How to Put a Sick Cat to Sleep

By Jane Meggitt

If you know your sick cat won't recover, it's time to start considering when to put him to sleep. When his condition deteriorates to a certain point, it's time. Such a decision is never easy, and your vet should help you make the decision. Euthanasia literally means "good death," which is the last loving gesture you can make for your pet. Instead of pain and perhaps prolonged suffering, you can help him go quietly and peacefully.

When It's Time

Your cat's pain level and his quality of life are the primary factors involved in making the decision to put your pet to sleep. If your cat's pain is no longer adequately controlled with medication, it's time. If he can't or won't eat unless force-fed, he's trying to tell you something. Incontinence, inability to walk and loss of interest in any activity are signs he no longer enjoys any quality of life. Depending on the illness, sick cats might have good days and bad days. When the latter are pretty much all he has, let him go.

The Euthanasia Process

You can choose whether or not to stay with your pet during his euthanasia. There's no right or wrong decision. For some people, being there to say goodbye is important, while for others it's just too difficult. Your vet might sedate your cat prior to the procedure, so that he's "out" before the euthanasia drug is injected. Most vets use an overdose of sodium pentobarbitol to euthanize animals, a drug that quickly causes the heart to stop. Your cat won't suffer, and passes within a few moments. Before he goes, he might twitch or take a few breaths, or pass urine or feces. That's normal. Rest assured, your pet was not in pain.

Euthanasia Considerations

If your cat is conscious and has always been leery of getting into a carrier and going to the vet, consider at-home euthanasia. The vet comes to your home and puts your cat down in his own environment, avoiding the stress of travel. Not all veterinary practices offer home euthanasia. If your vet doesn't, ask for a recommendation for a practice offering this service. After the euthanasia, the veterinarian can take your pet's body for cremation or arrange burial at a pet cemetery.

Grief Counseling

It's natural to grieve for your cat, even if he's been sick for a while and you knew this day was coming. You loved him, and he was a member of your family. While friends and co-workers who don't own pets might not understand the depth of your loss, those with pets might help you express your feelings during this difficult time. If you need, ask your vet to recommend a pet bereavement counselor in your area.