If you have an elderly or sick cat who you think may be on his or her last few months, weeks, or even days – firstly, I’m so sorry. This must be an incredibly difficult time in your life.
I’ve been a cat owner for seven years now, and I’ve luckily never had to say goodbye to any one of my furries yet. I don’t look forward to the day, and to be honest, I think it will be devistating to me.
There’s this saying that we treat our pets like they’re family, and honestly, I think it goes farther than that. To me – cats are family. We don’t just treat them like they’re family – they actually are. And it’s heartbreaking to experience the death of a close family member.
Secondly, I’ve done my best to scour the net for as many signs of what cats are like when they’re on their last months, weeks, and even days. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find a lot of reputable sources discussing the topic – vets, shelters, and the like. That being said I have found a lot of firsthand experiences from pet parents who have spoken out about what their cats were like before they died.
I feel information like this is maybe just as helpful as it would be to hear from vets and shelters on the topic. Actually, the information might turn out to be even more useful for many than information from those who work at vets’ offices or shelters, considering you get a wider view of the types of signs leading up to the feline deaths that happen, not limited to those that occur at the vet’s office or in a shelter.
I’m sure not every cat will behave in the same way right before he or she dies, so collectively, I’d assume it makes for a better, more complete picture, having so many different perspectives side by side.
If you have a moment and stumble across this article having gone through a cat’s death in the family before, please leave a comment down below with regards to any signs you felt may have been hints of your cat’s impending death. That way, other pet parents who are looking for signs that their cats are nearing the time they’re going to pass away can look out to see if their cats show similar behaviours to what you saw in the past.
I know when the time comes near for one (or maybe more than one, since some of my furries are similar ages) of my cats to go, I’ll definitely want to be prepared in terms of knowing as many of the potential signs a cat is dying as possible. There’s just something to knowing what others have gone through before you that gives you assurance, and maybe a better chance at saying a long goodbye early on if some of the signs are spotted soon enough as well.
If you eventually end up going through this heartwrenching experience yourself and happen to think back on this article after the matter, please take a moment to come back and post in the comments section so that other pet parents have the ability to learn from what you’ve experienced.
It bears repeating that you’ll definitely be helping a lot of pet parents out, those looking for guidance in the future the same way you are looking for answers today.
Signs Your Cat Is Dying: What Cats Sometimes Do & How They at Times Behave Before They Die
When it comes to the signs and symptoms of a cat’s impending death, it seems there are ever so many, and these behaviours are actually quite varried from one cat to the next.
A lot of pet parents appear to develop an intuiton for knowing when a cat is dying or near death, however, even with the signs being so different from cat to cat. A lot of this intuition seems to stem from the basic concept that cats begin behaving differently from how they typically would when they near death, sometimes to an extreme degree.
People begin seeing their furries behave in ways that are off for them, and without another explanation, paired with knowing that the end is likely near considering the age or poor health of a pet, these pet parents put the pieces together and realize these odd behaviours are likely signs their cat will pass away soon.
If it’s possible for some people to intuitively know that a cat may be on its last few months, weeks, or even days, I think it’s also possible for you to develop this intuition. Likely, if you pay close attention to your cat’s behaviour and how it’s changing over time (my guess is you already do this), you’ll be able to get a sense for when your cat’s behavior starts to change. Hopefully, if you start seeing the behaviour changes, you’ll start to get the feeling of things being off, and thus be able to prepare yourself early on, allowing you to begin to say goodbye to your pet before your cat passes.
There are so many particular signs that a cat may be dying that are incredibly specific and unlikely to be exactly your cat’s particular signs of death coming soon. That being said, I didn’t want to leave these out, as I feel they give a good picture of what constitutes as “odd behaviours” that you can keep an eye out for in your own cat, and understand the types of things to look out for, without necessarily being on the look out for one particular behaviour.
I feel it’s important to showcase as many as I can so you can get a really good overall picture of what the signs of the impeding death might look like for your feline before they happen. I’ve done my best to group these into categories that make sense, so it’s easier for you to browse and potentially find something relevant to you, or read through the entire thing in a coherent way, so that you are better prepared for as many potential signs as possible that might come your way.
