There are some topics that nobody wants to ask about, but they need to be answered. Euthanasia of family pets is one of those hard topics.
To humanely shoot a pet cat, the gun should be placed on top of the head just in front of the ears, angled towards the base of the skull. This ensures as much brain damage as possible so the animal will be unconscious. Make sure that all local legal steps are followed first.
We do not recommend shooting a cat as a good alternative to euthanasia by a professional veterinarian; however, if circumstances require it and all laws are followed, the following information may prove valuable.
A beloved family pet deserves a death that is as comfortable and painless as possible. Keep reading below for more information on this process, including legalities and other options.
When Is It Legal to Euthanize My Cat Without a Vet?
We can assume that most people reading this article have good intentions and that they want their pet to have as quick and painless a death as possible. This is a hard enough process without additional legal trouble, so that is something that should be considered as much as possible before the animal’s death.
Something very important to remember is that “euthanasia” means a painless killing that relieves suffering. Helping your pet pass away painlessly is often kinder than letting it die a slower, natural death. Loving your pet cat enough to help them die quickly is the reason for euthanasia, whether it is at home or at the vet’s office.
What Legal Issues Could You Run Into?
The first legal problem an animal owner can run into is Animal Cruelty charges. To prevent people from killing healthy animals for no reason, or trying to justify abuse, these rules can be pretty strict. There are only two reasons an owner can legally euthanize a pet themselves without getting into legal trouble or paying fines.
Euthanasia performed by an owner is only legal when:
- Your pet is so sick or injured that it is near death already
- Your pet is has a medical condition that makes it “not fit” for living any longer (for example, chronic severe pain, severe brain damage, end stage cancer, at risk of losing multiple limbs, etc.)
Other common reasons for euthanasia, such as severe behavioral issues or inability to humanely rehome, must be addressed by a veterinarian. Keep in mind that vets can do home visits for euthanasia and that they can also help owners find a suitable new home in cases where the animal’s quality of life will change without requiring euthanasia.
Killing a “healthy and happy” animal yourself is always illegal, even when it may be possible through a vet. If your pet could have several more happy years in another situation, you can either keep it alive or rehome it to someone who can provide appropriate care.
Veterinarians, as trained and licensed professionals, have more legal flexibility in euthanasia. They can euthanize an animal for behavioral issues, aggression, inability to rehome, or other issues that a private owner cannot. If your cat falls into one of those scenarios, you must consult with a veterinarian.
You can go to jail, receive large fines, or face other legal trouble for illegally or improperly killing your pet cat or other animals. Circumstances where this could be a problem include:
- If you kill your pet in an illegal way, like by drugging it or shooting inhumanely
- If you dispose of the body incorrectly, which can change city by city
- If you abuse your pet before killing it
- If you kill an animal that was healthy or “fit for life,” which would count as abuse
The other situation that could land you in legal trouble is discharging a firearm, even on your own property. Make sure that you are within all gun safety laws, including noise ordinances. A rural pet owner will have fewer issues than someone in a suburban backyard.
In many areas, the biggest risk with discharging a firearm at home is that it may disturb a neighbor. Even when discharging a firearm on your property is legal, you may want to warn next-door neighbors who could overhear it and call the police. Nobody wants to worry about a welfare checkup when they’re already having a bad day.
Do some research on your city or county’s laws on firearms if you don’t already know them. If you’re short on time, call the local sheriff’s office and ask.
Making the Shooting as Painless as Possible
The first thing an owner will need to do is make sure they have an appropriate firearm. The correct firearm will be powerful enough to destroy the pet’s brain and provide an instant and painless death. A BB Gun or other very low-powered firearm will not be sufficient or appropriate. The owner must also know how to use this firearm correctly.
Second, the animal must be appropriately restrained so that it can be shot safely. A cat who is in pain or distress will probably be difficult to restrain, and it cannot safely be held by someone when it will be shot. A sedative can be procured in advance from a veterinarian, ideally several days or weeks before the cat needs to be euthanized, and will be effective a few hours after it’s been taken.
Remember that it is okay to spoil your pet a little bit before they die. If your cat wants to lick up a bowl of ice cream as stress relief and restraint, that’s okay. If they won’t take sedatives unless they’re rolled up in lunch meat, that’s also okay. Whatever will keep the cat calm and prevent it from struggling is helpful, and a little distress is often still better than prolonged pain.
The cat should be shot with the bullet entering through the top of the head and exiting where the skull meets the spine. This will destroy the cat’s brain, so your furry friend won’t feel pain. This diagram shows the ideal placement.
It is important to know that animals may twitch or seize and that the heart may keep beating for a little while after death. This looks frightening, and may seem like the animal is in pain even if it is already dead or unable to feel what’s happening. The death is still considered humane because the cat won’t feel as much pain or distress, even if it looks violent.
