Before you say something about being inhumane, please hear out our situation:

My cat was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma about 2 months ago. The doctors could not say how much longer she would live, either a few weeks or a few months. They prescribed some pain medication recently to prepare for the inevitable. In the past week her condition has been worsening: she has gone blind, she moves less, sleeps a lot more, and stumbles sometimes if she is walking; we are not sure if that is due to the cancer, the pain medication that we are regularly giving, or the blindness.

We are ready to take her to be put to sleep, but one problem remains: This is my sister's cat of 15 years, but my sister is currently studying abroad, and won't be home for another week. My sister cannot come earlier because of final tests taking place in those 7 days. To my sister she means everything, and of course she wants to be there when we put her down. Our family all fears that 7 days may be too long, but we are having a very difficult time in deciding if we need to do this now or wait just a little longer.

I know this sounds like a selfish decision, and actually my sister says if we need to do it without her, we should do it ASAP. But if there is a chance to hold out, how would we be able to tell? Our cat still eats and drinks every few hours, and besides the problems described above, gives no obvious signs of pain (probably expected since we are giving her doses of medication).

If anyone with experience in this can weigh in, we would really appreciate it.

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    It is a tough decision to make, and I don't see how could we give direct advice without seeing the cat. A really bad condition renders a cat unoperational, as far as to need help with drinking and even with bodily functions. So far your sister's cat still manages to do things by herself. Of course, her state can change rapidly. Take a look at answer(s) to How can I know if my cat is in pain? question. Dec 11, 2013 at 7:42
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    Not sure if anyone else can really give too much advice on this question. I'd anthropomorphize the cat to answer the question for yourself. If it were Grandma, and she were on life support, would you wait for your sister to come home first? I'm sure some people would argue to let nature take it's course - while others would argue putting her down now if she's in pain - with most people being somewhere in the middle. Me, personally, I'd wait for your sister to come home. At this point I'd feel the issue has more to do with your sister who will have to live with the loss. Saying goodbye is good.
    – Steve
    Dec 11, 2013 at 15:07
  • PS.) In my comment above, the sentence starting with "I'm sure [...]" was referring to the cat... not 'grandma'. Although I think that is an interesting question to ponder as well in relation to the question. The fact is, everyone will have a different opinion here. It's a very difficult and personal choice.
    – Steve
    Dec 11, 2013 at 15:15
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    I do not think you can make a wrong decision here. If I were there since the cat appears to be tolerating the pain medication I would probably try to wait for your sister to return, but if that changes then you may have to make the decision. That said this question is not really a good fit for the site. This is something better asked in Pets Chat. I am terribly sorry for what you and your family are going through.
    – user9
    Dec 11, 2013 at 15:48
  • 6
    Thank you everyone for your support and answers. Last night we had to put our cat Cleo to rest. She had stopped eating and was unresponsive so we took her to the vet and found that she was very dehydrated. My sister could not make it home in time, but at least she knows that we did the right thing to not let her suffer longer. Thank you all for giving your care to our situation. Dec 12, 2013 at 18:46

2 Answers 2


You are trying to balance the cat's pain on the one hand versus your sister's distress if this happens before she can get there. You can talk with your sister to gauge the latter, but you can't ask the cat how much pain she's in, nor ask her for an opinion.

While it's impossible to judge these things over the Internet (and I am not a vet), you seem to be describing a situation that is under control. In particular, the cat is still eating and drinking; from personal experience, once they stop doing that you're in trouble, but you're not there yet.

You need to discuss this with your vet, who is probably the only one who can assess the cat's level of pain and discomfort for you. I trust that you're also giving the cat plenty of TLC -- holding, petting, and the like.

I was overseas when my 19-year-old cat's heart condition took a big turn for the worse. I was already boarding him at the vet's (due to him needing medicine that needed ongoing adjustment) and I was in daily contact with my vet, trying to figure out what was best for him and me, desperately wanting him to hang on a little longer and questioning whether I was putting him through pain on my account. This was very stressful for me, but the regular updates made a big difference (and I knew the cat was in good hands). It might be good for your sister to talk with the vet directly, in addition to talking with you about what the vet said. Ultimately she should be part of the decision.


This is probably the most difficult decision anyone with a pet can make.

In general, while the cat is still eating and drinking and not showing any signs of pain, I'd suggest holding off, particularly since your sister will be back in a week. In the meantime, you certainly want to keep your sister updated by talking to her every day.

If you can video chat with your sister, I'd suggest doing that so she can see the cat for herself - put the computer on speaker so the cat can see and hear her, since cats will often bond strongly to one person.

As Monica said, your sister needs to be part of the decision no matter which way it goes.

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