Do Cats Know When They Are Dying?

Do Cats Know When They Are Dying?

One of the saddest times in a cat parent’s life is when their cat dies, which can be compounded by their cat’s behavior right before death. It’s almost like cats know they will die and behave differently right before death. But do they even understand the concept of death or dying?

Cats seem to know when they are dying and will behave differently than normal. They might hide when close to death and follow certain patterns when they sense their time has come. They may eat less, not groom themselves, and develop a different personality.

If you notice your cat doing odd activities described in this article, you might want to prepare yourself for losing your feline buddy. Let’s get started on a difficult yet necessary topic.

Where Do Cats Go When They Are Dying?

Cats who are dying or are close to death might hide, but not for the reason you might think. Most people may think that cats hide before dying because they don’t want to cause their humans pain, but that’s not why. Cats close to death in the wild will hide out of instinct because if a predator picks up on the scent of death, the dying cat will be easy pickings.

When you have an older cat or a cat with a terminal illness, you may want to keep an eye out for this behavior and keep track of it in the case of an unfortunate event. Cats will normally hide in closets, under furniture, or in the basement when they are sick or close to death.

There is a 14-year-old cat who’s lived with her family for almost as long. In 2015, she was diagnosed with bone cancer and given just six months to live. However, as of 2021, she is still alive and doing well, considering her diagnosis, but she sometimes disappears for hours at a time, and her family gets worried that she might have died.

When her favorite treats are shaken, she comes out of hiding, much to the relief of her family. Her family keeps an eye on her to make sure she is alive and healthy, but soon, she will hide and never come out.

Do Pets Understand the Concept of Death at Some Level?

While many vets think that cats and dogs can’t know when they will die, several internet stories show that they know when they are dying. Some people claim that their pets came to them and looked at them sadly, then cuddled up and—well—died. Others claim that their pets disappeared.

An explanation might be that they know when they feel worse and need extra attention and love to help them cross to the other side. Another explanation is that they detect a different smell about themselves that tells them they are nearing the end of their lives. That could explain why, when humans are near death, cats will lay on top to comfort them.

Do Cats Know When They Are Dying?

Cats and dogs have this unique ability and will tell you how they are feeling and what they need from you through their language. When they come to you and act differently than their normal behavior, it might mean that they know something is wrong and they need you for comfort and support. Pay attention to their patterns and take to heart their message.

Do Cats Follow Certain Patterns When They Are Nearing Death?

When cats are nearing death, they have specific patterns they follow, such as doing things they’ve never done before or hiding more frequently. They might cling to you for comfort when they avoided all attention and love, or they might suddenly withdraw when they used to be very affectionate.

They will also eat less or stop grooming themselves, as a way of saying that they aren’t going to live for much longer. They might also be too weak to groom themselves or eat. So, if your cat isn’t eating or grooming itself, you might need to brush its fur or bring food to your buddy.

Signs to Look for When Your Cat Is Dying

Besides the patterns that your cat shows near its end of life, there are other signs to look for if your cat is dying. Your cat has different ways of communicating its needs to you, and if you pay attention, you’ll be more prepared for your feline friend’s death, as painful as it might be.

Many of the patterns and signs are the same, and depending on how often your cat displays them, you may need to take notice. Cats are unpredictable at times and will behave differently from time to time, so watch for the behaviors to happen again and again to be sure.

Personality Changes

As with humans, the dying process brings about several personality changes or behavioral changes.

  Vets and other animal experts believe that cats have some sense of their impending death, but they say that cats and dogs are simply following how they feel and using their instinct to protect themselves.

A cat near death might display uncharacteristic behavior such as biting and scratching when previously it was very friendly and wouldn’t hurt anyone. Also, a cat that is usually a loner suddenly craves your attention. Non-life threatening illnesses also lead to these changes, so look at the other signs for clues your cat is dying.

Appetite Changes

A dying cat will often stop eating or drinking water when nearing the end of its life, but other illnesses or infections can cause the same behaviors. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your cat is dying if it skips a meal. However, cats cannot go for more than 48 hours without eating, and if they skip more than three meals, they will need vet care.

Cats close to death might be too weak to eat, as their bodies are exhausted from fighting off their illness.

Hides More Often

When weak and sick, cats instinctively hide to stay away from predators looking for an easy meal. If you notice your cat hiding in closets or behind the couch more often, you’ll want to keep an eye on your cat for other signs and patterns that they are dying.

Changes in Grooming Habits

When not sleeping, eating, or using the litter box, cats groom themselves and spend many hours keeping themselves clean and tidy. However, if you’ve noticed your cat looking unkempt and dirty, it might be that your cat is too weak to groom itself. 

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If it is too weak, it may also urinate on itself and not bother to move, which is unusual for healthy cats. Clumps of fur might also fall off your cat when cats are dying.

Contact your vet if you notice any of these signs or if you suspect your cat has a serious illness. Chances are, your cat will not let you know when it is sick and will only appear sick after it’s gone on too long.


Cats are very intuitive creatures and know not only when they are sick but also when other cats or humans are sick or near death. While they most likely don’t understand the concept of death as humans do, they still know when something is wrong and will act accordingly.

However, it seems that cats are more in tune with others dying than they are themselves. Cats in nursing homes will sit with residents close to death to support them and care for them.

If your cat is near the end of its life, it needs your love and support.