Should other animals in the home be present for the euthanasia of a cat or see the deceased cat’s body one last time? This is one of the issues addressed in an End-of-Life Toolkit recently released by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP).
To help answer the question, the organization points to a study by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals showing that many cats exhibit decreased appetite, prolonged periods of sleep, and increased vocalization after the death of a companion. With that in mind, the AAFP says the following:
Allowing housemates to see and smell the body may be beneficial in helping them with closure. It is also important to understand that each animal is different in how they view a housemate that has passed. Some cats may hiss at the deceased pet, act indifferent, or they may sulk….It is important the caregivers understand that the surviving animals may not exhibit the same level of grief that they are exhibiting, and that is okay.
This is just one of many pieces of advice in the toolkit that could prove helpful to people about to make the decision to choose euthanasia for a beloved pet.
Some other recommendations:
- People undergo more grief if they haven’t said “I love you” before a loss, so if the euthanasia is an emergency and there’s no time to tell your cat how you feel before giving the order to let her go, it’s important to go over all the ways you showed your cat love while she was alive as you memorialize her.
- If you have young children, avoid the use of phrases such as “putting the cat to sleep.” That can create anxiety and fear for them about their own bedtime.
- Don’t feel guilty about adopting a new cat soon after the death of one. You’re not replacing the cat. You’re filling an emotional hole that the first cat created through your bond. You’re also providing a loving home for a cat who needs one.
The toolkit is meant for veterinarians, and therefore much of the information is rather technical, but there are useful pieces of advice sprinkled throughout, especially in the FAQs toward the back of the booklet. There’s also a page listing the phone numbers of organizations (including Tufts) that provide bereavement support.
- Go to catvets.com, click on the “Practice Guidelines” tab, then the “Educational Toolkits” sub tab, and scroll down to “2021 End of Life Educational Toolkit.”