How do you know when to say goodbye?


My beloved kitty Niobe is very ill, indeed. As a result of her kidney disease, she has poor muscular control, and is having great difficulty walking. Her gum infection has gotten much worse. She often seems confused. She's peeing all over the place. (To be honest, Niobe has always been a bit clumsy, short on brains and a naughty little pisser. However, things have gotten much worse.)

Niobe is also spending the bulk of her time hanging out with Robb and me. Robb spends quite a large amount of every day laying down, and Niobe is constantly cuddled up with him.

I have been struggling with what to do. On one hand, I don't want her to suffer, and I believe in euthanasia. But I cannot come to terms with scheduling the appointment to end her life. People always say "you'll know when the time comes." But I'm finding that I disagree with that.

I don't know what the tipping point is. She is very old and frail, but she's also a little love machine, purring all the time. And she's the feline love of my life.

Robb and I have lost several cats over the years, but we never actively put one to sleep. We had an appointment to do that for Biesche, when her cancer metastasized, but she passed away the morning that we were going to take her to the vet. When we took Paetra in for exploratory surgery for her cancer, we told the vet that if things were found to be too far gone, that they should let her go. And that's what happened. There were no decisions made with Mister Firdusi. He just fell over dead last month.

This long, lingering illness is so difficult for me, because I can't decide if I'm letting her continue on for the wrong reasons. Am I doing this for my cat because she's still happy, or for myself, because I can't bear to lose her? This morning I thought, perhaps the answer is not to use euthanasia at all. Perhaps I need to think in terms of home hospice. But now I'm not sure.

How does one know what to do? How does one know when to do it?

The time has come. Niobe twitched involuntarily all night, and the smell of the infections in her mouth made the entire bedroom stink. (If this kept me and Robb from sleeping, imagine what it must be like for poor Niobe.) She's too weak to make it to the litter box, much of the time.

I think it is time to let her go. But of course I'm crying as I type these words.

Robb just scheduled the appointment for 5:30 tonight, and was crying when he called to tell me that.


Anonymous said…
Oh, dear. This is such a tough call! I found myself there a year ago summer with my beloved Austin kitty, who also was endearingly clumsy and short on brains.

I, too, went through the period of self-doubt: was I resisting euthanasia because I couldn't say goodbye, or was he really still okay? He would purr and purr if you so much as looked at him, so it was hard to tell what was a good day and what wasn't. He had lip cancers, which our vet said indicated a systemic cancer—advanced and virtually impossible to cure. He couldn't eat well at all, couldn't see well, either, and was stiff and slow.

Finally it came to where he couldn't really get to the places he wanted to be, wouldn't follow us around anymore, and I took that as a sign that he was having more bad days than good, and we had him put to sleep. I don't regret that decision, but I miss him a lot, even now with Dash and Sparks in our lives.

It's such an individual decision, and no one can tell you right from wrong on it. I wish the three of you the best on this final part of your journey together.

Anonymous said…
If you haven't reached the choice point yet, it sounds as if you all are very close. Lisa, your cry for help makes me want to wrap you in a huge, comforting hug. When you do decide that lack of muscular and bladder control, combined with infection, etc. are heavier on your kitty's scale than the love and comfort you can offer - then you will know the time is right.

Be sure you and Robb give yourselves time to say goodby, then time to mourn. Perhaps as you welcome a New Year you will want to welcome a new little one to love, be it bird, cat, or tortoise. Hugs for all three of you.

Susie of Grumpy Grinch
Jimmy said…
I think Artgekko said it perfectly.
Anonymous said…
when my Michi-Woo (13 yo jack russell) had some kind of cancer, we kept her with us, as long as she seemed happy. For 4 days she didn't eat, but was still rolling on her back for tummy scratches, and still drinking. Though she was too weak to walk, she would pee if you took her outside..then the morning of the fifth day, she seemed a little short of breath. I went out boxing for a bit, because she was basking in the sun, and when I came back she was still SOB, so I called and took her to the vet for the little pink syringe. It was very peaceful for her, more so than being SOB. I still miss her! But I have a new distraction in Winni
Troop 2440 said…
I'm so sorry Lisa. This is a tough decision. I think that perhaps the time hasn't come yet since she still cuddles and purrs. I think AG said it well by saying that she will start to have more bad days than good ones and then it will make the terrible decision easier.

