HEALTH & CARE

How to Comfort a Dying Cat: How to Tell If the End is Near

comforting a dying cat
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

Just thinking about life without your beloved cat is heartbreaking. Death is a natural part of life, and although nowadays indoor cats can live for up to 20 years, the chances are that you are going to outlive your feline companion. It is the duty of every responsible owner who has an older and sick feline to learn how to comfort a dying cat and make her feel loved and appreciated in her last moments.

All cats exhibit some signs that can tell you that the end of their life is near, and knowing these will help you to keep your kitty comfortable and at peace in her last moments. Everyone hopes that their kitty will just fall into sleep and drift into the afterlife without suffering any pain, and while this is the case in some cases, it isn’t a rule. It is your duty to make this final journey easier for your cat.

In this article, you will learn how cats behave when they are dying and the things you can do to make your kitty feel comfortable. And while all of us want to spend as much time as possible with our cats, we will explain why you should consider euthanasia if the cat is suffering and in pain.

How Do Cats Behave When They are Dying?

While some cats can die quite unexpectedly or peacefully in their sleep, others will exhibit telltale signs that the end is near. In this case, you will have the opportunity to say goodbye to your furry companion and comfort her until the end.

Here are some signs you need to look out for when you suspect that the end might be approaching for your cat.

#1: Personality Changes

Tabby cat sitting alone

All cats go through some personality changes when they are dying. However, not all cats are the same, and there is no telling in what way your kitty will act differently.

In some cases, outgoing and once social cats will withdraw into themselves and will be irritated if you try to touch them. This behavior is also accompanied by the lack of interest in a cat’s surroundings, avoidance of other family pets, and sleeping all day. On the other hand, cats that were independent their whole lives can become clingy and more demanding of their owner’s attention prior to death.

Generally speaking, this symptom is hard to interpret because personality changes like these can be signs of several illnesses that aren’t life-threating on their own. However, in cases of very old cats, personality changes are a sign that the kitty won’t be alive much longer and you should do your best to comply with her wishes.

#2: Changes in the Eating Habit

gray cat not eating

A cat that is sick or close to dying will refuse to eat food and drink water. A cat that isn’t eating at all and isn’t tempted with her favorite foods like tuna of meat can be very ill or very close to dying.

Loss of appetite isn’t by itself a telltale sign that a cat is going to depart from this world, but it should be taken very seriously if it’s combined with other symptoms.

If you notice that your kitty won’t eat or she is standing over the water bowl but unable to drink, you should take her to the vet and see if he/she has any suggestions that can help.

#3: Hiding

cat hiding in box

Many owners notice their cats going into hiding when they are about to die, and because of this behavior, many believe that cats can sense when their time is near. Still, this isn’t completely true, since cats inherited this behavior from their wild ancestors who would hide when sick and injured to avoid being attacked by other predators.

It is true that domestic cats will try to find secluded areas to hide when they are ill, but that doesn’t mean that your kitty is about to die.

The disappearance act can be a problem for owners who let their cats go out since there is no telling where they are going to hide. It is recommended to keep a sick cat indoors. This way you won’t have to spend your every waking moment fearing for her wellbeing.

#4: Changes in Appearance

cat with matted fur

Cats are famous for being fastidious groomers, but a dying cat won’t have enough energy to groom herself regularly, which will result in unkempt and matted fur.

Extremely weak cats don’t even have the energy to use the litter box, so the fur may be covered with excrement and can develop an odor. Furthermore, cats that are near death can appear blind. Their eyes will seem glazed, and they won’t blink when you try to touch the corner of their eyes with a finger.

#5: Seizures

white cat screaming

Some dying cats can experience seizures that manifest with an arching of the back, yowling, and the throwing of the head backward in the final hours before the death.

Most owners aren’t aware of this fact, but a cat can experience seizures until her final hour. During very strong fits, a cat may not even recognize her owner and her surroundings, which can be a very painful thing to watch.

#6: Difficulty Breathing

cat breathing with difficulties

During the last hours of a cat’s life, she will start to experience breathing difficulties that result in wheezing and panting. Some cats will struggle to breathe with open mouth and tongue hanging, making gurgling noises.

In the very end, some cats start panting and thrashing around because they aren’t able to get enough oxygen and you should know that it is time to let go.

How to Make a Dying Cat More Comfortable

It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that your adorable cat is going to die. Knowing how to comfort her during the end can help you cope with the loss. Shower your kitty with love and support during this period and do your best to provide the quality of life she deserves until her last moments.

#1: Provide a Quiet and Calm Environment

cat lying in her bed

It is important to shield your cat from the noises and activities of your household when the end is nearing. Your kitty needs peace, quiet, and a comforting environment that will give her a chance to rest undisturbed.

Keep smaller children and other pets away from the cat so they won’t disturb and worsen her condition with excitements she doesn’t have the strength for.

Dying cats spend most of their days sleeping, so consider moving your cat’s bed into a different room away from foot traffic and daily noise. If the cat has enough strength, let her decide where she wants to sleep and set up her napping area there.

Relaxing music that has sounds of running water, birds singing, rain falling, or anything else that is soothing can bring your cat’s beloved outdoors inside and comfort your kitty even more.

#2: Keep Your Cat Warm

wrapped up cat

Sick and senior cats have trouble maintaining their body temperature, so it is essential that you provide them with extra bedding to keep them warm and comfortable.

You can also use heating pads or blankets since these will keep the cat warm and provide a soft place for the cat to lie on. Very ill cats that are near dying might not have the energy to move, so an extra pad will also prevent the development of bed sores.

However, you should keep in mind that most cats have elimination problems since they are too weak to get to the litter box. To keep your kitty warm and cozy, you should check and remove any soiled covers and replace them with new ones.

