FATWA: Is euthanasia something to consider for my very senior cat?

Dear Professor,


Conference of the books is one of my favorite books about Islam. My father gave it to me, and for that I’m eternally grateful.


I’m wondering if I could get your religious perspective on the issue of animal end of life. Your views on dogs in Islam is compassionate and knowledgeable. My very senior cat who has been with me 18.5 years is at the end of her life. The Vet discussed euthanasia, but is a Buddhist herself, and understands the Muslim perspective against euthanasia. Can you kindly direct me to what to do for my elderly cat? She is not in pain, but has low quality of life. I’m praying God take her with ease and no suffering, but am not sure if euthanasia is something to consider. Thank you for your advice.


[Name Withheld for Privacy]




Dear Sister:

Al-salamu 'alaykum. I pray that you and your family are in good spirits and health and that Allah is filling your life with goodness and beauty.


Thank you for writing me about this important matter.  You raise an issue that is close to my heart and that I consider to be quite painful.  I do not know how many nights I've spent in fervent prayer pleading with God to take the soul of one of our dogs without suffering. It is painful to observe the aging process and to watch one of our beloved companions go from strength to weakness as the quality of life deteriorates completely for these poor souls.


The position that I have grown comfortable with is to refrain from euthanasia until the animal is suffering and I cannot do anything to alleviate or minimize this suffering.  


A number of jurists held that it is lawful to dispatch horses injured in war to end their suffering.  They also held that animals suffering from broken bones or otherwise injured, who cannot be treated, may be dispatched to end their pain.  From my own experience, I have observed that when animals are ready to pass away, they refrain from eating and drinking and this is usually a strong indication that they are ready to leave this world.


To answer your question more directly, I would not euthanize your cat unless she is in pain or suffering. As I am sure you know, intervening to end an animal's life is a very serious matter in Islam and should never be taken lightly.  After years of researching this matter and of praying on it, I have become comfortable with a very narrow exception to the prohibition against animal euthanasia and that is only if the animal is in pain or suffering.  Take care of your cat to the best of your ability and do not euthanize her unless she is in pain and suffering. This is my opinion on the matter, and only Allah knows best.  May Allah aid and support you and fill your life with peace and tranquility. 


Wa al-salamu alaykum wa rahmatullah,


Shaykh Abou El Fadl