My beloved 17-year-old cat Sam had cancer - we didn't discover it until it was inoperable, and had spread through his stomach and pancreas. In the last few weeks, it spread to his lungs, and he started having trouble breathing. 

We waited until the last possible moment, when he stopped eating and drinking. We didn't want him to die from starvation (we've read that it's horribly painful) and I didn't want him to suffocate (in the last couple of weeks, he wasn't even been able to sleep because he can't breathe when he tried to lie down).

But he was always a strong, tough tomcat, and he just hated being in the car and smelling the dogs at the vet's office. By the time we got there, he was terrified and fighting - even the vet with two assistants couldn't get him still enough for the injection. 

So they had to take him back to the procedure room, to do an intracardial injection. 

I am just sick with guilt. I would have done anything to give him a peaceful, painless death. Instead, the last few minutes of his life were spent with strangers, in pain and in terror. I don't know how, or if, I'm ever going to get over this. I feel like I betrayed all of his love and trust. 

What do I do now?
Sam's Mom
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Dear Carla (aka Sam's Mom),

I am so, so sorry to learn of your loss of your beloved cat. I too had to put my cat down 14 weeks ago today. He was also a senior (believed to be about 13 year old or older) and was a total Alpha-Male Tom-Cat. Because I adopted him when he was around 10 years old, and he had chronic health problems then, I opted to not have him fixed. So he was a Tom-Cat in every sense of the word. His name was "Marmalade." And he was my best friend, my son, my brother, my comrade in arms, my only remaining family, my love and my light. He saved my life countless times from severe depression and I saved his life.

Marmalade had been the KING of a colony of feral and stray cats 850 miles away in the high desert country of New Mexico, when our paths crossed. He was adored by the females in the colony who trusted him with the kittens (even those he did not sire, who also loved him), and he was feared and respected by the males in the colony, even though they were all bigger than him and he was chronically ill and scrawny at the time. Marmalade traveled on the road with me for 3 1/2 months and never, ever tried to run away from me. 

Marmalade also despised his last Vet. He would be calm in the waiting room / lobby with me in his cat carrier, but when the Vet's staff would bring him back into the main examination room / operating room at the Animal Hospital all Hell would break loose! You could hear the sound of plates and glasses breaking and waiters (just kidding!) flying across the room and crashing into things, like something out of a Marx Bros. movie. The Vet's nursing staff (which included some males) would come back out into the lobby scratched & bleeding, with their hair tousled, their upper lip quivering and white as a sheet (seriously.) And Marmalade would act as if nothing had happened at all. And when I would reach into his cat carrier to pet him, Animal Hospital staff would be shocked that he was so well-behaved with me. And say "He will let you do that?"

In all seriousness, Marmalade was done with being manhandled / examined, poked, prodded, injected, sedated, tested and medicated. At his next to his last visit to the Vet's, there was blood on the top of his paws and there was a lead around his neck afterwards, that the nursing staff could not remove. I had to remove it. I had to take this into consideration in the end. I owed him that much. He needed to have a say in his treatment, including refusing to have any more of it. He still had some "wildness" in him. He still was regal and noble. Even though he had either a stroke or nerve damage from his first surgery. Which was within his ear canal.

Marmalade had been in a major Tom-Cat fight (defending his girlfriend cat named "Star" from a neighborhood bully Tom-Cat named "Blackie") and sustained an injury to his ear wherein it continued to bleed for an extended period of time. They had to go in and cauterize it. Which was successful, the bleeding stopped, but he was left with a permanently squinting left eye, his left set of whiskers were lifeless and almost lay against his face and his balance was severely damaged. He fell off our his favorite perch on our couch arm straight onto his back once and knocked the wind out of himself. He looked at me as if to say: "What is happening to me?"