Trigger warning: I did a lot of choking up and crying reading stories of cats who passed away trying to get as much information as I could. Some of the stories I’ve copied here, and they could choke you up or lead you to begin to cry as well. Other signs may lead you to recall sad stories of pets passing from your own past that may lead you to feel terrible. Either way, take care to be in a safe (preferrably non-public) place before you start reading past here, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll likely want to be in a safe space if some of these begin to make you feel quite emotional.
Most Common Signs & Symptoms of a Cat Dying
Typical of indoor cats: the common downhill trajectory.
“MOST of the time (regarding experiences with my own three, INDOOR-ONLY cats over the past 37 years), they will gradually become less energetic; skinnier; their fur will gradually lose its sheen and become “scraggly” in appearance (no matter how much you comb/brush it); AND THE CAT’S APPETITE WILL BEGIN TO INCREASINGLY WANE. The cat may even become too weak or disinterested to make it to its litter box and may increasingly “void” on your carpets or bed. At this stage, the owner will usually (if behaving in a responsible manner) take it to a vet for proper diagnosis (that, often-times, being the onset of renal failure). This can usually be treated for a short time with a change of diet and medication until, ultimately and sadly, one must eventually bring it back to the vet to have him/her euthanized.” (Source)
Typical of outdoor cats: the dying cat disappearing.
“When a cat is ill, or if it thinks it’s dying, it will disappear. This seems to be an evolutionary hold-over from when cats lived in the wild. Apparently, they would disappear so as not to become easy prey to predators. For the same reason, cats cover their feces when finished (well, most do, but some just “crap-and-leave-it”). They’re covering their scent from potential predators.” (Source)
Typical of both indoor and outdoor cats: looking for a solitary place to die alone.
“Often, when cats know they’re dying, they will stop eating or drinking, and they will find a place to go die alone.” (Source)
Alternatively: Typical of all cats, saying goodbye and wanting company before death.
“Next morning at 6 i heard her voice lound. I got happy thinking king she is fine. I went to her the time i touched her she stopped meowing. N she died after that i sat by her comforting whole time as she was coming to her end time. She called me before she passed away may be she wanted me to be with her or may be it was her good bye to me. Mon still says that she could have died before as her condition was worst. It was like she was waiting for me.” (Source)
“I rescued an abandoned kitten, took him home and tried to feed him. He would not eat. I took him to the vet for a good check over. The kitten was wormed and de flea ed. I was told the kitten seemed to be healthy. I bought special kitten food for him. Took him home and he still would not eat. Back to the vet. The vet told me that he thought the kitten may have been so traumatized by his abandonment that he had given up. I did not believe this. I thought with enough love and care I could make him want to live. I tried everything the vet and I could think of, even to the point of trying to force feed him. He would clamp his little mouth so tightly shut I was afraid I would hurt him if I forced it. One morning when I awoke, the kitten tried to get in my lap without me asking. He climbed to my shoulder and started purring. I tried to feed him but he would not eat. He climbed back to my shoulder and purred in my ear for about an hour. When he stopped purring I checked and he was dead. I believe he knew he was dying and he wanted some comfort while he slipped away. Do cats know when they are about to die? I believe all animals know when their time has come. I also believe that just like humans they do not want to die alone.” (Source)
One thing seems to be certain: cats seem to sense when they are dying.
“I think that they can. When my father was growing up in India, he had many cats as pets. These were feral cats, which would live indoors, but have the opportunity to go out and explore. Once my father would notice that the cats were slowing down and reaching then end of their lives, the cats would soon after leave the house and go die by themselves in the jungle. This seems to be indicative that the cats knew their time had come, and turned to natural instinct to go and die peacefully away from commotion or their owners.” (Source)
Eating & Drinking Signs That a Cat Is Dying
Loss of appetite.
Drinking considerably less.
Sleeping & Rest Related Cat Signs of Dying
Struggling to breathe while resting or sleeping.
Breathing very quickly, or very slowly, while resting or sleeping.
Lying in unusual places the cat doen’t normally rest in.
Movement Related Cat Signs of Dying
Trying to leave the room when being comforted by a loved one – so the cat can die on his or her own.
“Around 4 in the morning, my girl struggled to her paws and tried to leave the room. She could barely walk, staggered a few feet at a time before stopping to rest. I followed her as she tried to go to the basement. She almost made it but collapsed at the top of the stairs. We took her into the emergency vet that night to end her suffering and she went peacefully. But that night, she was leaving me to go die on her own. Maybe it was instinct or maybe she didn’t want me to see her go. Either way, when we took her to the vet, they gave her a drug that took away her pain. She was at peace and surrounded by her family as she went and I saw it on her face.” (Source)
Stumbling and falling, then not being able to get back up quickly and easily.
