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Putting Down Your Animal Friend, a Difficult but Necessary Decision

Updated on April 19, 2021
cherylone profile image

I have owned cats for over 60 years. Between them and their vets, I have learned a great deal about how they tick.

Tigger, ten years old.  "I beg your pardon, but did you have a question for me?" Died of a cancer growth in his ear.
Tigger, ten years old. "I beg your pardon, but did you have a question for me?" Died of a cancer growth in his ear. | Source

Our Pets, Our Friends, and Our Family

With many of us our animals aren't just pets, they are our best friend, our confidant, our pride and joy, and our comfort. I have owned many animals in my lifetime and each one has been a special friend. Yes, animals have their quirks and their behavioral oddities, but they also have a vast capacity to love. No matter what type of animal you may have as a pet, when you love and care for them, they love and care right back.

My favorite animal, at least for the moment, is the cat. They are sleek, individualized, clean, easy to care for, and exceptionally communicative. They can win me with a rub against my leg or a paw reaching out for my attention. They crawl up in my lap, purring with adoration for me. They play with me with gentle swats of their paws or love nips with their teeth which don't hurt. They chase a laser light around the floor until they can't stand up because they have worn themselves out, but they always come back for more. And I can't help but laugh at their silliness. I will base this article on cats because I know them best, but all animals can and do get hurt or ill.

We Love Them Dearly

Once an animal has gotten that close to you, the last thing you want to think of is putting them down. We don't want to say good-bye. We don't want to feel the sadness of burying them. We don't want to have to watch the other animals mope around and crying for their playmates.

When we face the issue of possibly putting down an animal that we love, we must search our hearts for the best answer. Not the best answer for us, because that would be to let them linger, possibly in pain, possibly with great suffering, so that we don't have to suffer their loss. We must think about the best answer for the animal. Animals get sick, they suffer pain as we do, and they can get broken bones or bad joints. When you discover your animal is sick, the first thing you might think of is: "Let's get them treatment." But that might not be the best thing for the animal.

They Are So Cute And Cuddly



Remember when you were little and you stubbed your toe or fell and scrapped your arm? It hurt so bad that you thought you were dying. You would run screaming for your mother and pointing to the injury while crying as you told her what happened. It didn't feel better until you had a bandage and perhaps a kiss from mom.

Animals, when they hurt or feel ill, can't tell us about it. They can't run screaming to us and tell us what happened. They can't say they feel like vomiting or that they swallowed, say, a pin. All they can do is the best they can under the circumstances. They try to survive because that's what their instincts tell them to do. And most animals survive in silence because instinct tells them injured and/or crying animals are considered easy prey. There is no crying, no moaning and no mommy (or daddy) to make it better.

They Must Rely on Us to Help Them


We All Know When Something is Wrong

We can see the difference in the animal when something is wrong. We can see the slower movements, the lack of playing, the dull coat, the sad eyes, even the limping or difficulty walking. We can feel in our bones that something is wrong. But. we dread taking them to the vet because it might be a bad verdict. The one we dread. The one we don't want to hear. When we do finally take them, we convince ourselves that the animal has nothing but a cold or something similar and it will be a simple shot and all is well.

Take a moment to imagine yourself in your animal's situation. Would you want the suffering to continue until your body finally gave up? Would you want to have pain treatment with medicines that taste awful and do very little? Would you want to have to try to survive without food or water because your body can't process it anymore? Or would you prefer to be held by your beloved companion while the vet gently eases you into a permanent sleep where pain is gone and survival is no longer required? While you ponder these questions, keep in mind that your pet cannot tell you the medicine is not working or is giving them nausea. They can't tell you what they would prefer either.

Animals don't want to die, but sometimes its better for them.

I Have Been There

I have had to put many animals down and I have hurt deep down inside for a very long time afterwards, but I know that I did the right thing for them. One had Kidney disease and couldn't process water anymore. One had diabetes and couldn't process his sugars and carbohydrates anymore. Another had Lung Cancer and could no longer breath.

Those are just three of the ones I have had to put down. Don't delay the decision you have to make. Don't let your pet suffer. Get them to a vet quickly and discuss all possible avenues before you make your decision. The vet is your best source for information for your pet. He/she can help you decide what is best for your animal. The one and only thing you can do is the one thing that is best for your pet's health, welfare, and quality of life. If treatment can not guarantee their return to health, then let them go and remember them in your heart.

Remember Them in Your Heart


Some times The Problems Are Not Physical

I had a cat that had been terribly abused as a kitten. She was a beautiful black and white angora with a loving disposition. After I had her for seven years, her behavior radically changed. She would cuddle up to me purring away and then suddenly become enraged and rip me to shreds trying to get away as if I had been hurting her. The other animals wouldn't go near her except to attack and growl. She hid in a corner of my kitchen and refused to move even to eat or use the litter box. I took her to the vet thinking she was in pain for some reason.

The vet told me that she was, basically, insane and that badly abused animals often spend the remainder of their lives looking over their shoulder expecting the abuse once more. He also told me that they usually don't live past five years of age. What were her chances? None, she had lost her mind and could not be treated. I had to put her down.

Just like us, animals have small disorders and large ones. The sooner you get them help; the happier they will be, and you as well.

Danger Signs

  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid Weight Loss
  • Dull coat
  • Different behavior
  • Fighting with other cats
  • Hiding and/or trying to get out
  • Not letting you pet them all of a sudden
  • Dull eyes
  • Not using the litter-box

These are all signs that something is wrong, but not necessarily deadly. This is not a complete list by any means. Talk to your vet, they can help.

A Few of Mine

Mittens, three years old.  "Hey, you wanted something?  Can ya turn the lights down a bit.....?"  Survived a number of issues, but is still with us.
Mittens, three years old. "Hey, you wanted something? Can ya turn the lights down a bit.....?" Survived a number of issues, but is still with us. | Source
Dusty, four years of age, "I'm not goin' down there.......Are you?"  Disappeared 2019
Dusty, four years of age, "I'm not goin' down there.......Are you?" Disappeared 2019 | Source

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2011 Cheryl Simonds


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