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Do Cats Know When They Are Dying? 3 Vet-Reviewed Signs & Comfort Tips

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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You may have heard that cats instinctively know when they are about to die. To some extent, this is probably true. After all, cats are notably intuitive animals that are extremely sensitive to small changes in their environments and their bodies. In fact, some cats have been known to sense when humans are near death, but it’s not so clear whether they can predict death in themselves.

While it’s hard to say whether cats fully understand the concept of their own death, they do often behave differently when they are getting ready to die. In this guide, we will discuss some of these behaviors that could clue you into the fact that your cat is nearing the end of their life, as well as some steps you can take to comfort your nearing-the-end-of-life cat.

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The 3 Signs Your Cat Could Be Dying

If your cat is dying, whether from illness or old age, there are some behaviors you can probably expect your cat to start exhibiting before they pass. It is vital to take your cat to the veterinarian if you notice any signs of illness or sudden changes in your elderly cat’s habits. Your vet can give you all the information you need to understand whether your cat might be nearing the end of their life or they are suffering from any disease that needs treatment as soon as possible. If you have an elderly cat who has started behaving strangely, compare your cat’s behaviors to the following signs that your cat may be getting ready to die.

1. Changes in Personality

If your cat is dying, you may notice some significant differences in your cat’s personality. While they may not necessarily know about the concept of death, cats tend to use their instincts to help protect themselves when they are dying. They are likely aware that they are more vulnerable to predators and other dangers, and sometimes their personalities and actions can change to reflect that instinctual awareness.

If you have a very sweet cat, for example, they may suddenly start scratching or biting more than usual. While personality changes are one classic sign that your cat is dying, these changes can also be caused by illnesses that do not necessarily result in death. Keep an eye on your cat and see if any of the other signs on this list accompany the changes in personality.

sad cat
Photo Credit: avi_acl, PixabayImage Credit: avi_acl, Pixabay

2. Changes in Appetite

Cats’ appetite can suddenly change when they are near the end of their lives. They may slow down or stop eating altogether. You can heat up their food, mix it with some warm water, or offer their favorite treat to tempt them. A cat that is dying may simply be too weak to eat. Unfortunately, the longer your cat goes without eating, the weaker they will become. It is very important to get your cat seen by your vet if you notice any changes in appetite so that you can figure out why your cat may not be eating.

3. Changes in Grooming

If you have a cat, you know how many waking hours they dedicate to grooming themselves on a daily basis. A healthy cat will never be dirty or unkempt. A dying cat, however, will sometimes stop grooming themselves regularly, resulting in a more disheveled appearance. As with eating, grooming is a task that can be too arduous for a weak and dying cat. You may also notice that clumps of fur will fall out of your cat’s coat if it is dying.

red domestic cat bites owners hand
Photo Credit: Irzhanova Asel, Shutterstock


Why Do Cats Hide Before They Die?

Perhaps you’ve heard that cats like to be alone when they die. Contrary to popular belief, cats do not hide to spare their owners from sadness when their beloved pets pass away. Instead, cats often go off to hide when they are getting ready to die as an instinctual defense. As discussed, dying cats are more vulnerable to predators in the wild. As a result, they hide to prevent predators from getting an easy meal out of them.

hepper-single-cat-paw-divider-e1614923017121What You Can Do To Comfort Your Dying Cat

When your cat is dying of old age or a terminal illness, there are a few things you can do to make your cat as comfortable as possible. Below are some tips you can try to comfort your dying pet.

  • Keep your cat warm and cozy with plenty of blankets and easy access to a sunny spot in your home.
  • Offer your cat their favorite foods, unless your vet recommends otherwise. Sometimes this will help encourage your cat to eat when they feel weak or unmotivated to do so.
  • Provide easy access, for example with a ramp, to your cat’s favorite sitting or resting spots, such as window sills and beds, as they might feel too weak to jump like they used to.
  • Prevent young children or other pets from bothering your kitty.
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

It’s always hard when a family pet dies—after all, they are an essential part of your family. However, it happens to all animals, so it helps to be prepared. When you know your cat is dying, you can do your best to comfort them through your final days together.

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