Very sadly, my family made a decision to say good bye to Gretel, our cat. She had been my faithful and loving companion for 10 years.

She came home with me from my first job as a vet. I graduated and got myself a job, cat and apartment in that order. She was by my side as I struggled to find my feet professionally. She was curled up with me in my bed as I navigated the tough years of a twenty-something working out just who she was. She was there for several unsuitable boyfriends and she gave her purr of approval when I bought home Nathan, who would become my husband. She attained family legend status through visiting my elderly, blind and mostly deaf grandma in nursing homes and eventually hospital. Grandma couldn’t really see or hear so conversation was a bit lacking but she could cuddle this warm cat, and Gretel helped her come alive as she relived the stories of the pets in her past. Gretel came with me through five moves. She took each one in her stride although she hated being transported from house to house.

As she aged she started to drink more. And more. And more! I ran tests and yes, my darling girl had kidney disease. I managed this for her as best we could, taking into account that although she might have been a vet’s cat, Gretel did not believe that under any circumstances should she actually be taken to the vet clinic. But eventually, over time, inevitably, her kidney disease progressed and she stopped eating. Gretel was a VERY food motivated cat as is illustrated by the story of ‘the great lamb fat incident of 2010’.

She drank an entire roasting tray of soapy water soaking on the kitchen sink to get to the lamb fat in the bottom. She then projectile vomited foam all up and down our corridor but I truly think she felt it was worth it.

Now for her not to eat – that was not ok.

So after a long cuddle on the couch, she had an easy and quick little injection into her vein and she slipped away in my arms. She was at home, relaxed and with those she loved. It was a good death for a great cat.

I knew it was time to let her go when she stopped eating. And I truly believe this is the key to knowing when to let your beloved pet go. There will be a thing that is key to their happiness. It might be food. It might be their daily walk. It might be their dignity and gravitas. If they can’t enjoy food, if they can’t potter around in the sun, if they can’t toilet appropriately or keep themselves clean and tidy – then they are probably telling you that they have stayed as long as they can and they need you to help them to an easy end.

If you are struggling with what ‘quality of life’ means for you and your pet, come in and speak with one of the vets. We have all been through this, professionally but also personally. We do truly know what you are struggling with and we will help you as much as we can to know when the time has come. Euthanasia is surely a last loving gift we give our pets. We love them so we save them from pain and suffering and loss of dignity. They give us all of themselves and in the end, this is a gift we can give them in thanks.

If you have lost a pet, please remember it is OK to be sad. It is a time of grief and loss and adjustment. If you are really struggling, there is help available. Check out these resources or speak to us or to your GP.