Jackson Galaxy provides advice on when to euthanize your cat (and Michael adds some more)

For those who are unsure, Jackson Galaxy is America’s celebrity cat behaviorist. His advice is excellent. Jackson’s approach to the difficult decision as to when to euthanise your cat is spiritual. Provided the cat’s guardian is in the right place psychologically, her cat will tell her when it is time. If you are a loving cat caregiver, the decision as to when you need to euthanize your cat is one of the most difficult decisions that you will be called on to make. The key: a business-like approach while focusing on cat welfare and parking human emotions.

I am asking the question whether euthanising a cat with sodium pentobarbital is genuinely painless
Sodium pentobarbital. Does it cause pain in cats when euthanized? Image: Google Images.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

In this article I use my own words and interpretation of Jackson’s advice but have provided some quotes from his book Total Cat Mojo (quite a complicated and in-depth book which surprised me). I felt I had to, to ensure I passed on the flavour of his advice and to make sure the article is accurate.

You have to be objective in the decision making. You have to get rid of the white noise of your own emotions because the decision is about what is right for your cat.

If you hide away from this difficult decision, you are liable to keep putting off the moment which can mean unnecessary pain for your cat.

Jackson relies on the phrase:

“Never on their worst day.”

..as a guide. I think he means that the focus for the decision is all on your cat. He keeps the phrase in his mind which brings him back to the moment,

“It’s not about me…It’s not about my pain and suffering. It’s not about how I will fall apart in the days and weeks after losing my best friend..”

Also, the phrase means that on the day,

“I want their last memories of this particular time around to be of love and light, not pain and suffering.”

Jackson believes that we are transient as spirits and our time on earth, including animals, is:

“…a pit stop in physical form. I also believe that, unless they feel a bit of emotional detachment on your part when tuning into this sacred bond, they won’t feel ‘permission’ to make that transition [into the spirit world].

The background your mental state will be the declining health of your cat. It will probably be a terminal illness or if you are lucky just old age and a noticeable decline in health which may speed up.

He then says that your cat will tell you when it is time. This is quite a metaphysical concept but I believe that he is correct if you have a good emotional connection with your cat companion. This advice in inapplicable to those who have a loose relationship with their cat.

I can remember one day looking into the eyes of my cat, she looked at me as if to say that it is time. I felt that strongly and clearly. It was a whole bundle of factors which came together and coalesced. And she made the final decision for me. By then I had got rid of my emotions and fears and as Jackson says, I was firmly focused on my cat.

He says that if you are armed with what he calls the ‘toolbox’ of equipment to deal with all aspects of cat guardianship and if you adhere to the pointers mentioned above, you’ll know when to say goodbye.

We should be with our cat when she/he is euthanized
We should be with our cat when she/he is euthanized. Image: PoC.

And the cat guardian should be there at the final moment; strong and loving, no tears in front of your cat at that moment. The crying should happen in another room together with any other human behaviour which does not serve your cat at that moment. It is tough advice but it is the last duty of a good cat caregiver. In the past I have been unable to be with my cat when they’ve been injected with the life-ending drugs. It has been too painful for me. But next time, God willing, I’ll be there.

There is one last point that I missed in the first writing of this article: it helps to have a senior veterinarian who has lots of experience and who you can genuinely trust for advice. They can help guide you but it must be the right sort of veterinarian.

When it is all done, arrange an individual cremation and watch it happen to be sure that you have your cat’s ashes. More tough stuff to contend with. The strength of an individual cremation is that you know that you have the ashes of your cat; not the ashes of other cats or whatever animals are cremated together.

And in knowing that you have your best buddy’s ashes it is emotionally supportive. You can keep them with you for the rest of your life. You maintain an emotional connection. You let your memories fill the gaps; those pleasant and sweet moments that you carry with you at all times.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

14 thoughts on “Jackson Galaxy provides advice on when to euthanize your cat (and Michael adds some more)”

  1. Paka had a heart condition. She started medication I think August 2020. She did not seem sick with it. We took her echo at the beginning of January and added another medication and told us to find a cardiologist. They had us check her kidneys a week or maybe it was two after the change. It took some time for the appointment time to arrive. We went for her final echo Saturday four days before we euthanized her. She was her usual self. He showed me the the bottom right ventricle was at least four times her right atrium and the left wall was thickened.. He wrote in the report her condition was guarded. He told me to count her breaths preferably when she was asleep and it should be below 40 and would be really bad at 60. It was 22. I realized it was hard for me to figure out where to feel her breaths. We had always slept breathing together. That was disturbing but she wasn’t having trouble breathing, I guess it was shallow but I hadn’t figured that out. He had changed her medication. Tuesday we started the meds. She didn’t tolerate them well and kept throwing them up. Friday night she had trouble walking and we flew to the emergency vet. She never got so bad she really had trouble breathing. Her kidneys were terrible. They put her on a slow drip for her kidneys thinking they would clear and that they would improve and hoped it wouldn’t worsen her heart. She was worse the next morning and wouldn’t eat or drink. She was shivering which she had never done in her whole life. She was a Sphynx. I had them do another run of blood tests to be sure it was not improving but very slowly and her kidneys were worse. We had to wait a bit for the doctor to get to us. We let her go. I don’t think they let you be there at cremation in NYS. I couldn’t bear to get a footprint. I had played with her real toes too often. I’m retrospect she had urinated inappropriately after the addition of the second medicine. Maybe she had already been showing signs of major trouble before her last echocardiogram. I feel so guilty and I dint know when I should have realized and let her go. We have two others who are furry the same age. I am terrified for them that I might screw up again. I am a mess. I am stumbling through the days trying to not cry at work. I’m not sure if I waited too long.

