Putting your cat to sleep is a heartbreaking decision to make. While it may be true that cats are independent, one can get emotionally attached to a cat just as easily and deeply as to a dog. Cats can become such an intrinsic part of our lives that cat euthanasia is a very personal, very intimate decision. Putting your cat to sleep is not a decision that is made lightly for most cat owners.
All the information given on my Home Page and in the Pet Euthanasia page apply to cat euthanasia as well. However, cats are not small dogs. They are a different species entirely and some special considerations apply.
The word euthanasia comes from the Greek and means “easy death”. The root “eu” means good, improved, easy. “Thatanos” means death. It is the act of ending a pet's life for humane reasons. It is done by the administering of an overdose of anesthetic in as painless a manner as possible. Some common synonyms are “putting to sleep”, “put to sleep”, “put down”, “euthanise”, “mercy killing”, “humane end of suffering”, “painless death”. Some incorrect variations I have also heard are “euthanization”, “eutanize”, etc...
A peculiarity of cats is that they are very resilient. There is some truth to the old myth that cats have nine lives. While dogs can decline rather rapidly and visibly, cats can go downhill for a long time, very gradually and they are even more expert than dogs at hiding their pain and their symptoms. The decision to euthanise your cat requires a lot more observation and perception on your part than it does for a dog. For most dogs, it becomes rather obvious, they tend to communicate a bit more overtly than cats do.
A cat can sometimes be able to survive for a month or more without eating at all and even longer by eating very little. They can gradually become more and more dehydrated, loose more and more weight until they are barely “skin and bones”. A dog, on the other hand will not survive long without food. When you are trying to make a decision as to when the time has come have euthanasia performed on your cat, food intake has a lot to do with it.
Cats are very sensitive to a “sour stomach”. This causes a dwindling spiral when it comes to appetite. The less they eat, the more their stomach will be sour and the less they will want to eat. Some diseases like kidney disease (renal failure or kidney failure), liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer will cause anorexia in a cat. Once anorexia has set in, it can rapidly become a vicious circle as described above. This is not necessarily the deciding factor for cat euthanasia, but getting a cat to eat is a battle against death. Your veterinarian will help you in fighting this war, but there comes a point where no matter what you do, your beloved furry friend has given up and will not eat anymore at all or not enough to sustain long term life and to warrant quality of life.
It is a myth that cats “go hide to die”. More likely, they go wandering off for a little stroll and being too weak to come back will just get stuck somewhere and die of dehydration, hunger or get killed by a coyote. Dying of hunger and dehydration, alone and afraid for a cat can be a long drawn out process that no pet owner want to have their cat suffer through. Therefore, it is important that when your cat is sick or old and getting too weak to take care of himself, that he or she is supervised and not put in a position where he or she could roam freely and wander off, get lost and end up dying in that manner.
On the Pet Euthanasia page, the subject of pre-medications is discussed and it is recommended that unless certain conditions exist, it is better to place the IV catheter without pre-medications. When it comes to cats, however, it may not be true that the administration of pre-medications is more stressful than simply putting in the IV catheter. The reasons for this are that for one, the amount of pre-medications for a cat are very small compared to a dog and that a larger percentage of cats exhibit a much higher level of anxiety around strangers than dogs which may make the placement of the IV catheter more stressful without pre-medications. In addition, cat veins, particularly in conditions that cause dehydration and weight loss, are much smaller than most dogs' and can be more difficult to find, which may submit your cat to several needle pokes before successfully inserting the IV. A correctly heavily sedated cat will not feel those pokes and will be peacefully unaware of any discomfort or stress.
Why provide home euthanasia for your cat?
Nearly 100% of cats absolutely abhor going in the car and hate even more the dreaded trip to the vet's. The amount of stress that a car ride and a visit to the veterinarian's office imposes on your feline friend is out of proportion. The stress of this visit can be justified when in the long run it will mean longer survival and improved health. But when it is for the final journey, saying farewell to your cat in the comfort of his own home, surrounded by the ones he loves and trusts will mean more to your cat than you can imagine.
Cats have a particular button on dignity. They just can't stand it when they are put in a position of inferiority or in a situation where they loose dignity. Being put in a cat carrier and forced to go for a car ride is very distressing to a feline.
When you put this into perspective and assume the viewpoint of your feline friend, the expense of a home euthanasia is well justified.