Seldom asked is the question -What happens to some cats at the end of a natural life?
The first noticeable sign of old age for about a 20 year old cat is an inability to jump as high as usual. A decrease in agility and strength is one of the first signs of getting old. Where previously it was a breeze to jump on the kitchen countertop from the floor it now becomes impossible to do and is limited to jumping no higher than a chair’s height.
Food and water are fundamental to a cat’s survival and not being able to consume food in many forms is a sign of bodily and health decline. The cat first refused to eat dry filet mignon and shrimp cat food, then had trouble eating and started choking on hand fed small thinly sliced top round roast beef and cooked ham (his favorite food), then could only eat moist semi chunked wet canned meat, and finally could only lick soft pate seafood and soft pate turkey meat. What was very noticeable was the progressive decline of eating ability and not being able to swallow any food even of a smooth pate consistency. Swallowing difficulty was an obvious fact.
Some other signs of health decline were a tongue which stuck out from the mouth and seemed a little comical but sad, salivating profusely during eating, and clumping of cat fur from self grooming with wet food and milk residue in the mouth. Half the right side of the tongue was whitish and the other half pink, the right side of the mouth or lip was a little open, and the right side of the cheek was covered with clumped blackish hair. Self grooming was bad with a disheveled overall look of the fur. An emaciated look and definitely not a pretty sight.
The whole eating procedure became very messy with bits of saliva coated food and milk spread over half the kitchen floor and about a foot up the kitchen counter cabinets and trash can which were signs that the cat was vigorously also shaking its head a lot during and after meal time. Cleanup of the wooden kitchen floor was a burdensome fifteen minute task every three days with Mr. Clean and many towels were used since a steam cleaner or soapy wet mop would still leave stuck on food residue on the floor.
Next the cat started to urinate in various spots across the house floor, peed in a counter top bowl, and even pissed in a handbag ruining it for further usage. We were afraid that soon the couch, bed, floor, and furniture in general would be damaged my urination so we isolated the feeding and roaming to the Florida room which could be closed off from the rest of the house. Because of the isolation, the tile floor of the Florida room was about 3 times easier to clean up and an open litter box could be used to observe defecation and urination patterns.
One day the cat had a biz ding crazy episode where he started to paw the floor as he drank water and started to paw the milk and water out of the bowl. This was followed by pushing the milk and water containers about a foot from their original position and spilling the contents all over the tile floor. We had two water ash trays for cigarette butts which he also pushed and spilled water out of and drank some of the contents too when there were no butts in the water. It seemed that the cat was desperately thirsty for water at that point and was frantic about drinking it from any location and even the toilet bowl.
On the day before the very end the cat was meowing about every five minutes and was pacing the floor restlessly and not sleeping. We thought that maybe the cat was in pain or felt extreme discomfort. The inability to eat or lick food of any kind, the incessant water and milk drinking failed attempts led us to feel that euthanasia and cremation at the humane society would be the best course of action to avoid further suffering and possible painful death by kidney failure, dysphagia, due to not swallowing any food and effectively starving him for three or more days.
I would often pet and groom the cat with a flea comb in my lap where he calmly would settle down and meditate for about 10 minutes at a time. On the last day before taking him to the humane society he was restless and only stayed in my lap for about 2 minutes of petting before he returned to pacing the floor or wandering into the rest of the house with the Florida room doors open.
My wife and son considered taking the cat to a veterinarian but we had heard that a friend of ours spent about 2000 dollars on her very old cat’s medical tests, diagnosis, and medication only to have to live with the tragic fact that the cat soon died about 4 days later after the trip to the vet and taking the medication and not eating. For a healthy two or three year old cat who stops eating an expensive barrage of medical test diagnoses and medication prescribed by a vet makes some sense but definitely not for a very old cat on his last legs in life.
Yes, hospice care or force feeding the cat with a tube down its throat could conceivably extend his lifespan by a few months or even a year but this is definitely not a pleasant or easily doable procedure for a cat who vigorously fights against pills being forced into the mouth. I once force fed a pet constrictor king snake who could no longer feed itself and extended its lifespan for about a year but I only had to force feed it about once a month and not every day.
The cat survived about the last three months on a diet of milk, soft pate food, and water and slept a lot, but when he stopped eating any food, stopped drinking milk, just tried to drink water, tried to poop and couldn’t, urinated infrequently and almost not at all, soft food would drop out of the mouth with grinding sounds, the desire to eat was still there but the ability to eat was gone, paced the floor without sleeping, and meowed constantly-We sensed that it was time to end it all before he suffered an agonizing death from starvation, kidney and possible liver failure. The humane society euthanasia and cremation for about a hundred bucks seemed like the right humane thing to do for a dignified death free of agonizing pain and suffering.
A sad heart wrenching end to an old cats days in this world but I really believe that we did all that was humanly possible in a loving way and made the right choice to end the cat’s life in a dignified manner free of pain and suffering. Should there be euthanasia for very old loved cats who stop eating? Definitely the right humane thing to do.
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