Ailing cat, when do I know it's time?

I have an aged cat, adopted as an adult. She’s likely 16-17 years old. She has cancer of her sweat glands. After getting a big skin tumor removed and a lymph node and consulting with a veterinary oncologist, I’ve decided that I didn’t want to put her through additional treatment.

For the moment, I think she’s a relatively happy cat. She eats food and drinks water. She’s pretty much “on target” with the litter box. She grooms herself.

However, she’s very quiet. She didn’t mew much, but not she’s pretty much silent. She seems to move around OK, but she doesn’t ever seem to be in a hurry. She really just spends all of her time in two places. Either in the kitchen (where the food is and her pillow) and in the living room where she has a small area she hangs around.

Is there any particular warning sign I shouldn’t notice when it looks like she’s really uncomfortable and I need to take action?

It’s hard to tell if cats are in pain because they’re so stoic - they just keep on keepin’ on, in spite of what they’re feeling. I think your best sign that kitty has little quality of life left if she stops eating, drinking, and using the litter box properly. That would be a pretty clear indicator that her little body is giving up. If she continues on as before, and doesn’t seem to be in any distress, I would say let her go on as long as she seems comfortable.

I agree. The being quiet, the not hurrying and the not moving around much could as much be a symptom of old age as the cancer.

Yeah, the eating and drinking thing is big. Also, just keep an eye on her general behavior. If she starts acting strangely, something may be up. I had one cat that died of old age about six years ago and her last day just broke my heart. She started to lose her balance and couldn’t walk very well. When she died, I found her laying on my bed, waiting for me to come up there… :frowning:

My God! just poor the poor animal to sleep! take him to your vet and let him do the MERCIFUL thing by puting it out of its misery… it’s ANIMAL ABUSE not to!

One sign of serious trouble is if your pet starts “hiding” from you, spending lots of time in protected, out-of-the-way places, as if it is vulnerable to predation and feeling an instinctive need to hunker down in a little nook-and-cranny (despite being domesticated, indoors, and much loved).

Sorry for your ailing pet. It’s not an easy call to make, for any number of reasons. :frowning:

I have lost two elderly cats to cancer. In both cases, they died peacefully at home. I see no need to euthanize an animal that still savors simple pleasures such as eating good food, being petted, and sleeping in a soft, warm place. As long as your cat has not become reclusive and uninterested in food and water, she may still be enjoying her life quite a bit.

I am certainly not saying that this is the case with you, but sometimes when people rush to put pets “out of their misery,” it is the misery (and the convenience) of the human owner that is really being considered.

We are currently taking care of a 20-year-old grey tabby named Elvis Pussley who has a large, inoperable malignant tumor in his abdomen. He was diagnosed nearly five years ago. The vet asked us at that time whether we wanted to put Elvis down. We asked whether the cat was likely to experience a great deal of pain, and the vet said probably not. Elvis still snarfs up his cat food, begs for table scraps, and occasionally takes a playful swat at a moth or a piece of string. Mostly he just naps and purrs. He goes to see the vet every few months. Elvis obviously still has some capacity for enjoyment left, and we will be glad to keep him until he’s ready to go.

Are you trying to be funny here? Cause it’s really…not. I don’t see what’s so abusive about a cat who doesn’t seem to be in any distress being allowed to live out their life until they are.

My vet didn’t seem to think my cat was in any pain. The tumor that was excised was a skin tumor and it wasn’t hurting her. It’s just that it has metastasized.

I suppose I’m torn because of my genetics. My parents (both whom have passed away) had rather different attitudes toward animals. My father grew up on a dairy farm and he likely would view my cat as an animal that was not producing anything and would be disposed of in some way. My mom grew up in the city and she had pets so when she moved out to the farm with my dad she grew attachments to the cows. She did things like giving them names.

But then again, it’s not like my cat has produced anything except companionship.

My 14-year old cat finally had to be put down recently after years of renal failure and other problems. For years we had watched him for a decline in ‘quality of life’ - grooming, interest in food/drinking, alertness, sociability, ease of movement and toileting. It’s important to realise that as a cat ages some of this will decline slightly, but there’s a difference between being old and being too sick.

My boy had always had a ravenous appetite and was totally gregarious - but in the final couple of days stopped being interested in food and sat under the dining table the whole time. I just knew looking in his eyes that he was saying enough is enough, and I made the call to get the family together and have the vet make a house call.

I do believe you’ll know when the time is right as long as you take a long objective look at your cat regularly, and look for signs of suffering, even though your feeling will be that you’d like them around forever. It’s the hardest decision I have ever made, but it’s also the best decision you will make for your friend. Sorry for the pain you’re going through, Merlin had to be put down in March, so all the feelings are pretty fresh for me, and I know how you feel.

