Is It Legal To Euthanize A Healthy Cat?

Euthanizing any pet, much less a cat, is never easy. However, there is some questioning as to how ill a cat should be if he or she must be euthanized, or if it can even be healthy and euthanized.

It is legal to euthanize a healthy cat. If there is a reason to euthanize the cat, despite the cat being healthy, there is no law that prohibits people from euthanizing their pets. However, there are a few different options to get rid of a healthy cat other than euthanizing it.

Euthanizing isn’t easy, emotionally, physically, and even mentally for some people. Below, there will be reasons discussed on why a healthy cat should be euthanized, and situations that may pop up that make euthanizing a cat difficult.

Acceptable Reasons to Euthanize a Healthy Cat

There are three acceptable reasons why a healthy cat can be euthanized, and the following reasons are: (Source)

  • The cat is vicious
  • Dangerous
  • Unmanageable

The words are broad in topic, but there are multiple scenarios that can fall under these three categories of reasons to justifiably euthanize a healthy cat. For example, if the cat has attacked, or harmed a person, then that is a good reason as to why the cat should be euthanized. Or, if the cat has attacked, harmed, or even killed another animal, the owners must carefully consider what will be best for general public safety and if euthanasia of the cat would be the best way to put the cat down.

Euthanasia is the painless and quickest death any pet can have, and that is also called humane. It is often considered the kindest way to kill any healthy or unhealthy animal. It’s not easy to see that needle poke through, but the death is like the cat is falling asleep, taking deeper and longer breaths until the cat becomes still.

When putting down a cat, it has to be done under proper authority, like a veterinarian. They have the legal right to determine if the cat should be euthanized or not. The putting down of the cat cannot be done by the owner themselves, or else they will have to face legal charges. It’s illegal to put down any healthy animal by yourself, especially in a cruel manner.

Bad Reasons to Euthanize a Healthy Cat

Cats should not undergo euthanasia if it’s a matter of convenience to the owners or others. That is simply a waste of a life, even described as cruel and wrong despite euthanasia being a kind and painless death. If the cat is a well-behaved, mannered, healthy pet, then that cat most likely deserves the right to live the rest of its days in peace.

These examples of euthanasia by convenience could potentially be the following examples, although there could be more:

  • The owner no longer wants the cat
  • The owner is moving out, or moving to assisted living and is unable to bring the cat
  • The owner has passed away, and no other family members are willing to take care of the cat
  • Animal hoarding

A cat has a soul, and if that soul is going to be snuffed out as easily as an unwanted toy of two days, what’s the point of having a pet cat in the first place? There are better ways and better places for cats who are unable to meet the desires of the owner, or who do not have a home. Don’t simply take life away because the cat is unable to fit your personal needs.

The last point cannot be molded together with the first three points. Animal hoarding, in most cases, is done by people who believe they are helping strays, but they are barely meeting the minimal needs of the animals. The people are attempting to give a home to and provide, but the animals do not have the space, nutrition, sanitation, or care that shelters are able to provide. (Source)

Such treatment can lead to starvation, disease, and death, and when it comes to this, the people who are taking care of these stray animals sometimes come to the conclusion that the animals – cats are probably an easy animal to hoard – are too much, and the best way to get rid of them is to euthanize them.

None of these options are good, just, acceptable, or valid reasons to euthanize a healthy cat. If the owner doesn’t want the cat, or is leaving, or has died, make sure the cat is placed in a shelter where it can find a family that will care about the cat, and not send the cat to an early grave.

The Veterinarian’s Part of Euthanizing

When taking the cat into the vet’s office, there will be times when the vets will agree to the reasoning behind the euthanasia and will comply with those requests. However, you may be surprised that there will be times when the vet will refuse to carry out the requests of the owner.

The vet has the right to say no to euthanasia for an animal. If you as an owner are refused, do not get upset. The vets have moral rights and are encouraged by the law to avoid convenience euthanasia after all of the facts and options have been reviewed. (Source)

If refused, ask why and come to a peaceful understanding, because the reason may be related to the list of bad reasons why the cat should be euthanized, which was just discussed before. If the vet refuses to euthanize the cat, there may be other vets who might consider and have the ability to euthanize the healthy cat. Or, if the vet refuses, they may give the cat up to the shelter, and then the shelter will decide whether to euthanize the cat or not.

The vet cannot say that they will euthanize the cat, or any pet, and then give it up to a local shelter for adoption. They can face legal charges for that, they must keep their word.

