Saying Goodbye: How to Make the Most of Your Cat’s Final Days
Saying Goodbye: How to Make the Most of Your Cat’s Final Days

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Saying Goodbye: How to Make the Most of Your Cat’s Final Days

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.

 

two cats

 

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.

 

windchime cat

 

cat cup

 

cat memories

 

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.

 

Keep Mementos

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.

 

 cat cup
cat memories
cat portrait
 two cats
windchime cat
  • Does Your Cat Have Tummy Troubles?
    Does Your Cat Have Tummy Troubles?

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    Does Your Cat Have Tummy Troubles?

    An upset stomach is more common in cats than you might think. But how can you tell if it's a serious problem?

    Every cat owner recognizes the warning signs of an upset feline stomach: the mournful meow, gagging, and heaving retch. But in a flash, the cat seems to snap back to good health while you're left scrubbing the carpet.

    The scenario is a familiar one for Cynthia Bowen of Cleveland, Ohio. As the owner of four Maine Coons, Bowen has cleaned her share of messes. "It would happen every couple of months or so," she says. "Otherwise, they were perfectly healthy."

    Although it's not a pleasant subject, vomiting is something cats seem to do almost on cue. Many cat owners accept this as a natural part of owning a pet, but it doesn't have to be that way. Knowing what triggers an upset stomach and what you can do about it will make for a better relationship with your cat.

     

    Cause for Alarm?

    Repeated cat vomiting should never be ignored because it can lead to dehydration. But, because vomiting is common in cats, how do you know what's normal? "A general guideline is that if the cat is vomiting one to three times a month, we consider this 'normal,'" says Dr. William Folger, a DVM from Houston.

    He considers it serious if the vomiting occurs twice daily for two or three days. If your cat stops eating, seems to have stomach pain, or retches continuously, or if there's blood in the vomit, take her to a veterinarian. And, as always, if you're suspicious that a lingering problem could be harmful to your pet, call your veterinarian. A visit to the office can help relieve your cat's discomfort and your worries as well.

     

    Why Cats Vomit

    Many owners attribute their cat's vomiting to hairballs, but that's not the only culprit. "It's careless to assume that most cases of vomiting in cats are due to hairballs," says Dr. Folger. Two other frequent causes of an upset stomach are:

    • Eating too fast. Cats sometimes eat too much, too fast. When the stomach wall expands too quickly, a signal is sent to the brain to cause regurgitation. In these cases, the mess on your floor is from regurgitation, not actual vomiting. When a cat regurgitates, he brings up fluid and food from his esophagus by opening his mouth–unlike vomiting, where there's gagging and retching. Regurgitated food is still formed, and may smell fermented. "Cats that eat too quickly because they are gluttonous or stressed by food bowl competition can regurgitate right after eating," says Dr. Sara Stephens, a DVM from Montana. But don't assume regurgitation is always a case of eating too fast. It could be caused by esophageal problems, obstruction of the digestive tract, hairballs, or dehydration. If you've forced your cat to eat slowly and he still has problems, contact a veterinarian.
       
    • Curiosity. Grass, carpet, and toilet paper are just a few things cats may digest and later vomit. The vomiting is a protective mechanism–nature's way of cleansing your cat’s system. Sometimes, though, curiosity can lead to more serious problems. String, toy parts, and feathers are favorites of playful felines and can lodge in the stomach or intestine, causing repeated vomiting and severe distress. If your cat exhibits these symptoms, take her to a veterinarian immediately; surgery is often necessary to remove the object.

     

    Preventative Measures

    Often, owners accept their pet's vomiting as a natural part of their behavior, but just because cats seem to have more than their fair share of tummy troubles doesn't mean you have to sit idly by.

    One simple preventative measure is to get your fast-eating cat to slow down or to simply eat less. Stephens recommends smaller portions, elevating your cat's food dish slightly, or putting an object, such as a ball, into the dish. The cat will be forced to eat around the ball, and thus her intake will be slowed. If you do this, make sure the ball isn't small enough to swallow. And you may need to feed cats in a multiple-cat household at different times and places to reduce competitive eating.

    If simple solutions don't work, watch your cat's eating behavior and reactions. Bowen, for example, tried changing her cats' diets. "Since switching to IAMS®, they rarely throw up," Bowen says.

     

    "Usually, when you change to a higher-quality diet, there is no problem," Stephens says. Here are some tips for helping make sure your cat's change is as successful and comfortable as possible:

    • Go slowly. Make the transition gradually to allow your cat time to adjust. "Make sure the cat eats something every day," Stephens advises. "A cat that quits eating suddenly can develop liver problems."
       
    • Add appeal. Switching from wet to dry or vice versa should also be done gradually. Many cats find canned food more palatable. If you switch to dry, add water and warm it slightly for more appeal. Discard uneaten food after 20 minutes to prevent spoilage.
       
    • Measure up. How much should you feed? Your cat's age, sex, breed, activity level, and overall health need to be taken into consideration. Talk with your veterinarian, then read the manufacturer's recommendations. Premium foods like IAMS cat foods are more nutrient-dense than many non-premium diets, so don't be surprised if the recommended amounts seem low.
       
    • Pay attention. Beyond careful measuring, also regularly weigh your cat and adjust the feeding amount accordingly after switching to a premium food. Your cat may appear happy if you overfeed him. But over time, he may become overweight. Tummy troubles can be in the past with your veterinarian’s help and a little effort on your part.

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