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Dealing with End of Life Issues for Your Cat

End of life issues are hard for cat owners.

If your cat is nearing the end of his life, you are probably trying to figure out the best way to help him while also wondering how you are going to be able to cope yourself.

There isn't anything harder about cat ownership than end of life issues. Whether your cat is of advanced age or has an illness or injury that is terminal, it is equally hard to lose such a sweet friend.

Here are some things to consider during this time.

First and Foremost, Talk with Your Veterinarian

The most helpful and important thing you can do when dealing with end of life issues for your cat is to have an open, honest dialogue with your veterinarian. Talk to the doctor about any questions, fears, or concerns you have as directly as you can. Don't worry that any question or issue is silly or makes you look weak or uneducated. Your vet is your partner in your cat's health, and there is no time when that is more important than at the end.

In some areas, there are veterinarians available to provide hospice care in-home for your cat. These doctors will come to your house, evaluate your cat and his surroundings, and make recommendations for care and pain management. If you are interested in this, ask your regular vet if he or she provides this service or if you can have a referral to such a veterinarian.

Always Be Vigilant About Pain

The last thing you will want is for your cat to experience pain during the end of his life. Unfortunately, cats are stoic creatures, and they hide pain well. You will need to be watchful and honest with yourself about any signs you see that might indicate that your feline friend is hurting. Here are some of the signs that cats may show when they are in pain:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Aloof behavior
  • Hiding
  • Panting
  • Limping

Your veterinarian can help by letting you know the typical signs of pain for the particular condition with which your cat is suffering. The doctor can also provide pain medications and help you ensure that your cat is comfortable.

Provide Your Cat with Comfort

Make sure that your cat is as comfortable as you can make him. Giving him a soft cat bed, his favorite toy, and hand-feeding him his favorite food can all help your cat feel safe and loved during this time. If your cat isn't able to move, you will need to adjust his position often so he doesn't develop pressure sores, and you may need to take him to and from the litter box routinely.

You may also need to check your cat's bed often and change blankets or towels if he has urinary accidents. Don't forget to clean and dry him, too, so he doesn't develop skin infections or sores.

Euthanasia: When and How to Consider It

There will come a point in most cats' lives when their human must consider euthanasia. Although we all wish for our cat to pass away peacefully in his sleep, that actually doesn't happen too often.

Euthanasia is the process of giving your cat an overdose of a particular anesthetic, which causes him to lose consciousness. His heartbeat and respirations stop after that.

Euthanasia is a heartbreaking thing to go through with your cat, but it's a peaceful and loving way to let him go if he is suffering.

Your veterinarian can help you decide when the right time is to consider euthanasia for your cat. Things such as prognosis, comfort levels, and quality of life (whether your cat is still able to enjoy interactions with the family) should all be considered and discussed.

You may have the option of having euthanasia performed in your home. You can learn more about that here: "Is In-Home Euthanasia Right for You and Your Cat?"

Be Sure to Take Care of Yourself

While much of your focus during this time will be on your cat and his comfort and happiness, don't forget to look after yourself, as well. This is a stressful time, and you will need to use de-stressing techniques and self-care to get through it.

Also, be sure that you have someone to talk to about your feelings surrounding the end of your cat's life. Your veterinarian can direct you to local resources; don't feel shy about asking.

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