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What Are The Signs of a Dying Cat – 10 Symptoms To Know!

The most challenging part of pet ownership is always saying goodbye to our beloved animals. While it is unfortunate to think about, if your cat is elderly, it is wise to know the warning signs that your cat is close to passing away so that it does not catch you by surprise. 

Signs That A Cat Is Dying

It’s never easy dealing with the death of a cat, however, the time comes for all. It’s vital that you are prepared to deal with the situation when it does happen, and much of that can be aided by understanding what those symptoms are. Below are 10 signs of a dying cat:

1. Your Cat Has Been Sleeping A Lot More 

Cats sleep a lot even when they are healthy, so the key is to notice if your cat seems to be sleeping more than usual or their sleep patterns have changed. You can tell if your cat is feeling off when they don’t get up for mealtime or play and show no interest in doing anything.

Additionally, it can be a warning sign that your cat is approaching the end when they seem incredibly lethargic or weak, even when they do get up or move around. 

2. Your Cat Stopped Eating 

Once a cat has stopped eating, the end is near. Cats can only go a few days without food and even less time without water. Cats often stop eating at the end of their life if they recognize they are getting close to dying.

It might be because they are feeling sick and have no appetite. Even for a young, healthy cat, loss of appetite is an immediate sign that something is very wrong, as eating is the way cats maintain their energy and get sustenance. 

When cats are close to passing away, their internal organs can begin to shut down, which leads them to become uninterested in food and water. Typically once this happens, it is time to bring your cat to your vet and begin to make preparations for the end of the cat’s life.

3. Your Cat No Longer Wants To Get Up And Play 

When elderly cats begin to lose interest in activities they always enjoyed, that is a sign that they may be approaching the end of their life. Most cats never pass up an opportunity to play with a laser beam toy or their favorite stuffed mouse. If the things used to delight your cat no longer garner a reaction, it is fair to be concerned.

Don’t force your cat to keep playing if they do not want to do so anymore. Your cat might have stopped playing because it physically hurts to get up and move around.

They also may be attempting to conserve their energy for when they absolutely must expend it. If your cat is acting this way, the best thing you can do is continue to pet them and give them love while being respectful of their ever-changing needs.

4. Your Cat Is Sick

The most obvious way to tell if a cat is dying is to be diagnosed with an incurable long-term illness. Often cats can live for a while with most conditions, but if your cat has been sick and they suddenly take a turn for the worst, the end is likely near.

5. Your Cat Has Developed Incontinence 

Incontinence is the condition where a cat loses control over its bladder, resulting in them having accidents in your home.

This becomes increasingly common as a cat gets older, especially if they have any illness or chronic pain situation that makes it difficult for them to move around. In general, incontinence is a sign that your cat’s health is likely on the decline.

If incontinence is something your cat is dealing with, you will have to get more involved to help your cat use the bathroom throughout the day.

Often it is a warning sign that your cat needs to go to the bathroom when they begin meowing loudly. Help out your cat by giving them gentle sponge baths to keep them clean; as usual, it is also difficult for them to keep up their grooming routine at the end of their lives. 

6. Your Cat Has Lost Weight Suddenly 

Often cats will become the thinnest they ever have been at the end of their life. A sign to look out for if you believe your cat may be dying is unexpected or rapid weight loss.

Sometimes elderly cats will stop eating as much food as they did when they were younger, which naturally contributes to a slight weight loss. Also, it is common for muscles to begin to atrophy in elderly cats, resulting in them looking thinner and frailer.

That is a common symptom of aging, as your cat’s body doesn’t function as well as it used to in its youth. 

Other times if your cat is very close to passing away, your cat’s body might stop absorbing the nutrients from their food.

This results in rapid weight loss and is a clear warning sign that it is time to take your cat to see their vet. Typically if this happens, your cat will be feeling very weak and lethargic as well.

7. Your Cat Wants To Be Alone  

It’s a typical animal instinct for cats to hide or sequester themselves when they are close to passing away.

The reason they do this is an instinctual reaction from their wild cat ancestors, as cats recognize they are weak in their final days and want to hide from predators who might try to take advantage of this to attack them. 

If you suddenly notice your cat has become very anti-social or is constantly seeking out a quiet and secluded corner, this may be why they are doing so.

