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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Final Option

The problem started six or seven years ago.  When leaving for a couple of days away from home the owner accidentally closed the door to the office where the litterbox was, leaving two cats with no option but to eliminaed elsewhere in the house.  Unfortunately, they seemed to choose the daughter's room, causing quite an odor. After that one of the cats continued to urinate from time to time in that room.  Over the next year or so they tried various enzymatic cleaners to get rid of the odor and urine stains, but the problem continued to happen sporadically.

The people moved to a new house in a new state and they expected the problem to go away since there was no odor of urine in the home.  However, the problem continued.  At first it seemed to be mostly on the daughter's clothing and carpet, anything that was on floor level.  They continued to clean and disinfect the area to little avail.  Fast forward over the next few years and the urinating continued to happen and started being in other rooms.  Though infrequent it was any jacket, bedspread, clothing, or rug.  The owners started closing bedroom and bathroom doors to keep the cat out of it. 

As the problem worsened they tried to find other solutions.  They used Feliway pheromones, but the urinating was infrequent enough that it wasn't easy to tell if there was any effect. When "outbreaks" happened they had blood and urine tests performed, looking for kidney problems, urinary infections, or diabetes, but the tests always came back normal.  The  problem was getting worse and the cat was causing destruction to carpets and clothing.

As they thought about it they realized that there had been a lot of upheaval in the previous years. They had originally gotten the kitten in Utah when they had two other cats.  Since then they had moved to Illinois, North Carolina, and finally Georgia.  Over the years they had lost the two cats the problem one had grown up with, then added three dogs, two more cats, and two children.  The cat was always a bit "crotchety" and cranky, and was only really bonded with the wife.  Though he could be affectionate with some of the other family members, he only seemed to tolerate them. He never got along well with the other pets, and would continue to hiss and growl at the dogs even when the dogs never did anything to him and they had lived together for years.  Additionally he was the most destructive with his claws, resulting in damaged dressers and bedposts, even despite nail trimming.

Finally they tried behavioral medication, hoping that it would help mellow his mood.  The cat quickly learned that food or treats contained the pills, and it wasn't really possible to forcably pill him every day.  They went to a compounding pharmacy and got the medication made into a chicken-flavored liquid, but still the cat refused it.  There was no way they were going to be able to give the cat its medicine every day for even the three to four weeks needed to see if it would work, let alone for months or even the rest of the cat's life.

So they were faced with a bad situation.  They had a 13 year old cat who was ruining their home and had behavioral issues for half his life.  He couldn't be medicated.  He didn't really deal with change well or get along with other people or pets, so adoption wasn't considered a good option.  Even if they took him to an adoption agency he would likely not get a new home and end up being euthanized because of his age and attitude.  Even in a foster home the cat likely wouldn't be happy.  He had always been an indoor cat so they didn't think he would do well outside.  Though there were significant behavioral issues, he wasn't dangerously aggressive and was otherwise very healthy.  But they couldn't continue to allow their home to be ruined any further. They felt backed into a corner and didn't have any good options.

We euthanized him today. 

Yes, that may seem cruel to some.  However, I don't think there were any other good options here. The people had honestly tried everything they could think of and had put up with the problem for a very long time.  At the end of their rope they wanted to find the most humane option, and a quick injection seemed the only solution.

These are very tough situations to deal with.  I do think that in behavioral cases the client should do everything they reasonably can, and I won't euthanize on the first visit unless it's a severe aggression cases where human and animal health is at risk. But what do clients do?  They can't continue to tolerate it and the problem can't be fixed if the pet won't allow medication.  Other options could be cruel and would only potentially pass the problem to someone else.  These are very much situations of "damned if you do and damned if you don't".