Looking for some perspective on our super senior cat: quality of life vs. euthanasia

aldreams

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Hello cat lovers,

We're looking for some input from experienced cat owners. Our Maya is almost 18 years old. She still seems to enjoy life but she's showing a lot of signs of her age. We've never had another pet, so we're wondering if and when might be the right time to say goodbye. We know we need to make this choice together with our vet, but I'm hoping that's other folks on here might have some perspective for us based on their experience. We want to keep Maya going for as long as she can, but we don't want to let her suffer needlessly. And we're not sure if she might be suffering in ways that maybe we don't understand.

So here's a bit about Maya. She used to be an indoor-outdoor cat in her early years, but for the last 10 years she's lived inside since we moved into an apartment. 3 years ago she had a stroke and we thought we were losing her. But she recovered fairly well. She got a little wobbly and frail, but she could still do pretty much all her activities. About a year ago she had another incident. She fell in a weird way and we think she may have cracked or broken a spinal vertebra. The vet was ready to call her in for euthanasia, but again she made a recovery and got back on her feet. She's a lot more wobbly than before and has trouble jumping on high surfaces and coming down. Sometimes she gets brief seizures while walking and twists and turns a bit, though usually she can stay on her feet. At first she lost her voice and her meows basically got down to a whisper, but since then it's come back more or less. She isn't grooming herself as much because it's hard for her to twist and keep her balance. She's still going at her litter box, though for a few years she doesn't go pee inside the box but around it, so we put disposable pads. This is not a new issue and we don't think it's bladder related.

So these are the negatives. I figure some (or a lot) of this is a normal part of aging. But we're wondering if it may be making her quality of life unbearable. On the positive side, she can still do most of the things that she enjoys. She likes to sleep in the sun during the day in her favorite spots in the apartment. She wobbles and goes slow but can still reach them okay. She is eating fine and going to the bathroom regularly. She rarely throws up. She still gets excited about treats and will chase the laser pointer to get them. She got her voice back and will tell us if she wants in or out of a room. She's not meowing a lot and doesn't seem to be in constant pain (though walking is definitely uncomfortable & disorienting for her). And when any of us are coming back home, she still gets near the door and waits. All of these seem to us like good reasons to keep kitty going into her super-old age. But again we're wondering if there may be something we're missing. Could it be that she feels a lot worse than it looks to us? What signs should we look for that would tell us that it may be time to say goodbye? Any perspective from experienced cat folks would be most appreciated.

Thanks,

Maya's family
 

Buttercup6478

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Personally, i would wait it out until she shows signs that she’s in pain. if she’s preforming almost perfectly fine, i don’t think there’s anything to worry. of course it’s a big decision as you’ve had her for so long, however it isn’t fair to her if you put her down and she isn’t in too much pain.
 

Tagrendy

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Unless there is constant chronic pain, I'd let her enjoy her retirement =) when we humans think of the best way to die it is of old age in our home, maybe it's best for cats too. The only exception is if every moment of that is torture which doesn't sound like is the case.
 

fionasmom

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I don't think that she has reached the point where she needs to be let go. The fact that she chases a laser pointer is really impressive. I am not disagreeing about the fact that you have to watch for signs that something has progressed or that she is in pain from which you can't save her but it does not sound as if she is there now. She seems to be a very happy elderly cat who still enjoys a lot of her life.
 

gilmargl

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We can never be 100% sure when the time is right for euthanasia and I got it badly wrong on one occasion, mainly because my vet wanted to continue treatment.
Apart from that dreadful experience, as long as my senior cats were eating and taking an interest in life, I saw no reason to euthanise. However, when they refused food, became disorientated and spent their time hiding away from everybody then I knew it was probably time to phone the vet and say goodbye. It is a good idea to talk about this with your vet beforehand, just to check if he's willing to make a house visit, which is easier both for you and the poor cat (but is of course quite expesive).
 

FeebysOwner

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Hi. Although Feeby (16+ yo) hasn't had any strokes, she is similar to your girl in terms of her abilities/interests. Maya might actually have 'a leg up' on Feeby in that regard!! Based on what you have described, I think it would seem you have a long way to go before euthanasia would be a consideration!!

There are a couple of things that maybe you could do for Maya, if you aren't already. Arthritis supplements may help (glucosamine, chondroitin, green lipped mussels). These are not anything that would harm her from what I know, so if they don't help, they shouldn't hurt. Feeby has been taking Glyco Flex Plus for about 2 years now (contains all of the above ingredients). It started when she was limping and we did x-rays to confirm she has arthritis and two nearly fused vertebrae in her spine. We don't know what is behind the vertebrae, but it could be from some injury before she adopted us at around 2 yo. Anyway, the Glyco has helped her mobility.

We also created 'interim' steps between the floor and places she likes to climb to - just as an aide if she were to need them. She uses these interim steps religiously now and goes places she had kind of abandoned before. Some of them are 12" in diameter footstools, as that seems to work better for Feeby than simple cat steps - I think due to their larger size.

I hope to be writing about Feeby at Maya's age and that you will also be writing about Maya then too!
 

Annieca2016

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I agree, it sounds like she's got more life in her! When it was Zipper's time, he wouldn't leave the bed and even his favorite food wouldn't tempt him to leave it. The idea of him chasing a laser pointer even a few weeks before it was time was laughable. The fact your girl is doing that, along with hobbling along, makes me think she's good, just slower and with bad balance. But hey, I'm a human, I'm 28, and I have terrible balance too!
 
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