Kat Littlewood

Kat Littlewood staff profile picture

School of Veterinary Science
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
The veterinarian’s role in end-of-life management of older and chronically ill cats in New Zealand

Research Description
The veterinarian’s role in end-of-life management of older and chronically ill cats in New Zealand The central question I aim to answer is: 'what is the veterinarian's role in end-of-life (EoL) management of geriatric cats in New Zealand?' To address this question, I have explored how EoL management (technical euthanasia, end-of-life decision-making, and grief management) is currently taught in Australasian veterinary schools. I have then moved on to uncover the role the veterinarian plays in the eyes of the owner/client of geriatric cats that have been euthanased. I will compare this to the veterinarian's own perception of this role. The outcome for this research is a more formal understanding of the role of the veterinarian in EoL management, how New Zealand cat owners process euthanasia and assess their cat's quality of life (QoL), and how they manage the decision to proceed. This improved understanding of what drives client behaviour would safeguard older cat welfare and further inform veterinarians of their role in EoL management.

Research Importance
EoL management of animals is important to three stakeholders; the animal, the owner/client, and the veterinarian. EoL management here refers to the technical skills involved in ending an animal's life in a humane manner (i.e. performing euthanasia), EoL decision-making (e.g. welfare or QoL assessments), and grief management.

Research Benefit
Competency in EoL management benefits the veterinarian by providing for job satisfaction. The owner/client would benefit from a 'good' death of their pet with reduced feelings of guilt or remorse. Moreover, the animal welfare benefits to the animal of an appropriate EoL process are many and varied.

Personal Description
After completing a Bachelor of Veterinary Science at Massey University, I went on to work as a small animal veterinarian. Animal welfare science and the potential research areas it offers excites me. While completing a PG Diploma in Veterinary Clinical Studies, majoring in Animal Welfare Science, I developed a PhD topic with my potential supervisors - based on my experiences and unanswered questions as a small animal veterinarian. How we manage the end of animal life is important to me. After completing my PhD I would like to continue working in the area of small animal welfare research and teaching.

Associate Professor Ngaio Beausoleil
Professor Kevin Stafford
Professor Christine Stephens


Littlewood, K. E., & Mellor, D. J. (2016). Changes in the Welfare of an Injured Working Farm Dog Assessed Using the Five Domains Model. Animals, 6(58), 1-24. doi: 10.3390/ani6090058