This can be a heartbreaking thing to see, but recognize that your cat is not trying to stay away from your, nor do they love you any less. They are just continuing to follow their strong animal instincts until the end of their life. 

8. Your Cat Has A Bad Odor

If your cat is dying, it might begin to smell differently than it had throughout the rest of its life. If they have been sick, this might be due to a build-up of toxins in their body from a long-term illness.

Cats often stop grooming themselves as efficiently at the end of their lives, which may lead to a stinkier coat. 

You may have to get more involved with helping your cats bath themselves to keep them smelling nice, as cats dislike being dirty. 

9. Your Cat Is Acting Out Of Sorts

It would help if you were always on the lookout for changes in your cat’s behavior, as it often is a sign of what is internally going on with their minds and bodies. When cats come to the end of their lives, they may start acting loopier or doing odd things that they typically wouldn’t do. 

Keep an eye out for a cat that is suddenly a lot more jittery or meows a lot more frequently than ever before.

Some cats get increasingly agitated in their old age, or they might start acting more aggressively and swatting their paw at you. Do not take any personality changes personally, as it is a product of your cat’s declining health. 

While there is not one specific behavioral change to look out for, you should be increasingly aware of any odd new behaviors from your cat, as that can signal that their health is changing. 

10. Your Cat Has Stopped Grooming 

Cats usually take great pride in their appearance and spend several hours licking themselves and grooming their fur. If your cat appears to have lost interest in grooming themselves anymore, it can often signify that they know the end is near for them. 

This is partly because grooming takes up a lot of their energy, and often at the end of their life, they do not have that extra energy.

Additionally, if they sense they are dying soon, they may recognize no need to keep grooming their fur. Often when this happens, cats may also develop bald spots from where their fur has begun to fall out. 

If you notice this change in behavior with your cat, there is no need to panic that they will die imminently.

Sometimes this change can happen several months before the end of your cat’s life. As their owner, you should step in and continue to groom your cat yourself to help them remain clean and free of burrs or mats.  

How Do I Know If My Cat Is Suffering 

Cats are usually very good at masking their pain, making it difficult to tell when they are suffering. If you are worried your cat is in pain, look for specific attitude shifts to help you determine how they feel. 

Some cats begin meowing much more frequently to try and express their discomfort out loud to you.

It’s also a common sign that your cat is not feeling well when they can’t seem to find a comfortable place to rest or can’t fall asleep easily. Cats often suffering will act very disconnected from their family and may act more withdrawn than usual. 

How Do You Help A Dying Cat

The best way to care for an elderly and dying cat is by consulting with your vet to ensure they are not in severe pain or suffering daily. Your vet should be able to guide you as to whether it is time to consider euthanasia for your cat or if they think your cat can return home and live out the rest of its days. 

If your vet sends you home with your cat, the best thing you can do is create a safe and secure space for your cat where their needs can be easily met.

Move their food bowl, litter box, and toys into a spot they enjoy spending time to minimize the amount they have to move around in your home. Take extra care throughout the day to check on your cat and make sure they are comfortable. 

Things To Consider

While these can be some of the telltale warning signs that your cat may pass away soon, there is not a sure way to know as the symptoms and situation will be a little bit different for every animal.

If you are worried that your cat has been acting differently, it never hurts to pay a visit to your veterinarian, who will be able to run some tests and see if anything unusual is going on with your cat. 

Your vet will be able to clarify whether your cat is just feeling a little under the weather or if there is nothing more that can be done for them.

It is often not recommended with older cats to do significant surgeries on them if they are sick, which takes a significant toll on their body. If your cat is indeed suffering, the vet may recommend euthanasia so that your cat can pass away in peace. 

The end of a cat’s life is a very upsetting and sad time for a cat owner and everyone who loves your animal. The best thing you can do for your cat at the end of their time on Earth keeps them as calm and happy as possible.

If you are struggling after your cat passes away, it is perfectly valid to take some time away from school or work to mourn your loss. Cats become family members to us throughout their lifetime, and it’s not easy to adjust to life without them.

As with any loss, you will need to go through the stages of grief and take time to heal. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other friends and family members and let them know what you are going through.

Your friends will be understanding and willing to listen as you share beloved memories of your cat. Write down all the good memories you have of your cat, and make sure you keep photos of them nearby.

When you are ready, there will be another cat out there who is ready to love you and become part of your family.