When To Euthanize a Cat

by Michael

When to euthanize a cat? ANSWER: When it is right for the cat. This, though, is a very difficult question. I thought I would try and answer it having just tortured myself going through the experience.

No one has the right to lecture on the subject. But I hope my experience helps someone make the right decision. I am not saying I made the right decision, incidentally. I am just sharing.

cat cremation urn

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Binnie’s casket containing her ashes – I loved her unconditionally and with all my heart.

We cannot make entirely objective decisions because we are not robots. For the sake of complete clarity “objective” decision making means: “Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices” (Free Dictionary).

The important point about euthanising your cat is that it is an emotional time. It is a difficult time for the cat caretaker who cares. It hurts and the hurt can go on for a long time. This can encourage the person to release themselves from the hurt sooner than later, which in turn can lead to euthanising your cat too early.

There is also the fact that for people who don’t care as much as they might, deciding to euthanise their cat becomes a question of removing work load and frustration because looking after a geriatric cat at the end of their life becomes work. The decision becomes one about what is good
for the person not the cat.

If this emotion is recognised the person might overreact and delay euthanasia beyond the best time leaving the cat in unnecessary discomfort and pain. In short, the cat will be miserable and lead a very poor quality of life just to satisfy the person.

Or the person may delay and put off the difficult decision simply because it is difficult in the hope that their cat might die naturally. This would be the best result but you can’t count on it. This is a case of abdicating responsibility.

In the case of Binnie, she was very ill on multiple levels. I brought forward the visit to the vet because she had more or less stopped eating for several days and completely stopped 24 hours before going to the vet. This clarified the decision making process for me.

Whatever I tried, including specialised food (which she at first took too), she failed to eat. Nothing got her appetite back.

Combining a complete loss of appetite with signs of acute kidney failure and heart problems (breathing difficulties) and other health issues including dementia and a very old age (20) gave me the cue I needed.

The key, I believe, is to always question one’s thoughts and adjust them to ensure that they are as objective as possible and based on what is right for your cat. As Ruth said, you will know when the time is right (provided you are objective and truly care for your cat).

I hope this helps just one person to make this tough decision.


P.S. Binnie was euthanised yesterday at about 12:15 and cremated individually – I watched her being placed in the oven – at about 1:10 pm in the afternoon. I collected her ashes at about 2 pm.

This is Binnie before we went to the vet for the last time:

Comments for
When To Euthanize a Cat

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Nov 25, 2011
the eternal present
by: Grahame From a recent post by Michael: “Yesterday, I felt [Binnie’s] loss. Every day things get slightly better but the loss never completely goes away.”Michael, the loss and the sense of loss will never completely go away, nor, I think, would you want it to.It has been 10 months since my Sasha died, and since that death we are in another modality of time: We are now in the eternal present. As, now, are you and Binnie.

In the Eastern Orthodox liturgy for the departed dead [Pannychida], we beseech the Lord to give rest to our beloved departed “in a place of light, a place of green pasture, a place of refreshment, whence pain, grief and sighing have fled away.”

This is also my wish
for dear Binnie.

To me, that place is the eternal present of which I have spoken.

In solidarity,



Nov 25, 2011
I’m so sorry you lost her
by: Elisa You made the right decision. I haven’t had to make it with many of my cats, but I have with several of my dogs. My dog Bama had severe internal bleeding and I had to put him down. I held him on the way to the vet and then on the way home with his body. My Dreyfuss is on the edge right now.Each day I look at him and wonder if it’s the day he will look at me and say “it’s time.” The best I can hope
for is he’ll die in his sleep. I’ll definitely have him cremated because somehow someday I want him to be with me when I’m laid to rest.

Nov 25, 2011
by: Dee Michael-
You did the loving thing.
As you put it so well.. There is a time and not a time.
I want to share something that I witnessed at my vets office 2 years ago that sickened me but also gave me such complete confidence in and respect
for my vet:
A woman brought her cat in to be euthanized. He was a big, beautiful tabby that seemed to be around 5 years old. The reason she gave
for euthanizing was that she and her husband were going on an extended trip to Europe and, since they weren’t able to take him, they decided to put him down. I heard the entire conversation from the next room and was shocked.
My vet calmly told her that he never had and never will put any animal down
for convenience.
This woman shot down every alternative my vet offered such as boarding, pet sitting, etc. I am positive that I would have stepped up had not one of his assistants said she wanted the cat.
It was a happy ending.
But, it illustrates that there are people in the world who will never understand the agony of losing a beloved pet and having to make the choices that we do.
Animals are not disposable to me.Dee