Not being able to stand up straight or walk straight.
Companionship Signs of Cats Dying
Refusing to leave a loved one’s side.
Entering or trying to enter a loved one’s room; sleeping on their possessions, on their bed, even if they’re not present.
“My own cat (living in an apartment) made every effort possible to get into my daughter’s (4 yrs old) room. She absolutely loved my daughter having known her since she was a baby (my daughter). My ex shooed her and when I arrived home, she meuwled at me in the strangest saddest way. A visit to the vet told me she was in serious trouble. I drop by the next day to see her. She lifted her head, stuck out her paw and put her head on my hand…… I left (as the vet was closing). She died a few hours later…. I am STILL very upset over it to this day, and it’s 17 years now…. She said good bye (or tried, despite the pain she was in and the shooing from my ex, who deeply regretted it on finding out) to those she loved the most. My daughter and I.” (Source)
Acting normal – like nothing is wrong, and previously held symptoms and signs of impending death are temporarily replaced with what feels like your old, regular, healthy cat.
“As I went to go to bed after taking to my mum in the kitchen, I went to stroke him and say goodnight and he looked so peaceful, happy and beautiful. He had a cute little face and he looked even sweeter as he meowed at me with the most normal and bright meow I had ever heard him give. I guess he knew I was going to sleep and was giving me his final goodnight and goodbye.” (Source)
“He was also purring so loudly that I thought by some miracle he might be getting better. I even fantasized that the vet would have some drug that fixed some weird reaction he was having to his food and that I was just over reacting. Sometime in the night he moved up to my torso and lay sideways. He passed away next to me while I was sleeping.” (Source)
“the night prior she (4 months old) was running around with our other cat (Hanyuu), who’s 5 months old, and playing and not showing any noticeable signs of distress. She went to sleep on one of our computer chairs like she normally would, but decided to let us love on her extra that night.
I wake up in the morning, to my boyfriend telling me somethings wrong with Rika.
she was laying between our legs, we know she moved closer to us to die near people she trusted, and I think that she knew she was passing and wanted comfort in her last moments.
we tried cpr on our way to the er, but devastatingly, she passed.” (Source)
Unique & Strangely Specific Behavioural Dying Cat Signs
Making a request for one last favourite meal or snack.
“One of our cats (many years ago) sat in front of my aunt asking for meat with strange sad eyes. She ate the meat slowly, asked to be let out, climbed up onto a wall, looked back… and disappeared…. forever… )” (Source)
Biting a hand when this is not at all a common behaviour.
“Finally, one night while hand feeding him, he bit me, hard. He drew blood. I was shocked. Either he couldn’t tell the difference between his food and my hand or he was trying to tell me something. He had never done anything like that in his entire life. I called the vet that night and left a message that I would be coming in that morning to put him to sleep. My wife tried to intervene and said she could spare me the pain, but I couldn’t bear to abandon him in his last moments.
That night, Elvis snuck out of my daughter’s room, where he had slept the last several years beside her and crawled into bed with me. I barely noticed until he laid on my feet – like he had done when I was in college. The warmth washed over me like nothing I had ever experienced. The triggers from nostalgia can be very powerful. He was also purring so loudly that I thought by some miracle he might be getting better. I even fantasized that the vet would have some drug that fixed some weird reaction he was having to his food and that I was just over reacting. Sometime in the night he moved up to my torso and lay sideways. He passed away next to me while I was sleeping.
The next morning I woke up and realized he was gone. He had spared me the pain of putting him down.” (Source)
Your Thoughts on Cat Signs of Dying?
What do you think are some of the more common signs a cat is dying? What are some uncommon ones you’ve heard of or seen yourself?
Have you ever gone through the death of a cat? Did you know then that the cat was dying? What do you feel were the signs? Do you feel the cat knew he/she was dying?
Are there any stories you can share about a cat’s passing and the signs that led up to it? Is there any advice, or do you have any comforting thoughts to pass on to those who feel their cats may pass away soon?
Thank you so much in advance for taking the time to leave your thoughts in the comments below. I’m sure I speak on behalf of so many pet parents who will stumble across this article when I say – your words really do make a difference.