Categories: Euthanasia

You’re a coward if you leave the room when your cat is being euthanized?

Ninety percent of cat and dog owners leave the vet’s consulting room when their companion animal is being euthanised at the end of their life. Are we all cowards? I couldn’t stay in the room myself but I didn’t feel like a coward. Perhaps I am wrong. Although my girlfriend, who my cat knew very well, did stay behind.

Photo: Pinterest – in public domain

A veterinarian in South Africa makes a good point – actually it’s a great point. He says that at the last moments of a companion animal’s life she is searching for her owner if her owner is not in the room.

“They search every face in the room for their loved person….”

In short a cat in a veterinarian’s consulting room at the last moments of her life desperately needs her human companion – the person with whom she has possibly lived all her life.

So, how do you feel about leaving the room, now that you have read the words of a “tired broken-hearted vet”.

I confess that I feel differently about it. However, I find it almost unbearably hard to be with my cat when she is being euthanized because I will be watching her dying before my eyes. Yes, it’s humane but she is being killed. I don’t want to see that. It’s too painful. Do we have to see it? Perhaps we do. Perhaps we have that duty, a duty which follows another very hard moment which is deciding when to euthanise your sick and dying cat companion.

Being with your cat at the end is part and parcel of the end of life struggle which cat guardians cannot waive away because it hurts too much.

Please tell me

Please tell me if you stay in that dreaded room during that awful moment. Or do you do what I did which is to sob quietly in the corner of the waiting room hoping that I don’t embarrass myself.

Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • I had to put my sweet boy down several years ago, at 18 &1/2, he was weak and wobbly the last day drooling and crying , i took him in and stayed with him every minute, stroking and petting him all the time till he was gone, then i cried my eyes out.

  • People underestimate a cat’s intelligence. It’s all about trust. My cat with whom I’ve lived for almost 16 years was confined to his (my) bed for almost a week prior to the moment when I’ve taken the decision to let him go. I’ve fed him a few times a day, and he was eating while he was laying down. I’ve replaced his bedding a few times a day, as he couldn’t use the litter box. I washed his bedding myself, as I couldn’t ask my domestic to attend, as I couldn’t expect her to do it. I’ve put my dear friend on a drip twice a day during the last three days of his live. I’ve held him, I’ve comforted him. I’ve spoken to him. I’ve administered his pain medicine. I’ve sacrificed time at work because of this, but I’ve never felt as if one minute spent with him, was one minute too many. I shall never blame him for time sacrificed at work. He has been in hospital on many occasions during his life. On one occasion, 4 years ago, he was in hospital for 3 weeks following a serious car accident. I’ve visited him twice a day. He was never anxious when I left, as he knew that I would never abandon him. I think the difference can be found in trust. He knew that I would always return. He knew that I would never take a sellfish decision when the decision concerned his health. When he stopped eating that final day, and I rushed him to hospital, he could barely lift his head. I held him and I spoke to him. He trusted me. He trusted that I would never abandon him; that every decision I would take concerning his health would be in his best interest. I covered him with a blanket, and I said goodbye. There is nothing special about death. There is nothing special about euthanasia. I couldn’t bare the thought of him gasping for air during his last moment. I said goodbye, and the Vet performed her procedure. I came back after he was dead and I said goodbye again. I can’t for one minute think that he felt abandoned, as he trusted me. He trusted that I would always act in his best interest. I don’ think that when you take your final breath, that you necessarily - especially a cat - feel the need to be held, or comforted. Dogs may be different. There was nothing special or beautiful about that evening at the hospital. I held him, and told him that he will be pain-free in a couple of minutes. I told him that I’ve done everything humanly possible to keep him with me. He trusted me. By generalising, and calling me a coward, because I was unwilling to witness the dawn of death, at the last moment, would be judgmental, and unfair. He had the best life a cat could have asked for, for almost 16 years. His deathbed was painfull, and not fair to him. He knew I loved him, and he trusted me. Right till the end.

    • Thanks a lot for your thoughts Charl. I agree with you. I am not sure that it is cowardly not to be present. The vet's views made me think about it though. Your cat was deeply loved and it comes through in your words.

      • Thank you Michael. It was hard. He died 8 days ago. I’m still trying to come to terms with it. I think each case is probably different. The Vet only witnesses the final moment, and unless he intimately knows his client, and patient, he can’t judge. Maybe he had a bad experience with a client who merely ‘dropped off’ his cat, in his basket, and never returned. One can see from the Vet’s wording that he’s bitter. It can’t be easy to euthanise as part of your ‘day job’. I have sypathy with Vets in that respect.

  • I stay, I'll raise the vein too if allowed. It is my decision to end the life of any animal that I steward to relieve suffering, ergo I have a duty to be there for their reassurance. Sadly I have had to learn how to do this from when I was just 9 when I had to witness how one hysterical adult can cause an animal hellish distress, just because they have no self control.
    If all you can do is indulge in weeping, wailing, ensuring your pet dies seeing you distressed, then say your goodbyes calmly, then leave quietly.
    It isn't cowardice to acknowledge you can't cope with being there at the end, but it is cruel to stay if all you can do is bawl.

    • I agree, this is about making the animal as comfortable and at ease as possible not time for your own personal hysterics. You'll have plenty of time for your own grief but be mature enough not to inflict that kind of confusion on your companion.

      Micheal I have seem everyone cry and never thought them a fool. I wonder more about those that can drop a carrier off sign the papers and then just leave like they're dropping off a bag of trash.

  • Micheal there should be someone the animal knows well there and aside from the comfort your presence brings that animal it is our duty to make sure their passing is with as little stress and as much dignity as possible.
    I watched my Kitten die and it nearly killed me. It would have been even worse if I wasn't there to make sure her last moments were calm and in our arms.
    That moment stays with me but I know in my heart I could not leave my little girl alone for this.
    I have been there for all my companion animals. I always will be and I get a new scar each time.

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