The soul-searching and heartache that pet owners go through before recognising that it’s time to let a much loved animal companion go is bad enough. Less well recognised is that the aftermath can be just as difficult. Apart from the sense of loss, it’s also common for bereaved owners to go through a period of second-guessing their decision and wondering, ‘Did I put my cat to sleep too early?.
It’s always difficult to give definitive answers to ‘what if’ questions, but there are two things that you can be certain of. Firstly, if you made your decision after consulting a vet and based on the needs and well-being of your friend, you did indeed do the right thing. Secondly, however painful your self-doubt feels, it’s not as bitter as the regret felt by owners who waited too long before accepting the need for pet euthanasia.
Better a Day too Early than an Hour too Late
Even when it’s become clear that a pet’s life is drawing to a close, it’s difficult to take that final step. It’s natural to hope for a miracle, to want to enjoy a few more days of your friend’s companionship, or to wish for a cat or dog to pass away naturally in their sleep. There are risks involved in waiting too long. Things can deteriorate very fast, which is painful and distressing for your pet and for yourself. At worst, rather than a calm and dignified process, with time to say your goodbyes, you could be faced with a situation which requires frantic ringing around to arrange an emergency appointment, or an agonising wait for the vet to arrive.
Bereavement and a Sense of Guilt
No one knows quite why, but feeling guilty is known to be a common feature of bereavement. After losing a loved one people regret things said or unsaid, or the times when they didn’t show the person how much they were valued. Pet owners who’ve made the decision to request euthanasia have a ready-made focus to pin this feeling onto. If you find yourself plagued by questions like ‘Did I euthanize my cat too soon?’ it’s worth asking yourself another question, ‘Am I wondering about this, at least partly because I’m grieving after cat euthanasia?’.
Remember How it Was
Once your pet has passed away, you’ll tend to remember the happiness you shared and the love you both gave and received and that’s as it should be. Of course you don’t want to focus on the period when you watched your cat lose their appetite for life, and joy in living, but at the same time, if you’re finding yourself wondering if putting a cat to sleep was the correct decision, you may need to remember how things were at the end. If you wrote down your feelings, or made any formal quality of life assessments at the time, it’s worth revisiting this now.
Be Kind to Yourself
If you were providing a lot of care for your pet, you may well be physically and emotionally drained and this will effect your thoughts and feelings. If you’re able to ask yourself, ‘Did I put my cat down too early?’, it’s certain that you acted in time to spare them from unnecessary suffering. Now it’s time to show yourself the same compassion and kindness as your showed to your friend. As you recover from your grief and regain your energy, your self-questioning will fade and in time you will be able to remember all the joy you gained from your pet without being plagued by regrets.