    1. You are not alone. I behaved in a similar way when my female cat died many years ago. I waited too long because I wanted to play safe. But you don’t know how much discomfort or even pain that your cat is going through. Looking back and in retrospect I now know that she was in pain. She died of kidney disease and it seems to me that kidney disease can cause acute discomfort.

      It is not apparent really but she was in pain. Now I can tell now from photos because her face indicated pain and she liked to sleep on cold ground which help to alleviate it. And she slept all day and didn’t move at all. I waited too long. Like you, it took me a long time to get over it and on the first cat that I owned, who died in a road traffic accident, I have never got over that.

      It is difficult but I think we have to try and be as emotionally detached as we can when we make that decision to euthanise. And we need to rely on a good and experienced veterinarian who we trust.

      I wish you the very best and may she rest in peace. Thanks for sharing your story which I found painful but powerful.

  2. Letting go of my beloved ‘Storm’ on the 10th of this month had my body racking with sobs…1. because even though she couldnt breathe very good and was sneezing consistently she was still eating.2. even though she was terminal with nasal cancer watching her go down my stairs from my bedroom she was fast and never stumbled and because of that I questioned myself,did I do the right thing even though she didnt act like she was in pain,she resisted the sedative as they tried to shave the fur off her leg where they would insert the needle to for her final injection,to day I still question myself and I’m reaffirmed by many that I did do the right thing so and even though deep down I did do right by her it’s the memory that keeps me doubting myself,the photo is her moments after I said my final goodbye and ye can see the cancer mass on the right side of her face,I hate cancer,it stole my baby from me,oh gawd I’m sobbing again.

  3. Better three days early than even three minutes too late.

    Humaneness often requires humans to put their ego in a locked cupboard, a big shame for many cats that many humans are incapable of doing that.

    1. A nice saying that Jane: Better three days early than even three minutes too late. My first time I was late but I was unable to make a good judgment. I am better now.

  4. Michael, I don’t know about you, but believe in Life after Death. This is why I am so distraught that Shrimptaro, my Shrimp, did not have meby his side. We were solid company by each other’s side for do many years.

  5. Well, it must be “fun” to be you. My best friend Shrimp was “euthanized,” or so I can only imagine, by a veterinarian who only charged me thirty [30] dollars for a tooth cleaning. My best friend recommended her. My usual veterinarian, Dr. Becky Arnold, here in Lincoln, Nebraska, charges way more than I could afford for Shrimptaro. $600. It’s just a number to me now.

    1. Dr. Becky Dillon said that Shrimp died of a “heartache.”. Dr. Dillon had every opportunity to call, before she chose to put my Shrimp Ina state of death. I was not able to be with him, so that he and I could look into each other’s eyes. . Thanks’f or allowing me to say this, Michael.

  6. In many us states individual is where the animals are arranged in a grid in the oven with a chart marking each pet. sometimes fire bricks are put between them. If you want a true individual cremation it is also called a witnessed cremation and most places offer that service and so do some human funeral homes now. Be prepared when the oven opens. It’s not a pile of ashes but large pieces of ash that looked very much like Kitten. When he touched them it collapsed it was highly emotional. Make sure to get paw prints in the clay and on paper and they are happy to get you come fur. I advise anyone to get all the keepsakes as you can’t go back and decide to later.

    1. Thanks ME. I did individual cremations but I did not see the ashes removed from the oven but I witnessed my cat being placed in it. It is very tough. These memories never leave me and are as sharp today as if it happened yesterday.

      1. It was beyond difficult and my husband was not even able to make it to the car to accompany me. I have no regrets. It was a final act of respect. These are difficult days we are at the three year mark of her murder per DVM. The only thing that could have made it worse was losing her remains. I believe you posted a article about a pet cemetery losing it’s lease. While it’s big business both burial and cremation of your pets are largely unregulated as long as the unclaimed ashes are disposed of correctly. If you want to know that what you get back are your animals remains the only real option is to be there. I was allowed to witness the whole process from the time she was put our for my goodbye until her ashes were put in the urn.

  7. I suggest that you discuss with your SO or your own reflection how you want to handle this when the time comes.
    We treated Kitten like she was just at a visit to the doctor and no one got emotional or cried. Until after. The last thing you want to do is make them afraid or more afraid with your behavior. It also could mean an adrenaline rush making the animal harder to just hold and comfort. It’s 100% about them not you.

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