Cats are unique, beautiful animals that make loving companions. Our feline pets are like family to us and thus, we want to care for them the best we can. Unfortunately, our pets don’t have as long on this earth as our human companions. We must all say goodbye to our furry friends at some point, no matter how hard it is for us to do so.
Ensuring our pets pass on comfortably is the last act of kindness we can provide for them. Hospice care for cats allows our feline friends the chance to live out the last days of their life stress and pain free.
Hospice care for cats is a treatment plan for caring for your cat during their final days. This treatment plan is usually recommended to be performed under guidance of your veterinarian. Hospice care involves making sure your cat is in a safe, comfortable environment, providing them with pain relief medications, and any necessary therapies that may further ease their pain and provide them relaxation.
Pet owners may choose to have hospice care for their cat if their cat has a terminal illness or is no longer responding to treatment for their disease or medical condition. In some cases, a cat may be elderly and not likely to survive medical procedures (like surgery or other invasive procedures) that are typically done to cure their sickness or disease.
Recovering from such procedures may be more painful and stressful for cats in their condition, thus it is in the benefit of the cat to forgo medical intervention. Hospice care is only recommended for cats that are not experiencing pain that can’t be managed with medicine or therapy.
Hospice care allows you to have extra time with your cat before you must make the decision to painlessly end their life.
For cats in chronic pain or who have very poor quality of life, euthanasia is recommended as the kindest way to say goodbye to your dying cat.
If you decide to provide hospice care for your cat, here are a few typical things you can expect in most situations.
Deciding on whether to have hospice care for your cat is typically discussed between you and your pet's veterinarian. Your veterinarian will do an assessment on your cat’s current condition and decide how best to proceed with end-of-life care for them.
They may suggest pain medications to manage chronic pain, certain types of food that are easier for your cat to eat, various therapies (like acupuncture or massage) that ease your cat’s stress, and any special equipment that may make caring for a dying cat easier.
During this assessment they may also predict how long your cat has left to live. They should provide you with the information and resources for deciding when and how to consider euthanasia if that is your wish.
Your veterinarian should discuss the costs of hospice care for your cat when they have finished their assessment on your cat’s condition. Veterinary care can be costly, but many veterinarians accept payment plans.
You may also want to do your research and search for other veterinarian clinics that can provide equal care for a lower price. There may be financial aid or donation funds you can access to pay for hospice care costs.
Additionally, you could consider starting a GoFundMe to raise money for your cat’s care. There are many animal lovers out there who have no problem donating to pets in need.
Once you’ve decided on the cost of treatment, your veterinarian should discuss the plan of action. They will go over with you what medications they’ll be prescribing as well as what therapies they suggest. They’ll have their hospice team then discuss with you what actions you will need to take to prepare for your cats at home hospice care.
This may mean secluding a space in your home for your cat to reside in that’s free of noise and potential health risks and provides easy access to food and litter box.
They will then make sure you are trained on how to help a dying cat at home. This training will include:
Your veterinarian and hospice team should be able to direct you to grief counseling resources for dealing with the death of your pet. This may be recommended for you if you have a difficult time dealing with your pet’s loss. Senior’s especially may have a harder time dealing with the death of their pet as their pet is often their sole companion.
Ask your vet for paperwork or references for grief counsellors and pet loss support groups. Additionally, your vet may be able to provide cremation services or a reference to pet burial services.
Though you can find cremation urns for cats on the internet, your veterinarian may also provide cat urns in their office or know where you can buy one.
Feline hospice care should include 24-hour emergency care for your pet. This means that when needed in emergencies, a hospice care worker is on-call around the clock to provide aid.
They will also conduct regular weekly check-ups to check in on your cat and be sure they are receiving the proper care that they need. Check-ups may include checking your cat’s vitals, administering medications, cleaning, or bathing your cat, and assessing their quality of life.
Pain medications may be administered to your cat during hospice care in the form of pharmaceutical drugs. Depending on the circumstances of your cat’s health, there may be alternate forms of pain management available for them.