The one pet we ever had put to sleep was a sweet fellow who had feline leukemia when we got him. He made it 2+ years with us. His last couple of months, he began to develop problems with joint pain (atrophy in the muscles of one shoulder) and loss of appetite. We knew it was time when, for several days in a row, he had stopped eating, was no longer peeing / pooping, and didn’t seek out our company, and wouldn’t even purr when we petted him (this was a cat who purred pretty much nonstop most of his life).

In other words, when it was clear that all the pleasures in his life had ceased to give him joy, and he was obviously in pain. We had the vet come to our house to give him that shot and it sucked, but not as badly as if we’d dragged the poor guy to the vet’s office.

Anyway, BobT, in the case of your cat: she’s still happy even if she isn’t feeling 100%; sounds like her illness isn’t causing her pain at this point, she experiences pleasure (food, presumably petting etc.). Until that balance seems to go the other way (pain etc. outweighs pleasure for her), keep her with you and treasure your time with her.

I just put down one of our cats this morning. It was an act that I was putting off as long as I possibly could, for selfish reasons, but we decided yesterday that it was time for him to go someplace better.

He was diagnosed with diabetes 3 months ago, and due to financial considerations, we were unable to treat him for this disease. He was 15yo, and we were looking at expensive visits to get him regulated… money we don’t have for a cat that’s lived a long and full life already. If it was something that would have been fixed quickly, with a simple procedure, we’d likely have gone ahead and treated him.

Prior to this morning, he was drinking nearly a quart of water a day (nearly 20% of his weight), emptying his bowl overnight (held a pint), and crying for more, before looking for any empty water glasses that we’d left out. He was having trouble getting up and down stairs, was refusing the cat boxes (even after they were emptied, washed, and refilled), some days he could no longer jump up on the couch. He had lost more than 4 pounds (down to 12# from 16+#) when we noticed the problem, and brought him to the vet for his first diagnosis.

I unfortunately, drew the sad job of taking him to the vet, and finding a place for him out near the rock wall. This is the first pet that I’ve had to bury. :frowning:

I like to think that we gave him as good a life as he could have had, but when we saw that he was no longer happy, it was time to make the decision. I gave him a few rubs, and some head-butts before the vet took him to the back room, and another rub before I buried him.

We’ll miss him, but we’ve still two other cats to take some of the edge off.


‘Skuse me, but it seems to me that the cat in no way is in misery. My parents’ cat is so old he looks like a skeleton with fir. He has a hard time grooming himself, and his front legs are all twisty. But he eats like crazy, purrs, “hunts” birds from the window, and orders everyone about. I think he may have gotten more vocal with age, telling the birds to get off his lawn. I don’t think either of these cats are in miserable. If they were they would stop eating. I don’t know if you were being sarcatic or what, but your attitude is uncalled for.

As the OP, I sort of blew off the post in #5. Thanks for all the help here. I’m trying to get some ideas of what’s going on before emotion gets the best of me.

My mother’s cat, whom my father had to take care of after she passed away, died of old age, but somehow managed to scale a fence and die in someone else’s yard.

Butler, I am so very sorry for your loss. :frowning:

Bob, good luck with your kitty. You’ll know when it’s time.

cwPartner and I had to make the call fairly recently after cwKitty developed a mass in her abdomen. We decided to put her to sleep based a few things:
(1) Her condition was, apparently, uncomfortable. It interfered with movement and affected her appetite;
(2) Her condition had not responded to non-invasive treatment (drugs) or to minimally invasive treatment (draining the fluid);
(3) Invasive treatment (open abdominal surgery) was deemed unlikely to cure the condition and likely to increase her discomfort in the short term;
(4) She stopped eating, period.

For us, items 1, 2 and 3 were the things that got us to the point where you are now (“Is there any particular warning sign I shouldn’t [sic] notice when it looks like she’s really uncomfortable and I need to take action?”). Item 4 was the one where we decided very quickly that it was cruel to keep her going - it was so far from anything like normal behavior. FWIW, cwKitty never did the the hiding thing. She was an attention hog to the end.

It does sound like your cat’s behavior has changed quite a bit (lots of small changes) , so it’s likely that she is not feeling well. On the other hand, if your cat is eating well and maintaining weight, keeping herself clean, and seeking/tolerating attention normally, it sounds like you probably don’t need to make a decision right away.

Do you have a friend who know your cat well but hasn’t seen her in a while? That person might be able to tell you just how much the cat’s behavior has changed. I’m not home much, and cwPartner - being home all the time - didn’t realize how much cwKitty had changed. I came home after a couple of weeks away and said, hey, this is NOT the cat I know.

You’ll know when it’s time. That won’t make it any less unpleasant, although it may make the decision easier. Good luck, and trust your judgement.