As a cat owner, you know a few things for certain: that cats are wonderful and amazing creatures, that nothing beats a purring cat on a warm lap, and that one day, sadly, your cat will leave you for good. Realizing that your cat is nearing the end of their life is never easy, but hopefully these tips and insights will help you navigate through this emotional, often painful process.
Knowing When It’s Time to Say Goodbye
Letting your cat go is the most difficult decision a pet owner has to make. Like people, cats’ bodies eventually begin to decline due to age. To help you make the most informed decision for your cat, here are some signs it may be time to say farewell:
- Your cat is no longer eating, or eats very little.
- Your cat has lost a significant amount of weight.
- Your cat is increasingly lethargic or has lost interest in favorite activities.
- Your cat is no longer using the litter box.
- Veterinary care or treatment has not been successful.
As you weigh your options, make sure to reach out to your vet, as well as friends or family who have lost a pet:
- Discuss your cat’s condition with your vet: Their professional medical opinion and training will help reassure you that it may be better for your cat to move on.
- Talk to friends who’ve lost a pet: Discussing your situation with friends who have lost a pet is a comforting way to know you’re not alone. You can also learn what to expect from their experiences.
Helping Your Cat Enjoy Their Final Days
While you won’t be able to prevent their eventual departure, you can still ensure your cat’s final days are comfortable and full of love.
Spend Quality Time Together
Take extra time to remind your cat of how much they mean to you. Give them extra ear skritches and cuddles, and say anything you want to tell them.
Keep Them Warm
Older cats tend to be thin, making it harder for them to stay warm. Make sure they’re able to catnap in toasty areas: near heating vents, in a sunny spot or a cozy cat bed, or — their favorite — your lap.
Give Them Easy Access
Your senior cat isn’t as athletic as they once were, so give them an assist with steps or ramps so they can still hang out in their favorite elevated places. Also make sure they can easily get to the litter box. Getting a lower-sided box or putting one on every floor of your home helps reduce the risk of accidents.
Help Them Maintain Their Senior Style
Cats of a certain age have more difficulty grooming themselves. You can help by gently brushing them more often and clipping their nails. This not only keeps them looking as beautiful as ever, but is also a great way to spend some quality time together.
Provide Peace and Quiet
Cats are creatures of habit, so now is not the time to make any drastic changes in their routine or introduce a new pet to the household. They love the life you’ve created for them and will be more relaxed if their established routines continue uninterrupted.
Give Everyone a Chance to Say Goodbye
Allowing family members — including other pets — a chance to say farewell will go a long way toward easing their grief. Be very clear about your decision so everyone knows you have your cat’s best interests at heart.
Preserving Your Cat’s Memory
It’s OK to feel sad when a beloved cat moves on to the big catnip field in the sky. Pets are members of the family, after all! Don’t be afraid or ashamed to grieve your loss. To help ease those feelings, try some of these suggestions.
Remember the Love (and the Head Boops)
Your pet may have passed, but all of those wonderful memories are yours forever. That cute thing they did with their head, their funny meow, how they always insisted on sitting on your computer … don’t be afraid to reminisce and enjoy those memories.
Hold a Memorial Ceremony
Some people find holding a memorial provides a sense of closure and pays tribute to everything their pet meant to them. Cremation is common with pets, so you can put their remains somewhere on your property where they’ll be close. Feel free to make a speech or raise a toast — whatever you want to honor their memory.
There are a number of ways you can keep your cat’s presence around your place to help evoke happy memories. Many vet offices offer to make an impression of your cat’s pawprint in clay as a keepsake. Maybe you’d like to hang some pictures or keep their collar or favorite toy on a bedside table. Even more important is the fact that all those memories will live on forever in your heart.
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Confused by the ingredient list on your kitten’s food? You’re not alone. Marketing pet foods that have “human-grade ingredients” is becoming commonplace. While appealing to many pet owners, it is important to be aware that the term “human grade” has no legal definition and is used primarily for marketing purposes.
Foods, typically meats, are labeled either as “edible” or “inedible, not for human consumption.” Once a food leaves the human food chain, even if it is of outstanding quality, it has to be labeled “inedible, not for human consumption.” Therefore, meats used in pet food must be labeled as “inedible,” regardless of the source or quality of the meat. The only way to make a pet food with ingredients deemed “edible” is to never let the meat leave the human food chain and actually manufacture the pet food in a human food facility and transport it using human food trucks. Therefore, advertising a product as containing “human-grade ingredients” is untrue if it is not manufactured in a human food facility. However, just because a pet food isn’t marketed as being “human grade” does not mean that the ingredients are poor quality.
Here are some tips to help understand ingredient labels:
- The ingredient list is not the only method you should use to select a pet food, because it doesn’t provide pet owners with enough information about the quality of the ingredients or the nutritional adequacy of the overall diet.
- Instead of concentrating on ingredients, pet owners and veterinarians should look at the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement and the quality control protocols of the manufacturer. For more information, see the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s brochure “Selecting the Best Food for your Pet,” available at
Opens a new windowwww.wsava.org/nutrition-toolkit.
- The ingredient list may be arranged to make foods as appealing as possible to consumers by the order of the ingredients (e.g., having lamb first on the ingredient list) or inclusion of seemingly desirable ingredients in the diet, but often in such small amounts that they have little or no nutritional benefits (e.g., artichokes and raspberries listed after the vitamin and mineral supplements).
- Having more ingredients does not make a diet more nutritious.
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