Yesterday we put our seventeen year old cat to sleep. Euthanized is the proper term but “put to sleep” has a peaceful feeling and killed has an awful feeling.
I work with dying situations all the time, 42 years to be exact. But this was personal, this was our Danger cat. (I know, a totally inappropriate name for the biggest scaredy cat I’ve ever seen. Husband Jack thought the name would give her courage.)
Over the years we’ve had many animals: dogs, cats, rabbits. All have been indoor, live with us animals. Yes, even the rabbit was cage free and lived in the kitchen. I’ve seen death, animals, and people more than most people BUT it’s never the same when it’s personal, when emotions are involved. When I am ending a life. What a powerful statement that is. Dying is not following its natural course. I am interfering with the order of living.
As difficult as the decision to euthanize a pet is, there is also the difficult decision of when. When do I have her die. Sounds so harsh doesn’t it? It is harsh, yet when is that timeline between now only suffering is left of a life and can we still squeak out some quality.
When have we made the decision to not euthanize because WE don’t want them to be gone versus it is a blessing to end the life. To let them go because it is helpful to them.
I had a veterinarian and her assistant come to the house. They were dear, compassionate people. We held Danger, said goodbye through our tears while a relaxant was given. A few minutes later the second shot was given IV. Before the needle was removed she was gone.
We held her, petted her, let her death sink into us, then handed her little body to Trisha (I feel first name-close to Trisha now that she has been involved in this intimate experience). She gently wrapped Danger’s little body in a baby blanket, leaving her head uncovered and gently, respectfully carried our little cat out of the house.
She is gone, the house seems emptier. Baxter cat (who we let smell her before she left) seems at a bit of a loss, as he wanders the house. Is he looking for her?
I’m wandering too. Processing, reviewing, looking for regrets. No, no regrets. As hard as it was, we did the right thing. We did not continue her suffering for our own wants. Everyone and everything dies. It is what happens in life. There will always be an end.
I think we have the same feelings with people when we are faced with taking a loved one off of life support machines. I hesitate to compare animals with humans but for many of us our animals are our children, both in our lives and hearts so actually the decisions seem equally challenging.
So often our decisions are based on our own selfishness, on what we are comfortable with (even what we are uncomfortable with). “I want my mom even if it is just to look at her and hold her hand.” I want my cat so I can hold her. I am not ready to let her go. Sounds selfish. It is selfish but oh so human. Letting go of something we care very, very much about is a growth experience. An opportunity for us to transcend our personal comfort for the sake of another’s comfort.
Something More about… We Euthanized our Cat Yesterday
For people faced with the loss of a beloved animal, A Place In My Heart: When Our Pets Die offers direction and support during a difficult and seldom understood time.
The experience of a pet dying is traumatic for us. We ﬁnd ourselves feeling fear, confusion, and apprehension. We want to help, but don’t know what to do. This booklet provides signs of approaching death, burial options and support through the grief process.