Translate This Blog

Monday, May 11, 2009

Moving An Elderly Cat

Here's a tough situation sent in by Jackie.

I have an elderly cat,17 years old, and showing signs of her age - cataracts, vomiting, limping, dull coat, but she still has an appetite. She has always been a very anxious cat, does not like to be touched, but will lay next to you. I am moving from a home in Florida to an apartment in Colorado and fear the 3-day trip, by car, will be too hard for her and then the adjustment there, as well. She has never been outside except for the necessary vet appointments. I feel that euthanization would be more humane and would like your view on this. Thank you.

I know this is a hard situation for you Jackie, and I'll try to help you out. But realize that this may be a discussion to also have with your personal vet, as he or she will know your cat's health status better. If there are some strong health-related reasons for a poor quality of life, then euthanasia may be a valid option regardless of your situation with moving.

As I've mentioned in previous entries, I believe that euthanasia is an option of last resort, and should never be done for convenience. Seventeen is very elderly for a cat, and most don't make it to this age. What you have mentioned of her condition is not uncommon for a cat of her advanced age, but also doesn't mean that she is at the end of her life. Your vet may be able to help you with supplements, diets, or medications that can help with any digestive, arthritis or coat problems. Simple things may help improve her quality of life.

Most cats don't adjust to new situations easily, and a long move to a new location can be difficult even for a young cat. An older cat may have a harder time with this situation. However, the key word here is "may". We don't know how she will react to the trip or the move. She may completely freak out and begin having behavioral problems. Or she may settle in and make the adjustment just fine. We don't know what will happen until it happens. And to me, making the decision to euthanize her based on a "maybe" is not the right decision if she is otherwise in good condition. Euthanization is an irreversible decision, and not an easy one. Even if she hasn't been the most overtly friendly of cats, she has still been your companion for almost two decades, and I don't feel you should give up on her just yet.

You asked for my thoughts, so here they are. I would recommend getting her used to the cat carrier for several weeks prior to the move. Leave it out all day and night, and put her food and water bowls in the back of it. This way she has to walk in and out throughout the day, and learns to see it as just another piece of furniture. About a week before the move go to your local pet supply store and buy spray and plug-in Feliway (often under the brand name Comfort Zone). For the last week prior to the move, spray the carrier with the Feliway every couple of days. Once you get to your new place, plug in the diffuser in an area she will likely spend the most time. Feliway is designed to help reduce stress in cats, and can help in situations like this.

If you get to your new apartment and see that she has become frantic and is showing a complete mental breakdown, you can always make the decision to euthanize her later. But if she turns out to make the move easier than you thought, you will be able to keep her in your life for a longer period of time.

Good luck, Jackie!