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How to Tell if Your Cat is Dying - Symptoms & Advice

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: September 2, 2018
How to Tell if Your Cat is Dying - Symptoms & Advice

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Death is a natural process experienced by all living things. At times it can be difficult to perceive, especially in cats. As you may already know, cats show little signs of pain or disease.

If you suspect that your cat may be dying, we recommend reading these 5 symptoms that a cat is going to die, but of course it will also be very important to go to the vet as soon as possible. They will be able to give them as much of a dignified end as possible. Keep reading this AnimalWised article to learn more about how to know that your cat is dying.

You may also be interested in: How to Tell if a Cat is Dehydrated
  1. Their personality begins to change
  2. They don't clean themselves
  3. Their vital signs are altered
  4. They stop eating and health problems arise
  5. They hide or retreat
  6. What to do if a cat is dying
  7. What to do when a cat dies

1. Their personality begins to change

Access to health, complete nutrition and good care greatly increases the longevity of our cats. Nowadays we can find many felines that reach up to 17 and even 20 years of age. Therefore, it is not surprising that diseases that previously were not perceived by owners appear, such as senile dementia in cats.

An obvious symptom of our furry friend getting older is the onset of behavioral disorders, usually related to their health status. It is common to see that they are irritable, is experiencing unusual urination or is depressed. Although these signs do not exclusively indicate that a cat is going to die, they do signal that something unusual is taking place.

How to Tell if Your Cat is Dying - Symptoms & Advice - 1. Their personality begins to change

2. They don't clean themselves

The loss of hygienic habits in a cat is a clear sign that something is wrong with your cat. Although it is true that some cats spend more time than others on personal grooming, the total loss of this behavior indicates some type of problem.

In this section, it is also important to include the neglect of other normal practices and/or habits, such as when they stop marking their scratching post or rubbing furniture with their bodies.

3. Their vital signs are altered

The symptoms of a dying cat also include alterations in their vital signs. Abnormal heart rhythms, excessively high or low body temperature, and disturbed breathing are common.

Here are the vital signs of a healthy cat [1] :

  • Respiratory rate in cats: between 20 and 42 breaths per minute (RPM).
  • Heart rate in cats: between 140 and 200 beats per minute (PPM).
  • Body temperature: between 38ºC (100.4F) and 39ºC (102.2F).
  • Capillary refill time: pressure should be applied to the mucous membranes to see how long it takes to recover their normal color, for example the mucous membranes of the mouth. The capillary refill time of a cat should be less than two seconds.

If you notice any alteration of the vital signs of the feline you must go immediately to a veterinary center immediately, since it implies that the life of the animal is compromised.

How to Tell if Your Cat is Dying - Symptoms & Advice - 3. Their vital signs are altered

4. They stop eating and health problems arise

As mentioned above, it is not always easy to identify the symptoms of a sick cat. However, diarrhea, seizures, vomiting, blood in the urine or seeing our cat stop feeding or ingesting liquids, may be a sign a cat is dying. If your cat does not accept food, especially if it is their favorite food, you may be facing a stage in your cat's death.

5. They hide or retreat

A cat that is hiding or retreating is a common sign of sickness in cats. Cats that are sick often feel more vulnerable and are therefore more scared. Additionally, like a sick cat, an animal near death will feel the same vulnerability. Consequently it is not surprising that many dying cats seek an isolated place to die. If you notice that your feline is taking shelter somewhere and doesn't want to leave the space, it may be a sign that they are dying.

How to Tell if Your Cat is Dying - Symptoms & Advice - 5. They hide or retreat

What to do if a cat is dying

When faced when any of these signs, it is best to consult your veterinarian straight away. A professional is the only person capable of diagnosing your animal and informing you at what dying cat stage your feline is finding itself.

A specialist will guide you on what decision to take. It is important to understand that if your animal is suffering a lot and experiencing excessive pain, it is sometimes advisable to consider euthanasia. This is a act taken in order to stop the animal from suffering unnecessarily.

A veterinarian can also help and guide you by informing you about the the best care that your cat needs during its dying cat stage. You may need to help your cat: feed, drink or defecate. And naturally, it is imperative that you offer your cat as much love and care as possible during this difficult period.

How to Tell if Your Cat is Dying - Symptoms & Advice - What to do if a cat is dying

What to do when a cat dies

The death of an animal is always a very painful process. However, sometimes, in the midst of this whirlwind of emotions, you must consider what to do with their body.

If your cat has died at the vet, the specialist will likely suggest that you incinerate its body in the same center, either with other animals or privately. However, if your cat has died at home, you can go to the vet or contact an animal funeral home directly, which is generally considered a cheaper option. If you wish, you can also choose to bury their body in a place that you prefer, however, this property must be private and laws regarding burials must be complied with.

Do not forget that if your cat is on your country's pet register, you must inform them to remove the name. This is necessary to ensure that the census is up to date.