Nutraceuticals, or supplements may be given to your kitty to ease their pain. Certain combinations of natural vitamins and minerals may help to readjust any deficiency and improve their level of comfort.
Medical acupuncture can help to reduce your cat’s pain by sending signals to your cat’s brain and nervous system and disrupting their perception of pain.
Massaging your cat can provide immense comfort and pain relief from sore muscles or body parts. You can learn massage techniques from your veterinarian or hospice care worker. Gentle massage techniques can be used to calm your feline friend and let them know you are there with them.
Physical Therapy for cats involves using different strategies for maintaining mobility and preventing and managing pain.
Therapeutic laser treatment can influence the nervous system to reduce pain. It can also increase your cat’s circulation and decrease inflammation.
Chiropractic adjustment can be used to restore movement in places where mobility has been restricted. This will allow your cat to move more freely and with less pain.
Pet hospice for your terminal cat can be done at home without going through a veterinarian service. Providing hospice care for your dying cat on your own may be a better option for those who can’t afford a veterinarian hospice service or for cats who don’t require as much medical care.
If you are unsure of how to care for your cat on your own, you can ask your veterinarian for their guidance. Make sure you are in a position where you can provide adequate care for your cat during their final days. If you work long hours away from home and have no one else at home to care for your cat, you may be better off going with a cat hospice service.
Make your home as comfortable for your cat as possible. Secure a special spot in your home that is quiet and safe from any potential health risks or dangers (such as objects they might bump into or stairs they might fall down from).
Prepare a soft, comfy bed for them to rest in. They will be spending most of their time here resting, so a comfy bed is very important for managing their pain. Make sure this bed is close by their food, water, and litter box so they won’t have to travel far to use them.
During this stage in your cat’s life, they will require extra attention. Be sure to check in on them often to see how they are faring. Check for signs of discomfort or pain by looking for any changes in their behavior.
Take notice of how much or little your cat is eating and drinking. Closer to their final days your dying cat will have less energy to eat. Do your best to entice them to eat by feeding them foods that may be easier for them to digest, like wet food. You can also try moving their food and water bowl closer to their bed, so they do not have to get up.
It’s very common for pets to have incontinence when they reach their elderly years. Just like humans, cats' bodily processes begin to shut down as their body reserves its energy to sustain life as long as possible. Your cat may have trouble getting to their litter box in time to properly relieve themselves.
This means they will likely have many accidents that require attention. Prepare for these accidents by placing proper sanitary pads beneath them as they lay on their bed, or by using pet diapers. Check often to see if they have soiled themselves.
Lying in your own waste is not comfortable or healthy for your pet, and they will have no way of alerting you when it happens. In some cases, they may need your help using the bathroom. You may need to use a sling to wrap around their middle and support their weight as they relieve themselves.
We all wish for our pets and loved ones to leave this earth peacefully, without being in pain. Depending on your cat's condition, there may come a time when the best act of kindness you can show them is to let them go in peace. If your cat suffers from chronic pain and does not respond well to pain medications or treatment, your vet can administer euthanasia.
Euthanasia is given to your pet intravenously and will stop their heartbeat. The process is painless and allows your pet to die in their sleep. Although it is a difficult decision to make, it is sometimes the best decision for their sake. Know that you are making this decision to end their suffering, not because you want them gone sooner.
This process can be done at the veterinarian’s office or at your home if your vet offers home euthanasia services. Either way, you will be able to be by your cat’s side until the very end. Pet them gently and talk to them as they fall into their final deep sleep.
You should be aware of the end-of-life signs for your cat to ensure you are able to be by their side when it happens. During the final stages of your cat’s life, you should be monitoring them closely for these signs. Knowing what to expect when your cat is near death will allow you to work your schedule around caring for them and help you better prepare for after death procedures.
When your cat is near death, you may notice changes in their appetite. They will lose interest in eating and drinking, even when offered their favorite meals and treats. This is a sign their bodily processes are shutting down and conserving their energy to focus on other bodily processes, like breathing.
If you are worried about your cat becoming dehydrated, your vet or hospice care attendant may be able to administer a liquid IV to replenish their fluids.
