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Is there a kind way to tell family it is time to let a beloved pet go?

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  • Is there a kind way to tell family it is time to let a beloved pet go?

    I keep typing out a lengthy, detail filled post but it's just too much. Suffice it to say there are complicating issues with family dynamics.

    My parents have a much-loved elderly cat who is in very, very poor shape. He has BEEN in very poor shape for many years, but his escalating discomfort is extremely visible to me. My parents, who are older but not elderly, do not seem to be able to see the deterioration. Whether this is because he has been in rough shape for a while and it is difficult for them to discern the decline in day-to-day living or because they are willfully turning a blind eye to it is debatable; probably a little of both.

    Cat was diagnosed hyperthyroid years ago and was doing OK on meds for a while; when the meds no longer seemed very effective, my parents simply stopped any treatment. Cat was probably 16 at that time. Vet, whom is also my vet and has been the family vet for years, suggested other options but my parents felt cat was holding steady as he was and declined any other treatment. Cat WAS holding steady-skinny, hungry, but holding condition- for a while.

    In the last year, he has developed litter box issues. He was treated for a UTI back in the spring but continued to urinate & defecate away from the box. My Mother has done a noble job trying to keep things cleaned up but with four other cats in the house who all decided the location ill cat was using was fair game, there is now serious damage to that area of the house and things are certainly less than sanitary.

    Mom asked the vet what he thought about euth back around thanksgiving- she was in with a different cat. She says vet said "As long as they're eating and happy....". She seems to think this means cat is fine. Again, vet has not actually SEEN this cat since spring 2012. Cat is certainly eating- he is hyperthyroid and starving all the time. She seems to have forgotten this. She thinks he is happy because he still wants to cuddle and purrs. Yep, he purrs 24/7. Pain response. He cuddles because he is cold- he also lays as close to desk lamp light bulbs as he can get. He spends a significant amount of time in the tell-tale crouch of n uncomfortable feline. He is emaciated and clearly not playful, enthusiastic or happy. He is now 19. This cat is far and away my Mother's favorite.

    I have tried, very hard, to be kind and MMOB while gently educating. My parents mean very well and love their animals very much, but are not very knowledgable. At this point, the cat is obviously miserable and suffering, and the sanitary issues are getting out of hand. During the last conversation I had with my folks about this, which included the supposed statement from the vet, I reiterated a thought we had gone over when they put their dog down a couple of years ago- that the cat keeps eating and cuddling and doing cat-like things because that is all he knows how to do. He doesn't understand that his quality of life is diminished from a few years ago- he just knows how he feels right now, and cannot say "I feel worse than I did last week. Hmm. Maybe I should stop cuddling."

    If he is allowed to go on this way, I am genuinely concerned that he will simply starve in his sleep. This cat was my pet as well for years, and I love him. It is painful to see him suffer. It's time for me to take a stand on his behalf, but I don't know how to do it. I have thought of calling the vet, whom I have an excellent relationship with, and discussing the cats condition from a less rosy vantage than the one my Mother likely did. Any other suggestions, experiences or ideas?
    bar.ka think u al.l. susp.ect
    free bar.ka and tidy rabbit

  • #2
    Mom, Dad, I know you love FLuffikins, but he is begging you to let go.

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    • #3
      Offer to take him to the vet? I'm going to have to have that talk with my brother soon about his old dog and I'm still working on the script. Will watch this thread for ideas!

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      • #4
        What Alagirl said. Oh please, do it SOON. Like today. Please.
        What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!

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        • #5
          If there were any money it in, I'd become a pet/animal euthanasia councilor-- the paid ferryman at the River Styx or the guido-y, side-kick of the Grim Reaper.

          How best to proceed depends on your relationship with your parents and whatever they feel about themselves as people gained from how they care for this cat... or do not.

          Start with the idea that they are "barn blind." Go over there and point out all the signs of an unhappy-but-stoic cat you see. Explain alternative interpretations to "He's eating because he's a-ok" or "But he liked to cuddle next to me (and a desk lamp). Do point out that feline crouch of "I'm just sticking it out."

          You need to give your parents the chance to see what you see.... without that making them bad people for not having seen it before or for "taking away his life."

