I took the cat to the vet today. I took her about a month ago because the vomiting and loose stools seemed to be getting out of control. At that point she was sneezing a bunch, but the vet didn't seem to make much of that. Since then, her sneezing has seemed to turn into some sort of upper respiratory infection, she sneezes all the time, she's lost a tooth, her mouth is irritated, and now suddenly there's a whole bunch of mucus coming out of her mouth and nose. Plus she's not eating (probably because of the mouth irritations) and she lost a pound in a month. The vet says she has a heart murmur.
It's hard to know what this all really means without a lot of expensive testing. But I don't really want to spend a lot of money prolonging the life of a cat that's really lived a good, long, mostly happy life and whose life is really not very high quality any more. I told the vet that I really just want to make sure she's comfortable. At that point he gave me the option of putting her down. (And, of course, waterworks that I am, I started crying.) So anyway, we decided today to give her shot of antibiotic for whatever infection she my have, give her intravenous rehydration, and switch her diet to wet food to see if she'll eat and gain any weight back.
So now, after the vet opened up the discussion of putting her down, I feel like I have permission to think about it and really examine the cat's quality of life and comfort to evaluate when is the right time. The thought of it makes me feel horribly sad, guilty, and, at the same time, a bit relieved.
There's a lot to think about, including how to discuss this with the kids. Steve thinks that we shouldn't let them know that we're ever choosing to end the cat's life, in case they think we might do that to them. Perhaps we might tell them that we're bringing the cat to a place where they care for very old animals until they die. (Kind of a stretch of the truth -- a very long stretch.) It's not that we want to completely avoid the topic of death, just anything that might scare them into thinking they might die in their sleep or that we might choose to get rid of them. Has anyone had experience with explaining such things to their kids?
I have to say, writing this down just now has felt very therapeutic. I hope there's no one reading this that takes offense at how I am caring for my cat. I really just want to do the most humane thing. She has been a dear friend to me for almost 17 years.