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The final farewell - do cats say goodbye before they die?

A white and tabby senior cat looks into camera

Here's how your cat says goodbye before dying

© Morgentau - Shutterstock

The pain of losing a beloved pet is exquisite but do cats say goodbye before they die? Here, we’ll delve further into whether a cat knows when it's approaching the end.

By Natasha James

Published on the 04/05/2021, 17:00

Our pets are members of our family. We love them, we see them every day and they have the ability to make everything just that little bit brighter and so it follows that saying goodbye can be heartbreaking.

But, do cats know that they are dying? There are countless stories of cats seeking out their owners in the hours prior to their death for comfort and love and countless others of cats hunkering down or running away.

Do cats sense their approaching death and say goodbye to their owner beforehand or do they hide away to die in solitude? Let's look into this a little further.

Do cats know they’re going to die?

It’s difficult to say with certainty whether or not cats know they’re going to die. It’s likely, however, that they do sense a change in their biochemistry which affects their behaviour. It’s common for a cat to wait until an important family member returns home before passing away, for example.

How do I know when my cat is close to death?

When a dog is dying, it may go from being an energetic furball to a quiet and reclusive pup who sleeps all day. The difficulty with ascertaining how ill a cat is that they may act like this even as a sprightly young kitten! 

How do cats behave before they die? 

Here are five signs that your cat may be reaching the end of its life

1. A change in behaviour

If your cat has always been a social kitty and suddenly wants to be left alone, or vice versa and your once aloof senior kitty is now following you around, this could indicate that they are approaching their final days. Similarly, a lack of interest in grooming or inability to keep clean could also be an important sign.

2. Lethargy

When the end is near, your cat may be harder to wake and sleep through mealtimes. Of course, cats love to sleep but if your senior cat is unusually sluggish, this could be a sign.

3. Significant weight loss

If your four-legged pal is eating far less than usual or they appear to be losing weight despite eating this could be a sign that their body is beginning to shut down. If your cat refuses to drink water or eat anything, you may wish to pay a visit to your vet to discuss options.

4.    Low temperature

Admittedly, not all cats will allow you to use a thermometer with them but if your cat’s body temperature drops significantly, they may be approaching their final days.

5. Disappearances

The need to hide away in solitude is a natural response for a weak and vulnerable animals. If your cat disappears for long stretches of time they could be approaching the end of their life.

When should I euthanise my cat?

If your cat is refusing food and water, showing signs of pain or discomfort and has difficulty breathing then it may be time to speak to your vet. It’s an incredibly difficult decision to make and you will understandably want to keep kitty around for as long as possible but consider their quality of life and comfort levels. Your vet will be able to help you reach a decision.

Can I let my cat die at home?

If your cat is pain-free and peaceful then allowing them to die at home may be the best option. Unfortunately, many cats reach a point where pain and illness are making their days miserable. A vet will be able to help you ascertain how much quality of life your senior cat has in those final weeks and months.

How to say goodbye to my cat?

Saying goodbye is never easy. The heart-breaking time is a moment that all pet owners dread but will be inevitable at some point. If you’re having your cat euthanised or “put to sleep” be comforted that this process is quick, simple and considered painless. Your moggy is likely to curl up in their usual sleeping pose and quietly take their final breath.

It’s perfectly normal to grieve after the loss of a much-loved cat. Consider taking some time off work and maybe dedicate a special spot in your home where you can place a picture of your cat. Try to focus on the positive memories and good times you had with your cat and perhaps consider making a little keepsake or photo album that you can refer back to.

Frequently asked questions

How long do cats live?

How old is my cat in human years?

My senior cat isn't eating. What do I do?