No!! Anything but that! Tears spring to my eyes just writing the title. Yet it is something we must face because death happens, and unfortunate and unfair as it may be, chances are we will outlive our cats.
Unlike us, cats are pragmatic about their deaths. They live in the now, ignoring sickness until it has taken its toll. Left to their own devices, many cats will hide as their time draws near. When there is no quality of life left for kitty, when they no longer eat or drink, no longer visit the window or the favorite chair, and we as their care giver have done all we can, there are a few options for the final step.
~Euthanasia in a veterinary office: Taking your cat to the veterinary office for euthanasia usually means packing her up and driving her to a strange, smelly, unwelcome place. Most vets, however, are extremely compassionate when it comes to these final moments and do their best to make kitty comfortable and calm. You can stay with your cat during the process, or you can leave her with the medical team. That’s okay too. That drive home with the empty carrier may be the saddest thing you ever do.
~Euthanasia at home: Some vets are willing to come to your home to put your kitty to sleep in her own environment, her own bed. With this option there is no travel or upset, but it is often expensive and is not available in all locations. Don’t just choose a vet off the internet; make sure you have a relationship with them before taking this step.
~Natural passing: Sometimes kitty passes on her own. She goes to sleep and never wakens. This is the way we all want to go, but it isn’t always that easy. The shift from the transition period to death, itself, can take a little time. This option may still be preferable to some, because it is the natural progression of things.
When you make your decision, remember that cats are stoic. Death, whether by euthanasia or on its own, is part of the process of life. Whichever alternative you choose, be content that it is the right one, and be honored that you have given your cat a safe and cherished life.
A note about the rest of the family: There are different thoughts about letting your other animals see the dead one. Some believe it helps them understand why the one is suddenly missing from the home; others consider the confrontation too traumatic. If you have other animals, you will face this decision.
Memorials: Once kitty has crossed the Rainbow Bridge and you are left with only furry memories, you may need to express your love and loss by memorialization. Even if she passed in a veterinary office, you can take her home to bury in your yard. If she was cremated, you can keep the ashes in a decorative urn, bury them with a marker, or cast them to the wind in a memorial ceremony to help you say goodbye. Ashes can also be made into glass which can then be turned into an art memorial or a wind chime. Some animal groups offer grief workshops in the form of therapy or an exercise. Grief lessens when shared with others.
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Harry, who died naturally in his donut bed, is buried in our garden, covered by a flat river stone. A small wind chime with his name penned on the wood clapper hangs from the plum tree above him. Whenever I visit, I ring the chime to remember.
Special thanks to Cat Artist Leslie Cobb who understood how difficult this blog was to write and allowed me to use her gentle artwork.