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As I write this article, I look over at Wessie, curled up on the bed, sleeping, snoring a little, letting out a sigh, twitching as he dreams.
What would I do if—no, it has to be when—he reaches the end of his life?
I first learned about home euthanasia from Caitlin Doughty, a writer, mortician, and “death positive” YouTuber. A few years ago, Caitlin made a video about the home euthanasia of her Siamese cat, The Meow.
Her video makes a good case for a peaceful home euthanasia. Instead of spending her final moments in the stressful environment of the vet clinic, The Meow died in the place where she was probably the happiest.
What should you expect from at-home euthanasia?
The veterinarian gives two injections. The first is a sedative that helps the patient fall asleep. It takes about 10-15 minutes for the cat to drift off. Once the cat has fallen asleep, her guardians have as much time as they need before the vet administers an IV injection of a drug that eventually stops the heart.
Sometimes it’s difficult to find the cat’s veins, so the vet may take a few minutes trying to find an appropriate place to inject. If they’re unable to find or access an appropriate vein on her arm, the vet may opt to inject the drug through her abdomen instead.
The solution first stops brain activity. In response to ceased brain activity, the cat’s breathing rate increases and then stops after about 30 seconds. After they stop breathing, her heart will slow and eventually stop after 1-3 minutes.
Altogether, a home visit usually takes about 30-60 minutes.
Your experience won’t look exactly like the one in the video above. You may choose to place your cat on a bed or other favorite place. You might even opt for an outdoor euthanasia in your cat’s favorite sunbeam or garden plot.
Finding Home Euthanasia Near You
Talk to your veterinarian.
Even if they aren’t in a registry of veterinarians who provide this service, your veterinarian is probably willing to come out to your house for a home euthanasia.
If you don’t have a standing relationship with a veterinarian, don’t be afraid to call nearby vet clinics and ask if someone would be willing to do a house call.
Click here for In Home Pet Euthanasia’s directory of veterinarians who offer home euthanasia in the United States, Canada, and the UK.
Vets who perform at-home euthanasia are accustomed to last-minute requests, so it’s unnecessary to schedule far in advance. It’s more important that you take the time to be sure about your decision and to make peace with it during your cat’s final days.
If you are unable to go with your cat’s normal veterinarian, it’s a good idea to get to know the new vet before the day of euthanasia. If you feel uncomfortable with the vet for any reason, you may shop around for someone you feel better about.
How much does home euthanasia cost?
Costs range from $85 to $300 and more. These prices are dependent on a wide range of variables, so you’ll want to get a quote before making a choice. Remember that your distance from the veterinarian’s office will influence the cost of the euthanasia.
Additional services, including cremation, will add to your expenses. If you have pet insurance, check your policy. Some, but certainly not all, plans cover euthanasia.
After the home euthanasia, you have options.
One of the greatest advantages of at-home euthanasia is that it’s quiet, low-pressure, and lets you take the time to digest this strange situation, deciding for yourself how you’d like to honor your cat. Even if you have the best veterinarian in the world, standing in a vet clinic after having your cat euthanized could leave you feeling stressed and pressured to make a decision.
The vet will probably offer to handle cremation, but you can also choose to make all arrangements independently.
If you or your veterinarian will be transporting them to a crematory or anywhere away from home, it’s a good idea to wrap them in a blanket or towel to capture any urine leakage, but you don’t always need to do this immediately.
Decay happens more slowly than most people expect, so it’s okay to keep your cat’s body until you’re ready for the next step. Holding on to your cat’s body isn’t morbid or inappropriate.
We’ve been conditioned to feel that bodies must be disposed of as soon as possible lest they start to stinketh and rot—and the living are marked as morbid creeps—but historically, people have always kept their deceased loved ones in the home for rituals like bathing, grooming, and paying respects.
“When my animal family members die, I spend one last night with them. I bathe and dry them, wrap them up as if they’re sleeping, and take the time to honour their life through their death. I hold them, stroke them, hug them, kiss them, thank them, apologise to them, sing to them and tell them how much I love them and always will. I sleep beside them for the last time. I keep a snippet of their fur or the equivalent depending on species and then finally bury them in the garden of my family home. These are the very last and very least things I can do for them. I couldn’t care less what people think of me and my personal grief process. I will always honour my beloved animals in the way I see fit. Those who don’t understand don’t matter.”– NotMostGirls, YouTube user
If you need to keep your cat’s body around longer than a day—for instance, if you intend to bury them after the ground has thawed—you may place them in a freezer-safe plastic bag and store them in a freezer until you’re ready.