As your cat gets nearer to death, they will become more lethargic. You may notice they are sleeping more or refusing to move, even when nudged. They may have trouble standing or walking unassisted and it may be more difficult for them to raise their head.
It’s important to let them rest when they need to and not force them to play or walk when they are not up to it. Keep your pet somewhere quiet where they can sleep undisturbed.
When your cat’s body starts shutting down, you may notice they start smelling funny. This unusual odour is due to toxins building up in their body as their organs are no longer properly functioning. Their body will no longer be able to eliminate waste in the same way as before, thus they will develop a build-up of toxins. Incontinence may also contribute to their unpleasant smell as defecating or urinating on themselves will become commonplace. Be sure to bathe your cat frequently to reduce odour caused by incontinence.
Appearance wise, you may notice that your cat does not look as well kept as usual. Cats love grooming themselves and take great pride in being clean, but as your cat’s energy levels drop, they will neglect their usual grooming routine. They may have matted fur and look a little rougher around the edges. Additionally, you may notice that they look a lot thinner. As their appetite falters, they will lose weight at a very fast rate. Before you know it, they will be skin and bones.
Your cat’s heart will begin to weaken as they approach their final breaths. This weakening of the heart causes other body organs to shut down, which leads to your cat’s inability to maintain a normal body temperature. Cats on average have a temperature of 37-38 degrees Celsius, or 98.6 to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can use an ear or rectal thermometer to check their temperature. You can also check their paws. If their paws are cool to the touch, then it is likely that their heart is beginning to weaken. Cover them with warm blankets and if possible, place a small space heater nearby to help keep them warm.
Wild cats have an instinctive desire to seek solitude when they are sick or dying. This is a survival mechanism used to avoid being vulnerable around predators. Hiding away from other animals is a way to protect themselves. Pet cats sometimes exhibit similar behavior. If you notice that your cat is acting more withdrawn, it could be a sign their time is near.
In their final moments, you will know your cat is dying when their breathing pattern changes. You may notice that their breathing becomes erratic, or they appear to have difficulty catching their breath. This is typically a sign that they have very little time left. Now is the time to say your final goodbyes.
It’s never easy making the decision to terminate your pet’s life, even when you fear they are in pain. You may feel like it is a betrayal of their trust to make a decision that they have no say in. However, in most cases assisted death is the best option for a sick and dying pet. Understandably you would want to keep your cat alive for as long as possible. What you don’t want is for them to suffer. So, how do you know when it is time to make that tough, final decision?
The feline quality of life scale is a ranking system that helps pet owners determine whether it is time to consider euthanasia. The criterions are graded on a scale of 0-10, 0 being least applicable and 10 being most applicable. The quality-of-life criterion are as follows:
Hurt: On a scale of 0-10, how much pain is your cat experiencing? Is their pain being successfully managed through treatments? Are they breathing, okay? Do they require oxygen?
Hunger: Does your cat require hand feeding or a feeding tube? Are they able to get enough calories to sustain their energy?
Hydration: Is your cat still drinking water? If they are not able to drink, they are likely dehydrated and will require other methods of keeping them hydrated.
Hygiene: Can your cat still groom themselves? Are you able to groom them and keep them clean? Cats need to be brushed to keep their fur healthy. They may also require dental cleaning to keep their teeth healthy. Also be sure to check for pressure sores and keep all wounds clean.
Happiness: Does your cat express happiness or interest in events going on around them? Do they respond to you (purr or meow) when you pet them or scratch behind their ears? Do they seem to be depressed, lonely, or anxious? You know your pet best and therefore should know when their behavior is different than usual.
Mobility: How affected is your cat’s mobility? Can they get up without help? Are they having regular seizures or stumbling when they walk? Limited mobility on its own is not necessarily a reason to consider euthanasia. If they are still alert and responsive in other areas, they can still have a good quality of life if their family is willing to provide proper care.
