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Caring For Your Dying Cat

"Love knows not its own depth
Until the hour of separation."
Kahlil Gibran

Cats, like people, die from diverse causes.  Some die without warning from a car accident or heart failure, while others die gradually from a terminal illness.  Sometimes we lose our cats never knowing what happened to them -- they simply disappear.  No matter what the cause of the loss, the impact is devastating.

Sudden death or separation spares us the need to deal with a failing pet, but often makes acceptance of the passing more difficult.  Terminal illness creates a time of intense sadness, but gives us a chance to show our love by maximizing the cat's quality-of-life during this final stage.  And, as the reality sets in, we begin to have closure as we slowly say goodbye to our beloved friend.

Managing Life-Ending Illness

If your cat is diagnosed with a serious illness, work with your vet to develop a reasonable treatment plan.  Many illnesses can be managed for extended time periods provided you have the resources to pay for medical care and you are able to provide treatment -- pill-giving, fluid therapy, syringe-feeding, and injections may be required.  This is especially true for cats with chronic conditions such as some forms of cancer, kidney or liver failure.

As the disease progresses -- and if your vet evaluates your cat and concludes that pain and discomfort are low -- the goal will shift to providing home hospice care -- keeping your cat comfortable during the final days.


Ideally, when their time comes, all cats would die quickly and painlessly at home purring away in the lap of their guardian -- but this is not always possible.  In some instances, the severity of the condition and/or the level of unmanageable pain, makes euthanasia a more appropriate ending.

There is no right or wrong time to take this step.  Each life needs to be evaluated individually.  However, there are some quality-of-life indicators that you and your veterinarian can look for to aid in the decision process.

Euthanizing a terminally ill cat can be a compassionate ending if the cat is showing signs of pain such as fast breathing, whimpering, discomfort when touched or loss of appetite.  This is particularly important when the pain cannot be managed with medications.  Ask yourself this question: Am I keeping my cat alive for myself or for my cat? Keep in mind that cats do not experience the anticipation of death that humans do.

Once the decision is made, act promptly to ensure neither of you suffer more than necessary.  If you are comfortable participating in this final act of love, ask if you can hold your pet through the process.  Some veterinarians will even come to your home to euthanize your cat, sparing the trauma of a trip to the clinic.

Cremation and Burial Choices

After the cat passes away, a decision must be made of what to do with the remains.  Again, there is no right or wrong decision.  If local ordinances permit, you may want to take the remains home for a private burial.  If not, many cemeteries now have sections set up for pet burial and there are special pet cemeteries too.

Crematories will offer either group cremations, where no ashes are returned, or for an additional charge, you can specify an individual cremation and receive the ashes back.  Many urns are available for you to purchase to keep the ashes, or you could sprinkle them outdoors.

Local Pet Cemeteries and Cremation Services

  • AAA Dog & Cat Cemetery & Crematory
    25280 Pennsylvania Road, Taylor MI 48180
    (313) 946-5555

  • A & M Pet Crematory and Memorials
    4495 Jackson Rd., Ann Arbor MI 48103
    (734) 665-3658

  • Arborcrest Memorial Park
    2521 Glazier Way, An Arbor MI 48105
    (734) 761-4572

  • Country Kennel Pet Care Center
    1010 Jewell Road, Milan MI 48160
    (734) 429-2375

  • Gateway to Animal Heaven
    4800 Curtis Rd, Plymouth MI 48170
    (313) 662-8902

  • Whispering Pines Pet Cemetery
    201 Holmes, Ypsilanti MI 48198
    (734) 547-0083

Pet Cat Bereavment

For many of us the loss of a cat is comparable to the loss of a family member, partner, or best friend.  Here are some steps that may guide and support you through the grieving process:

  • Allow yourself to grieve.  Take time to process your feelings.  Remember that other pets and family members are grieving also and may need more attention during this transitional phase.

  • Surround yourself with people who empathize with your loss rather than trivialize it.  If you don't have friends and family members that understand your grief, do not be afraid to seek help.  There are many options ranging from bereavement counseling to pet loss hotlines and online support groups.

  • Honor your cat's memory by creating a memorial, writing a letter or poem to your cat or donating your time or money to an animal welfare organization on behalf of your cat.

  • Focus on positive memories with your beloved cat and try to put aside those that are more painful.

  • Take care of yourself.  Exercise, eat right and stick to your normal routine as best you can.  The sooner your life returns to normal, the better you'll feel.

  • Consider adopting a new cat, not to replace the one you lost, but to share the future with.

Pet Loss Support Resources