An unfortunate reality that every pet owner will have to deal with at some point, is that all things have an end. When your cat is in her final days, it’s only natural that you start looking for ways to provide her with some comfort in those last few days or weeks. But what to do when your cat is dying?
A trip to the vet
It’s understandable that you want to do everything you can to make your sick cat is as comfortable as she can be. But, first things first: before you make preparations at home, consider paying the vet a visit first. Dying cats are often in pain. Since veterinarians can prescribe very effective painkillers, they can be of tremendous help in alleviating some of that pain.
Your vet may also be able to provide you with some general tips to help prepare for other things you’ll have to deal with in the coming days and weeks, such as incontinence and a loss of appetite.
-> Recommended: Dr. Joanna shares a few tips on how to find a great veterinarian
Loss of appetite
Cats that are towards the end of their life may lose all interest in food. One of the ways to take care of a dying cat is by forcing the ingestion of nutrients through force feeding. You can do this either with your bare hands or by using a syringe. A bland diet may be the perfect choice here: it’s made up of something soft and easily digestible like baby food or some soft boiled chicken.
If you can’t get bland foods, you can also just throw the meal into a blender with some water as this makes it a lot easier to swallow and digest. Since most cats don’t drink enough, this will also help her stay hydrated.
Don’t forget hygiene
If your sick cat has become incontinent, it’s important to provide her with a clean bed at least once but preferably several times a day. Use something like an extra soft towel or pads, that you can easily throw in the washing machine to wash out any stinky smells.
Your cat is probably not a huge fan of water, but it is still vital that you wash any urine out of her fur in order to prevent infections. So when you make a clean bed, also be sure to wash her belly and sides with a mix of a few drops of pet shampoo in some lukewarm water. If she’s uncomfortable with this process, it can help to pet her and speak some words in a soft & gentle tone of voice.
No luck? Alternatively, your vet might be able to provide you with some cat diapers.
The right spot
Cats have a natural instinct to remain solitary whenever they are in pain. This is why a severely sick or dying cat is most comfortable when no other people or animals are around. Biologists believe the reason for this solitary confinement is found in history. Out in the wild, a cat faces threats from predators looking for a chance to invade their territory. A wounded animal makes for an easy target, so they can’t afford to show any signs of struggle or weakness.
A quiet place
To make your cat comfortable, be sure to find her a quiet area of your house. The ideal spot is one where your cat can’t be disturbed by playing children and/or other pets.
Double-check that the room is warm enough. A sick cat is often not be able to maintain a sufficient body temperature. Make sure the area is at least 68 F/ 20 C during day & night. Installing a small heater may prove helpful when the room is too cold, but don’t place it right next to her.
Food and other resources
When it comes to the essential resources, cats need easy access to three things:
- Fresh water
- Fresh litter
Wet or dry food?
Wet food is often more palatable and easier to digest. If your cat is used to eating dry kibble, you may try to mix a little wet food into her meal and see how she responds.
Your sick cat may struggle to get up, so make sure that all the vital resources can easily be reached in a straight line with no obstructions. Fresh water, food and litter should all be close.
Cats experience stress when having to compete over resources. If you have any other pets around the house, it’s probably a good idea to close off the room in order to prevent them from coming in and eating or drinking from her bowls.
Tip: Does your litter become smelly after just a few days? Try to use one of these powerful deodorizing powders
Words of comfort
One of the things that almost all cats are reluctant to do is show you that they want to be comforted. We humans can use our words to tell someone that we feel bad. or we might be able to make it obvious through our body language. But cats are not nearly as expressive. So there’s a good chance that you may have to take the initiative here and offer some words of comfort for your cat yourself.
Since most people don’t know how to comfort a sick cat, here’s some guidelines. First, imagine for a second how you would like to be treated when you are in pain. Your cat probably wants the same things; you can help her be more at ease by spending time with her and comforting her by petting with your hands.
Even talking to a cat in a sweet voice can help. Cats may not understand (most of) your words, but they can definitely pick up on the emotions that are reflected in them.
Related article: Learn how to comfort a shy cat
When it’s time to let go
Even with the best possible care, a terminally ill cat will eventually pass away. If you visited the veterinarian (which we always recommend when a cat is ill), he or she will probably want to re-evaluate your cat’s quality of life frequently. Difficult as it may be, you should leave this job to a vet. Even with your best intentions, you can’t make these kinds of evaluations on your own.
Your cat will have good and bad days. Your vet may conclude that there are yet more good days ahead. But if he or she sees that your cat has completely stopped eating or has developed serious respiratory issues, it’s probably time to let go.
And then.. ?
You lost a friend. Your cat may have been a part of your family; a companion who was always waiting for you at the door after a long day at work. Maybe your cat always greeted you with her tail whenever you came home. If you formed a bond after many years, it’s normal to go through a period of grief after losing a pet. Some people even experience feelings of guilt after having a pet euthenized.
You should allow yourself the time to process these emotions. Don’t be too shy to ask your family and friends if you need support or a listening ear.
Decide what to do with the body
Some people choose to bury their cats themselves, but you may also enlist a burial service at the pet cemetery instead. This will give you a place to visit and remember your beloved friend. Cremation is another option that allows you to do something memorable with the ashes. For example, you could buy a beautiful urn to store them in, or even have a piece of jewelry made that contains the ashes.