Your feline once had you running around the house with feathers in your hands and throwing mouse toys across the room. They might have run around corners and chased you when they were kittens, or crawled up your pant legs all the way to your shoulder! You used to pick out new cat beds and scratching posts for them, and the two of you might have walked through parks, or even gone shopping together. The early years were full of excitement, and the last ones calmed down a bit. Throughout the years, you might have noticed that your cat sleeps more during the day and they may be eating less food, too. They may be less social and cry out loud at night. Less energy, fast weight loss, losing control of bowels, or urination problems are signs that your beloved pet may be getting ready to move on. This might be a painful time for you; your best friend, your long-time companion, will be passing on soon. You may be feeling intense grief and possibly denial, but this is an important time to put your cat first. There are ways to help your pet become more comfortable before they pass on, ways you can be there for them when their time comes, and many ways to celebrate their life and remember them afterwards.
Keeping your Cat Comfortable
It’s important to keep your elderly cat happy and to give them the most peaceful environment you can provide. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind and activities you can implement for your cat.
Be gentle with your cat; in the past, they may not have had injuries if you shoo-ed them off the refrigerator and they jumped off, but now your cat could become injured and be in pain if you make them jump from high areas. Pick up your cat from tall areas and gently place him or her on the floor. Make sure to also pick him or her up and place them onto their favorite spots, like a cat tree. Your aging cat isn’t as agile as he or she used to be, so remember to carry him or her and purchase steps and ramps for your cat to get to their favorite high places.
Don’t forget to provide your cat with regular visits to the veterinarian; it’s important to know that one year for a cat equals about four human years. Frequent visits to the veterinarian can keep you informed of your aging cat’s health, and it can give you an opportunity to ask a professional for further advice. Your cat may cry in the middle of the night, seek extra attention, or they may sleep for long periods of time. Be kind to your aging cat, try not to let the small annoyances get to you. He or she is scared about the change in their body and mind and they need your comfort and love during this transition.
Your cat may start using the bathroom outside of the litter box. Make sure to watch your aging cat as much as you can while they use the restroom. If they’re having problem squatting, purchase a cat box with a lower entrance and high walls for support. If you would rather deal without litter, you can always purchase puppy pads for your cat to use the restroom. Don’t forget to provide your cat with comfy spots around the house with pillows and blankets for them to relax and sleep on. And remember to keep your cat hydrated by placing plenty of water bowls around the house, particularly near their favorite spots.
When Their Time Comes
You know your cat the best, and you will know when their time is coming to leave this earth. Putting your cat to sleep is a personal and intense choice that only you can make for them. Your veterinarian might suggest that your cat should be put down because of their quality of life, but ultimately it is your decision to make for your beloved cat. Having an understanding of the symptoms of old age will help you make the choice decision for your cat.
One early symptom you may see in your aging cat when they are ready to move on is, when your cat uses the restroom, there may be a foul odor after their bathroom time. This happens when toxins begin building up in your cat’s body. This smell may also occur in their breath, and eventually will emit from their body. Later symptoms will be a loss of appetite, and your cat may stop eating and drinking all together. Towards the time of their departure, your cat will also have lower respiration. They will take fewer breaths, and there will be more time between breaths than before. You might also notice a lower body temperature due to their dropping heart rate as well. When your cat’s body temperature drops to 98 fahrenheit or lower, their body will feel cool to your touch.
When your cat is showing these signs, you should take them to the veterinarian. If you do so, you have the option to put your cat to sleep. If you choose this option, your veterinarian will administer an injection that will slow your cat’s heart – this is not a painful procedure at all. You will be able to stay with your cat through the process, and when you do say goodbye, hold your cat, give him or her kisses, and tell them that you love them. Sing to your cat, pet him or her, and do everything you can to make them feel loved and safe on this day.
Once you have put your cat to peace and relieved them of their pain, learn to understand your own feelings about the loss of your beloved cat. It is normal for you to feel anger or deep sadness, these feelings are a part of the framework that helps us learn to live without the loved ones we have lost. Allow yourself to feel your emotions and make sure not to repress them. Cry and mourn your cat, but always remember the wonderful moments you two shared. To honor your cat, you have a few options of what you can do after putting them to sleep.
You can provide a proper burial for your cat. Pick a site where you would like to have your cat placed. Maybe in your backyard, or at your cat’s favorite park. Wherever you decide, pick a special or symbolic place where it can be decorated with photos of your cat or where you can place their favorite toys. You can also order a grave marker for your cat, with their name and an etching. Don’t forget to pick a container for your cat’s body; there are Paw Pet Burial Pods and Pet Caskets available to purchase online for your cat. But if you prefer no box that is perfectly fine too. Some honor their cat by placing flower seeds or a small tree over their burial site.
Of course you always have the option to cremate your cat and you can order vases online. You can place the vase in their favorite window sill or above your fireplace. Some owners have a difficult time with the idea of parting with their pet and decide to have their cat cremated and turned into jewels. Heart in Diamond will “immortalize your pet’s beautiful life with a Heart in Diamond that will allow you to feel like your best fur friend is with you every day”. If you decide this is your option you can select a portion of your cat’s remains to create the jewel that represents them, or the love you feel for them.
In the end, always remember your cat for who he or she was to you, and remember the life you gave them. When my old cat Yellow Kitty passed away, I wasn’t able to be there for him in his last days. Thankfully he lived a long life; one of freedom and strength. I miss and love him, and hold his memory in my heart daily. Remember to give your cats love, and be devoted to them. After all, they are your furry babies.
Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.