Your cat can’t tell you how poorly they feel or if they are in pain. Cats are also very good at hiding signs of illness or injury. As your cat gets older or if they become ill, you might worry that you won’t be able to tell if they are still enjoying a good quality of life.

Any changes in their routine or behaviour could be signs their health and or quality of life is deteriorating.

You may notice your cat has changed their routine or simply isn’t ‘quite right’ – or you may spot one of the following:

  • any unusual changes in behaviour but particularly lethargy or being withdrawn

  • unexplained weight loss

  • lameness or difficulty moving around

  • any swelling, growth or wound

  • recurrent sneezing, coughing or laboured breathing

  • difficulty or pain urinating

  • blood in urine or faeces

  • incontinence or going to the toilet more

  • unusual discharge or bleeding from the eyes, nose or mouth

  • vomiting or diarrhoea lasting more than 24 hours

  • self-neglect or poor coat condition

  • reduced interest in food or drink, or increased drinking or a sudden ravenous appetite

  • signs of pain when touched

  • discomfort or inability to settle

  • no desire to move

  • less tolerant of people or other pets, or less interest in play or favourite activities

If you notice any of the above or are simply worried about your cat, the best thing to do is take them to your vet for a check-up. Your vet will recommend any further tests or treatments your cat may need. If it isn’t good news and the outlook for your cat is poor, they will talk you through the options.

Sadly, our cats have much shorter lives than we do – the average life expectancy of a cat is 14 years. Due to illness or old age, your cat may no longer be enjoying a good quality of life. In this distressing situation, you will want to act with their best interests at heart and start to consider whether euthanasia might be the kindest choice.

Choosing to have your cat euthanased or ‘put to sleep’ is one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make. It’s important to talk it through with your vet and you may also wish to involve your family in helping you decide. By listening to the advice and guidance of your vet, at least you will know you are making the kindest decision for your cat, giving them a chance to pass away painlessly and peacefully.

If your cat has a terminal but slowly progressing condition it is better to discuss these difficult issues with your vet sooner rather than later after diagnosis so that you are clearer about what might happen in the future. It can be difficult to make decisions when you are very upset and having a plan in advance can be helpful.