Making the Decision to Put a Pet Down

If you came here because you did a search on the words in my title and you are looking for answers, or for a post that is going to make you feel better, this is not it. I’m where you are right now.

How do you make the decision to put a pet down?

We have two cats who are both elderly. Our oldest cat is actually quite healthy. It is the younger cat that we have been trying to come to some sort of conclusion about.

I say younger, but she is actually 15 years old. She is overweight, she came to me that way, and although she was able to lose a small amount of weight, it is almost impossible for a cat to go from deathly obese back to a healthy weight. She is still very overweight.

Because of her weight, she has bowel problems, arthritis and is now diabetic (she gets two shots a day). We have been sticking with her through all of this, but the past few months have been trying. She began urinating in our dining room. Then pooping outside of her litter box. We moved her to a hallway on our main floor and brought up the litter box so she wouldn’t have to go far to go to the bathroom. We put up a baby gate so she couldn’t get to the carpeted areas of our house because, really, that is a serious health concern with our two kids around. Plus we rented a carpet cleaner to clean the house and we are not about to pay to do that every weekend.

I ended up letting her out yesterday morning because I hate seeing her cooped up. Her litter box was literally right beside her all night so I was positive she had done everything she needed to in there. Within 30 minutes of being out, she headed straight to our dining room and took the biggest poop I have ever seen.

So now we are at the point where we need to make a decision one way or the other and it is so hard. I hate being in the position where the decision we make affects a life.

We can not give our cat up to another family, that is not an option. Because of her arthritis and being overweight, she walks five steps, then rests. And she eats laying down. She is also not a friendly cat. She pretty much loves my husband and barely tolerates me. We would have to be completely open and say that it is a 15 year old, obese cat who has arthritis, diabetes and a blocked colon and who relieves herself wherever she wants to. Who would take her, knowing that they are entering in to a deal that is not going to get any better?

So, do we keep her alive and confine her to the small hallway she now occupies? We are going in to winter so there will be no outside time for months.

Do we make the decision to put her down?

I know in the back of our minds, we are holding off on our inevitable decision because of how WE feel, and we need to separate our feelings from the equation. Because none of this is about us. It is about our cat and we need to get over ourselves so we can make the right decision for everyone involved. What ever that decision is.

I would love your thoughts on this. Have you ever put a pet down? Or have you ever decided not to put a pet down? How did you make the decision? How do you remove yourself from the decision and focus on your pet?

Update: I just finished typing this and went downstairs to find that she did in fact poop — again. I guess Papa Bird let her go down with him and she took the chance to do it again. As one of the comments said, it is about quality of life and I am so sad to admit that her quality is not going to get any better.

I know this is not about us, but I feel like I failed her. I feel like there is some magical answer out there that is going to make everything right and that I am just not seeing it, and there isn’t.

I also realize that as humans, we need to feel this way. Without compassion and empathy, the tough choices would then become easy and people and animals alike would be put to death over the smallest of offenses.

Sheri Landry
Sheri publishes, and writes at This Bird’s Day where she shares all of the thoughts in her head without the voices. Sticking mainly with content for Canadians, Sheri shares family stories, product information and anything that fits into her (and her family’s) daily activities.
Found in Pets
32 comments… add one
  • Dawn Dec 6, 2011, 1:20 pm

    Hi Sheri.

    I’m struggling with the same thing right now. I have an 18 year old pom who was the child I never had. He has been living with congestive heart failure for 3 years now. His poor old heart sounds like a washing machine. He is on meds for that and meds to keep his lungs clear, as they fill with fluid without them. He coughs violently when he gets up in the morning. He has bad hips and his back legs sometimes bambi out on him on smooth surfaces. He sleeps a lot. However, he still likes to be held. He still eats well and drinks water well. He cannot make it to the door to ask to go out, but he sleeps in our bedroom hallway in his crate with newspapers and pee pads in front of it. He goes on the papers and pee pads. He will come and sit on the couch and watch tv with me, or go into the studio with me and sleep on his pillow and use pee pads there. He has moments of bursts of energy and puppy like behavior. I can’t imagine putting him down, but I also can’t imagine holding him through worst health complications that are coming – choking and seizures. For now, we hold him in a balance of what works best for him and us. But I know That Day is coming. I will be there with him – whichever comes first – me holding him during and injection, or me holding through seizing to death. I don’t know which will be worse or which would make me feel more guilt afterward. I only know that for right now, it’s not time. Yet.
    I don’t envy you your decision. Thank god for the years when they are younger and all the happiness they brought us. That will get us through this tough time.
    Dawn

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Dec 6, 2011, 6:58 pm

      Oh Dawn. Your comment made me cry. I think the hard part about making a decision like this is that every situation is so different, so you can’t just go on others past experience. I wish you the best of luck on either road. He is very lucky to have you.