Anonymous said…
Your post brings back so many emotions for me. It's a terrible, terrible limbo that you're in. The same sort of limbo that Dan and I were in this past February. Our dear sweet Mr. Pigeon clearly wasn't getting much better. He wouldn't eat. He refused to use his litterbox. All he wanted was us. A lap to lay on. Arms to cradle him. I didn't want to leave him alone for a second. No matter how bad it got, there was always a glimmer of hope and that made it impossible for us to make The Decision. He'd be curled on my lap and out of nowhere, he'd reach out a paw, hook my arm and draw it in closer. And there was such strength when he did that, I thought it was proof that somehow, some way, he would get through this. On a bad day, as Dan and I sat with our boy between us, we brought up The Decision again. We thought that it might be time. But our boy spared us and chose to leave on his own, right then. It was the sweetest thing he could have done for us.

I don't regret our deliberation and hesitancy. People told me the same thing: "They'll tell you when it's time." Well, he didn't tell us until the moment that he left. Perhaps your girl is the same.

Whatever your decision is, and whenever it comes, I wish you all the strength in the world. And peace.

Anonymous said…
Such a hard place to be...and I have so been there. When my sweet baby Niles was ill, I knew he was ill, and I kept asking Mr. "Do you think he's ok?" And he would glance over and say "He's fine." He was still rubbing and purring and loving on all of us...but something seemed off to me. He had never really used the litterbox...considering it beneath him I'm sure to use a "community" I'll never know if that was an issue. The poor thing lived with a nervous stomach for 9 years.
One day, I couldn't find him all morning...there he was in the basement lying on his side with his head up, panting. I carried him upsairs knowing something was wrong...and he glently climbed down from the chair and returned to the basement. Wouldn't come to me, wouldn't look at me. Something was very wrong.

What I might be trying to say is...I'm sick to death to know that he suffered. I let that happen...and I wish I had taken him in to Dr. Brian when I had that feeling that something was wrong. It was an enlarged heart condition that was not preventable, and at the end there, he had had a heart attack. Maybe if I had taken action at the point when I "wasn't sure" he may have avoided pain and suffering.

Individual decision indeed...and here I only offer my own experience.
My best to you, and know that whatever you decide, your sweet kitty will know you loved her with all your heart.
Mrs. Doglvrs
Lynne Rutter said…
oh it's so much harder with kitties than birds. birds act like everything is okay, then by the time you realize the are sick it's too late. i think when the kitty can no longer enjoy her greatest pleasures, like eating, or lying around comfortably, then it's time. she may be purring just for you but so long as she's not in any pain id probably be selfish about it and wait. somehow i think she'll let k=you know when she's ready.
Anonymous said…
Lisa and Robb,

5:30 your time is 8:30 here. I'll be thinking of you. It is so hard.

Hugs to both of you,
Knit Wit
Matt said…
Dana and I are thinking of the three of you. You're doing the right thing.
Anonymous said…
Man, oh, man, I am so sorry for the two of you. This is an awful decision to make. It would be helpful if she could talk and tell you how she felt. Since that's not the case, you know your cat best and you will make the right decision whatever that may be. I'm thinking of you two.
Gothknits said…
*big hug* It is a tough decision to make, especially after just losing her son.I remember them both fondly from my days cat sitting. call me if you need me.
Anonymous said…
Big Hugs to you both!

You are in our thoughts.

Sending all our love your way!