Good Days VS. Bad Days: When your cat has more bad days than good days, it may be time to say goodbye. At this point their quality of life is compromised and it’s unfair to let them live longer in pain. If your cat is experiencing more pain and less joy, then you need to do your duty to do what’s best for them.
Tally up your score for all criteria. If your score is less than 35, then continued hospice care for your cat is considered acceptable. Anything above 35, however, means their quality of life is too compromised for them to enjoy life peacefully and painlessly.
After you’ve said your final goodbyes to your favorite feline friend, you will need to consider your options for burial or cremation. Your vet may have useful information and resources regarding these matters.
They may provide cremation services or know of pet cemeteries that conduct pet funerals. Consider making these arrangements before your cat’s death to save you the stress and frustration of sorting matters out when you are grief stricken.
Should you choose to bury your cat, you have a few options; You can choose to bury your cat on your property in your backyard for example, or in a pet cemetery. A pet cemetery is a cemetery specifically for burying and holding funeral services for pets. Most cemeteries do not allow pet remains to be buried on their grounds, thus pet cemeteries were created to give pet owners a place to bury and mourn their pet.
If you do not have a pet cemetery nearby, or prefer to bury your cat on your own, make sure you find a place you can safely, and legally do so. Some communities have laws about burying pets in common grounds, like recreational parks or other outside areas reserved for the public.
Pick an isolated spot where your pet’s grave will not disturb other people, nor be at risk of being disturbed. Additionally, you can choose to bury your cat on your property if your homeowner’s association allows it.
Cremating your cat involves placing your cat’s remains in an incinerator to produce ashes. You then are given these ashes to keep in an urn to memorialize your family pet cat. You will need to make arrangements with a service that does pet cremations. Check with your veterinarian or do a Google search for local pet crematoriums. You will also need to consider your options for cat urns. Cat urns come in multiple designs and are made from different types of material including wood, metal, and ceramic.
Ceramic Cat Urns: Ceramic cat urns are perfect for beautifully painted images and words that memorialize your feline friend’s life. However, they are fragile and more likely to become damaged should they fall over.
Wood Cat Urns: Wood cat urns are easy to display and allow for personalized laser engravings of your cat’s image and name. They come in a variety of prices and styles.
Metal Cat Urns: Metal cat urns are the most durable type of urn. They come in a variety of styles, colors, and price points.
Most cat urns can be personalized with engraved messages, poems, quotes, and even images of your cat. Pick a cat urn that most reminds you of your cat’s personality. Also consider where you plan to display your cat’s urn. Make sure the urn matches the decoration in the room you plan to display it in. If you plan on burying your cat’s urn with their ashes, appearance and personalization may be less important.
The final stage in preparing for your cat’s death is to plan their memorial service. Many families choose to hold a small service for their pet to say goodbye in a respectful way. If you are burying your cat, you can gather your family and close friends around your pet’s grave to say a special prayer or final words of goodbye.
A pet funeral service is very similar to a funeral service you would have for a loved one. It’s customary for pet owners to place flowers on their pet's grave or bury their pet with their favorite toy. You may also want to look into purchasing a pet gravestone or grave marker.
Should you choose to cremate your cat, you may still hold a memorial service for them in a similar fashion. Your family and close friends can gather around your cat’s urn and speak some kind words in their remembrance. You could also spread your cat’s ashes outside in your garden, a park, or any place outside that was special to your cat.
Your cat’s urn can then be displayed in a special place in your home. You can set up a framed picture of your loveable feline companion to stand beside it and forever emblazon their memory in your home.
To keep your cat in your heart and in your mind after they’ve passed, you may consider pet memorial jewlery and keepsakes. Cat memorial gifts like a photo engraved cat necklace or paw print cremation jewelry for cats serve as beautiful ways to memorialize your pet’s importance in your life.
Ashes into jewelry for cats use your cat's ash remains to make sentimental jewelry pieces for cat owners mourning their furry friend. Memorial jewelry makes great gift options for friends or loved ones who are grieving the loss of their pet. Some cat remembrance gifts might include:
14K Gold Pawed Necklace Urn- These cylindrical design gold necklaces are personally made to order. It features a paw print in memoriam of your pet and room to keep a small amount of your cat’s ashes. This way you can carry a part of your pet cat with you even after they’ve passed on.
