This is a very difficult and delicate post to write, and one that brings a lump to my throat just considering: The question of when a pet’s time has come, and whether to consider euthanasia, is easily the most difficult part of animal ownership. Ending needless suffering is a responsible thing to do. It’s difficult because no one wants to do it too soon – or ever.
I have had many pets in my lifetime. For most, there came a time when putting them to sleep was a kinder option than allowing them to live and suffer for my sake.
If you are reaching a time in your parrot’s life when you may need to consider this, just ask yourself: ‘What is my bird’s quality of life like right now? Is he suffering and not ever going to improve? Am I keeping him here because I’m not ready?’
That’s what I’ve had to ask myself in the past. In many circumstances, medication can give a pet a wonderful quality of life for a number of weeks or months — and then that tends to wear off. As heart-breaking as it is, you have to know your pet, and know when he is no longer able to lead a good life.
Growing up, my family was owned by a beautiful and loving applehead Siamese cat, ‘Ming.’ She the cat who did everything with the family, including follow us around, sleep at our feet, and generally act like a dog. A typical Siamese, Ming led a long and wonderful life, but due to her polydactylism (28 toes!), she had joint deformities that caused her a lot of pain in her old life.
Medication only worked for so long. As her health began to fail her, compounding with even more issues, we were all left agonising over when was the right time? Too soon, and it feels like you’ll rob them of precious days. Too late, and you may cause them pain that you wouldn’t let them feel at all, if possible. But when is right?
I know Hospice nurses who say that a palliative patient often has one absolutely great day before it’s their time, a final burst of life. This applies to most pets, too, I’ve found. We knew when Ming suddenly had a good day where she jumped and played and snuggled as if all was normal again. It was a gift, a beautiful moment to say goodbye.
The day after, as Ming showed us it was time, my family made the best but most painful decision. Two things gave us comfort: She was surrounded by her people at the end — which, if you can stand it, please do this for your fur and feather babies — and she had led a long and happy life. I have endless happy memories of my pets’ time with us. That’s what counts.
If your parrot can lead a good quality of life, if he seems happy and not in pain for the majority of the time and is able to play and interact with the world, then yes, this is not the time. If your bird is suffering, absolutely unable to do the things it needs and wants to do despite your best efforts, however, you may have to do the brave and heart-breaking thing.