Do cats know when you are putting them down?

cat euthanized
Veterinarian ordered euthanasia saying cat was suffering (WTSP)
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Do cats know when you are putting them down? Cat owners/guardians will have a different point of view on this question. Some may say for sure they know. Others would disagree. I believe that cats don’t know that they are being euthanised. They do know that they are in a difficult and uncomfortable situation because they are at a veterinary clinic.

The mood will be sombre and they will probably pick this up. They may associate the room with pain and discomfort. But they won’t know that they are living the last minutes of their life. This is because they don’t know veterinary medicine and they don’t know the English language or other languages. They can’t understand what their human guardian is saying to the veterinarian. The don’t understand what a hypodermic needle is or what the drug is inside it. It is a mystery to them.

Also, on a more philosophical level, we have to ask the question whether cats know when they are dying putting aside for
a moment the issue of euthanasia at a vet’s clinic. That’s a known unknown as well.

They do know that a consulting room at a veterinary clinic is not a good place to be and as mentioned they may have had a difficult experience in that room in the past which makes them anxious. There will be strange noises and sights and sounds. Cats will be anxious and stressed but they can’t predict the next few minutes.

People who say that their cat understands that they are about to be euthanised might be correct but I sense that they are probably more likely to be projecting their thoughts onto their cat. I don’t wish to be unkind. And, of course, I could be wrong.

Perhaps the most important point about euthanising your cat is that you, we, cat guardians and caretakers should be there. It is something which I have failed at in the past because it is so hard if you love so much. It won’t happen again in the future.

Jackson Galaxy remembers a speech he gave in Milwaukee. A young woman, perhaps a teenager, stood up to ask for advice on when to euthanise her seriously ill cat. He provided his answer and made the point:

“Never on their worst day”

He meant that a stranger (a vet tech and/or vet) should never be the only people there on their cat’s worst day. It’s the final moment and it can be argued that a cat owner’s most important act throughout the entire life of their cat is to be there at their last moments. It’s a duty and a very tough one for many cat loving guardians.

You will not find an answer to the question in the title in any book by any expert no matter how good, bad or moderate. This is because they don’t know, I don’t know and you don’t know for certain. You may have an idea but it is not sure. We have to take it from our own experiences. My experience tells me that they are unaware that they are being euthanised. What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Do cats know when you are putting them down?”

  1. I’m a little tired of being suspected of projecting. Maybe some people do that, but I’ve always been objective and scientific. A cat “knowing” can’t honestly be known, but one can suspect that they wonder and suspect something bad, possibly very, very bad is not only possible but probable. I can reasonable also suspect that no living thing really wants to die, even under dire circumstances. Why those points are never discussed or offered is also just as suspect or meaningful as saying people can project. Sorry but that’s my honesty and lack of filters talking, which I think serve me well when examining difficult topics like this.

  2. I do think some cat’s sense that their time is ending and I say that because my own late beloved ‘Mysterymine’ fought the process and til this day it still haunt’s me,he had become weak and could no longer use the cat box,he had bone marrow cancer and on the evening he crossed over he had been given a sedative to calm him but it didnt,it took 2 vet techs Michael to hold him to complete the process and after he was gone I grabbed him and fell to my knees sobbing,I will never get that final image out of my head so yeah I do think they know when their time on earth is up,pictured below is my ‘Mysterymine’.


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