Euthanizing a Cat at Home? Risks & Veterinarian Advice

One of the hardest decisions any pet parent can make is choosing when it’s time to humanely end your cat’s life. It’s very difficult to say goodbye to furry family members, but you don’t want to prolong pain and suffering. 

Unfortunately, the cost of professional veterinary care only adds to the stress, particularly if your kitty has a protracted condition or disease that racks up invoices. It’s not surprising that some owners are seeking more affordable ways to put their cats down when it’s time to consider euthanasia. Owners often ask us if Tylenol, Benadryl or other over-the-counter drugs can be good options to euthanize your cat at home – to avoid additional veterinary costs.

In this article, we’ll examine in-home cat euthanasia. We’ll also explain the risks and other reasons why we strongly advise against this option. Because we understand that money can be a factor in these decisions, we’ll share ways you may be able to reduce the cost of professional cat euthanasia at home.

Can over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol or Benadryl be effective to euthanize a cat at home?

Perhaps you have researched how to euthanize a cat with over-the-counter drugs or more specifically how to euthanize a cat at home with Tylenol pm. While overdoses of some over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol, Benadryl, and aspirin can be effective to end the life of a cat, it’s difficult to control the dose for the desired result. When attempting to use these drugs at home, using the wrong dose can cause adverse side effects including:

  • seizures,
  • vomiting, and
  • unnecessary pain. 

The other issue with attempting to euthanize your cat at home is it may be illegal, depending on your location: most states closely regulate the euthanasia of companion animals. In most cases putting a pet to sleep is only legal when administered by or under the supervision of a veterinarian or other qualified professional. This is we will recommend in this article several inexpensive ways to euthanize your cat with the help of a veterinary professional.

Ways people have used to euthanize a cat at home – and what to do

Although we will describe some do-it-yourself cat euthanasia approaches below, bear in mind that many of these options are not legal in most states. Always check your regional and state laws before you attempt in-home euthanasia for your kitty. In the next section, we will describe a safer, more humane, and more effective low-cost way to euthanize your cat.

  • Tylenol

One way that some people euthanize a cat at home is by giving them a lethal dose of Tylenol pm. This anti-inflammatory drug is highly toxic to cats and can cause severe side effects before death or if the administered dose isn’t enough to end your cat’s life. Adverse side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Labored breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Facial swelling
  • Discolored urine
  • Benadryl

Benadryl has a reputation for sedating animals and allowing them to peacefully pass away. But, sometimes an overdose can cause scary and painful side effects, including

  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Respiratory depression
  • Agitation
  • Lethargy
  • Aspirin

Some people will recommend giving your cat 4-5 times the regular dose of aspirin as a peaceful method of euthanasia. Cats are extremely sensitive to this analgesic medication and may expire without trouble if you do this. However, there is a risk of serious and painful side effects.

  • Ulcers
  • Abdominal pain
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Weakness and depression
  • Seizures

Our recommendation to you is this: rather than attempting to use unpredictable and potentially illegal methods to euthanize your precious furbaby by yourself, seek professional help. 

What is a lethal dose for cats for a drug such as Tylenol or Benadryl?

Tylenol

While Tylenol (Acetaminophen) can be an effective mild anti-inflammatory medication for dogs, it is extremely toxic for cats. Felines cannot efficiently metabolize the drug, so doses as low as 10-40 mg/kg can be lethal. However, there are risks that your kitty will experience adverse reactions to the drug overdose, as explained earlier. As a result, Tylenol is not a recommended way to euthanize a cat.

Benadryl

Benadryl or diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that is sometimes used off-label to treat bee or other insect stings, motion sickness, or vomiting in cats. It may also provide mild sedation. A lethal dosage for cats is about 50 mg/kg. It is not practical to attempt to give your cat this volume of the drug. Additionally, overdose side effects can be painful for your kitty and disturbing to watch. Benadryl is not a humane way to euthanize your cat, and we strongly advise against it.

