Know when to stop and let your cat go

cataan

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While this post does relate to my cat who died on June 7, it's not a crossing the bridge post, it's really for those trying to take care of their cat's health. Please know when to let go and, for your cat's sake and, later, for yours, accept that you've done your best and, sadly, you're not going to win.

As some know, I began syringe-feeding my cat about 5 or 6 days after he had stopped eating. He had kidney and other issues, bad enough, but starvation of course only compounds the problems. So syringe-feeding and sub-Q to the rescue. The vets told me to reconsider, especially after nearly a week and he still wouldn't eat on his own, but I had to persist, I had to save him.

On Monday morning, two days before he died, the blood results were terrible, with creatinine the highest I'd seen at 6.7, despite the fluids, meds, etc. He was clearly very weak, underweight, could barely walk (but always used the litter box), wouldn't groom himself. At that point I should have decided to give him some opioid meds, give him love and pets the rest of the day, and euthanize him the next day. This would certainly have limited his suffering.

Instead, I became more resolute, I had to save my friend, despite being told this was a losing battle. Imagine you have the worst hangover of your life, a splitting headache, a queasy stomach, no energy, you just feel horrible... and your best friend keeps shoving French toast in your mouth. You just want to be left alone to fall asleep or even better never wake up. That's what I was doing to my friend.

Wednesday morning I again had his bloodwork checked and while the WBC count was down due to an antibiotic, his creatinine was still 6.7 and his BUN increased. After I took him home I gave him some sub-Q fluids and a couple teaspoons of food (mostly water) and noticed that, rather than just laying his head on a pillow, he was now burying his face into it, and at one point even squeaked (presumably due to pain). At that point I realized that things had gone too far and I started preparing myself for euthanasia, which I had hoped would be the following morning at home where he could feel safe.

I knew he had used the litter box the night before, but by mid-afternoon I realized he hadn't used his litter box at all despite a great deal of water I had given via sub-Q and syringe., meaning his kidneys weren't just not working well, they were shutting down and water wasn't even leaving them. I moved my friend to a more comfortable pillow and sat for some time talking to him, petting him, and I noticed his breathing was becoming more forced. I wanted him to die at his home, but not because of agonizing asphyxiation. I ended up having to take him back to the vet to be euthanized. He wasn't in his room, on his bed, with familiar scents and sounds, he was at the vet.

I know my efforts were only in good faith, but I am angry with myself for not letting him be sooner. I do think the vets were premature when telling me to consider euthanasia when they did, but I was definitely too late when I finally accepted the reality of the situation. I really should have made the decision two days earlier and then stopped all forced-feedings (by this time I'd been treating him with water, food, meds, and vet visits for coming up on three weeks). Give him some opioids and find relief those last 24 hours while being petted and loved. To put it succinctly: if you decide it's time for euthanasia because you've lost all hope and have no other choice, it's already too late.

p.s. apologies if this is the wrong forum, but my intent is to help others keep the forest from the trees in view when providing medical care for their cat. Definitely not saying don't treat your cat; I am saying be careful not to go too far that you both regret it. Here two fewer days would have been wonderful for both of us and the only difference in outcome would have been less suffering for him. After all, he was nearly 17 and no one lives forever; he was basically dying because he was old and his parts were wearing out. My responsibility needed to pivot to easing his pain and I fought that, thinking I could save someone who could not be saved.
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mrsgreenjeens

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Thank you for reminding us that we need to put their needs before ours, even until the bitter end. And that means loving them enough to let them go as our hearts are breaking.

I'm so sorry for your loss, and sorry that it happened the way it did. Now your precious little one is at peace, feeling no pain :hugs:.
 

FeebysOwner

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I am so, so sorry for your loss. If only we could see two days, maybe even two weeks, into the future, but we cannot. There are so many variables to what any cat experiences near the end, and it makes it very hard to decipher what the 'cutting off' point is, and what rebounds might be accomplished, however short they may be. We will always have regrets for letting things go on too long, and for those times when we wonder if we ended our loved ones lives too quickly.

One will never know. And, either way one goes, there will be regrets. Life is precious, and it is always going to be hard to end it.
 

stephanietx

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I'm so sorry for your loss. Your efforts were very loving, but it's a good reminder that sometimes doing the "right" thing isn't the best for them. I have had to do this twice and it's not an easy decision. My husband and I have the conversation from time to time, before the crisis, to discuss what life-saving measures we would take for our kitties. We decide based on their age what the course of action would be if there was a life-threatening or potentially life-ending situation. When the time comes, we face it with peace knowing that our kitties were so very loved, spoiled, and had the greatest lives ever. It doesn't make the loss any easier, but it there is peace in our decision.
 

catloverfromwayback

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I am so sorry for your loss, and thank you for sharing this. I felt the same way after I let Katie wait too long (only two weeks since her diagnosis of terminal cancer) and having her die of heart failure in my lap on the way to the vet. Better a bit soon than leaving it too late and unwittingly letting them suffer unnecessarily.
 
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