      We are still struggling with our decision. I think both my husband and I know which road we need to take, but I don’t think either of us is strong enough to travel it yet.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Katie Oct 3, 2011, 7:24 pm

    I’m in tears writing this because losing two cats in less than a year took a major toll on me. One of them, there were no options. Her kidneys had failed and she was dying. Our other cat had cancer, and while he wasn’t actively dying, he was in pain and couldn’t use one of his front legs. He was 13 so aggressive treatment wouldn’t be fair. Even today while I was driving I was thinking about how ALIVE he was when we took him in. But he had lived a hard life and making him suffer wasn’t fair, either.

    There’s no easy answer. Ultimately, think of HER quality of life. Is she miserable? Is she in pain? Is she suffering? Some things we can deal with (cleaning the carpet)sometimes if she is otherwise healthy. This is not a decision I would judge anyone on, no matter what they chose to do.

    Euthanizing our cats was the absolutely hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. We have since adopted 2 more (plus a 3rd we have had for 5 years) and it’s something we’ll have to go through again. Huge hugs – I know this decision is terribly hard.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 7, 2011, 1:22 am

      Thank you so much for sharing this Katie. It is such a hard decision. It is just so final and it has been reminding me that I take each small moment that I am alive for granted.

      We are still in the process of making the decision and it still isn’t any easier thank it was when I first wrote this post.

  • JulieD Oct 3, 2011, 8:40 am

    It’s absolutely the hardest decision we have to make for our pets. Like you, we were torn and we have regrets, I’m not going to lie. We were both there when we put our dog down three years ago. We held her, kissed her and told her we loved her. I think for us, that was the least we could do, to let her last moment alive be filled with love just like her whole life.

    I know how hard it is for you so I’m sending you my love and hugs. I’m very sorry.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 3, 2011, 3:17 pm

      Thanks Julie. I think when we do decide to put her down, I will go in with her. Its the least I feel I could do for her.

  • Josee P Oct 2, 2011, 11:18 am

    Sorry you have to deal with the decision which is not easy. It took me a year to put down my 14 years old Lab. I still miss her. She was not eating anymore not even her treats (she used to eat anything). She couldn’t climb up the stairs; to come back in the house after a pee or sleep with us. She couldn’t walk in the woods which she used to love so much. She was tumbling everywhere. But the worst is she was not wagging her tail anymore and looking at me with such sad eyes. She was such a friendly loving dog but I couldn’t handle those
    eyes anymore which I still remember. You have to look at all the good happy years she had with your family and remember that.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 2, 2011, 10:04 pm

      Hi Josee – I think this decision is going to be ongoing for us as well. We made an appointment this weekend to have her put down tomorrow (Monday), but I am pretty confident that we will be cancelling the appointment for some more time with her and are trying to come up with creative ways to get her more space.

      So far we have come up with opening the door to the garage (attached) in the day time, and letting her out in the house under supervision in the evening.

  • Megan Oct 1, 2011, 7:10 pm

    We put our dog down about 4 years ago and it was really hard. We stayed in the room during the process. He was only 5 years old and ate up with cancer. He looked fine but we know he would eventually die a painful death and that’s what you should keep in mind. Painful or painless? My thoughts and prayers are with your family. Just know whatever decision you make will be best.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 1, 2011, 9:24 pm

      I agree with the painful versus painless. I know it is not going to get any better for her and that she is in pain now. And being confined to a hallway for the winter will not help her inability to move around. Thank you Megan for your comment and for sharing.

  • Soozle Oct 1, 2011, 4:47 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear you have to make this decision. :-(

    Almost 2 yrs ago, I was in the same boat. My dog was just shy of 15 and was having health issues. Some of it was manageable – like arthritis, some was troublesome like his inability to hold his bladder at times… He was also not acting ‘himself’, as it was known that SOMETHING was wrong..

    After many expensive tests, it was found that his pancreas was infected. At his age, the vet would NOT operate, as the chances of survival were not great. The vet decided that the course of action (if euthanasia was not an option yet – which it was not) was to try antibiotics.. It wasn’t a guarantee, and his pancreas could still rupture…

    Well, it did rupture. The choice was made for us. After a night of him shaking, vomiting and barely able to stand, we took him to a vet opened Sunday (as our vet was not) and had to say goodbye to a member of the family.

    I know this may sound horrible to some, but I cried harder over his loss than I had over the loss of some humans in my life. As I said, he was a member of the family.

    I can sympathize with anyone who has had to make that decision, as I know how painful it can be.. Again, I am so sorry. I wish there was a magical answer, but as you said, there isn’t. You haven’t failed her – in a perfect world, when it was ‘time’, the animal would simply go to sleep and pass peacefully. Sadly, this isn’t the way most of the time.. It’s a hard choice, and no time will ever feel right..

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 2, 2011, 10:06 pm

      Soozle, your comment made me cry. Thank you for sharing your story and for your words. I really appreciate your support, especially all of that last paragraph. You summed up exactly how I feel right now.

  • Nicole Oct 1, 2011, 2:24 pm

    I am so sorry you are having to deal with making this decision. It is not something I have had to do but I wish you peace with your decision.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 1, 2011, 9:15 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to show your support.

  • Melissa Oct 1, 2011, 12:35 pm

    I am so sorry! That must of been such a hard decision. Big hugs to you.