In the end Marmalade had dental surgery, as his teeth and gums were in such bad condition and a tooth fell out onto his breakfast plate one day and he growled and was unable to eat. And as he was getting older. Time was running out, so we went forward with the extractions. He had 4 teeth removed but his health declined. In the end he was growling, gasping and would shriek and wince with his whole body if he heard a can of food opened in the next room or was approached with a tiny piece of turkey meat. And he was a total "foodie." He loved to eat. Like you I was not going to allow my boy to starve or be dehydrated to death. Not on my watch. I could have brought him back to the Vet's and had his leg shaved and gotten him an IV of fluids, but again, he had had enough. I could have given him fluids myself, injected into his back, but he was becoming a "science experiment", as one of our members Jackie wrote here referring to her own pet's treatment. I could not permit that to happen.

In the end to stop his pain and suffering I had to take his pain and suffering onto myself, and that is the bargain that I made. As you did. That is what you are currently experiencing. 

When your Sam fought back against the Vet's he did so as a noble, regal Tom-Cat. He was not going to go down without a fight. That was between HIM and the Vet's staff. NOT YOU. You showed Sam mercy and made that final decision to protect him from more pain and suffering. Which he did not know was coming his way. Sam was like a Tiger or a Lion in the end. They had to drag him kicking and screaming. True, a peaceful death can be considered a good death, but so can one where you don't give up willingly and you don't go down without a fight.

Marmalade (and no doubt Sam) would have considered Marmalade's death a "good death" with Marmalade succumbing to surgical complications, resulting from an operation treating an injury from the Tom-Cat fight that he had had defending his girlfriend cat, And Marmalade & Sam would have considered Sam's death a "good death" as he fought back to the very end. They were both Tom-Cat's. If they could? they would have looked at their deaths like Samurai or Native American warriors. As they were noble creatures.

Lastly, please be comforted by the fact that your Sam lived to a great old age. A cats life expectancy on the street or in the wild is only 2 to 5 years. With your loved, adoration, and affection you easily tripled Sam's life span. And he no doubt had many wonderful, comforting, safe, and happy hours, days, weeks, months and years as a part of your family.

Kind regards & my sincerest condolences,
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Sam's Mom,

What do you do now? The first thing you must do is relinquish yourself from all guilt and feelings of wrongdoing. You did absolutely nothing wrong. In the span of Sam's very long life, his brief moment of distress is not even a blip on the radar.
You gave him 17 years of joy, happiness, peace, love, and nurturing. My cat AnaNg recently died at the age of 19 and a half. I know the joy of spending almost two decades with a beloved furry baby. 
Life will be bumpy and tough for a while. But, please, do not blame yourself or allow yourself to feel any guilt. 
It's just a recommendation, but gather all the happy pictures of Sam that you have and make a scrapbook. Or write a letter to Sam telling him anything that you want to. Also, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to cry. Take time off of work if you need to. Surround yourself with positive people, or spend time by yourself, whichever you prefer.
Please also know that this is a warm, comforting place to come for support and to communicate with others who have lost their furry babies. 

Warm regards,

K. Unger
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I had to euthanize my 13 year old lab in March. Yes I feel guilty as well. He was not doing well. Age caught up with him. Don’t feel guilty though. Your baby had cancer. He was more than likely suffering. You gave him a good 17 years of life.
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I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Sam - 17 years is a long time and a good age for a cat, meaning here his time had simply come and there would have been nothing you could have done about that very fact. When you read the many threads in this wonderful forum you will learn that guilt is one of the very disturbing feelings that haunt so many of us - yet you have not done anything wrong but you loved and cared for Sam for so many years.

We all wish for a "good end" - no, we do not wish for an end at all - but we are certainly not the ones to be in control of how things work out in the end. You did not do anything wrong it is just that the situation was not like you had wished for. You did not betray Sam but you made sure he would not have to suffer which is truly an act of selfless love and care.

My heart goes out to you
Silvia (with Max forever in my heart)


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Please don't feel guilty for doing what you know was the right thing to do. You loved Sam and you made the best decision you could with the information you had. Sam's final moments were out of your control. But what you were in control of, was giving Sam a safe and loving home. Be proud of that. Many animals never experience the love and companionship you gave your sweet cat.
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