Cremating Your Cat
After your cat has died, the vet will probably offer to bring your cat to the cremation facility. You may take this option or choose to find a pet crematory on your own.
Google “pet cremation near me” or “pet cremation + your town” to find a local facility.
You may have your cat cremated individually or opt for a group cremation, in which they’ll be cremated alongside other animals. Group cremation is low-cost or free. Instead of returning to you, the cremated remains will be scattered to sea, in a landfill, or on the crematory’s property. Some pet crematories have an open walking area that allows you to view the scattering ground.
Individual cremation is more expensive at $100-$200, but you will get your cat’s ashes back in the end. Remember that the crematory will probably tack on additional charges for delivering the ashes or picking up your cat’s body.
If you’re worried about not getting your cat’s cremains, don’t be afraid to ask to be present for the cremation process.
Here’s a video showing the full process of cremating a cat:
Burying Your Cat
You may choose a pet cemetery or bury your cat on your own property. You might use a casket or a biodegradable burial pod. Each of these pods comes with a seeded sympathy card, allowing your cat’s body to help nourish a patch of flowers.
You might also choose a completely natural burial by lowering your cat’s body directly into a hole in the ground. Remember that after euthanasia, your cat’s body is poisonous to scavengers.
If you make it too shallow, dogs and other animals might open up the grave, disturbing your cat’s body and potentially ingesting the euthanasia drugs. That’s upsetting at best and toxic at worst. To prevent this, make sure that the grave is at least 3 feet deep.
Those inspired by the tradition of sky burial might be tempted to bring their cat to a mountaintop or remote area where they will naturally decay and provide sustenance for other animals. Remember—the euthanasia drugs are poisonous, so your cat’s body is anything but a healthy meal for wild or feral animals.
Memorializing Your Cat
After home euthanasia, you can choose to memorialize your cat in any way you choose. Here are a few ideas.
Before burying or cremating your cat, you can press their paw into clay for a unique memorial pawprint. This kit allows you to create a clay pawprint impression and display it in a photo frame alongside a portrait of your cat.
Locks of Fur
You may choose to snip a bit of your cat’s fur to save. You can tie it with a ribbon and keep it in a special box along with other mementos.
Customized Burial Markers
If your cat was buried, you may choose a customizable burial marker and have it engraved with a meaningful tribute. These markers range from small, simple river rock markers to large monuments with detailed engravings.
You might paint a special rock and place it over your cat’s grave. Click here for painted memorial rock ideas on Pinterest. If you have a little bit of a green thumb and like the idea of your cat’s body nourishing a living organism, you can plant a tree, bush, or flowering plant over their body.
If your cat was cremated and you have their ashes, you can either scatter the ashes or keep them in a keepsake memorial urn. Urns are available in a huge array of styles, so you should be able to find one that resonates with you.
If you’d like to carry your cat’s cremains with you wherever you go, you might choose keepsake memorial jewelry. There are bracelets, necklaces, and even earrings designed to contain your cat’s cremated remains.
When the time comes, you can help to give your cat a good death.
You can choose a home euthanasia instead of a traditional vet clinic event. You can choose to keep your cat’s body in the home until everyone is ready to gather for a wake. If you want to take care of your cat’s body yourself, you have options for cremation, caskets, urns, and memorial items.
When it comes to shopping for memorial items and other post-euthanasia items, we recommend PetMemoryShop. Their store includes caskets, urns, burial markers, keepsake jewelry, and gifts for those mourning their pets. You might also appreciate the site’s Pet Loss Support blog.
I’ve spoken with Derrek Schone, director of marketing at Pet Memory Shop, and know that this company is dedicated to providing an empathetic, supportive experience for every customer.
If you make a purchase from Pet Memory Shop through links on our site, we’ll receive a small commision. It doesn’t change the cost on your end, but it helps us to continue helping people provide happy, healthy, and nature-driven lives for their cats. Thank you so much for your support.