As we have mentioned before, the death of a loved one is incredibly painful, even if it is an animal. Therefore, you should not feel guilty or embarrassed if you need to spend time mourning or speak to a specialist.

Do not forget that if at any other point you find yourself prepared to have another cat in your home, we suggest considering adoption. We recommend going to an animal shelter and offering your home to an abandoned animal. By adopting an abandoned animal, you give it an opportunity at a new life, full of love, that it otherwise might never have received.

How to Tell if Your Cat is Dying - Symptoms & Advice - What to do when a cat dies

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Tell if Your Cat is Dying - Symptoms & Advice, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

  1. Tami Gabriella, Veterinarian and Ethologist, Vital Constants in Cats, Affinity 2016
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Rachel Koch
My cat stopped eating 11 days ago she drinks water shes list so much weight and she can not sleep. Im a cancer survivor and have no money for a vet. I keep finding blood spots on her blanket but i can not where shes bleeding from.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hello Rachel,

We are sorry to hear of your situation. Many people find themselves in positions where they cannot pay veterinary bills, often after periods of financial difficulty. Unfortunately, in serious situations where a cat has stopped eating and presents symptoms like you have described, they will need to see a veterinary health professional. It is the only way to achieve the right diagnosis and begin appropriate treatment. Not doing so means the animal's life is threatened.

While options are limited, there are steps you can take. If you don't have pet insurance, you may be able to work out a payment plan with the veterinary clinic. Call them to enquire. Also, depending on where you live, your local animal services may have programs set up for people in your situation. Speak to them to discuss possible options. Since they work in your area, they will best know what resources are available.
My cat is 13 and has recently started having continuous diarrhea and has vomited. I have found blood and mucous in her stool. She won’t eat or drink and the vet put her on meds but it goes in her food in which she won’t eat. She cries out in pain and hasn’t stopped her symptoms. I can’t get her to eat anything or even drink water and she is laying in bizarre areas of my room. Does this mean she is dying? Or maybe her treatment hasn’t kicked in?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Madeline,

We simply cannot comment on whether your cat is dying. The only thing you can do is take them to the veterinarian. Even though you have already done this, you will need to take them back if the situation has worsened. Explain the symptoms and what has happened since the last visit. Good luck!
Could be IBD blood in stool from straining,is common I would get her on a grain free diet, 1 thing to try is withhold food 24 hrs to "rest" stomach, she may need a steroid for a few days if intestine are inflamed what meds is she on? ask for transdermal meds you put it on ear Careafate will coat her stomach and lining, you have to get her eating or liver will shut down, I has finger feed a cat 4 months als a gel at pet stores Nutri Cal will add calories
Cindy Mulligan
I know this is an old question but I found the administrator comment to be rude and unsympathetic. I cannot believe that she was told'good luck' to a person who is scared that her beloved pet is dying. What a completely unprofessional and caring attitude and that person shouldn't be the administrator.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Cindy,

We are sorry you took the above comment in bad faith, but we were certainly not being unsympathetic. Anyone who is worried about their cat's health has our utmost sympathy and we unfortunately know the sadness of losing a beloved animal friend as much as anyone.

The problem is that many people come to us looking for a diagnosis for their cat's situation, which is something we can't provide. While we can point in the direction of a possible explanation, only a qualified veterinary professional who carries out a thorough medical examination and has the right diagnostic tools can diagnose. Providing a diagnosis in these comments would be irresponsible. For this reason, our only recourse is to direct them to a professional. We are sorry if this seems dispassionate, but it is done in the best interests of the animal.
My cat is 17 and half yrs old and sleeps all time only wake up to go pee or to eat which is 2x a day for bog and only eats half a pouch of food 2x a day but i just noticed she was snoring today is this a sighn she coming to end
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Carmen,

At 17.5 years, your cat is certainly a senior. It is likely she is slowing down and possibly coming to the end. it is also possible her more vulnerable state has lead to her contracting a disease which may be treated. Take the cat to a veterinarian to be sure.
Its a sign shes about a 80 yr old lady,! snoring can be b normal I have 3 snores love her! I have had cats live to be 21 sound like girl just old make sure she has warm soft bed,soft food love
Why would anybody contact an animal funeral home??? & Why wouldn't you suggest a DIY oldschool family burial?
Administrador AnimalWised

As we discuss in the article, burying your pet is an option, but there may be barriers. Even if you bury a pet in your own garden, you run the risk of having it dug up by wild animals if you do not bury them deep enough. Animal funeral homes help to ease the pain of your pet dying by providing a way to say goodbye properly. It's not for everyone, but many people find it helpful.
Deneen Williams
I'm upset don't want to see my cat die
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Deneen,

No one wants their beloved pet to die, but it is a natural part of life. Following the tips and advice in our article will hopefully help you to keep your beloved (and lovely looking!) cat with you for as long as possible.
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How to Tell if Your Cat is Dying - Symptoms & Advice