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How Do Vets Put Cats Down? Euthanasia FAQs Explained

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on June 16, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

veterinarian with a syringe euthanizes a pet

How Do Vets Put Cats Down? Euthanasia FAQs Explained


Dr. Nia Perkins Photo


Dr. Nia Perkins

Vet, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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There will always be the dreaded day we have to say goodbye to our beloved pets. There never seems to be a good way to go about that, and it never seems like the right moment. It’s something we all have in the back of our minds from the day we bring them home—time is limited, and we know it.

If your senior cat is creeping up in years or your cat is very ill, you might want to prepare yourself for the reality. So, if you take your cat to the veterinarian for their final moments, is euthanasia safe, painless, and simple? Let’s learn about how vets gently put your pals to rest.

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What Is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia is the process by which something is humanely put to sleep. But what exactly happens during euthanasia? Is it painful? You’ll be happy to know that the euthanasia process for cats is painless. Also, it is something that you can be there for if you choose to. It is a merciful alternative to the great suffering and pain your cat may be experiencing in their final days/hours.

animal euthanasia
Image by: mojahata, Shutterstock

Preparing for Euthanasia

Preparing for the euthanasia of your pet is difficult, no matter what. Before you make the final decision, you have to decide how you’re going to say goodbye. If you have children, you must decide if they, or other family members, should be present.

You need to determine whether you are going to have the procedure carried out at home or at a veterinary hospital. Some veterinarians will come directly to your residence, but others only perform euthanasia in a hospital setting.

Each office is different, so be sure to check with your local veterinarian to get a plan in place. There may be additional fees if they come to your home.

Making Tough Decisions

Euthanasia is likely something you’re going to want to talk to your family about. Sometimes, that isn’t an option, such as when an emergency situation requires an immediate decision. But in most cases, family members have a chance to say goodbye.

When to Make the Call

If your pet is very sick, you might wonder at what point they’re suffering is not worth the fight any longer. If you live with others, it’s crucial to discuss everyone’s feelings on the matter before finalizing anything.

There’s plenty to think over, and these situations can be very delicate. Everyone is sure to feel emotional, but it’s essential to keep your beloved kitty’s interest as a top priority.

To Stay In or Leave the Room

It might make you feel absolutely awful to consider whether or not you should stay in the room or leave while the process takes place. A part of you might want to be with your cat to comfort them. Another part of you might not be able to handle being in that situation emotionally.

Every person is different, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to make one decision or the other. Do what’s best for you and your family.

tabby cat lying on a womans chest
Image Credit: Alek_B, Pixabay

How Many People to Have in the Room

Your veterinarian may have restrictions on how many people can be in the room when euthanasia takes place. Especially in today’s modern society with COVID-19, rules can vary by office. Make sure to find out beforehand so you can be prepared.

It might be a heart-wrenching decision only to allow one person to go back, but you should know who that person will be when the time comes if that’s the case.

Children and the Age of Understanding

It’s no secret that children have different maturity levels. Some children might understand the concept of death relatively young, whereas others don’t grasp the idea for quite some time. Use your best judgment as you know your child best.

If you think that they can handle information, make sure to explain the situation as best as you can. But don’t be afraid to utilize resources about the grief of losing pets. What you allow the child to see is entirely up to you as a caretaker.

Death is a really sensitive subject for anyone, especially small children. Before the age of understanding, times like these can be incredibly confusing.

You can purchase books on the subject and other educational materials to try to help you explain to your child what they can expect during these trying times.

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What to Expect During the Process

During euthanasia, the process is more peaceful than you might think. The vet will calmly explain to you step-by-step exactly what actions they’re performing to put you at ease. Often, they administer a sedative to calm the pet further before administering the euthanasia medication. The process is usually completely painless, as your cat just drifts gently off to sleep. Make sure to ask questions if you are unsure about any part of the procedure.

It’s all about your cat’s comfort. Before the veterinarian administers anything, you will probably want to hold and comfort them so they are in a calm state for the procedure. In their final moments, you’ll want them to be as at peace as possible.

There could be a host of reasons why you’re choosing to put your cat to sleep, but it’s never going to be an easy thing to do. However, it should be something that you are totally comfortable with and something that you have confidence in.

Most clinics allow you to be with your cat. Some people prefer not to be in the room due to personal reasons. This is really a matter of preference in these delicate moments.


The Aftermath

No one wants to talk about what will happen when we say goodbye to our pets. But when all is said and done, you’re going to have to decide what to do with your cat’s body.

Some people choose to have their pets buried, while others prefer cremation. Please talk with your vet about what particular options they offer so you can choose the one that’s the best for your situation.

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Frequent Asked Questions

How Much Does It Cost?

Cost can be a huge worry, especially if this was unexpected. Euthanasias can be costly, and depending on the cremation service you decide on and additional services, that price may add up. Make sure to get an estimate from your veterinarian, so that there are no surprises. Also, if price is a concern, consider reaching out to nearby shelters and rescue clinics. They may perform this service at a lower cost.

What Are Visual Signs It’s Time to Put a Cat Down?

While not all of these signs point directly to your cat dying, it might mean the time is near. If your cat has been ill for some time now and seems to be on a steady decline, these might be your cues.

  • Weakness
  • Lack of response
  • Pain signals
  • Wheezing, whimpering, whining
  • Constant sleeping
  • Labored breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Unalert
sick cat lying on blanket
Image credit: one photo, Shutterstock

Does Pet Insurance Cover Euthanasia?

Pet insurance keeps increasing in popularity as time passes. It seems more companies are catching on to the needs of owners, creating more financial assistance options with veterinarian offices.

This has created an increase in pet health across the board. If you are curious about pet insurance, you might be wondering if it covers death the same as it covers life.

The answer is that it really depends on your contract and the company you work with. Some companies might cover euthanasia costs while others don’t. Also, it might depend greatly on your individual policy. While it might cover euthanasia, it does not operate the same as life insurance.

When you are setting up your policy, it is important to ask whether or not euthanasia is a covered expense.

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Final Thoughts

We know what a delicate subject this is. No one wants to think about letting their kitty go. But it might ease your mind to know that the process used in veterinary offices and shelters these days is humane.

So, while it might not be easy, you can compassionately end your cat’s suffering peacefully.

Featured Image Credit: fukume, Shutterstock

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