Eventually, many loving cat parents will be faced with determining whether or not it is time to let their cats go. It’s never an easy decision to make.
For most cat parents, what vets call “Quality of Life” is a hugely important factor in determining whether or not humane euthanasia should be considered. Unfortunately, there’s no blood or urine diagnostic test that can assess your cat’s quality of life. That’s something you and your veterinarian have to do together.
Declining Quality of Life
Some cats in the last stages of their life will experience a rapid decline in quality of life. This, particularly when coupled with a terminal diagnosis of some kind, can make the decision-making process a little clearer for some cat parents. In other situations, a cat’s quality of life might decline slowly over time and changes might be subtle in nature.
How do you know what your cat’s quality of life really is? Making that determination is very personal; there’s no one-size-fits-all quality of life scale. That being said, there are a number of specific questions regarding your cat you should consider if you’ve been wondering about her quality of life.
A Quality of Life Scale for Cats
Using individual factors, it’s possible to get some scope of your cat’s overall wellness. Our veterinarians suggest the following questions for consideration but remember, most answers will be subjective.
For every question, give your cat 1 point if the answer is “That definitely describes my cat.” Give her 3 points if the answer is “That sort-of describes my cat” and give her 5 points if the answer is “That doesn’t describe my cat.” We’ll talk about what your final number means after the scale.
1 point = “That definitely describes my cat.”
3 points = “That sort-of describes my cat.”
5 points = “That doesn’t describe my cat.”
Your cat…does not want to play
Your cat…doesn’t respond to your presence in the room, or responds less than she did before
Your cat…hides often
Your cat…has different behavior than before, such as more aggression or confusion
Your cat…does not like to play anymore
Your cat…does not seem to be enjoying life
Your cat…often shakes or trembles
Your cat…pants or has trouble catching her breath
Your cat…sleeps much more than she used to
Your cat…seems unhappy or depressed
Your cat…seems disengaged
Your cat…is experiencing pain
Your cat…is not eating well, or at all
Your cat…is not drinking well, or at all
Your cat…has trouble using the bathroom
Your cat…keeps losing weight
Your cat…is not as active as she once was
Your cat…is no longer grooming herself
Your cat…needs help moving around in ways she previously could do herself
Your cat…has a coat that looks dull, matted, or unclean
Your cat…has more “bad” days than “good” days
Now, tally up your cat’s score. The higher the number, the better her quality of life probably is. The lower her number, the more you should consider talking to your veterinarian about your options for end-of-life care for your cat.
In general, a “low” score on this scale is anywhere from 21-42 points while a “high” score could be considered anywhere from 75-105. There is no one perfect number. And remember that in some cases, a low score on one particular quality of life factor (such as refusal to drink) could be indicative of other quality of life factors declining in the near future.
If you’re concerned about your cat, talk to your vet. They’ll lean on you for some of the more subjective assessments of her overall quality of life, but many medical conditions that impact quality of life are treatable. At the very least, your veterinarian has seen hundreds if not thousands of cats through the last phases of their lives and can offer some much-needed perspective during this confusing and emotional time.
Vetted provides in-home Quality of Life assessments for cats.