Feline in-home euthanasia
By Anita Kelsey – Cat behaviour expert – www.catnips.co.uk
I remember the moment so well, when myself and my husband came to the decision that it was time to say goodbye to our beloved cat, Figgy, who had been with us since a year old.
We had met Figgy under quite bizarre circumstances. I had answered an ad in Gumtree that said the cat needed an indoor -only home and, at that time I was looking for a cat I could keep in a top floor flat. When I arrived at the home to meet Figgy, she was handed to me on the doorstep without my even being invited in!! Figgy looked really skinny and dirty and I immediately took pity on her. Really I just wanted her out of her present situation as soon as possible. I proceeded to lavish love and attention on her and fed her roast chicken, fresh prawns, really rich meats, and within one month, unbeknown to me, I had destroyed a major part of her kidneys.
I had, in fact, been given a cat already with a kidney condition without being told. Figgy collapsed and had to be rushed to my local vet, where she was put on a drip. That’s when I was told the news about her kidneys. I was devastated, I had contributed to her ill health even more by not being told the truth.
Figgy was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and from that moment on, had to be given medication and a special renal diet. Years passed and Figgy remained in great health until the disease started to take a firm hold. We battled to live with all the symptoms that creep up with time connecting to KD, incontinence, regular vomiting, a ravaging thirst where water bowls have to be left all over the house. Our sofa and bed were covered with plastic sheeting and we administered medication to Figgy everyday.
We did all that we could to keep her with us as long as she was showing us that she wasn’t in too much discomfort and seemed ok in her actions and movements. We monitored her closely and knew that she would tell us when it was getting too much for her. We needed her guidance and actually she guided us well.
After a while Figgy started to distance herself from us which was very out of character. She would lie in odd places with her back to us or hunched in an odd sitting position and, as a cat who previously would follow us everywhere and loved to sleep pressed right up against me every night, I knew she was preparing herself to die. Animals do this in the wild. They hide when they are close to death so as not to be found vulnerable or attract other predators from the oncoming smell of illness, weakness and death.
I knew this was it and yet the day I decided to put Figgy out of her misery, she came to me and started purring and seemed to ‘perk up’ a bit, so I quickly put that ‘action’ on hold and we all carried on as before. It didn’t take long for the purring to cease and things began to look bleak again. This time I knew, no matter what happened, I would have to face the fact that Figgy was near to death and that I needed to be brave and do the right thing for her. The thought of taking her to an unfamiliar sterile place to say our last goodbyes and to end her life was unthinkable. If she was going to be put to sleep it would be in our arms in a place where she felt settled and safe and where she was loved. Her last moments would be stress free surrounded by our love and kindness. In her own territory unconnected with fear.
I didn’t really know if our vet offered this service if I am honest, but I wanted to ask them if they would consider coming to our house to put Figgy to sleep and when they said yes, it was a huge relief. I don’t think I could have beared to put her in the carrier, which she hated, and taking her to be placed on a cold vet’s table in unfamiliar surroundings smelling of other cats and dogs. She hated the vets. To spend her last breath in a place she hated was not going to happen on my watch!
The vet arrived with her assistant and was really good with us. She spoke very softly and took on board how devastated we were. We couldn’t speak through our tears and, although she must have seen this kind of reaction a million times, she made us feel comfortable in our grief. It was all over very quickly. Figgy was lying in her favourite spot on the sofa, oblivious to anything strange happening, and myself and husband were either side cuddling her and talking gently in her ears. The vet held a flap of skin up in Figgys neck and administered the dose via a syringe. Within a few seconds Figgy fell asleep and never woke up. We thanked the vet as best we could through streaming tears and then, as she left, were both faced with a home without Figgy. A huge empty void hit us like a ton of bricks.
We had Figgy cremated in a pet crematorium and her ashes placed in a little wooden urn which we have in our living room. We also had some of her ashes, a whisker, and some fur placed in a little silver pet jewellery locket which we both wear on a chain around our necks. The whole process was very healing. We felt it was the very best way to end our cats life. More expensive than at a vet’s surgery but it was worth it. We loved her more than anything and this had to be done right for her sake, with respect and dignity.
One company who offers home euthanasia as well as a 24/7 animal home hospice and palliative care service is
Vets2Home launched themselves in 2013 after a need was recognised, by founder vet Susan Gregersen, for people with pets diagnosed with a terminal illness, or pets at the last stages of their life through old age, to be given palliative care in the comfort of their own homes.
‘We want people to know that we’re here to help at all hours of the day and night,’ says Susan ‘We will tailor-make a care plan for your animal so it can be pain free through to a natural, or more often, an assisted end. This is more than possible at home.’
Animal home hospice care is an old idea that has recently been revived in the United States. Susan is bringing it ‘across the pond’ and focusing it on pet owners in Sussex and the Surrey/Kent borders.
‘It is the best way to give a pet individual treatment in a comfortable setting and familiar environment,’ she explains. ‘Owners play an important part in a pet hospice situation, and care focuses on pain control and comfort for the animal as well as on 24-hour advice and support for the family when the end is approaching.’
Susan says she has had too many requests to put down a pet that clearly still enjoys life and is not yet suffering, but the owner simply can’t bear the unknown or is unsure of what is to come.
‘Fear is the number one reason people choose euthanasia too early,’ she says. ‘If owners make this choice because they don’t know what to expect or how to deal with the situation, they may miss out on the intimate and often emotionally healing process of final-stage care for their pets. Gentle two-step home euthanasia – always with a sedation first – is available at any stage, as long as the owner feels prepared and is ready for it.
It is the goal of Vets 2 Home to be among the first UK-based, specialised animal hospice, or end-of-life care providers, offering individual home consultations 24/7 to owners so they have a better understanding of pain and disease. They will also offer owners help and support to prepare for the death or euthanasia of their pet.
Susan adds ‘I am one of the only vets in the UK with many years experience of helping families and pets at home. On more than 6,000 home visits I have gently put to sleep a wide variety of pets (dogs, cats, sheep, budgies, chickens, guinea pigs, hamsters and even a crow) in the nicest possible way. My clients’ gratitude that the death of their much-loved pet could take place without pain, in their own home, speaks for itself.’
Below is a list of other companies who provide specialised end of life home care/home euthanasia, and advice as well as the pet crematorium we used for Figgy. They were amazing.
- Home Visit Vet
- Dignified Departures (A not for profit movement who highlight vet services who adhere to the ethos of granting pets a dignified and peaceful end to their life)
- Dignity Pet Crematorium
If you are a pet owner who’s fortunate enough to have the time to plan for your pet’s last few weeks or days, I would say put some money aside to say goodbye at home and make your pet’s last moments as peaceful and stress-free as possible. It’s the least you can do for an animal you have loved every day of your life and who has given you a joy that all the money in the world cannot buy.
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