Finally, remember to take care of yourself after everything is done. There is no easy way to say goodbye to a pet, and this is no exception. You should seek comfort and company, talk to friends, and consult a doctor if grief and stress are too intense or prolonged for you to manage on your own. This is especially important if your pet’s death was sudden or traumatic, like in the case of an accident just before euthanasia.
How to Recover and Dispose Of Remains
This is a vital thing to consider before the animal’s death. Many cities have laws against burying your pet in the yard, and you may not want to choose that option even if you can.
When shooting a pet cat, you will want to think about cleanup. It will be messy, and accounting for that can reduce some trauma for you and other members of the household. You can place the cat on an old blanket, a large towel, cardboard, or other material that can be disposed of with the body, and you may want to consider putting an additional tarp down that can be cleaned or thrown away.
After the pet’s death, let the body cool and keep it cool until it can be disposed of. Positioning the cat before rigor mortis will make later transportation easier if burial is not immediately possible.
Bringing the Cat’s Body to the Vet for Disposal
If you’re moving soon, you aren’t allowed to bury the body at home, or you have a limited income, your best option may be bringing the cat’s body to the vet for disposal. They are able to help you and might be able to suggest some other options.
Burying Your Cat in the Yard
This option is as old as time and allows for a memorial like a rose bush or a tree to be planted over the grave, which can help some people to mourn productively. Additionally, it is cheap and accessible, which is ideal for rural homes. Be sure to check that it is allowed locally before choosing this option, and keep in mind that you will likely need to leave the body behind if you move homes later on.
If you choose this option, be aware that other pets and animals may try to dig up the body. Burying it deep, beneath a tree or other obstacle, or covering the grave with rocks will help to deter digging.
Burying the Cat in a Pet Cemetary
This option might seem a little eccentric, and it is not available to everyone, but it’s a real thing that many owners have found comfort in over the years. An owner who chooses this option can buy a plot of land in advance and even hold a memorial service for their pet. If this is the option you choose, you’ll be able to visit your pet for years to come.
Cremating the Body
Many veterinary offices will offer cremation services for pets, even if the pet did not die in their office. They can dispose of the ashes themselves, or they can often offer the remains back to you.
If this is the case, you have many options remaining to you. You can keep the ashes and dispose of them yourself by scattering them, bury them, make them into a memorial, or use them to fertilize a plant that will honor their memory. These are just a few of the options left to an owner who chooses cremation.
Keep in mind that not all pet crematoriums are able to return the ashes to you. Clarify before choosing this option, as they may have several methods available.
Unfortunately, taxidermy will not be an option when the cat was humanely shot. The taxidermist will not be able to fully reconstruct your pet in the manner needed.
What Other Options Do I Have?
When it’s time to say goodbye to pets, many owners are concerned about the stress it puts on the animal, the cost of various options, their own ability to handle saying goodbye, and getting the timing right. Shooting the pet at home appeals to some owners because it allows them to take more control of the timing, especially for owners who live far from a vet, as well as allowing the animal to pass in familiar settings instead of a veterinary office. However, this method is emotionally intense, and there is no shame in finding that it isn’t the right method for you.
There are other options available! Ideally, you should talk about this with your vet and other members of the household before the situation becomes urgent. If the situation does become urgent, like in the case of sudden intense illness or injury, your pet will be grateful for whatever help you give them.
Euthanasia at the Vet or a Shelter
Taking the animal to the vet or a shelter for euthanasia, usually by injection, is what most people think of when they consider their pet’s end-of-life plans. The vet will do their best to make the process quick and comfortable for your cat. They administer sedatives, allow you to stay in the room, and will talk you through the process as it goes on.
Using this option means that you’ll have support as you support your pet, that you’ll have help disposing of the body, and that a trained professional can administer comforting medications. The downside of this choice is that many pets hate the vet, and it can be stressful for you and your cat to visit an unfamiliar place that can be far away.
Vet-Assisted Euthanasia at Home
This is widely regarded to be the best option for both owner and pet, as well as other people and pets in the home, but it can be expensive.
In this scenario, the vet can do a house call for euthanasia so the animal still passes at home. Your cat would have all the support of a veterinarian to give it sedatives and other medications to make death peaceful, but neither you nor your pet needs to travel or see an unfamiliar place. Everyone in the house can say their goodbyes, and the vet can help dispose of the body afterward.
A Natural Death
Allowing the animal to pass naturally can be unpredictable. Some animals like to slip away quietly while their owner is making dinner, some pass in their owner’s arms, and some have a longer, more drawn-out death that is painful. It is best to consult with a vet, especially since cats tend to hide their pain well.
In the end, your choice should be the one that is the most comfortable for you and your cat. Stay safe, follow all the legal steps, and go enjoy the time you have with your friend.