          By the same token, you need to remind them of the original meaning of euthanasia-- literally "good death." They need to feel that they are being better people for showing up and preventing further suffering than standing buy and ignoring kitteh's condition.

          Would you/the cat be happy if they resumed treatment? At this point, I might get a little mad at them: They can go balls-to-the-wall to ameliorate cat's symptoms or they can euthanize. But doing nothing and turning a blind eye is not acceptable.

          Or perhaps take the decision out of their hands. Do you trust the vet to give them the "ruling" that the cat looks like death warmed over? IME, vets don't do this particularly well with cats. Perhaps you give them the ultimatum: They can be part of the euthanasia or not, but you won't let kitteh suffer. No hard feelings either way, but it WILL get done. Your parents might be relieved that you make the decision and do the deed.

          Whether or not this last option works depends on where you and your parents stand with respect to the role-reversal that happens in life where children start to take over the adults' position. It is normal and any non-wacko grown-up would, in the end, see the virtue of someone else making that hard decision and doing the hard job for them. You are helping your parents consider the bigger issue of their own mortality, too. Try to make it easy for them to see how to be good, loving, competent people even when that means accepting death for kitteh. IMO, we don't give people the words for this and opportunities to practice it very often, so we suck at euthanasia.

          Good luck to you and to kitteh especially.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Yep, tried that one Alagirl. That tree did not grow fruit.

            I think MVP hit the nail on the head. There are some issues here with their own mortality. We have recently- gently- been discussing their wishes for care later in life.

            Complicating family issues that I glossed over make taking the decision out of their hands difficult, but not impossible, and it may come to that. I will bear the brunt of family rage if I must. He was... is... a great cat and has had a long, luxurious life. He deserves a peaceful, kind end.

            I do think my Father would be grateful and I do trust the vet to give them the ruling (He's a gem and I will weep when he finally retires). But yes, Mom especially takes this personally and feels like I am attacking her care. At this point, I basically am, although I completely understand the reasons behind it, so it is very difficult for my perhaps-too-honest and blunt self to sugar coat.

            I'm going out there tomorrow to have a chat. I hope at the end of the day I can accompany them to send Twitch on his way to peaceful oblivion.
            bar.ka think u al.l. susp.ect
            free bar.ka and tidy rabbit

            Comment


            • #7
              well, in this case, underline the great care they have given him to stick around this long.


              I guess you can always follow it up with
              "and now I am taking him, this has gone on for far to long" and run before the fireworks are lit...

              Comment


              • #8
                Sounds like it's already a disagreement between you and your mom, is there any way you can ask her to let the vet settle it so there aren't hard feelings between the two of you AND you all know for sure the exact condition the cat is in?

                It seems to me that what you really need to do is get the cat in front of the vet. Does he need any routine care or will they let you take him for a check-up? I would DEFINITELY tell the vet your fears-he has an idea of the condition the cat could be in by this point, a year later, and he certainly will have dealt with pet owners that aren't willing to see the reality. Get the vet in the loop, perhaps they could even approach with a call asking to do a check-up considering the cat's age and status at the last visit.

                Support your parents too, their fears may be dragging things out for the kitty cat but the support you give them will help the cat in the long run. Maybe you could show them some pictures of the cat in better days so it's more clear to them how he's lost ground.

                Very very sorry for all of you; nothing fun going on here at all.
                “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by cowboymom View Post
                  Sounds like it's already a disagreement between you and your mom, is there any way you can ask her to let the vet settle it so there aren't hard feelings between the two of you AND you all know for sure the exact condition the cat is in?
                  If you trust the cat vet not to be a client-pleasing pussy, then cowboymom's solution is a great one. Have the impartial professional interpret the cat and make a ruling.

                  From what you described, OP, the vet was willing to give a vague set of guidelines without seeing the cat, and that's not someone who understands that an ailing cat hangs in the balance. If you do this, I'd privately give the vet a "heads up" about why you are having the check-up with a huge entourage of you and your parents in tow.

                  Originally posted by Rubyfree View Post
                  I think MVP hit the nail on the head. There are some issues here with their own mortality. We have recently- gently- been discussing their wishes for care later in life.