Aspirin

Aspirin can be an effective analgesic for mild to moderate pain when treating joint disease in companion animals. For cats, it’s also helpful to treat cardiomyopathy and heartworm. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the lethal dose for aspirin in cats is 325. As with other over-the-counter drugs, there’s a risk of unwanted side effects from a toxic overdose.

Related Post: What is the cost of euthanizing a cat?

Reasons to consider before using over-the-counter drugs

When it comes to cat euthanasia, do-it-yourself options are ill-advised for the following reasons:

1. Potential negative side effects

Using over-the-counter drugs is risky. It’s hard to get the right dose to achieve a peaceful end of life. Many times, cats will experience scary or painful side effects before they die when a person attempts euthanasia at home. Some examples of unplanned effects include labored breathing, seizures, stomach ulcers, and abdominal pain.

2. The legal side

Most states regulate the euthanasia of companion animals. To protect our beloved pets from harm, authorities often require licensed veterinarians or other trained personnel to administer euthanasia drugs or supervise the process. When you choose do-it-yourself cat euthanasia with over-the-counter drugs, you may be violating local or state laws. 

3. There are better (inexpensive) options

Over-the-counter drugs weren’t designed for euthanasia purposes. When you choose products like Tylenol or Benadryl to euthanize a cat at home, you are making the decision to give a lethal dose of a chemical substance. Because of the risk of things going awry, it’s best to leave the administration of trusted euthanasia medications to professionals in a controlled environment. If cost is a factor, there are ways to reduce the bottom line without sacrificing safety. We’ll discuss some ways to reduce these costs in an upcoming section (keep reading – we are almost there!).

Is it legal to euthanize a cat at home by yourself?

According to FindLaw.com, most state laws mandate that only veterinarians or trained individuals may euthanize an animal by using barbiturate drugs that are commonly used by veterinarians for that purpose. Over-the-counter drugs like Benadryl and Tylenol are not a legal option for putting your cat to sleep. Some regulations will permit in-home euthanasia, but only when it is performed or supervised by a trained professional. To find out more about the laws governing cat euthanasia in your state, you can review the AVMA’s State Animal Euthanasia Laws chart.

What are the costs to euthanize a cat at the veterinarian or at the Humane Society?

With mobile veterinary clinics and services like the humane society, there are ways to reduce the cost of euthanizing your cat when it’s time to say goodbye.  When choosing to humanely end your cat’s life, you may have up to four available provider services: 

  1. Your local veterinarian 
  2. PetSmart’s Banfield clinic or a similar large-chain clinic
  3. The Humane Society or another local shelter
  4. In-home euthanasia services. 

Let’s look at the typical cost of euthanasia in each case:

Euthanasia only Euthanasia and group cremation Euthanasia and individual cremation
Local veterinarian $75-100 $125-150 $175-250
PetSmart/Banfield $50-80 $130-140 $250-260
Humane Society $25-35 $70-90 $180-220
In-home service $100-200 + travel fee $150-250 + travel fee $200-350 + travel fee

Related Post: What is the cost of euthanizing a cat?

Our recommendation: talk to your veterinarian and call your local Humane Society or animal shelter

While it may be tempting to euthanize your cat at home to reduce costs, it’s not a good idea. Without proper training, you could cause your beloved pet pain and suffering rather than ushering in a peaceful end of life. 

Our recommendation to you is that you contact your veterinarian or the local Humane Society to discuss euthanasia options. Often, you can find affordable services through an animal shelter, and your vet may be able to work out an affordable payment plan – some veterinarians may even perform the procedure for free or at a very low cost, if they can see that you cannot afford the procedure. That way you’ll be able to give your furry family member the best possible care. 

Author

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  • Dr. Liz Guise, Veterinarian

    Dr. Elizabeth Guise (DVM) graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. She worked as a veterinarian in private practice for over two years before going to work with the USDA as a veterinary medical officer for 14 years.