Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Deciding when to have a pet put down

Last week we had Henry, our oldest cat, put to down.  He had had kidney failure for several years but the wonders of modern medicine and specialist foods had kept him going as the disease advanced.  But all pet owners must, at some point, make the decision to have a pet put down.  So how do you know when it is right to say goodbye?

Henry, a beautoful black and white cat

In some cases the decision to say goodbye to a pet is completely taken out of your hands.  I suppose we all wish that our elderly or sick pet will simply not wake up one morning, passing away peacefully in their sleep.  That is the easiest way for pet and owner.  In other more traumatic cases, such as accidents, the vet will quite categorically be able to say that there is no hope of recovery.  Likewise with some diseases it is obvious that the pet cannot recover and is in a lot of pain.  In many cases though, such as with Henry, it is simply a slow decline. Some days the pet may seem quite well, on others, not so good.  But there is no point when it is obvious that the time is "right" and owners often feel they risk ending the life of their pet too soon or they may leave it later than is best for the pet - perhaps they themselves are unable to let the pet go and for that the pet may suffer.

We went through all this with Henry.

But there are indications that you can use to help you know when it is the right time.

  • Are they showing any signs of stress, pain, confusion etc?
  • Are they suffering from diarrhoea or severe constipation and/or vomiting? 
  • Are they eating?
  • Are they sleeping all the time?

With Henry, he did not appear to be in any pain generally but he was very badly constipated and trying to pass faeces appeared painful for him.  He was beginning to vomit more often too.  The vet offered a treatment but to administer the liquid was extremely stressful for Henry.  We did try this but it had led to minimal improvement.  His appetite was also gradually declining and he was sleeping practically all day.  On the other hand he would still play a bit with a laser dot we have and would come and sit on your knee, purring in a contented manner.  At those times it was all too easy to think it was not the right time.

In so many cases there is no "right" time.  Modern medicine offers hope but at times this is false hope.  It might give a few more days or weeks but is it actually fair on the pet or are you keeping the pet for your benefit?  We were not prepared to put Henry through the stress of administering twice daily medication for what was minimal improvement for him.  He was only going to get more ill and quite possibly suffer so we owed it to our noble puss (as a friend called him) to say goodbye. The vet agreed.

Thank you Henry for being a part of our lives.  It seems strange knowing you will never sit in another shopping bag or sneak upstairs for a forbidden snooze on the bed.  The hearth in front of the fire will have one less set of paws there this winter. 

We miss you, Henry.  Rest in Peace.

Black and white cat in a black and white bag
Henry in a shopping bag



  1. I'm sorry to hear about your loss, it's never easy deciding when to put a loved pet to sleep. We recently had to take that decision with our cat Olive, who was diagnosed with a tumour and was obviously in pain despite medication. We miss Olive a lot and wish we could have had more time together, but like you we feel we made the right choice.

  2. Tough post. I've lost cats and it is a horrendous emotional strain. Thanks for sharing your insights. You did what you had to do.