Life is a Journey and we are lucky to accompany our pets on their sojourn, sometimes through their entire trip, or sometimes a small part of their adventure. In my case, I had an 18 year old kitty named “Mama Kitty” come in to my life about 6 months ago. Her owner (a friend and neighbor) had passed away, and she had no one to care for her. So Mama came to live with us, and has nosed her way into our everyday routines quite purrily.
This weekend, my kids asked me how long she could live, and how we will know when it’s time?
Mama could live to be 22 or 23 (the oldest cat I have ever met was 23 1/2), but that’s not likely, I told them. She could have 6 days, 6 months, or 6 years left, but the important issue is not the quantity of time she has left, but the quality of her time.
What is quality of life?
As I got to know Mama, her interests and enjoyments are: being petted, snuggling up close (she IS a lap cat), laying in the sun, or next to the fire (or on top of the heating vent), eating- she loves people food and will camp out in the kitchen whenever someone is cooking, waiting for a spill. She can even run when she knows she is getting fed.
Mama would not be happy if …
- she couldn’t eat, or was nauseous all the time
- couldn’t get lap time, or was uncomfortable being petted
- was physically unable to get to a warm patch of sun, or the warmth next to the fire
- she would also be unhappy in a home where there wasn’t someone around to spill food and lay on
These are Mama’s “must haves” for her to enjoy life. This list is different for every pet. I have developed a Quality of Life Scale for pet owners making the decision on whether or not to euthanize their pet, called JOURNEYS. It can be calculated online or downloaded from Journeys Home website.
My wish is for every pet to have a wonderful, happy Journey that ends before it is unhappy, or un-wonderful.
JOURNEYS Quality of Life Scale
Every pet and family has a unique situation, so I have developed a quality of life scale called JOURNEYS to help pet parents work through the decision process. Each letter stands for a different factor to be considered in the decision. Each factor gets an assigned value of 10 points, and you can use your judgment to determine how your pet scores. J- stands for jumping, or mobility…
Pets are the ones in our lives that love us unconditionally regardless of our income, physical appearance, education, politics, religion, interests, or position in life. They are always happy to see us and are loyal and dependable. They rely on us to make decisions for their welfare – including life and death. Sometimes the final decision is obvious to everyone. Other times there can be a balancing act of managing quality of life – good days, bad days, I hope JOURNEYS helps when you have to decide when it is the “right time” to let go.