How to Care for a Dying Cat

By Jane Meggitt

You love her dearly, and she doesn't have much longer. Caring for your dying cat is hard, perhaps more on the emotional level than actually providing for her daily needs. In her last weeks, she might experience good days and bad ones. When the latter outweigh the former, it's time to say goodbye. That doesn't mean it's an easy decision. The old saying remains true: "Grief is the price we pay for love."

Basic Care

Typically when cats become terminally ill, the lose interest in food. Your cat might take nourishment if you coax him or force-feed her. If she won't eat her regular food, try baby food, boiled chicken cut into small pieces or put through a blender, or chicken broth. If your cat is incontinent, keep soft, washable pads under her, and clean her with warm water. If her mobility is limited, gently reposition her regularly to prevent pressures sores. Brush her gently every day. Not only is this comforting, but it can help stop matting in cats who no longer groom themselves.

A Quiet Place

Keep your cat in a quiet, warm place, away from household traffic, other pets and kids. Avoid playing loud music in your house -- soft, gentle music is fine. Provide your pet a comfortable bed and close access to a litter box. While the cat's surroundings should be quiet, they shouldn't be dark. Natural light is fine during daytime; keep a low-level light on nearby at night. Spend time petting and comforting your cat. You and other family members should use a soft, soothing tone of voice when with the cat.

Pain Assessment

You and your vet must constantly assess your cat's pain level. Depending on the disease, you cat might experience little or moderate pain as her body begins shutting down, or she could suffer severely. Your vet can provide appropriate pain medication, but you might have to pill your cat a few times daily. Behavioral changes can indicate the presence of pain, even in a medicated cat. Ask your vet about complementary pain therapies such as massage or acupuncture.

Letting Go

If your cat is no longer eating, has breathing issues or shows sign of pain even with medication, it's probably time to let her go. Listen to your vet. Some vets will come to your home and put your cat to sleep so the cat doesn't endure the stress of a car ride. If your vet doesn't offer that option, it's likely you can schedule euthanasia late in the day, the usual time practices conduct this service. You can choose whether to stay with your pet. The vet will arrange for cremation or burial services. In many places you can choose to take your cat's body home for burial. Your vet can also provide you with information on pet bereavement counseling. The counselors understand that she wasn't "just a cat" but was an important and beloved member of your family.