There are typically three scenarios when a vet is able to euthanize, with or without the owner’s consent:

  • The pet is dangerous
  • Sick beyond recovery
  • Very injured

When the cat is unable to be saved because it’s sick, injured, or highly dangerous, then the vet is able to make the decision to or not to euthanize it, whether or not the owner is there to consent. Usually, when the owner is not present to give consent, it is if the cat has been found as a stray, and the attempts to find the owner have been met with failure.

Illegal Ways to Put Down A Cat

There are illegal ways to put down a cat or any other pet. But first, it must be mentioned that every state is different when it comes to the legalities of euthanasia for a healthy pet, so before going to the vet’s office, double-check the state’s laws of euthanasia.

There are three ways to be considered illegal ways to kill a healthy cat or pet. These certain circumstances could be considered as:

  • Inhumane
  • Shocking
  • Torture

Anybody can report the owner for animal cruelty, and the consequences of animal cruelty can range from fines to probation, and even jail time. Some examples of animal cruelty are if the animal was killed, but was healthy and had a good life ahead of them. A crueler example is if the animal was abused before it was killed. There are also illegal charges if the body wasn’t disposed of correctly, and this particular law varies with every state. (Source)

The laws are different when it comes to slaughterhouses and farm animals, but there are pretty significant differences between the inhumane treatment of pets, and slaughtering cows for food.

Cost of Euthanasia and At-Home Options

The cost to euthanize a cat varies with every state, but the average is around $50 to $300 if it’s at a shelter or a hospital. (Source) There is an option to do euthanasia at home, although that tends to be a little more expensive.

Doing at-home euthanasia depends on the owners. Some may want their last minutes with their pet to be at a place they are all comfortable and happy rather than in a clinical setting. Doing at-home euthanasia also depends on if the veterinarians provide that option in your area.

Other Ways to Give Away a Healthy Cat

If circumstances in an owner’s life have taken a different direction that doesn’t include their precious cat, there are better solutions than euthanasia. If the cat has a chance to live out the remainder of his or her life in relative peace, there are a few options to do this without needing to euthanize the cat. (Source)

  • Release the cat as a stray
  • Hand cat to shelter
  • Local rescue organizations
  • Post flyers for adoption
  • Post on social media for adoption
  • Adoption day events at shelters

Releasing the cat as a stray may be the most heartless way to give away a precious pet, especially if this cat hasn’t been on his or her own for their whole life. Stray cats that come and go as they please know how to take care of themselves, but cats that have been given everything since they were born will not survive on their own.

Releasing the cat as a stray could be defined as abandonment, and clearly not the best way to give away a cat. However, it is still an option to consider if the situation gets desperate or out of control.

A much better way to give away a healthy cat instead of euthanizing him or her is to take the cat to an animal shelter. At the animal shelter, the cat can be provided and cared for until someone wishes to adopt him or her. This way, the owner knows that their cat is in safe hands, and they don’t need to worry or stress about finding a home in a certain timeframe.

A similar option to animal shelters is to place the cat at a local rescue organization. The difference between shelter and rescue is that rescue organizations are not government-funded, they are volunteer-run and supported. (Source) Typically, the rescue organizations are more involved compared to shelters and may achieve better results animal-companion-wise.

The fourth and fifth options are very similar, but both may hold different pros and cons for everyone. One of these two options is to post good old-fashioned flyers around in order to clearly show that the cat is up for adoption. The second is to post this cat adoption on social media. Now, the pros and cons of posting locally with paper are that a downfall may be having slower results. However, the paper provides a convenient way for those in your local area to come and stop by and see if the cat will fit their needs and desires.

Posting on the media tends to get the benefit of quicker results. Another benefit is that the media is where the owner can ask the people they trust most to care for their beloved cat. It can be a downfall as well, because there may be friends or family that would be willing to adopt the cat, but distance proves to be an obstacle, and time could be running short, depending on circumstances. However, if planned accordingly, the cat can be safely placed in a good home before time is up.

Another option is to go or ask the animal shelters to take the cat, or pet, to the adoption events so a good family will be able to see and determine if the cat is what they wish and desire.

One tip to keep in mind when giving up a healthy cat, is to be honest with the reasoning and explaining of letting the cat go, especially if you are an owner who didn’t take care of the cat properly, whatever that might entail. This allows the shelter to know how to best provide for the cat as it stays at the shelter until it can find a new or better home.

Carolina Pieters

I'm Carolina and created this blog, to provide practical advice and emotional comfort for those dealing with pet loss.

Recent Posts