11 Most Common Signs That Your Cat Is Dying

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For any pet owner, there’s nothing more difficult than watching their pet reach their life’s end. Even though there’s no easy way to prepare yourself for this situation, there are several things you can do to help them feel more comfortable during their final hours.

This article will help you recognize the most common signs your cat is dying and give you pointers on providing them with proper care, as well as suggest some end-of-life care options.

Signs Your Cat Is Dying

For a long time, pet owners were confused by their feline friends’ unusual behavior.

Even though cats are really good at hiding injuries and illnesses, they can still display symptoms and certain changes in behavior that can alert you that something is indeed wrong.

Here are some of the typical lethal signs, and what could they mean:

1. Not Eating and Drinking

Although this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dying, a cat not eating or drinking for 3 days certainly isn’t feeling well and needs to be taken to the vet immediately. Your cat may be too tired to process food and water, making them weak and dehydrated, which will additionally worsen their condition. Encouraging them to eat by offering them their favorite food is a good idea, but be careful not to overfeed your cat.

2. Lethargy (And Lack of Interest in Favorite Things)

Towards the end of your cat’s life, you’ll notice them becoming weak and lethargic, spending most of their time sleeping and appearing too weak and depressed even when awake. You may notice your cat is struggling to move around the house, stops showing interest in playing, or refuses their favorite treats.

If your lethargic cat reaches a stage where they don’t move for an entire day, don’t hesitate to call your vet.

3. Extreme Weight Loss

In general, weight loss is common in older cats due to normal muscle loss, as their bodies don’t digest and build protein as efficiently as younger cats’ bodies do. However, if the weight loss goes to the extreme where their bones protrude under their skin, it most likely means your cat’s days are numbered.

Extreme weight loss is also one of the signs your cat is dying of thyroid disease, so make sure you consult your vet to confirm the diagnosis.

4. Hiding

Seeking solitude is a common sign your cat is gravely ill, as this is an instinct inherited from the times when cats lived out in the wild, with hiding as a way to protect themselves from predators, especially when weak.

Even though many cats normally hide a lot, you should be worried if they start hiding in new places, and don’t want to come out even for routine activities, such as eating or using their litter box.

5. Poor Temperature Regulation

Old cats have difficulties when it comes to regulating their body temperature, so they’re more sensitive to heat and cold than younger and healthier cats are. One of the first dying cat stages is hypothermia—as their heart weakens, other organs start shutting down as well, leading to their body temperature dropping. The easiest way to check their temperature is to feel whether their paws are warm to the touch.

6. Neglected Appearance

We all know that cats are meticulous groomers, but when they don’t feel well, most often they stop taking care of themselves. No longer having the energy for grooming themselves, their hair becomes greasy, and long-haired cats can even develop mats on their underbelly, or behind their ears.

7. Trouble Breathing

Cats’ breathing patterns may change as they get older, and your cat breathing fast may be a sign they’re approaching death. As their lungs become weaker, you might notice their respiratory rate speeding up or slowing down, and they may even stop breathing for short periods of time or experience agonal breathing, which looks like sudden spasms as they’re passing away.

8. Strong Odor

If your cat develops a strong, detectable odor, it can mean their life’s end is approaching. This occurs due to toxins building up in their organism, as their organs don’t work properly and begin to shut down. The smell may become worse over time, as they have no way to eliminate all the toxins.

9. Seizures

Many things can cause cat stroke symptoms, including metabolic issues caused by a certain disease, or problems with the brain itself. The seizures can come in consecutive series or last even more than 10 minutes; in both cases, you should seek help. Sometimes, a veterinarian may stabilize your cat with medications, but if the seizure cause is more serious, treatments may not evoke a response.

10. Changes in Behavior

Behavioral changes are one of the first signs that your cat is likely to pass away soon. Cats are known as creatures of habit, so if they stop following their daily routines, you should consider that as one of the signs a cat is dying. It’s best to observe their actions more carefully because this can be a difficult symptom to interpret, as many non-life-threatening illnesses can cause a change in cats’ behavior too.

11. Decreased Mobility

Due to muscle loss, pain, or other health challenges, old cats find it difficult to move as much as they did before. It starts with something small, like not being able to jump on the sofa, but over time they can even get too weak to get in and out of a tall litter box. Decreased mobility is one of the most common signs a cat is dying of old age, and the best way you can help them is by making things they need easier to reach.

DID YOU KNOW: Spaying and neutering your cat can extend their life. A study conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital discovered that neutered males live approximately 62% longer than unneutered cats, and spayed females live an average of 39% longer than unspayed ones.

Do Cats Know When They Are Dying?

When it comes to whether cats know when they’re going to die, opinions differ. It’s difficult to say for sure, but there are certain changes in cats’ behavior that make people ask themselves: is my cat dying?

You must’ve heard various stories about cats signaling to their owners they’re reaching their life’s end by approaching them for a last hug or kiss—and to some extent, they’re probably true.

Cats are highly intuitive animals able to notice even the smallest environmental or physical changes. A popular explanation is that cats detect a different smell about themselves, which tells them they’re close to passing away.

Nevertheless, whether the cat is aware of it or not, you can pay close attention to their behavioral patterns, and help them feel comfortable during their final hours.

DID YOU KNOW: My cat is dying how long will it take?” is one of the most Googled questions related to a cat’s death. The physical process of the cat’s body shutting down is known as active dying, and it may last from a few hours up to 3 days.

