Farewell to Milli – our old cat

Today our 15 year old cat Milli had to be euthanased.

She had a stroke about 3 weeks ago, and while I was away on Camino, she lost most of her sight and her hearing. I suspected kidney failure, and the vet, who at first wanted to try various treatments and tests, concurred after an examination. With extremely low blood pressure, and dehydration from failure to drink, her organs were shutting down. 

I feel very conflicted doing this to an animal. God knows how anyone can do it to a human being. Yes, it is a “good death” in the sense that it is relatively painless and is done in a controlled context, but it is death: the ending of a life. And whether that is done with a bullet (as was the case when I was a kid on the farm with excess cats), or drowning (which I knew many people did with unwanted kittens), or with sedation as in Milli’s case, it is not a good way to treat an animal with whom one has built a bond of trust and care. Again, as I said, God knows how anyone could advocate this for a human being.

I get the whole “go when you choose”, and “free from pain”, and “with music and chocalates and champagne with my family around me” etc. etc. But the thing you are doing is taking away life. Life that is a gift, a should always be valued as such. The lives of cats, rats, plants, and human beings all have different values (the last of these being an infinite value) and of course we expend resources accordingly, but it is still a hard thing, a profoundly against-the-grain thing, to put an animal to death just because they are dying and we don’t value their life highly enough to spend megabucks on them until they die a natural death.

Milli had been a member of our family for many years. She was a year younger than our eldest and our a year older than our youngest. She found it hard to adjust to our new cat, Meeshi, who live indoors and has the run of the back yard (Milli slept in the garage and had the run of the front yard). She was really put out a few months ago when we hosted a stray cat and her three kittens who also took up residence in the garage until we finally decamped them to the RSPCA for adoption. 

Now the garage is empty. The pet cemetary out the back is getting rather full… I cried my way through the Burial Service for a Pet with my youngest daughter. There are fresh flowers on the mound. Thanks be to God for these animal animae. 


About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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3 Responses to Farewell to Milli – our old cat

  1. Faz says:

    Sorry about your cat, David, but you pose the rhetorical question: ‘God knows how anyone could advocate this for a human being’. It’s dangerous to generalise, but I suspect they make such a decision with an even more heightened level of ‘conflict’.

    I also suspect that for many, who have a deep attachment to their pet, the notion of ‘value’ is not particularly helpful. They would do their best to save their loved pet, but not like them to suffer and come to a point — a conflicted point no doubt — that euthanasing is the most ‘humane’ option.

    I’m not justifying it, but it’s not a great leap to think of someone using the same, difficult process in relation to a person they loved. In other words, they are motivated by something like the love you had for Milli.

    I just don’t think it’s helpful to characterise these decisions as ‘“go when you choose”, and “free from pain”, and “with music and chocolates and champagne with my family around me” etc. etc’ because it trivialises a difficult decision and makes it very hard to enter into genuine dialogue around the subject.

  2. Matthias says:

    However with an animal,I think that if as the Psalmist says ‘the righteous man careth for the welfare of his animals” then we cannot allow them to suffer. As for us, i think it has become more difficult due to the advent of technology and also medical treatments. Palliative care that is good should neither hasten death nor prolong life but care for the person. But as Faz well puts it ,it is a difficult subject . Though here is a point.A friend died of lung cancer in November,he had been treated for it for 18 months ,but had the disease for 7 years and only had treatment ,5 1/2 years after initial diagnosis.

  3. Tony M says:

    I have to carry out this procedure daily and at least weekly, while doing so, a pet owner will comment that the same ‘dignified’ escape from intractable suffering should be made medically available to ourselves and to our human loved ones.
    Sometimes offered, I think, as a displacement from a feeling of unease about doing it at all, but more often as an expression of genuinely held belief.
    It not being a great time to enter into conflict over the ontological distinctions involved, I normally just murmur, “well it’s certainly the right thing for little Fluffy here”, as it sounds like it was for your Milli last week, David.

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