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Do Cats Know When They Are Dying? Signs & Behaviors

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

persian cat lying on sofa

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 extremely 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 its life, as well as some steps you can take to comfort your dying cat.

Signs Your Cat Could Be Dying

sad cat
Image Credit: avi_acl, Pixabay

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 it passes. 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.

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, it 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.

Changes in Appetite

Cats can go up to 2 weeks without eating and about 3 days without water. However, just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. Cats that don’t eat for several days can develop fatty liver syndrome. If you have a young and otherwise healthy cat that won’t eat, it’s important to have it examined at the veterinarian to figure out why your cat may not be eating.

However, a cat that is dying may simply be too weak to eat. You might notice a dying cat sitting by its water bowl without drinking. Unfortunately, the longer your cat goes without eating, the weaker it will become.

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 itself 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
Image 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.

Related: 18 Gifts For Someone Who Lost a Cat 

What You Can Do To Comfort Your Dying Cat

When your cat is dying of old age or a terminal illness, there isn’t much you can do other than make your cat as comfortable as possible. Below are some tips you can try to comfort your dying pet.

  • Keep your cat warm with plenty of blankets and easy access to a sunny spot in your home.
  • Offer your cat its favorite foods, even if it is supposed to be on a strict diet. Sometimes this will help encourage your cat to eat when it feels weak or unmotivated to do so.
  • Provide ramps for your cat’s favorite sitting spots, such as window sills and beds, as sick and dying cats often can’t jump like they used to.
  • Prevent young children or other pets from bothering your kitty.
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

It’s always hard when a family pet dies—after all, they are 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 it through your final days together.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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