How Do You Know When?

Sweet Sister
Sweet Sister

I had to have Sister, my cat, euthanized before New Years Day. Sister was a very sweet tempered, actually polite, timid gray and brown tabby with white legs and a white collar.

She developed diabetes from a pituitary brain tumor sometime in the last two years. The slowly worsening diabetes made her so hungry that she licked her bowl and ate whatever Norie, my other cat, didn’t eat. Then she was hungry again in two to three hours.

This was quite a change from her previous picky, nibbling eating habits. She was even so hungry that she meowed loudly and persistently for 30 minutes begging for food. But I had to restrict her because we were trying to get her glucose down. She also sometimes laid with her chin on the water bowl she could drink as much water as she could because of her thirst caused by high blood sugar of diabetes.

After trying a short acting insulin, the vet ordered a long acting supplemental insulin. Sister never once tried to resist when I gave her the two Insulin injections twice a day.

The long acting insulin stung even though I tried to numb the site with an ice pack. She still whipped her tail back and forth briefly from the stinging. Yet everyday for a year she came when I told her it was time for her medicines and jumped up on the table where I gave them to her.

At first the blood sugar levels decreased dreadfully slowly. over a year. Then they plateaued at a still very high level. After a year of expensive blood draws, exams and tests, two different insulin injections twice a day and the blood sugar levels starting back up a month later I decided it was time to make a decision.

If I continued without any more expensive lab work, her very high blood sugars would have eventually caused suffering. Strokes, possible seizures, neuropathy of her legs, kidney failure and more could have been in her not to distant future. I swore I would not let my cat suffer unnecessarily, if I could help it.

Besides I saw what high blood sugars had done to my husband. I could not help him control his glucose, nor could I keep him from the mini-strokes, large stroke, diabetic retinopathy that limited his love of reading, and the diabetic neuropathy that caused stabbing pains in his feet. But I could keep Sister from experiencing anything like those painful memories.

I had asked other cat lovers how would I know when she was ready to pass over or when was the right time to help her pass over? They all told me that I would “know when.” I wondered what they meant until I experienced it myself.

Sister normally liked to sit in my lap for long periods of time. The week before I made the decision she began to sit in my lap only briefly and then hopped over on the bed. I believe she knew it was time to “pull away.” She behaved like this when her first owner left her with me and came back for visits. Sister finally just looked at her and walked away.

Within the same week she stopped sleeping on the left side of my head at night. I found her sleeping on the recliner by my bed.

The third clue was her reaction when it was time for her two insulin injections twice a day. That week she startled or leaned away from the needles. That was the final sign that broke my heart. I knew it was time.

The time had come for all of it to end. It had been a long year of thirst, hunger, blood draws, Insulin injections, exams, and tests with no cure in sight. I decided to put an end to my cat, Sister’s life the last week of December. I knew she had had enough.

Once the decision had been made, I wanted Sister to enjoy her last days of life. I let her eat as much as her little stomach wanted. I wanted her to never be hungry again.

She hated going to the vet’s office, no matter how sweet they were to her. She had had so many blood draws in the last year. About every 6 weeks the veterinarian drew blood from her arm or leg, even 4 -5 times in a day to evaluate hourly her blood sugar responses to the increasing doses of insulin. I wanted her to die where she was happy, not where she hated to go.

After making the decision and arranging for a veterinarian to come to our home to give her the necessary drugs, I filled her morning bowl with a whole can of cat food. She ate it all! I did the same thing for the next three days.

The referred veterinarian came to my home that evening December 30, 2018. She was very kind and compassionate. We talked about how I had cared for Sister over the last year and all she had been through.

I offered to hold Sister for the first sedating injection that would relax her. I sat by the table and put my arms around her to keep her still, in case she jumped or startled. I held her like I did before her insulin injections so she would feel comfortable and not be afraid. The injection was so artfully done and so quickly over she didn’t even jump.

Soon Sister was dozing and relaxed. I said my goodbyes and wept at the thought of losing her. Then the doctor gave the final injection. Within 20-30 seconds she had stopped breathing and was limp. I sobbed seeing her and knowing she was gone. I still tear up, thinking of her there.

I had heard how remaining pets look for their playmates when they pass over, so I wanted Norie to understand that Sister was gone. I lifted Norie to Sister’s limp foot and told her that Sister was gone. Norie looked at her foot, sniffed at it and wanted to get down.

I still miss my sweet girl. But I could not have lived with myself if I had let things go on and on. She had a peaceful ending with a lot of love and tears for her passing. I still think of her and am amazed how sweet she was and all the lessons she taught me.

Rest in Peace, Sweet Sister.

Sister and a feather
Sister liked for me to tickle her nose with a feather.

10 thoughts on “How Do You Know When?

  1. You did it right. I held onto Jake longer than I should have. He had diabetes (for 9 years but it was well managed) but developed a dementia that made him terrified at night. Maybe his failing vision didn’t help that either. He’d get confused and didn’t know where he was. He didn’t have a physical breakdown but mentally he wasn’t enjoying life. It was very hard to do. I was starting to worry that he wouldn’t remember who I was. May he rest in peace. Sister too.

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    1. I think we all have trouble making that decision. Before she began to pull away from me, I tallied up how much I had spent on insulins, 2 kinds syirnges, blood draws every 6 or so weeks, plus the tests done when they found a murmur at the beginning and the other medicine she got too. I had spent thousands of dollars in one year’s time trying to get her stabilized. I did not realize the expense of trying to get her healthy. But when her glucose,started going back up, I had to draw the line. She was ready too. I wept for her loss many times, but I knew I couldn’t afford to keep on like I had. She knew she couldn’t either. I feel,for your loss. My parents and aunt had dementia or Alzheimer’s. That would have been even more difficult to deal with. We were blessed to have the time that we had with them. Hugs and thank you for sharing your story with me.

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  2. You did the right thing. We have had to say goodbye to three dogs over the years and I have had to say goodbye to four horses. Obviously it is hardest with horses as they are such big animals but I still think it is good to be there to give them a final goodbye and send them on their way. I am sure your presence helped Sister.

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    1. Thank you, Anne. I ahve seen so much suffering as a nurse and bow that I am retired, I just can’t take suffering in those I love. She was a very sweet cat and deserved a peaceful death instead of more lab work, more insulin shots, hunger and thirst or worse the damage that diabetes can cause when uncontrolled. I am sure it was so hard to lose so many animals, but at least you did the,right thing for them.

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  3. We were faced with that decision 6 years ago when our baby girl Ophelia was diagnosed with cancer. Our vet put her on steroids, but all it did was speed up the spread of the cancer. She developed a huge tumor in her mouth and was unable to eat or drink.
    Very sad and heart breaking day when we had to let her go, but we knew it was the right decision. We didn’t want her to suffer. I miss and think about her everyday. I know we gave a good home, a lot of love and that she was happy and that’s what matters. She will always have a special place in my heart.
    Hugs to you and R.I.P. Sister.

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    1. Oh, Dear! I am so sorry. That must have been so difficult and painful. I know without a doubt she and all the,other pets and animals are in a better place now. They are happy and,well. May you be at peace about her and,be filled with happy memories. Thank younfor sharing your experience here.

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  4. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve been there three times and it’s always so hard to let them go. You made the right compassionate decision and she will always live inside your heart, I know mine do.

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