By Dr. Aimee Castor

City Cat Mobile Vet Service 

For cats who have terminal illnesses and are no longer able to enjoy life, euthanasia is often the best decision because it humanely puts an end to their suffering and allows them to pass away with dignity.  It is, however, a distressing decision to make, and often it is difficult to know when it is time.  Here are some indications that your cat may be suffering or close to death:

Cats are such stoic creatures that they often do not show signs of pain by vocalizing so their discomfort goes unnoticed. If you are undecided about euthanasia, I can do a physical exam and discuss findings to ensure that it is the best decision for you.

How does the euthanasia procedure work?

First, I will have you sign a form giving me the authorization to perform euthanasia. Most people also like to take care of the charges as well. Payment may be made with cash, personal check, or credit card.

The process includes two separate injections, but no IV catheter will be placed. When you are ready I'll give your cat an injection beneath the skin that will help your cat relax and prevent unnecessary stress, pain, or struggling during the procedure. This injection is an anesthetic and will cause your cat to go into a very deep sleep prior to the final injection. Your cat can be in nearly any position for this injection, and many people prefer to have them on their laps or by their side. Although this injection is a very small volume, it sometimes stings a bit; I try to prevent this by administering it slowly. It will take 2 to 5 minutes for this anesthetic injection to have its full affect. During this time you should feel free to comfort and talk to your cat, especially because they may feel more secure knowing you are there. Your cat's eyes will remain open during the sedation period and also after the final injection. This is because the eye lid muscle's relaxed position is the “open” position. I will check your cat's reflexes and responses to ensure that he or she is completely sedated and unable to feel anything associated with the final injection before proceeding further.

You may choose to be present for the initial sedation only or the entire process. It is important to understand that animals do not have the awareness of death or the anxiety before death that humans do. After the sedative takes effect your cat will no longer be aware of their surroundings, and as such will not be aware of your presence or absence during the final injection.

Once your cat has reached the appropriate plane of sedation and you have said your final goodbyes I will inject an overdose of a very powerful barbiturate which stops the heart and respiration - usually within a minute or less. I give this injection in one of the rear leg veins and will need to shave a small area of fur to see the vein. Occasionally, cats will take a few final deep breaths, but usually they stop breathing quietly and peacefully.

Once I have confirmed that the heart has stopped by listening with a stethoscope, you may continue to spend as much time as you need with your friend. I am willing to provide you with as much privacy as you need at this time, but please know that I am comfortable with and expect emotions in response to your loss.

When you are ready I will take your companion's body if you have elected to have me take care of your loved one's remains. 

I work with a respected, well established crematory to provide the following services:

Communal Cremation - does not allow you to get your cat's remains back. Multiple pets are cremated together and the crematory buries these remains in an apple orchard on their property east of Monroe.

Private Cremation - allows you to receive your cat's remains back. The remains are returned by the crematory to our clinic. It generally takes 2 to 3 weeks.

Burial- Before considering burial please check with your local codes and ordinances. In King County, you can bury a pet weighing less than 15 pounds on your own property as long as it does not create a nuisance. While your cat’s favorite garden can be a lovely place for their final resting place, the permanence of it is something you may want to consider. How will you feel if you move and have to leave your friend behind? I found myself in this very same situation years ago, and it definitely was one of the factors influencing my decision to not move.

"I know it's your job, but your grace and kindness really made a difference in such a difficult time, and we are truly grateful. Thank you so much." 

Robyn (Seattle) 

"I wanted to thank you for your compassion to Bob when you helped him to cat heaven. Your calmness helped us stay calm and your gentleness with Bob is something I will always remember. He was a cool cat, he liked being around people, and he had personality plus."

Laurie (Seattle)

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