I recently lost my cat. At the end she was unable to move because she was so weak. My family decided to put her down because she was going to die within the next couple of days anyway and that was the only day we knew we would all be with her when she died.
Before that day she was still happy. She could take care of herself. She could walk. She could clean herself. She could let us know when she needed something. She still sat with us. She still purred. It simply wasn’t time to put her down.
So my first piece of advice is this: If you’re contemplating putting down your dying pet, do it for the right reasons so you won’t have regrets. I wanted my cat to know I hadn’t abandoned her; I wanted her to leave this world knowing she was loved. I was not going to put her down because it became a hassle taking care of her. I was not going to put her down before she was ready. I was not going just drop her off at the vet’s so that I could avoid dealing with her death. Putting down your pet before it’s time for it to die is not taking care of it.
So how do you know when it’s the right time to put your pet down? It’s simple: If you know your pet, if you watch your pet, if you listen to your pet, it will let you know. If you have any kind of worthwhile relationship with your pet, you will know. If you have any doubts in your mind, it’s not the right time. All you can do is give your pet the best care you can and treat it with as much affection as you can.
Some of the best ways you can show your pet affection include:
- Don’t shun your pet if its sickness manifests in gross ways. This is hard, and I had trouble with it with my cat. She was so bad to the end, but I always sat with her at least once a day for at least 30 minutes.
- Don’t change your daily pattern because of your sick pet more than necessary to accommodate it. Pets and sick people in general like predictability. Knowing what to expect is comforting, and it lets pets know that the things they enjoyed before they got sick will be there in varying degrees. It also allows you to live and process grief when you can.
- Give your pet its favorite food and plenty of water. I’ve been sick many times before, and I almost never feel like eating when I am, but starving and dehydration are not options. Good food makes eating easier, and it distracts from the pain or discomfort of the sickness.
- Don’t take your pet to the vet more than you need to. Rides to the vet are extremely stressful on pets regardless of their health. A sick pet can only get worse for it.
- Talk to your pet. Let it know you love it and that you hope it will all be over soon for better or for worse.
- Don’t let your grief guide your actions. Your pet still needs you and you can’t spend all your time distracting yourself from it.
These are general things you can do to help your dying pet. It is up to you to know you pet and its mannerisms to know what specialized things you can do to help it.