Nov 25, 2011
You just know when it’s the right time
by: Barbara Deciding that the time has come to let a beloved cat go is one of the hardest but most important things that people who share their lives and homes with cats ever have to do. Because we love them so much we don’t want to lose them forever, but also because we love them so much we want what is best
for them, through a lifelong mutual love we understand our cats and we know instinctively when it’s the right time and, although it almost kills us ourselves to have to do it, we do it and then we pick up the pieces afterwards. Keeping a cat, or any animal, that would be better off at peace is selfishness, done only
for ourselves. It’s something we all dread but most of us have been there several times so we understand, and sympathise with, the terrible pain of this type of bereavement.
Barbara avatar

Nov 25, 2011
by: RuthI think you are very brave Michael to write at this sad time as it may help others through their own decision and following grief and their often needless guilt.Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Nov 25, 2011
Only time helps
by: RuthYou never get over the loss of a loved one whether it be a person or an animal, but with time you do get used to them not being around. You can then start remembering happy times instead of the parting.Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Nov 25, 2011
by: Michael Thanks
for the support. I hope you don’t think I am being insensitive. I just want to pass on what I think might be useful and I am sure Binnie wouldn’t mind. I think it is good if something positive or helpful comes out of the sadness.
Yesterday, I felt her loss. Every day things get slightly better but the loss never completely goes away.

Nov 24, 2011
Yet another service to cat lovers from MJB
by: Grahame Dear Michael, I am proud of you. And you have made another service to cat lovers with your candid posts on Binnie.You know that I have been with you in some ways throughout this, having too recently gone through it with my beloved Cat Sasha.Kind regards,


Nov 24, 2011
Love is never wasted
by: Anonymous I am so very, very sorry. There are no adequate words. I won’t risk many as I’ve no idea what your beliefs are but I am convinced that Binnie was aware of and appreciated your love.

Nov 24, 2011
You did right
by: Ruth Michael you knew when the time was right to set Binnie free and you did just that
for her sake.
You did the kindest thing you could and you should have no regrets at all.
You were with her to the very end, you didn’t just leave her at the vets and walk away, you put yourself through the whole sad procedure and showed just how much you loved her by doing that.
I really do think people who are close to their cats and love them to distraction do know exactly when their cat has had enough of life.
The urn is beautiful, a lasting Memorial to Binnie in your home.
Some people have their pets ashes in urns placed in their coffin along with themselves when their time comes.
It’s all about doing what feels right
for YOU.
That is a beautiful photo of Binnie.
It will take you a long long time to come to terms with her loss but please be kind to yourself and remember she is now at peace.
Try not to suffer too much yourself.
I hope Charlie is well and coping with his loss too.
Kattaddorra signature Ruth

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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3 Responses

  1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    R.I.P Mischief.
    I’m so sad for you, it doesn’t matter how many more cats we have, losing one leaves a huge gap.

  2. Claire-Louise Harpham says:

    I’m so sorry Michael about the passing of Binnie. Our cat Mischief died yesterday at 12.56 pm in my arms on the way to the vet to have her euthanised. She was also 20 years old. Yes she was deaf, a bit senile and had accidents on the carpet, sofa etc but I adored her and she was so happy right until the very end. In fact she was laid purring in my arms looking right into my eyes when she finally fell asleep. She’d had a huge stroke, which was why we were taking her to the vets. We had been debating for a couple of weeks about if it was ‘her time’. She was getting very wobbly and even fell over a few times, she also could only eat wet food as biscuits were too much for her to cope with. She became thinner over the last few months but she was happy, purring all the time. She was becoming increasingly distressed at being left alone. Her days were filled with sleeping, only waking to eat and wobble towards the litter tray area, but she didn’t manage to use the tray, she just went in the general area. But I spent my time cleaning the floor, feeding her, loving her and tending to her coat as she no longer groomed herself. My husband and son knew time was coming for us to take her to the vets and were trying to persuade me to let her go. When we got home yesterday from doing the shopping she had, had a huge stroke and was paralysed but still able to breathe. We called our vet and took her straight there. She passed in the car on the way as I said earlier purring and surrounded by love. We have arranged for her to be cremated and then we will bring her home and keep her in a special urn where as and when time comes for our other 5 girls to pass they will join her and when I pass they will be buried with me.
    I totally agree the decision to take our pets to the vet for the final time is the hardest a loving and caring owner will ever have to make. As for the woman who brought her cat in just because they were going away, well she doesn’t deserve an animal full stop!. Would she bring a child or other family member to be put to sleep just because they were in the way? Disgusting behaviour and I’m so glad the cat found a new and loving home with someone who deserves her.
    You made the right, humane and loving decision for Binnie and she was lucky to have such a loving owner. Bless you both.

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