet it would be a bad thing to do as a human, because it would make me look and feel like a person who treats things I love as disposable, who is cold and uncaring.

I think this is where your feelings of guilt come, but in this situation I think they're misplaced. Think of your cat's life as the sum total of what she has experienced - she has no knowledge of what she has not. Cats do not think "I want to see my grandchildren grow up", or "I want to live to 100 like my mother", conversely they don't think "I've had a lot of good years" or "A good death is better than a long life". By preventing future pain, you are doing the right thing, a painless death for a cat is the same thing as you or I going to sleep at night expecting to wake up in the morning and not waking.

I don't even want to go into the potential horrors of leaving her to die with someone else, others have described the possibilities better than I can, but they are real. She could go very soon after you leave, and very unpleasantly.
posted by crabintheocean at 8:45 AM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I suppose the reason putting the cat down turned me off so much is because the primary reason seems to be the convenience for OP rather than what's in the best interest of the cat. Possibly, probably, the state of the cat is so poor that it would make sense to have her euthanized.

However, I know people who have had perfectly young, healthy cats euthanized solely for convenience, and I want to make it perfectly clear to any future people searching for answers on whether it's ethical to euthanize a cat because you are moving or traveling or whatever, that CONVENIENCE is not an appropriate reason for euthanizing a pet. And that for a young, healthy cat, giving them a chance to find a loving family is much better than having them killed.

Now, if the cat is too sickly and weak to continue living much longer, is in pain, and could not handle boarding or being sent to a sanctuary, then euthanasia does seem appropriate.
posted by tastybrains at 9:10 AM on July 16, 2007

You still haven't mentioned where you live now. If you're anywhere near New York State, contact me. My wife is a licensed vet tech and we'll be happy to take care of her. If you live near the Philadelphia area, we'll be there at the end of the month (the 28th, so it might miss your window) and can pick her up then, if you like.
posted by Spoonman at 9:41 AM on July 16, 2007

This is a potentially an odd-ball suggestion, but: if you live alone in your own place (you mentioned a mortgage), you might be able to get an artist or writer house/catsitter to stay with your cat for no payment whatsoever. Artists and writers apply for such "residencies" all the time, in order to get away and work privately for a month or two.
posted by xo at 9:47 AM on July 16, 2007

If you're near Philadelphia, please contact me (email is in profile). I work with a rescue organization, and there are resources.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:38 PM on July 16, 2007

You still haven't mentioned where you live now.

Yes, she has:
More from the poster:
"* Southwestern BC.

Another vote for euthanasia here. Twenty years is a good long life for a cat. Let her go before her quality of life takes a serious nosedive.

tastybrains: Please keep your psychologizing, projection, and propaganda out of this. The poster is having a hard enough time without you adding to it.
posted by languagehat at 1:14 PM on July 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

WTF, languagehat, how is it propaganda to state that if the sole reason is convenience, then it is wrong to kill the cat? My first comment noted a sanctuary to which people can entrust their cats to be cared for. I added my second comment because it does seem in this case that perhaps euthanization is the right thing to do, but knowing that other people may come back and read this thread, I felt that it was important to emphasize that euthanasia is not appropriate when you're not talking about an elderly & ill cat.

And to speak about psychologizing and projection, what about the dozens of answers professing to know what the inner workings of a frigging cat's mind might be? You don't know, I don't know, and OP doesn't know, but she thinks her own cat wants to live.

Furthermore, the question was for options that she may have missed, not a tally of votes of those in favor of euthanasia, so at least I provided an answer to the question.
posted by tastybrains at 1:30 PM on July 16, 2007

Your first comment was OK except for the nasty conclusion: "I don't understand how you can afford all of these trips abroad for months at a time but you can't afford a pet sitter." I have no idea why you felt the need to add your second comment, since you admit that "probably, the state of the cat is so poor that it would make sense to have her euthanized"; the only explanation that makes sense is that you just had to propagandize for your fervently held belief, even though it was irrelevant to this particular case. Spare me the stuff about "other people may come back and read this thread": this isn't an encyclopedia entry, this is advice to help one particular poster, which you're not doing. Instead, you're insulting her. Please don't.
posted by languagehat at 1:47 PM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

My point is this:

1. If convenience is the sole reason for euthanasia, I think it's the owner's responsibility to seek out a no-kill shelter or new home for the cat.

2. If the cat is so ill that it won't thrive upon finding sanctuary or a new home, then euthanasia is appropriate.

I'm not a vet and I haven't examined Anonymous' cat, so I can't say that it should be put down or not. I can say that there are 20 year old cats who are quite robust and happy with their lives, and I can say that Anonymous has her own doubts of whether the cat's life is over.

Furthermore, I have posted my own opinions, just like everyone else has.
posted by tastybrains at 2:15 PM on July 16, 2007

I think "convenience" is a very unfair term to use. Sometimes human life has to take precedence over animal life, and since in this case we're talking about a twenty year old cat with a health problem, losing in all likelihood at most a few months of life, and a major, life-changing event for the owner, characterizing having the cat put to sleep now rather than in a few months as "convenience" is a bit much. This is not a case of an owner who got a kitten for Christmas and wants to kill it a year later because it sheds and isn't so cute anymore. This is hardly a case of an owner treating a pet as disposable, anonymous has put a lot of time, effort and money into this cat (not to mention the emotional investment), sometimes life presents us with difficult choices, but it's neither unreasonable nor unfair for this cat to be euthanized now, while she is still happy and with anonymous. What's unreasonable and unfair is suggesting that the cat would be better off in a shelter or rehomed with strangers, or that anonymous would be being a bad owner to this cat by putting her to sleep now so that they can get on with their life.

