The term “hospice care” is borrowed from human medicine, and refers to the treatment given to cats near the end of their life. This can apply to elderly cats suffering the effects of old age or to younger cats with terminal illness after the decision has been made to stop medical treatments aimed at curing the disease itself and to focus instead on the comfort and happiness of the cat for the remainder of their days. The difference between human and animal hospice care, however, is that we have the ability to provide a compassionate euthanasia for our animal patients. Feline hospice care, therefore, should not be seen as an alternative to euthanasia but rather an alternative to immediate or premature euthanasia for cats diagnosed with terminal illness. It neither hastens death nor prolongs life. Providing supportive nursing care at home along with appropriate pain and hydration support with the help of a vet can provide a cat with days, weeks or even months of a good quality of life until euthanasia becomes the most kindest and most appropriate decision.
Good communication with your vet is essential and quality of life must constantly be re-evaluated to ensure that your pet is not allowed to go beyond the point where euthanasia is advised. Hospice care provides not only physical and mental support for pets in their time of need, but emotional support for their owners as well.
- American Association of Feline Practitionershttp://www.catvets.com/public/PDFs/PositionStatements/HospiceCare.pdf — a very good but more technical read, this outlines the AAFP position on providing hospice care for cats.
- Dignified Departuresdignified-departures.co.uk/ — A not-for-profit company dedicated to raising awareness and providing information on end of life veterinary care and in-home peaceful pet euthanasia. This is a relatively new movement in the UK and not all vets are familiar with it so they offer a directory of vets who are willing to provide in-home hospice care services.
- ASPCAhttp://www.aspca.org/pet-care/end-life-care-faq — an American site with an excellent set of FAQs on the topic of pet hospice care.
- International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Carewww.iaahpc.org/for-the-professional/faq.html — an international group that helps shape the concept of hospice and palliative care in animals, they have an FAQ for pet owners in addition to a wealth of advice for vets offering this service.