Things To Consider
The most difficult aspect of sharing your life with a cat is that the end will come. We tend to think that we will naturally outlive our pets. However it does not always work out that way, and that aspect of 'endings' needs to be addressed as well.
Suppose that you become incapacitated, or for some reason can no longer take care of your cat. While you can, you need to consider what your wishes will be for your cat.
Make sure that someone knows your wishes and will carry them out. You can formalize these wishes by making a living trust and leaving detailed or general instructions and appointing a guardian and leaving funds. There are lawyers who can advise you on this. If you would rather not formalize these plans then at least be sure that you have a plan and a backup plan. The link below has information on pet trusts, and which states will enforce them. If you don't plan for this, the courts may make the decisions for you. The time to deal with this is now, while you can.
Many people live alone and their pets are their only constant companions. There are ways to insure that should you end up in an emergency room some day, that your pets will be taken care of. You can have a designated person come and take over for you, but they would need to be notified. A Medic Alert bracelet will allow you to store this information on a central emergency phone center's database. Medic Alert also stores other emergency contacts as well as your basic medical information. The information can be entered on line at their web site. Medic Alert jewelry has become quite fashionable and there are many choices in color and style and size, including key chains, and watches.
Diabella's cat site is one of my all time favorites. In the link below she talks about retirement homes for cats. YES, retirement homes for your cat. If this is something you want to consider take a look at her site here. While you're there check out her amazing art and all the goodies she has lovingly put there for your enjoyment
The link below is a treasure trove of links and information about seniors and pets.
Again it may be you who needs care and can't care for your cat. It may be necessary for you to move to a convalescent home for a period of time. There are some retirement homes and nursing homes that allow pets, but sadly not as many as most of us would like.
Diabella's site has an awesome list of such homes and living arrangements that allow pets. She has also researched retirement homes for pets should you decide that that is necessary. The most important thing is to know ahead of time what your choice will be and let someone else know, so that they can carry out your wishes.
There may come a time when your cat needs only to be loved and know that he is not in pain. Sadly some conditions, as with humans, cannot be fixed, but care is needed for the time before the end. Your vet will be your guide as to what procedures you should do, either at home, or in combination with visits back to the vet for check ups. You can refer to our link, medical care at home for tips and how to's on some of the basic techniques. The more you can do for your cat yourself the more involved you will be in the important part of separating when the times comes. You will know better than anyone when the time is near and what the next step should be. Your vet will of course guide you, but it is your decision.
The Final Decision
We all hope that we don't have to be the one's to make the final decision to end a life that has been so intertwined with ours. But sadly, that decision is sometimes the kindest thing we can do for our pets. If you are facing that decision, you have my utmost sympathy and I know how it feels. You owe it to yourself and your pet to be clear as to exactly what will happen. It is up to you how much you can tolerate. Your feelings need to be taken into account too. Do not let anyone tell you when or what is right for you and your pet. This is a highly personal issue and one with which you will live for the rest of your life. There is no one right decision or one right method.
Many vets will come to your home to perform the procedure. I personally prefer this as I feel that it's less stressful for the cat, and for me. I also feel that it's important for all family members who want to, including other pets, to be present so that they can be there at the end. This too however is highly personal. If this is something you would like, ask your vet if he or she will do this for you.
Sometimes however, if your cat takes a sudden turn for the worse , this method may not be available to you, or you may go in for an emergency procedure and that will be the end. If your cat is nearing the end, discuss this with your vet. He or she knows you and your cat and is the best person to guide you.
The links below have a lot of useful and helpful information on end of life issues. Included here are counseling sites, and various support groups all over the country, some of which need volunteers if you are interested. Some have memorial funds you can contribute to as a memorial for your pet.
