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Dying Cat - Caring For a Dying Cat & Signs of Death Approaching

It's a sad fact of life but death is inevitable for us all, including pets. Death can be slow, especially if your cat is affected by one of the common diseases to affect older cats such as cancer or organ failure (liver, kidney etc), or can happen suddenly, with little warning, such as a car accident or poisoning.

Cats can live for months or even in some cases years if the condition is detected and monitored enough. But there comes a time when death approaches.

Signs your cat is dying:

Symptoms your cat may be nearing the end can vary depending on the underlying cause, but common signs may include:

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Weight loss/wasting away.

  • Loss of interest in everyday things your cat used to enjoy.

  • No longer interacting with humans or other pets or the opposite, being quite clingy.

  • Urinary and/or fecal incontinence.

  • Obvious signs of discomfort, unable to get into a comfortable sleeping position etc.

  • Hiding.

  • Sleeping more.

  • Breathing difficulties. Shortness of breath and rapid breathing are common.

  • Collapse.

How to care for a dying cat:

All senior cats, even those without a medical condition should be taken to the vet for a check up every six months. The earlier a disease is caught the better.

If your cat has already been diagnosed with a disease then regular veterinary check ups will be required to monitor your cat's condition. Diseases such as kidney failure can be slowed down with appropriate care.

As your cat reaches the terminal stage of a disease you will need to give him extra love, care and attention. Again, how he is treated depends on the condition, many cats remain somewhat independent right up until the end. But the pet owner must make allowances where possible.

  • Placing the litter trays and food bowls in an easy to access area is a must. It is not helpful if your sick and dying cat has to traipse up two flights of stairs to have a drink or go to the toilet. Easy access is a must.

  • Sick and dying cats will often lose their appetite. Offer him tasty morsels of food such as tuna or the gourmet cans of cat food. Try heating it up a little to make it more appetising.

  • Very unwell cats, especially senior cats are often not as good at maintaining body temperature. Make sure your cat has a warm and comfortable place to rest. It should be easy to clean as very sick animals often have elimination problems.

  • Give him the option of where to sleep. He may prefer to sleep in the lounge room close to his human companions or he may prefer to sleep in a quiet spot elsewhere in the house. Let your cat be the guide. Now is not the time to be fussy about where your cat sleeps, not in his final days or weeks.

Euthanasia:

The best thing you can do for your cat as he nears death is offer him a peaceful exit. I've always just known when the time was right. In all cases my cats would withdraw from me and spend all day sleeping, restlessly. They seem to have a blank look in there eyes.

I've always asked my vet, just incase he thinks there is a chance the cat will rally, but inevitably the choice has been made to euthanise. It is a quick and pain free exit and the kindest thing to do once your cat nears the end. Prolonging life for a few days or weeks is not kind to your cat if he is suffering.

Phoning ahead of time is recommended so that your cat can be euthanised during a quite period. Either at the beginning or the end of the day is best. Some veterinarians offer the option to come to your home and euthanise, this option is recommended if possible.

Also see:

Why do cats go away to die?   Euthanasia in cats