Pet Photo Jewelry- Pet photo jewelry allows you to engrave your beloved pet cat’s photo onto a beautiful metal pendant. Photo jewelry is a unique way to remember your cat and their impression on your life.
Paw Print Cremation Keychain- A paw print keychain that carries your pets ashes will allow you to bring your pet with you wherever you go. Keychains make great remembrance gifts for those who are on the go often and always have their keys in hand.
Cat Hospice Assessment- This PDF document from catvets.com will provide you with detailed information on what is included in cat hospice care as well as how to assess if your cat should receive hospice care.
Pet Loss Support- Lap of Love provides grief support resources for pet owners greiving their beloved furry friends. They also have additional information on veterinary hospice and euthanasia.
Pet Cemetery Resources- Where and how to find a pet cemetery for burying your cat.
The Ultimate Pet Cremation Jewelry Guide- Pet cremation jewelry for remembrance gifts.
Hospice care is recommended for your dying cat when there are no more options available to them for treatment, or treatment would only prolong their suffering. Your cat may be suffering from terminal cancers or painful health complications. In these cases, keeping your cat comfortable until their inevitable death is the only service you can provide for them.
All pet insurance plans are different, so you will have to check with your pet insurance provider to see if they cover veterinary hospice care. However, most pet insurance plans cover prescription medication, in person medical exams, and sometimes rehabilitation services. Depending on how much medical attention your cat needs during hospice, your insurance may cover all the necessary treatments.
Hospice care for your cat will range in price depending on your veterinarian and your location. A hospice or euthanasia visit from Lap of Love, for example, will cost you anywhere from $200 to $250. However, you should discuss with your veterinarian first about the price for their services and whether they offer payment plan options. If you don’t have pet insurance, you can expect to pay more.
Anyone in your family may assist with hospice care for your cat as long as they are trained on how to do so carefully. It may be a good idea to only allow adult family members to handle tasks such as administering medication or moving your pet cat from place to place. Children may not understand the level of care or attention that needs to be given to your cat who’s in a fragile condition. If children want to help, they can care for your cat by bringing them food and water, grooming them, and keeping them company.
You can help your cat to pass away peacefully at home by ensuring they are as comfortable as possible. Make sure they feel safe and cozy and provide them with whatever they need to make them happy. If they are not in any pain, allowing them to die without euthanasia is possible. However, if you are aware that they are in pain or suffering in discomfort, euthanasia may be the best and kindest way for them to pass.
Yes, there is nothing wrong with letting your cat die naturally at home as long as they are not experiencing any pain. Many cats simply die of old age when it is their time to go. Assess your cat’s pain and quality of life to determine whether you should assist with their death with the use of euthanasia. Keep your cat comfortable by providing them with a warm, cozy place for them to sleep and whatever extra care they may require. Look for end of life signs (as mentioned earlier in this article) to know when to expect your cat’s final breath.
Cats, like all animals and humans, can sense when their time is near. When a cat senses they are sick or dying, they will seek out solitude. This is a defense instinct to isolate them from other animals and would be predators. By seeking out a hiding place, they remain less vulnerable. Both wildcats and domestic cats share this behavioral instinct.
Checking in with your cat often is key to assessing their quality of life. Pay attention to their behaviors, appearance, smell, and general wellbeing. Make sure they are clean and not experiencing any pain. Refer to the Feline Quality of Life Scale mentioned earlier in this article to understand how to look for signs of distress.
Our pets hold a special place in our hearts even after they’ve passed on. As a loving pet owner, you want to do the best you can to ensure your cat lives out the rest of their days in peace. Hospice care allows you to cater to your dying cat’s needs and provide them with the love and attention they deserve.
It’s never easy saying goodbye to those we love, animal or human, but knowing they are passing on pain free should put your mind at ease. When they fall asleep for the last time, they will be dreaming of you.
February 21, 2022 by Frances Kay