Mourning is grieving, but there has been an end. It is sometimes difficult to draw the line as to when the grieving starts and when mourning must move beyond to the next phase and get back to living. There is no doubt that this is a path, a continuum, and it has no clear markers. That is why guides are extremely important and while no one can remove the pain, there are methods of coping with the pain that have proven useful for the millions who have gone there before us. Mourning helps us to move to the place where we welcome the peace and remember in love. The long nights of anxiety and fear and loneliness need not be borne alone. Please visit the links in this section, as I believe they will help.
I would encourage you to contact them as soon in this process as you can, as they are professionals and are trained to deal with your grieving and loss in a respectful caring way. You should not try to go through this alone and tough it out. Again, do not let anyone tell you that you are being silly, or over reacting. Dealing with grief begins when you first realize that this is the end, and are trying to sort our what your life will be like without your precious friend.
Pets are probably the only way we humans have of receiving unconditional love. The loss of that love is quite possibly the most difficult loss we will face in life. Not everyone will understand what you are going through, but there are many who do and they are almost always willing to help. Pet people know how it feels, and they will have many ways to help you get through this difficult time and move on to new life afterward
Post Mortems and Necropsies
This topic is one that a lot of people don't like to deal with. For some it will be essential that they 'know' why their pet died. I will warn you that it is normal, no matter what you did to feel that you could or should have done more. It is not always possible to determine the answer to that by examining the body of a deceased pet. However, there may be times when you need or want to know. If you have remaining pets and their lives might be in danger due to the cause of death of one pet, then you owe it to them to do this. There is no pain to the animal and the pet will be returned to you in most cases appearing no different than it did at death. There will likely be an incision down the mid line, but that will be sutured, as if the pet had had surgery. The doctors who perform necropsies do this with respect, the same respect and care they would use if the pet were alive. As a matter of fact they tell me that frequently they are motivated to discover the same things the pet owner would want to know, did we do everything we could have. While that answer is almost always, that decisions that were made at the time were made with the best interest of the pet, and that even if some medical miracle might have prolonged the pet's life, if it was not done, it probably was not done because it would cause more pain and suffering than it would relieve. So YES, everything was done that could have been. Still there may be times when this is something you would opt for. If that is the case, be assured that it will be done with sensitivity to you and your pet.
Final Resting Choices
My choice is always my back yard. However some people live in areas that don't allow such burials, or in cities where it is just not possible. In that case there are choices. There are pet cemeteries, or one can choose cremation or a relatively new choice is freeze-drying. If that last choice has you shocked, don't be. Throughout history people have preserved the bodies of kings and queens and even ordinary citizens. Some people choose this method and then request that the pet be buried with them. This can be done with ashes too. But check with your cemetery to see if they allow this. I was initially a little curious about the freeze-drying method, but after some thought it made some sense. It does give one a bit more time to get used to the loss, and since it's not as permanent as cremation, or burial it allows for those choices at a later date. It may not be for everyone, but it is an option. I actually called them and had a long discussion, this was for a friend, but I found myself more than fond of the idea. Visit their web site and see what you think.
Again, this is a personal choice and one that you should take time and think about. You may already know how and where, but if not there are some links below that will give you more guidance.
If you are uncertain your vet can keep your pet at the vet hospital for quite a while you either make arrangements or decide. It may be that not all the family members can agree, or that you want to have a burial when some people can be home from school. There is no need to rush if that is something you wish to do.
Memorials to a lost cat can be made at any time. You may already have a favorite charity that you know would honor your cat and use your gift wisely. Almost every animal organization and veterinary school has a memorial fund. Memorial gifts can be made at any time and in any amount.
Other memorials might be a stone in a favorite spot, or a collage of photos. A search for pet memorials on google will give you many ideas. A home made memorial in which several people contribute a piece of the work can be a way to deal with and make a final closure for you as well. A bench in the back yard with a hand made sign would make a fitting memorial whether you have buried your pet there or not.
elow is Pie's rainbow, which fittingly appeared shortly after I buried her next to her friends in my back yard. I found some heart shaped stones that had the words, love, remember and forever on them. I made a pile of those and planted some bleeding heart plants.