                  Complicating family issues that I glossed over make taking the decision out of their hands difficult, but not impossible, and it may come to that. I will bear the brunt of family rage if I must. He was... is... a great cat and has had a long, luxurious life. He deserves a peaceful, kind end.

                  I do think my Father would be grateful and I do trust the vet to give them the ruling (He's a gem and I will weep when he finally retires). But yes, Mom especially takes this personally and feels like I am attacking her care. At this point, I basically am, although I completely understand the reasons behind it, so it is very difficult for my perhaps-too-honest and blunt self to sugar coat.

                  I'm going out there tomorrow to have a chat. I hope at the end of the day I can accompany them to send Twitch on his way to peaceful oblivion.
                  Yeah, it's a toughy for your parents, especially since your mom may feel that she's failing with a cat and the Bigger Stakes issue-- dealing with her own mortality or her husband's hangs in the balance.

                  The best you can do is separate the two issues: Euthanizing a cat is way, way different than, say, creating a durable power of attorney document. Between you and me, she should "practice" all of the thinking through scenarios and feeling through those on a cat who doesn't "get it." In this respect, caring for animals at the end of their life is easier than caring for aging people. But all the other emotional issues for the "deciders" are in play.

                  You seem clear and resolved about your moral priorities: You'll do the right thing for Twitch and wait for the other people to catch up..... after they are done with the rage stage. That's a cool place to be. And it will help you with your process of being around for your parents' aging process, too. If you can show your parents that you can live through the grief or horror or disappointment of having to put a cat down because you think it's the right thing to do, you set a precedent for them. After all, they need to follow suit and right now, their heads are in the sand because they just.don't.want.to.think or feel about "what kind of people they are" once they kill good ol' Twitch. Show 'em that it CAN be done.

                  They keys, IMO, are allowing everyone to talk about their worries and feelings. You can't sensor them just because you disagree, or your parents are being too slow about recognizing kitteh's suffering.

                  The other piece (said above) is that you have to make moral room for them to change from being great people for wanting their cat around to being great people because they will let him go when no one can do more for him.

                  They already see killing their pet as a personal failure, so appreciate the distance they have to travel in order to get to the place where they will feel at all good about themselves for allowing this euthanasia. Make it easy for them by offering to have that go however they want-- an in-home visit by they vet, you do it all yourself, they show up at the appointment but you manage it all so that they don't have to be actively part of anything.

                  Also, you can perhaps help them see this as a normal part of cat ownership. Since they live fewer years than we, it's part of the deal that we will see them die. There's no good day for this.... but there are better and worse ways to die. They have an opportunity to do a great job of what every cat owner will have to do anyway. So perhaps your parents can see this as not taboo, but just new to them.

                  And in the meantime, get that cat some very expensive paté! I mean, if he's starving and his days are numbered, then someone needs to pony up for the fatted goose liver.
                  The armchair saddler
                  Politically Pro-Cat

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    If you have such a long relationship with the vet, I don't suppose you could schedule a cat-less appointment and just discuss one-on-one with the vet your concerns. Maybe he would then consider a home visit and an at-home euth. You never know, but maybe your folks just can't face going into the clinic and leaving alone and this would make it one small bit easier.
                    Flip a coin. It's not what side lands that matters, but what side you were hoping for when the coin was still in the air.

                    You call it boxed wine. I call it carboardeaux.

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                    • #11
                      You said it was once your pet, too. In that case, I would make an appointment with the vet. Tell Mom and Dad that as someone who cares about the cat and his well-being that you are taking him to the vet on your dime for a check-up. Invite them along. Do not allow them to say no. The cat IS going to the vet. If they want to go along, fine. If not, fine. You and the cat are going. Tell them that whatever the vet recommends, you will pay for.

                      I feel for you -- unfortunately, my family is CONSTANTLY acquiring new animals, and then once the "new" wears off, dumping them on me, or turning them out to fend for themselves. In my book, animals first, family a very distant second. But I understand that not everyone feels that way.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        OP uggg, This is the hardest thing, and I am so sorry you are going through this. I wish I knew how to deal with this myself.
                        Just like our eyes, our hearts have a way of adjusting to the dark.--Adam Stanley

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