Our responsibility to our animals is to ensure that they live as happy and comfortable a life as possible and to treat them fairly and humanely, and we need to keep sight of what really matters to animals, not what we think would matter to us in their situation (but with all our human abilities intact, like the ability to anticipate death, or consider the future). Sure, many 20 year old cats are perfectly happy, but they're still at the very top end of their species' natural lifespan, you're hardly robbing a cat of some meaningful amount of life by putting it to sleep at age 20.
posted by biscotti at 3:08 PM on July 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have been thinking about this & how I have responded to Anonymous' post. My opinion has been colored by past experiences that get me riled up when it comes to euthanising an animal that is not in extreme pain at the moment.

I am sorry, Anonymous, for not having expressed more sympathy for your situation. I don't know why I felt the need to respond so harshly. After thinking about it, partially due to languagehat & biscotti's comments, and partially from discussing it with a friend, that the OP probably doesn't quite do the situation justice, or I just didn't read into it enough.

Anonymous, maybe your real reason for posting was that you do know that your cat can't survive your leaving for any amount of time, but that you aren't sure you are ready to give her and her unconditional love up. You know your cat better than anyone, and your vet comes in second. If you and your vet agree that it will be far less traumatic to euthanise her than to put her through pet sitting or a foster home situation, which it seems like it will be, then you should not be hard on yourself or feel guilty. Euthanasia is never an easy decision to make. But you need to be honest with yourself about the remainder of your cat's life. It does sound like she is too weak & ill to last much longer and that euthanasia might be the right thing to do.

I'm sorry for being overly judgemental and black & white here.
posted by tastybrains at 3:32 PM on July 16, 2007

From the poster:

"*I will contact shelters in case they have contacts,
know someone who could take care of my girl for 2
months. She is not going to a shelter or group
situation. She would hate that, and it would be
extremely stressful and cruel."
posted by tristeza at 4:01 PM on July 16, 2007

I'm going to urge you to contact Best Friends and just ask their advice. Providing homes for pets like yours is their specialty (my mom actually has an arrangement with them and a bequest in her will for them to take over the care of her three dogs after she passes away, because I am not able to). It is doubtful that they can take her, but I'd be very surprised if they couldn't suggest somewhere more local to you that can help.
posted by anastasiav at 4:31 PM on July 16, 2007

I've sat and held lots and lots of animls while they were euthanized, most of whom belonged to other people who made them linger in pain for a long time. "Better a few weeks too soon than a minute too late" is my mantra.

Spoil her rotten and then have her put down before she is in agony. Animals are tough and I don't think people realize how much pain they are in most of the time, that or they rationalize their decision to take extraordinary medical measures. This trip may have precipitated the decision but it's not a bad decision at all for a 20 year old cat who has to receive painful injections daily.
posted by fshgrl at 6:24 PM on July 16, 2007

On rereading, and on reading the posts since mine, and thinking back on my short time with Elvis (yes, that was really his name, don't look at me, I didn't name him) ---- even though he was really happy and sweet to me during the time we had together, I can't help but wonder if the stress of losing "his" human didn't hasten his kidney failure more than if she hadn't moved away.

I'm throwing my lot in with the spoil rotten/have good vet come to your home and put her down posters. It's awful -- and I had to put my next cat after Elvis down prematurely thanks to a vet's terrible, terrible misdiagnosis -- but at least she'll have you there.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:48 PM on July 16, 2007

You could always put her up for adoption in the time you have left before you leave. You may be surprised to find that someone out there is willing to take on a special-needs cat. If you find someone who gives you a good feeling and inspires your trust, then let them take over.

You are not the only person in the world who could care for this cat, are you? It might seem like you are, but since the stakes are life and death, it's worth looking, isn't it?

I'm not saying avoid euthanasia at all costs. It sounds like a perfectly reasonable decision. But if it's causing you this much grief, look for a 3rd solution. A well-crafted Craigslist ad could easily get a ton of replies. Try catster.com too.
posted by scarabic at 2:24 PM on July 17, 2007

Update from the poster:

"I am grateful to those who offered to take her,
caddis, Snyder and Spoonman. It's the first time I
wished I was from the USA instead of Canada. Sorry if
I missed anyone, as I still am not seeing so clearly.
I felt understood best by nanojath, maudlin, Fauxscot
and merdryn, and I appreciate the efforts to help me
understand the situation. The idea that there's
something arbitrary about the timing of this was most
helpful. There was. I put her on life support and it
was my responsibility to take her off at some point,
though it hurts like hell. The past two weeks have
been a nightmare for me.

So, it is done, but not well. Unfortunately, the
euthanasia did not go smoothly. The sedative did not
take, and she struggled, and the second shot of
sedative did not take, and she struggled. She was
upset, angry I call it, with a fully fluffed up tail
and angry eyes. It took about 45 minutes and then we
went to anesthetic gas. I kept her at home overnight
and buried her in the quiet of dawn.

I hate myself. I knew her well and did what I could
to get her what she would need. I wish I had tried
harder earlier. I feel traumatized. The trip so far
has been miserable, though of course I don't blame my
partner. We resolved never to use this in anger
against each other. He liked her too and misses her.
Much as I loved caring for her, I just couldn't do it
any longer."
posted by tristeza at 1:42 PM on July 28, 2007

I am so sorry that her passing was not easy, but I think you did the right thing. The majority of her life was in comfort and love and that is the most important thing. You were a good owner.
posted by agregoli at 7:14 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

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