Cat euthanasia is a gift from human to cat?

A veterinarian, Dr. Karyn, explains why she believes that when you euthanise your cat you are giving them the gift of a peaceful end to their life. You remove some of the end-of-life pain and distress.

Cat euthanasia is a gift from human to cat? Yes, if it is done to high ethical standards and in the best interests of the cat.
Cat euthanasia is a gift from human to cat? Yes, if it is done to high ethical standards and in the best interests of the cat. Image: MikeB under a Canva license.
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RELATED: Is cat euthanasia ALWAYS painless?

And it should be said that the concept of euthanising chronically ill companion animals, at the end of their lives, is taking hold in the human world because there’s lots more discussion nowadays about euthanising humans under the same circumstances.

Clearly, with respect to human euthanasia, humans believe that there have to be greater controls about when it can and can’t be done. Regulations will have to protect the vulnerable, chronically ill patient, earmarked for euthanasia. They need to be protected against exploitative people who want to tap in to the patient’s estate which may be valuable.

You don’t find these kinds of protections in the cat and dog world. When a cat is earmarked for euthanasia, the decision is made by the owner and the veterinarian together if the companion animal is lucky enough to be in a nice home with their owner.

The decision is made in the best interests of the animal without reference to what the owner wants which is normally to extend the life of a companion animal because they don’t want to lose them. If there are mistakes in the timing of euthanasia, it is to extend life unreasonably causing unnecessary pain and distress.

The foreseeable problems of euthanising humans is actually taking place right now in the world of cats and dogs. Many, in fact millions, of cats and dogs have been “euthanised” at animal shelters when they were perfectly healthy and able to be wonderful companions for an adopter if an adopter had been available.

And Nathan Winograd, an animal shelter expert in America, would argue that in many instances the shelter should never have been in a position to decide to euthanise an animal. They’ve arrived at that point because they’ve managed their shelter in a sloppy manner. He would argue that if shelters were more vigorous and more imaginative and better organised there’d be far less euthanasia of shelter animals.

Under the circumstances of a shelter animal being euthanised, often it is not a gift to the animal. In human terms it is plain murder. It is the opposite to a gift. It is the taking away of a good life as opposed to the giving of a good end-of-life.

And perhaps, here, I can touch on another issue. If millions of cats and dogs are euthanised in shelters when they are in fact healthy enough to be rehomed, human society degrades the value of cats and dogs. It becomes easier to kill them. It is perhaps fair to say that some shelter managers don’t see cats and dogs as precious sentient beings but as animals to be processed. This mentality can, arguably, feed back into society to the point where it undermines the relationship between cat and dog owner and their companion animal.

And so, Dr. Karyn’s argument that it’s a gift needs to be qualified. There are conditions attached. It isn’t just in shelters where euthanasia is in fact killing. Sometimes, albeit I would hope rarely, cat and dog owners take their companion animals to veterinarians to be euthanised when they are perfectly healthy. Veterinarians would normally refuse to do it but some don’t.

And you will find breeders who think that it is acceptable to “euthanize” newborn kittens that they have deemed to be unsaleable for some reason or other. They might regard a newborn kitten as barely a sentient being and therefore it does not harm their conscience to kill them.

I don’t want to be too negative. Done properly, pet euthanasia is the right solution to end-of-life problems. The hard bit is deciding when to do it and to do it under high ethical standards.

Sometimes, Dr. Karyn admits that euthanasia doesn’t go smoothly; sometimes pets need sedation “before we can place an IV, or the animals that involuntarily vocalise as they pass”. This is a reflex action she says. But “in the vast majority of cases, euthanasia is a calm, peaceful procedure, which can take place in a veterinary practice or sometimes at your home.”

She argues as does Jackson Galaxy that the owner should be there on the passing of their companion animal. It’s the last duty of a caregiver. And according to her owners appreciate it later on.

She also adds that, “I have never seen the decision to euthanise a sick or suffering pet too early, but I’ve definitely seen it made too late.”

That’s probably the most important point. If you want to make euthanasia a gift to your pet you need to put aside your personal desires to hang onto your companion animal. Ask a good, experienced vet for advice.

RELATED: Do domestic cats feel betrayed for an instant when you instruct a veterinarian to euthanise them?

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