Living with the cat during its last days of life
When we decide to share our life with a cat, we usually never think about the inevitable moment when the cat arrives at the end of his life. We prefer to hide this thought in the recesses of our mind, almost for fear that just thinking it can turn it into a reality. We should, however, learn to embrace this thought, to make it part of our cohabitation, because as much as we can try to deny it, the truth is that in most cases our beloved cat will die before us and then we will be witnesses, if we want to or not, of this event.
How can we prepare ourselves to face this difficult phase of our life with the cat?
First we must learn not to be afraid of our emotions, whatever they are, because they are a large part of our being and in a situation like the death of a dear friend it is unthinkable to repress them or try to change them; sadness is not a dangerous emotion, on the contrary, it is a healthy resource of our mind that allows us to elaborate complex life experiences that otherwise would remain unresolved in our life, leading us in time to develop an uneasy feeling. So let the emotions flow and do not become blocked by the fear of suffering: suffering is part of life and the end of a relationship of love and sharing brings with it strong emotions.
What does our cat need in the last phase of his life?
Surely he needs to continue to be considered a living and sentient being: seeing him sick and suffering often causes a need for avoidance. We pass him by trying not to wake him so that he does not notice our presence, because if he wakes up we will feel it's difficult interacting with him that is not the cat we were used to anymore. Well, this does not have to happen, it is important to stop seeing him as our sick or dying cat and begin to think of him as our old friend with new needs: we just have to understand what these new needs are and commit ourselves to meet them, with serenity and positivity, and possibly with some help from a professional, so that the last moments of his life are surrounded by positive thoughts, understanding and participation. We live with him through this change in his life, let's not lose these precious moments, because they are part of him and therefore of our life together. Until his last breath we never stop seeing him for what he is: a living being with emotions, sensations, habits, needs and maybe, in some cases, still wanting to play, to stretch out in the sun, to purr, to eat something good or simply share a healthy nap with us on the couch.
And if his need was to be alone or to move away from us to face death alone, it would be our duty to support this desire too, because every individual has a unique mind and a will that must be recognized and respected. Accompanying a friend and partner of life towards his last step is an experience that we should not deny either him or us, because it is an integral part of existence and no matter how much it hurts we need to live it and share it together, until the very end. While the cat feels life slowly extinguishing, we give him our presence, our understanding, our tears and above all we give him our last emotion of happiness, we wish him a good trip and let life take its course. As in all relationships of love and respect, we are together and support each other, always, until death do us part.
P.S. Adopting consciously also means taking on the commitment to accompany the cat until his last day of life. Abandoning a cat because he is old or ill is an indecent act.
FISAP CAB Roberta Roscini
ICAN Feline Behaviourist (Consultant), Chair of IFB