  • Pam Oct 1, 2011, 11:31 am

    Aww..Sheri! I feel so bad for your family facing this decision. We put our cat down last November and we still miss her and think of her often. Our cat was doing the same thing as yours….pooping everywhere and also throwing up.

    Thinking of you!

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 1, 2011, 11:38 am

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. So sorry to hear about your cat. People and animals alike don’t deserve all of the junk that comes with being old. She lived a long life and she deserves better than this. I sound like a total cliche, but it is not fair.

  • Rhea Oct 1, 2011, 9:05 am

    My cat was 18 years old. He had started having accidents everywhere (pee) and started acting odd. He was actually diagnosed with kittie alzheimers and diabetes. I was 2 months away from delivering twins and I had to decide if I was going to have the energy to give him his insulin shots every day while taking care of two newborns. That answer was “no.”

    It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made! But at his age, I did not want to subject him to two shots a day and confinement. What kind of life is that? He lived a good happy 18 years. So the decision was made to let him go.

    Good luck making your decision. But really…think what is best for kittie. He is in pain from the arthritis, he is probably lonely being cooped up, he has to be injected daily for diabetes, and he probably can’t control the accidents but that doesn’t take away their grossness.

    ((HUGS))

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 1, 2011, 11:30 am

      I wonder too if our cat is at the early stage of alzheimers. It sounds like your cat was in the same spot as ours is now, and we don’t want her to live the rest of her life in confinement. Thank you for your comment, this is really helping me to sort things out and separate ourselves from everything.

      • Rhea Oct 1, 2011, 4:36 pm

        My cat would just wander around aimlessly. Then in the middle of the night he would start yowling in the hallway for no apparent reason. For 18 years he was always such a good cat and all of a sudden he was not himself.

        • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 2, 2011, 10:09 pm

          The wandering aimlessly and yowling actually describes our older (19 years), healthy cat. When I was pregnant with our most recent daughter, she did that all of the time. Now it is once in a blue moon.

          I do expect though that this will be the fate of our older cat, I just hope we have some more good years with her.

  • Jenny Oct 1, 2011, 8:45 am

    We had to put our dog down. It was a very hard decision.

    she was older and her quality of life was not good. It is still hard. I still feel backing thinking that I ‘killed’ my dog, every once in a while. But, I know that it was best for everyone.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 1, 2011, 11:33 am

      That is the hard part. Feeling like you ‘killed’ a life. I think the decision is inevitable, and I will look back and think this too, but I try to remind myself that if we kept her alive and confined to a small hallway, I would probably look back on that and wonder if we tortured her by not freeing her.

      Thank you for your comment Jenny.

  • Karen of 3G2S Oct 1, 2011, 8:45 am

    We’ve had to make this difficult decisions multiple times as our cats and dogs became elderly. It came down to quality of life for the pet for us. If the pet is suffering or is just existing without being able to greet you, eat without being sick, etc . . . that is when we thought it was time.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 1, 2011, 11:23 am

      Thanks so much Karen. I think where we are having a hard time is just to look at her, she ‘looks’ fine on the outside. But once she starts walking, you can see the effort she puts in just to move across the floor. And it is hard to watch a cat that can’t even jump up on the couch anymore. But then she lays down and ‘looks’ fine all over again and purrs when we pet her.

  • Not So Average Mama Sep 30, 2011, 10:47 pm

    Wow, I’ve never been in this situation before. I would have to say that if the pet is no longer able to do things such as use the litter box it would definitely have to go. Sorry :(

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Oct 2, 2011, 9:51 pm

      It has been so tough. We are flip flopping like crazy. One minute we are sure we are doing the right thing, the next we are second guessing everything. Thank you so much for commenting. I thought I would be able to make the decision when ‘the time’ came, now I am wondering since we are not ready, maybe it isn’t ‘the time’.

  • Rachel Sep 30, 2011, 10:27 pm

    I’m so sorry you are struggling with this decision right now! I also would start wondering about her quality of life – is she in any pain due to her condition? Does she seem content in her little space? What a hard decision to make (((hugs)))

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Sep 30, 2011, 11:06 pm

      I wonder about the pain too. I assume there must be some pain if she only takes a few steps and then lays down. The blocked colon can’t feel great either. She tries to get out of her space and meows . That was what led me to let her out yesterday.

  • Cheryl Sep 30, 2011, 9:52 pm

    I haven’t had to put a pet down.. HOWEVER, 2 of my cats were put down without my knowledge (we had let them live with my SIL since we were moving out of province and couldn’t take them on such short notice)I wonder though for you is it a jealousy thing with the new baby? Or maybe the kitty is just getting old… especially with the other health problems. I’m not one to say put an animal down, but if her quality of life is going down, it’s really not fair to her, OR you. You know?

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Sep 30, 2011, 9:58 pm

      Its funny you say that Cheryl. The term ‘quality of life’ has been in my thoughts constantly. It comes down to that. I wonder too if it is the new baby, but she didn’t do anything with our first daughter, so again, I’m torn.

      Thanks so much for commenting. I’m so sorry that someone put your cats down without your knowledge.

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