Can Cats Wake Up After Being ?Put to Sleep??

Arnold Plotnick, DVM, explains what happens when a cat is put to sleep.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: May 30, 2008 2 a.m. EDT

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Q: I recently had to put my 16-year-old cat, Max, to sleep. I brought him home and buried him. Now all I keep thinking is that he woke up. Please tell me once an animal is put to sleep they can't revive themselves.

A: I’m sorry to hear about your cat. It’s understandable to have such disturbing thoughts after such a traumatic event, but I can assure you that there is no way that Max could revive himself.

Veterinarians often use the euphemism “put to sleep” to describe the procedure that we use to end a cat’s life. I suspect that the word “sleep” is causing you to have these nagging thoughts, and you unconsciously may be thinking that if the cat is merely asleep, then it is theoretically possible for him to wake up. In reality, your veterinarian gave your cat an injection that stopped his heart permanently, and he passed away peacefully.

If you still find yourself bothered by these thoughts, or are having a hard time dealing with Max’s death in general, ask your veterinarian if he or she can recommend a veterinary bereavement counselor. Many cities with referral hospitals offer these services for pet owners. Again, please accept my condolences on Max’s death.

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Can Cats Wake Up After Being ?Put to Sleep??

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Reader Comments

doug    concord, NC

6/19/2015 7:33:55 PM

I had two cats, both pure white with the exception that one had on black spot on his forehead, the other had two on his. We named the cats 'Acey' and 'Duecy'.
they had just turned about three years old when Duecy got hit by a car. We were pretty damn sure he was dead, so we buried him in the back yard. For the next four months we kept hearing a low meowing outside, but when we went to look, there was nothing.
The creepiest thing happened one day when I was mowing the lawn. I saw who I thought was Acey climbing a tree to get away from the mower, so I shut it off and called him down. A shiver went up my spine when I saw Acey rocket from the front deck to me, and I looked down and saw the face of Duecy looking back at me. Just to confirm I went over to where we buried him, and there was nothing there. He is still with us today at 12 years old.

Morgan    Cleveland, OH

6/19/2011 9:32:22 AM

I work at a vet. clinic and have witnessed several animals being "put to sleep". I also had to euthanasia my 16 Siamese who had congestive heart failure and was no longer able to breathe due to fluid build up in the pleural cavity.

I know the veterinarian I work for routinely uses 1.5 times the amount recommended of euthanasia solution to be absolutely sure that the animal passes peacefully and permanently. He also listens to their heart afterwards to be sure they have gone. After the animal passes, an occasional release of gas may cause the cat to appear to breathe, fart or gasp. You can be assured that this is normal and the cat is not reanimating. Euthanizing an animal is not an easy decision to make, but you can take heart that your cat will NEVER be buried alive after the procedure.

Obama    Washington, DC

12/8/2009 11:12:26 AM

Did you bury it in pet cemetary? It might have came back to life.

Bill    Woodbridge, VA

8/14/2008 10:45:40 AM

I had it done to one of my cats recently only because his condition was getting much worse and he would only suffer. I had a vet come to my home to have it done. I had been through this before a few years ago. In all instances, I found it nicer to sit with the cat during the process. It isn't the easiest thing to go through.

With two of my cats, the process took a little longer. I've been told by vets that after the lethal injection they go very quickly even if they still appear to be breathing. Sometimes body functions take a while to stop completely, but death is supposed to be instant.

I strongly suggest asking for the cat to be sedated prior. Some vets don't do it and I refuse to not have the cat sedated first which is why I had to look for alternative vets this last time.

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