“What Would You Do?”: How Cat Owners Make End-of-Life Decisions and Implications for Veterinary-Client Interactions
Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre, School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
Animal Science, School of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
School of Psychology, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Angelo Peli
Received: 19 February 2021
Revised: 17 March 2021
Accepted: 7 April 2021
Published: 13 April 2021
Cats are the most popular companion animals in New Zealand. Many owners form close relationships with their cats and these relationships, along with other factors in cat owners’ lives, make end-of-life decisions complicated. Veterinarians can help make owners’ end-of-life decisions easier if they understand the personal factors impacting such decision making. We set out to explore how owners of older and chronically ill cats make end-of-life decisions in New Zealand and the role that their veterinarian plays in the process. We interviewed cat owners who had recently had their cat euthanized. Cat owners mentioned nine areas of concern. Four were animal-centered concerns: cat behavior change, pain, signs of ageing, and the benefits of having an outside perspective. Five were human-centered concerns: veterinarians understanding owners’ relationships with their cat, normalizing death, the need for a good vet to manage end of life, veterinary validation that owners were doing the right thing, and a desire to predict the time course and outcome for their cat. End-of-life decision making is complex, and the veterinarian’s role is often poorly defined. Our owners appreciated the expertise and validation that their veterinarian provided.