Knowing When to Say Goodbye to Your Cat

Photo of face of old cat sitting outside

I don’t know about you, but as each of my cats age I start dreading the time when I have to make the decision to say goodbye.

If you’re lucky to be a parent to a senior cat you’ll have watched him change from being healthy and active, to a cat that moves less, eats less, loses his eyesight and hearing, and can no longer reach the parts he used to groom – much the same as us! Elderly cats can also suffer from a variety of age-related issues such as osteoarthritis, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease.

All of these conditions are slow and progressive which makes it very difficult for you to know when and how much pain or discomfort your cat is feeling, especially when cats have a tendency to suffer in silence. In addition, your feline senior citizen might have less control over his bladder leading to ‘accidents’ outside his tray. And apart from the physical side of things he might also develop cognitive changes, becoming more confused and seeking you out for comfort,

old cat sleeping on armchair

As cats age their world shrinks. They might confine themselves to one room where they feel safest and where all their resources are within easy reach. I knew a cat whose world consisted of a chair surrounded by her litter tray, scratcher, and food and water.

Knowing when to say goodbye to your cat isn’t easy. Having an understanding of an elderly cat’s needs and keeping a close eye on his quality of life is of the utmost importance. As is taking your cat for senior cat veterinary check-ups, at least twice-yearly. Your vet will help inform you about your cat’s physical condition and needs, and discuss options with you. Vets are very good at guiding you in your decision.

grey cat being examined by a vet

None of us want our cats to leave us but it’s so important that we keep in mind their quality of life and do what’s best to keep them from suffering. My elderly cat Jack had kidney disease and ultimately the only way to keep him going would have been for him to spend days at a time receiving fluid therapy at the vets. So, I asked the vet to give him some fluids, waited until he was feeling better, then asked the vet to send him to sleep as he was purring in my arms. It made me feel happy that I’d ended his life at a time when he was feeling comfortable, and I knew he would have thanked me for it.

old cat lying on a duvet

Clare Hemington

Clare has worked in the field of cat behaviour for sixteen years. She is an accredited Cat Behaviourist and respected member of the COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers. Clare believes that understanding cat behaviour is key to their overall welfare. Through consultation and education her aim is to share information with owners that enables them to give their cat a life that is as happy as it possibly can be. Clare is also founder and owner of Honeysuckle cat toys. Toys made from Tatarian honeysuckle wood which provide wonderful natural enrichment for cats.

6 thoughts on “Knowing When to Say Goodbye to Your Cat

  1. Dear Clare, I too had to let my beloved Smarty go a during the pandemic. It was heartbreaking but best for him, and he always came first. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think of him, but I try and think of all his quirks and the joy he brought to my life.
    I now have another furry boy who has put a smile back on my face, and I wish you all the best at this sad time. Paw prints on our hearts are forever. God bless. X

    1. Hi Karen. You’re so right – when our cats near the end it has to be all about them and their quality of life. Sadly I’ve known owners who let their own emotions get in the way of what’s best for their cat.

  2. Dear Clare,
    I had the heartbreaking decision to have my lovely cat, Robbie, euthanased just 4 weeks ago. He was suffering mentally from the unbearable loss of his friend and sleeping companion Chatty at the beginning of December. He developed dementia, which rapidly escalated. He was so unhappy. He went to sleep in my arms, where we were both supported by my wonderful and sensitive vet. I feel bereft and deeply unhappy, as there are now no little feline companions around to brighten my life, and to care for and cuddle. The house feels so empty. I’m at the age when it would not be ‘sensible’ to have another wonderful cat. Tell that to my heart.
    With loving thoughts to help you. M.

    1. Oh, I’m so sorry for your loss Maureen. In a lifetime of owning cats this is the first time I’ve been in the position where there are no other furry paws in the house to fill the void, which makes it especially hard. If, in time I do have another cat it may be an older one as they often get overlooked at rehoming centres. Perhaps this might be an option for you too.

  3. This is so beautiful and true. My old girl, a Chartreux, was euthanized in Feb last year in her 18th year. She had feline dementia, was very hard of hearing and had diabetes for the last 9 months of her life, was receiving insulin twice a day. It is so hard, our pets are very special to us and leave a huge void in our lives. All of my animals have been euthanized while being cuddled and fussed and I think it is a much nicer way to end their life. There is nothing like the love of a pet

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