Love, Team Springamajack
wassamatta_u said…
I am so sorry for the three of you, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you.
Gina said…
It's now 9:30 here, so about 6:30 your time and I'm certain you are both still in the throws of the aftermath of the day. I'm thinking of you.

While there's not much that can take away the sorrow or ease the pain of the past few days/weeks and your difficult decision, I hope the knowledge that you gave Niobe the gift of freedom from her struggle and pain - putting her needs and comfort above all else, as true love is inclined to do - can be a solace to you in your grief. She was a lucky little girl to have found you here on the streets of Baltimore and to have spent so long a time in your loving care. I'm certain there's a special poster of you both up in kitty heaven. . . .

Love and hugs to you
Kris said…
Oh, Lisa & Robb, I am so very sorry to hear about your kitty. I too went through this exact thing with two kitties just four months apart last year. My story is very much the same as the other ones listed here. That kidney disease is a horrible, horrible thing.

It is never easy to make The Decision to put your friend to sleep. Take comfort in the fact that you could help end her suffering. She is waiting for you over the Rainbow Bridge.

Take time to mourn and know that we are thinking of you.

Love from Bookworm
Anonymous said…
I am so sorry about Niobe. I know you went through this so recently and that just makes it harder... but I think you're doing the right thing. When our friends are suffering beyond our ability to help, the greatest gift we can give them is the release from it. A dear friend of mine just went through this with her beloved dog two days ago; I mourn with all of you. You and Robb are in my thoughts.
Anonymous said…
Our 17 year old sasha just died 2 days ago. She was slowly loosing weight, and she had stopped eating altogether 3 days ago. It was suprising to me how se was still capable of hopping up and down 3 flights of stairs, to her favorite couch in the attic, to the cooler downstairs to be with us. Her wobbling got worse when she walked, and she could not raise her head anymore, and eventually I just kept her on my chest and laid down on the bed with her all night, where she eventually died sleeping on my chest.

At least she was warm, and died on a soft bed with people she loved. It was a lot easier than my former cat who yowled for 2 weeks, while we kept waiting for the medicine to work (which of course it didn't).

Your kitty may not make it to 5 pm today, but just keep her with you all the time you can, and she will be happy. They are not hung up on dying, they just want to enjoy what they have left to them. When it gets too bad to continue, you have to be responsible and help them to be peaceful, and not suffer. Our Sasha kitty made it easier on us by just dying outright, and we knew the time was coming. I'm sorry for what you guys have been going through with your kitties lately, but you have to admit, you gave them a pretty good, adventurous life as well as a stable one, for many years. Most cats can't say that about their lives, if they could magically speak english to us.

Our thoughts are with you, Annalisa and Gary
Anonymous said…
*Big HUGS* I'm so sorry to hear about Niobe. My thoughts are with you guys.
Resident Squint said…
Sending you lots of love and hugs from the other coast.
I still miss my Kitty, she died in hubby's arms after battling liver troubles for over a year and hyperthyroid before that. We scheduled her last appointment after we found her that morning wedged in a hiding place and semi-concious. She passed on before that time. Unfortunately that was on the most recent presidental election day, and the irony wasn't lost on us. We still think of her often. I've created a clock that has pics of our two cats in action and sleeping poses (with room for more). We still have her ashes as we want to plant them someplace where we can visit and keep nearby.
Lots of love and support to you both.
Anonymous said…
Lisa & Robb - I'm so sorry for your loss! As the mom of two senior greyhounds, I worry about this very thing all the time.

Even if you're skeptical, I would recommend talking with an animal communicator. I've been working with one for the past 2 years, and it's been amazing. There are many posts here that say our animals cannot speak to us, but it is possible. Granted, I'm sure there are lots of phonies out there, but if you need a reputable person, please contact me. (or anyone reading this who is interested)

For anyone else going through this awful time, it is possible to work with your companion animal to give you a sign when s/he is ready. And even after our lil loved ones have passed, it may be comforting to know they are ok, and that you made the right decision.

Please take care - my thoughts are with you.
Team Emerson

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