Friday, February 15, 2013

Time to Let Go

The hardest and most heartbreaking thing that a pet owner ever has to go through is making the decision to euthanize a dearly loved pet. Euthanasia is a painful and tough subject that raises many difficult moral and ethical questions, but at the end of the day the only thing that really matters is the apparent best interest of the particular animal.

Some, but not many animals die peacefully in their sleep and the owners are spared from having to make the hard decision to
end a life. On the other hand, many pet cats tend to live long past the point where they can sleep, eat or walk normally, just as many of the rescued kitties are too sick or too severely injured to be reasonably expected to make any meaningful improvement.
Everyone wishes that their pets would die quietly and without pain, in their sleep, but we cannot seriously talk about natural death if an animal’s life is being prolonged artificially by medical means.

Sometimes, however painful it may be, the most compassionate
thing to do is to put down a pet whose quality of life is deteriorating rapidly. If a family cat can no longer do the things she once enjoyed, if she is suffering because of old age, chronic or acute illness or a serious injury, if there is more pain than pleasure
in her life, euthanasia is not only warranted, but also a pure final act of mercy.

Over all these years of rescuing and caring for stray cats, I’ve been respecting their right to die in a manner of their own choosing. Some of them were refusing
to be taken to the vet at the end, as if they had decided not to have any more treatment for their terminal illnesses and they all died peacefully at home, in a place they knew and loved. The others just said goodbye when they felt their time had come and walked
away, never to be seen again. Only four of them have had to be put down to end their suffering and I can honestly say that in spite of knowing there wasn’t anything else that could be done, putting down any of them was extremely hard, nevertheless totally

The decision to euthanize a pet is usually reached only as a last resort, when every possible option has already been tried, exhausted and failed. Are we supposed to wait until a cat is unable to function normally,
until the pain is serious and untreatable, until her suffering becomes extreme, until it’s clear she is facing a horrible, painful death, just because we can’t bring ourselves to lose her? Fighting until the end becomes senseless if it means we’re putting
the pets we allegedly love through unimaginable pain. If we care enough to suffer the heartbreak and say goodbye to set them free of suffering, it is the ultimate, last gift of kindness, it is something called a true love.

Milance, my precious one, was found as a tiny kitten, with his hind legs brutally cut off. He had endured numerous surgeries despite all odds and over time, he grew up into a beautiful, happy tomcat but I’ve always had a vague feeling he would not live long. As he was
growing quickly and getting bigger and heavier day by day, the bone of his left leg kept protruding through the skin every now and then and the bigger he got, the less his stumps could bear his weight, so the wounds started to open up. One day I noticed that his left
stump was swollen, but he wouldn't allow me to touch it. The next night, his loud purring woke me up – he was cuddling with me until morning as if he was saying goodbye and I knew I had held him for the last time. I took him to the vet and it turned out that his
thigh bone was broken longitudinally and he was diagnosed with sepsis. Nothing could have been done except to put him down; otherwise, he would’ve suffered tremendously until death mercifully arrived and I was ready to do whatever it took to spare him
from dying in pain. There was just no other choice.

Marponi was an adult tom when I first met him. After some time he disappeared and was found again two years later, terribly skinny and very sick, unable to stand on his feet and badly
afflicted with calicivirus. His condition had improved a lot over a year of treatment, but then everything took a turn for the worse and his suffering began. His mouth was full of abscesses and proud flesh, he had bad breath and was obviously in pain. The
vet told me he could endure maybe a week in that shape and his death would be a very painful one, he had already been crying for days. Should I have hung onto him and let him suffer, out of pure selfishness? No way.

Nada was picked up as
a tiny kitten, bone skinny and utterly weak, horribly injured by roaming dogs. They literally chewed on her! She had been under treatment for about two weeks and began to recover, but internal injuries were still suspected. And then, suddenly, she began to vomit black
clotted blood and it turned out she had jaundice as well. Seriously injured, skinny and weak as she was, she didn’t stand a chance. Was I supposed to fight until the end, regardless of her suffering? I could not save her, but at least I gave her a peaceful passing.

Dodjos was an adult tom when our paths crossed. Although the other cats didn’t accept him at first, he was persistent and managed to stay with us. Not until we all moved to the shelter was he diagnosed with a very severe FUS. The vets attempted to perform
surgery on him but they didn’t succeed as his bladder was full of some gelatinous, brown mass none of the vets has ever seen before. Had I kept him alive, he would’ve suffered enormously as he had already crossed the point of no return. However difficult it was, I had
to let him go.

The most important consideration for a responsible cat owner must be the well-being of their cat. We are now able to prolong their lives more than ever before, thanks to many advances in veterinary medicine.
We’re providing them with quality food and medical care and we love them dearly, but there may come a time when we have to forget about ourselves and act in their best interest. If our pets are suffering, if the quality of their life is rapidly diminishing, if every new day brings
just more pain, we’re no longer doing right by keeping them alive. The line has to sadly be drawn somewhere.


Angela P said...

Thank you for everything you do for these precious souls. Good article and food for thought in regards to our wonderful fur babies and what is best for them.

Timmy Tomcat said...

The decision to help a loved cat make that final journey over the Rainbow Bridge is such a difficult one. The last few of my loved furs were home with me when the time came. My last one, Inky, had been with me 22 years. He was not in pain but just kind of wound down like a clock. He seemed to leave several times but then would rally and have a small drink and curl up and give a purr. His brofurs would sleep with him at the end of the bed instead of their normal position with me. Cats have such power of life we do need to help at times so I thank you so much for sharing these difficult times with all of us. Thanks for all you do.

Travelling Cats said...

What a sad subject. I wish all kitties could live forever...