Why Did My Cat Seem To Suffer During Euthanasia?

We received this question and wanted to share the answer with you. Sadly, this is not an uncommon situation.

Dear PetPlace.com,

We had to put our 17 year-old cat to sleep. He was in kidney failure, suffered from arthritis in his back, and, a few months ago, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

We were able to keep him comfortable for three months. My dream was he would go in his sleep, but if we had to put him down, it would be peaceful.
Then we knew it was time and what I didn’t expect was that, when he was given the anesthetic, he jumped off my lap, had the dry heaves, and seemed to be choking. I yelled for the vet to come in and give the final injection right then and there.

After all the care we gave, to make sure he was comfortable, how did this happen? We put two dogs down and never had this happen. Hardly a peaceful send off for us!

– Cat Lover

Hi Cat Lover,

Gosh – I’m very sorry for what you went though. It really sounds like you were trying to do the best for your cat. Pet lovers commonly wish their pet will just die peacefully in their sleep and this seems to rarely happen.

What you described is not uncommon. Every cat reacts to drugs different. Some of the sedatives commonly make cats nauseated and they can vomit. When I euthanize a cat, if using a sedative before the actual injection – approximately 20% of cats will get nauseated and try to vomit as they become sedate. I try to explain this to the owner and give them the option for the sedation.

This is more common in cats than dogs. Some vets just give the final injection without the sedative for this reason, while others prefer to use the sedative first.

I’m sorry for the stress this caused. I can see how you wanted it to be a peaceful exit. I hope you take comfort in knowing you did everything you could for your kitty and the last few minutes were short.

Best regards,

Dr. Debra