It’s the moment that no cat owner wants to contemplate. But as our feline friends get older or maybe develop an illness, there are signs to watch out for that may indicate your cat is dying.
As difficult as this time can be, it’s always best to be informed. This way, you can seek veterinary advice and together, make the best decision for your precious cat.
Cats are also good at hiding pain, so while you may not notice obvious symptoms, there are plenty of little signs that may indicate that your cat isn’t feeling as good as normal. Let’s take a look at 10 signs that your cat may be reaching the end of their life.
The 11 Potential Signs That Your Cat Is Dying
1. They don’t want to eat or drink
Cats will often stop eating or drinking their usual amount if they’re not feeling well. It takes a reasonable amount of energy for the body to digest food and water, so if your cat’s not feeling well, they may try to conserve energy by reducing the amount that they eat and drink.
2. Their behavior has changed
Cats are creatures of habit, so they often like to follow the same routines of mealtimes, nap spots, and favorite toys. If you notice any changes in your cat’s behavior, then this could be a sign that they’re not feeling well. Your usually sociable cat might have taken to sleeping under the bed, or maybe they have completely stopped playing. Getting to know your cat’s usual behavior is a great first step in being able to notice if something isn’t right.
3. They’re sleeping more than usual
Cats nearing the end of their lives will often have less energy. They may spend a significant amount of time sleeping, more than they usually would. Your cat may seem uninterested in eating, grooming, or interacting with anyone else. Of course, cats sleep frequently and extensively, anyway, so it’s important to compare this with what you’re used to as your cat’s individual behavior.
4. They’re weak and lethargic
As well as sleeping more, you may find that your cat is weaker once they’re up and about. They may not have the energy to walk to the litter box or jump onto their favorite cat tree to watch the world go by. Your cat may show symptoms like weak back legs, in which case, call your vet so they can make sure your cat isn’t in pain.
5. Their body temperature has lowered
The typical temperature range for cats is 100-102.5 Fahrenheit. As a cat’s body prepares for the end of life, their temperature will typically drop lower than this. If you’re comfortable taking your cat’s temperature using an ear or rectal thermometer, this can be a good thing to check. A vet can show you how to take your cat’s temperature. If you don’t have a thermometer, feeling your cat’s paw pads can be a good indicator. They should feel warm.
6. They aren’t grooming themselves
If your cat has lost interest in keeping themselves clean, this can be another clue that they’re reaching the end of their life. Cats usually spend up to 50% of their waking hours grooming. You may notice your cat’s fur becoming dull and matted if they’ve stopped grooming themselves.
7. They want to be alone
Cats will almost always try to find somewhere quiet to be on their own when they’re gravely ill. This is a throwback to their days in the wild, when they knew it was safer to hide away from predators. If your usually sociable cat suddenly wants to be alone and shows no interest in interacting with you, it can show that they’re preparing for death.
8. They’ve lost weight
An unwell cat will often lose a significant amount of weight. This can be from a combination of not eating as much as they used to and muscle wastage.
9. Their heart rate and respiration is low
A healthy cat’s heartbeat is usually in the range of 140–220 beats per minute. The heart rate of an unwell cat can drop far below this. You can measure your cat’s heartbeat by placing your hand behind their left elbow, where the beat is usually easiest to detect. Cats usually breathe 20–30 times per minute. An unwell cat may breathe less than this or very rapidly.
10. They may smell different
As a cat’s body starts to shut down, their organs stop working as effectively. This can mean that toxins start to build up instead of being excreted. The result is that your cat can start to smell different. An unpleasant odor that gets worse over time is a sign that something is not right with your cat’s body.
11. They may have trouble getting to or using the litter box
An unwell cat may find it difficult to get to the litter tray in time, so they may start peeing and pooping in places that you wouldn’t expect. Their urine may be darker from not drinking enough water. You might also see blood in their urine or poop. As cats near death, they may lose control of their urinary and digestive tracts, meaning they might have an accident in their bed or around the house.
How to Help Your Cat As They Near the End of Their Life
It’s incredibly sad to prepare yourself for the fact that your cat is dying, but there are plenty of ways that you can make them feel more comfortable at this time. These include:
- Keeping your vet informed
- Offering a warm bed in a quiet spot
- Regularly washing their bedding
- Helping your cat to the litter box
- Monitoring your cat’s pain
- Discussing end-of-life care and euthanasia with your vet
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Featured Image Credit: one photo, Shutterstock
- The 11 Potential Signs That Your Cat Is Dying
- 1. They don’t want to eat or drink
- 2. Their behavior has changed
- 3. They’re sleeping more than usual
- 4. They’re weak and lethargic
- 5. Their body temperature has lowered
- 6. They aren’t grooming themselves
- 7. They want to be alone
- 8. They’ve lost weight
- 9. Their heart rate and respiration is low
- 10. They may smell different
- 11. They may have trouble getting to or using the litter box
- How to Help Your Cat As They Near the End of Their Life