Your Cat’s Quality of Life

Your Cat's Quality of Life

By: Judy Hamontre, AVHS Vice-chair 

One of the most difficult responsibilities of being a pet owner is evaluating your pet’s quality of life.  My friends recently faced this challenge with their 17 year-old blue point Siamese, Sushi.

I have written about “The Sush” in some of my articles. He and his brother, Ming always greeted me at the door and were vocal, wanting me to immediately sit on the sofa and pet them, which would kick their purring machines into high gear.

When I visited them in their Illinois home two weeks ago, Sushi was just not the same cat. He could barely walk, did not want to be touched and was silent. He had lost so much weight that I could see his bones. His soft, creamy coat was dark, scruffy and clinging to his skin as if it had been oiled down.

He could no longer use the litter box and often did not make it to potty pads. He was still eating but not drinking which meant they had to hydrate him, a process he clearly did not like. The Sush was diabetic and willingly accepted his insulin shots, but now he hid. He wanted nothing to do with his brother, and his brother responded by giving him space.

He still made contact with his humans but did so from a distance and with dull eyes instead of those that in the past probed deeply into your soul.

Their veterinarian agreed that Sushi was no longer living a quality life and was also probably in pain, which is difficult to determine because cats are so adept at disguising illness and pain.

My friends told me they had made the difficult decision to let Sushi go, and had scheduled the vet visit for the next day. It was the humane and responsible thing to do. As his auntie, I said goodbye, agreeing with my friends that it was time to let “The Sush” rest in peace.

His brother Ming also has aging issues, but according to the Quality of Life Scale developed by Dr. Alice Villalobos, a veterinarian oncologist, Ming the Merciless is still living a life of acceptable quality, with some modifications to his life to help maintain quality.

The Quality of Life Scale is known as HHHHHMM or H5M2. The letters stand for the categories used in the assessment. They are Hurt (which also includes breathing), Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility and More good days than bad.

Clear criteria are given for each category to help determine a score from 1-10 with 10 being ideal. A score total lower than 35 means your cat needs some help to improve life quality which is necessary to maintain a healthy human-animal bond.

Quality of life is a helpful way for you and your vet to discuss your aging cat’s day to day life and lifestyle in order to determine how to best help your cat lead a more comfortable and happy life.

When all methods of help are no longer succeeding, then the pet owner may have to make the difficult decision my friends did for their beloved Sushi.

They had been monitoring his quality of life closely for several months, and when it was clear, it was steadily deteriorating with no rallies and many more bad days than good, they knew what they lovingly and compassionately had to do.

It was heartbreaking but humane.

Sadly, it is a decision any responsible pet owner may have to make one day. Using the Quality of Life Scale can be valuable in making such difficult choices.

This was a difficult story for me to write, but I hope Sushi’s story will help those of you faced with such a heart wrenching decision.


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