We advise that you stay clear of foam beds and beddings since they will soak everything and be harder to clean and dry.

See Also: Best Cat Bed

#3: Make Adjustments

orange cat lying with her toy

As a cat is closer to the end of her life, it will become very hard for her to get up and walk around. You should place food and water bowls and a litter tray close to the area she sleeps in to help her preserve her energy. By doing so, you will offer your kitty a chance to eliminate outside her bed and get some nutrients and liquids into her body.

If you notice that even after you have made all the adjustments, your cat has trouble walking up to the food bowl, you can make a sling to help her do that. You should also place your cat’s favorite toys nearby so she can enjoy reminiscing about all the times you played together.

#4: Dim the Light

natural light for a cat

Providing the perfect lighting can make an environment feel nicer for a dying cat. Don’t let the sun blaze in; instead, dim the room so it has just enough natural light that won’t overwhelm your cat.

When the night falls, you should leave a soft light on so your cat won’t have to spend the night in the dark trying to get up and stumbling around disoriented.

#5: Provide Fresh Water

fresh water for a cat

As the end of life is getting closer, a cat may not be drinking enough water to keep her body hydrated, either because she physically can’t, or her senses are so far gone that she doesn’t feel thirsty.

Even if your kitty is dying, she needs to drink enough fresh water in order to avoid complications and sudden death. Get a medical dropper or a syringe filled with water to hydrate your cat and place it next to her teeth on the inside of her cheek.

Once you are sure that everything is placed correctly, squeeze the water inside your cat’s mouth slowly so she won’t accidentally choke. Make sure that the water is lukewarm since cold water won’t feel nice to a sick and dying cat.

See Also: How to Syringe Feed a Cat

#6: Give Your Cat Delicious Food

fish for a cat

Loss of appetite is one of the signs that a cat is either sick or close to dying and this is the time to spoil your kitty with all delights she wasn’t allowed to eat before. Human foods like tuna, turkey, chicken breasts, or meat-based baby foods may entice your kitty and get her eating again.

Indulge your cat’s cravings if she has any special ones since there won’t be time for her to try all those tasty things again.

Some older cats may still have their appetite, but teeth loss can make chewing impossible. You should try mixing your cat’s food with water or canned cat food to make it easier to eat, or only offer wet cat food at this point.

Use a blender to make everything easy to swallow, or you can mash the food up if you don’t have the needed appliances. Getting your cat to eat can give her enough energy and postpone the end of her life.

See Also: How to Make Homemade Cat Food

#7: Manage Your Cat’s Health

visiting a vet

Just because your cat is dying that doesn’t mean you should give up on her and don’t address any health issues that she has. Doing so will only speed up the deterioration rate, and you will have less time to spend with your fur ball.

Talk to your vet so he/she can make a treatment plan and advise you on any treatment your cat needs to take at this period.

In some cases, there isn’t anything left to do, and your vet will only tell you what to do to minimize your cat’s discomfort. Your vet has the knowledge about the unique state of your cat’s health and will be able to offer useful advice and help you cope with the situation.

#8: Provide Pain Management

pain management for a cat

Almost all cats that are near the end of their lives experience some degree of pain, and this is the most troubling part of dying for all owners. You should talk to the vet and have him/her prescribe pain reliever medication for your cat and tell you exactly when to use it.

Even though pain meds can’t cure your kitty, they will make her feel better and more comfortable.

#9: Keep Your Cat Clean

cleaning gray cat

It is very hard for dying cats to move and use the litter box properly, and some even have trouble controlling their bladder. A cat that has trouble eliminating is bound to end up dirty and wet which significantly impacts the quality of her life.

You need to regularly check for signs of urine or feces and clean your cat using a damp cloth. You can even use scissors to trim the hair around the genital region if you own a long haired kitty.

If your cat feels up for it, you can brush her occasionally to prevent the development of mats. This routine can also be a carefree moment in which you will deepen the bond between yourself and your furry companion.

Think About Euthanasia

Euthanasia for a cat

At some point, there won’t be anything else you can do to make your cat feel comfortable because your cat is in constant pain. When that moment comes, you should consider euthanasia.

If you have any doubts, look carefully at your cat and try to figure out if she is suffering despite your best efforts to make her comfortable. If the answer is yes, then there isn’t anything else you can do except call your vet and schedule an appointment.

Euthanasia is a painless procedure, and your cat will simply drift into sleep and never wake up again. Some vets make house calls, and you should ask yours if there is a possibility for your kitty to go peacefully surrounded by the people who love her.

We know that even thinking about it is hard but think about your cat and what would make her happy.

Keep your kitty comfortable during her last moments by talking to her in a soothing voice and telling her about all the happiness and love she brought into your life. You can stroke her in all of her favorite places and say goodbye, knowing that you did everything you could.

Wrap Up

dying cat

No matter how much time you have spent with your kitty, that is never enough, and when the end is nearing, most owners do whatever it takes to keep their cat going just for a little while.

Dying is a natural part of living, and at some point, every responsible owner needs to learn how to comfort a dying cat. Some cats are blessed to die in their sleep without any pain, safe in the presence of their owners, but others can struggle for months.

Taking care of a dying cat isn’t easy, and you should always keep in mind the quality of life your kitty is having. By offering her tastier food, more water, pain relievers, and environmental adjustments among other things, you can make sure that your cat spends the rest of her life content and surrounded by the people she loves.

And when the time comes, don’t wait to get your cat euthanized just so you would have her for a couple more hours. Instead, think about what she would want.

What are the things you did to comfort your dying cat? Did she die in her sleep or did you decide to euthanize her? Share your cat’s story with us in the comment section below. If you’re just reading this article as a precaution and your cat is currently in good health, check out our article on how to tell if a cat is sick so you can act fast if there should be any issues.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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