Key Takeaways

Even though cats are good at hiding injuries and illnesses, they still manage to present some symptoms that alarm their owner if something is wrong.
Refusing food or water, seeking solitude, having abnormal body odor, or your cat breathing fast are just some of the signs you should take your cat to the vet.
When it comes to whether cats can sense their death or not, opinions are divided, even though most owners claim they can.
It’s proven that spaying and neutering cats can prolong their life span.

How to Care for Your Dying Cat

If after conducting your cat’s examination your vet concludes medical treatments aren’t going to improve your cat’s well-being, the best thing to do is to provide your cat with maximum comfort and extra care by taking some of the following steps:

  • If you notice your cat not eating or drinking, try encouraging them to eat by offering them foods with a strong odor, and foods appropriate for senior cats, and make sure they have easy access to food and water.
  • You can also help with their maintenance by brushing their hair and cleaning up any messes they make. If your cat has long hair, you can even trim it around the belly and the anal region to make it easier for them to stay clean.
  • If your cat is experiencing any kind of physical pain, you should consult your vet to prescribe medication that will help them feel more comfortable.
  • Ensuring maximum comfort for your lethargic cat means providing them with a warm, soft place to rest, like a cozy bed or a warm spot in the sun, and making sure that it’s easily accessible to them, so they don’t need to spend much effort climbing or jumping to get to it.
  • Keep their environment quiet and peaceful. If you keep other pets as well, have children, or live with active adults, don’t let them bother your cat, as you should try to maintain your dying cat’s environment as low-stress as possible.
  • As your cat progresses through its dying cat stages, spend as much time as they allow you with them. Monitor their behavior and see if they want to be cuddled and petted, or just want to be left alone. In other words, play by their rules and let them initiate interaction when they feel like it.
DID YOU KNOW: Sick or dying cats may need costly medical care, which includes diagnostic tests, medication, and follow-up examinations, so having pet insurance will help you give your cat the best medical care possible without having to worry about the costs.

End-Of-Life Care Options

Cats are masters at hiding their illness and pain, which is why many pet owners don’t even notice some of the signs a cat is dying. However, not all cats die peacefully in their sleep—for some, the final step is not so easy, and the owner is forced to look for options to help their cat pass away more easily.

If you’re not sure whether hospice care or euthanasia is a better option, here’s some detailed information that might help you make the right choice:

Hospice Care

Also known as palliative care, this kind of care is usually recommended for pets suffering from a terminal illness, but owners who notice signs a cat is dying of old age also consider it.

With the goal of making your cat’s final days more pleasant, hospice care includes the distribution of pain medication, diet strategies, and an appropriate level of human interaction. Owners considering hospice care are always advised to be careful not to prolong the suffering of their cats that are in pain or generally have poor life quality.

Hospice care requires you to always keep an eye on your pet, watching for signs like your cat’s heavy breathing or becoming incontinent. Regardless of your preferences, it’s best to consult your veterinarian first and see if they recommend hospice care for your cat’s specific condition and needs.

Euthanasia

Euthanasia may be a difficult and scary decision for cat parents, but ending your beloved pet’s suffering can be their greatest relief. This kind of end-of-life care provides a peaceful and painless death for a cat that would otherwise spend the little time they have left suffering—your cat not eating or drinking is agonizing enough, not to mention more serious and painful symptoms that come with imminent death.

The procedure is similar to undergoing general anesthesia for a surgical procedure and consists of your vet injecting your cat with a sedative (usually pentobarbital), followed by other medication. Having no awareness of their life-ending, your cat will pass quickly and painlessly, as the whole process takes 10–20 seconds.

It’s best to discuss this option with your veterinarian and get advice about the right time to euthanize. Your vet has also had special training for this kind of procedure, so you can rest assured that your cat will be provided with a humane and gentle death.

DID YOU KNOW: Euthanasia allows pets to pass so smoothly, that you won’t even hear your cat’s heavy breathing. After the solution has been injected, pets lose consciousness, and their heart and lungs stop functioning within minutes.

Conclusion

Losing your pet friend is never easy, but knowing how to take proper care of them and provide them with love and comfort during their final hours is the best you can do to help them. Learning how to recognize the lethal signs is the first step to understanding what is to come, and preparing you both for saying your final goodbye.

FAQ

Can cats have strokes?

Cats of any breed and age can experience strokes, with some of the most common cat stroke symptoms being sudden collapse, blindness, disorientation, rapidly moving pupils, general weakness, etc. Even though strokes in cats are not as common and damaging as in humans, they still require medical intervention.

What are the symptoms of a cat dying?

There is no definite list of symptoms of a dying cat, but some behaviors are a clear indicator that something is indeed wrong. Not eating or drinking, extreme weakness, lower body temperature, and unkempt appearance as they stop grooming are just some of the warning signs your cat may be approaching death.

What do cats do right before they die?

Even though cats are great at hiding illnesses, they still manage to alert their owners their time is coming. Look for some of these signs your cat is dying: seeking solitude, lacking interest in habitual activities, abnormal breathing pattern, refusing to move, etc.

What sound does a dying cat make?

As their ability to breathe weakens and their breathing patterns change, some cats pant or make wheezing sounds during their last hours, and some even make gurgling noises. Weirdly enough, there have also been instances of cats increasingly purring when not feeling well.

ABOUT AUTHOR

When she couldn’t decide between being a nurse, a psychotherapist, and a financial genius, Ofelia decided to do all three. Her interests run far and wide, and she loves researching about everything you get to read on our website. Credit cards or top-notch software, she’s here to tell it all like it is.

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