Ask Amy: Cat Owner Regrets Euthanizing Pet


Last update: March 10, 2010 – 3:18 PM

Amy Dickinson

Dear Amy:

I euthanized my beloved cat less than a week ago.

Aside from the grief of losing my pet of 15 years, I feel a tremendous guilt at having made the decision to have her put to sleep.

She was 17 or 18 years old (I got her from a shelter) and was recently diagnosed with an illness that was affecting her ability to breathe. Because of additional age-related, underlying health conditions, we were not able to use the medicine that was most likely to help her.

After several days of agonizing over whether she was suffering, I made an appointment to have her euthanized.

Ever since she died, I have been reliving that conversation and wishing I had not made the call — or wishing that when it came time for the actual procedure that I had said, “No, wait, let’s try another medicine. Let’s do anything to help her live longer.”

Instead, I made the decision to kill a sweet animal that had done nothing but love me for 15 years. I am absolutely beside myself with guilt.

The vet said the illness would cause a horrible natural death, but I feel like I ended her life prematurely, whether by a few weeks or a month. I feel like I deprived her of my love when she needed it most. I feel like I “bailed” on her. Amy, how do I forgive myself? I loved my cat dearly and miss her more than anything.


Amy says: Those of us who love our companion animals have to love them all the way — and that means we have to be responsible stewards all the way to the end of their lives.

Trying to extend the life of a pet with painful or invasive medical treatment can be an act of human selfishness. Any vet will tell you that when it comes time to euthanize an animal, many people delay beyond the point of mercy, revealing their inability to let go.

Many animal lovers face guilt along with their loss; talking with others will help you to face the inevitability of your choice. Your vet’s office should help you connect with a bereavement group.

Honor your memory of this important animal and, when you are ready, visit your local shelter to offer another cat the joy of a nice, long and loving life with you.

Reader’s Response

Dear Full of Regret,

I’m in the same boat. I put down my cat of 16 years down on New Year’s Eve. I’m 99% sure it was the right thing to do but still feel 75% guilt over it. Though the first month I was convinced she wasn’t sick and could live another 15 years. Now I’m back in reality, knowing I gave her a great life where we both loved each other a lot, and I did the right thing. Time will likely heal this wound for you.

posted by Mellers on Mar 10, 10 at 6:25 pm |