It can be incredibly difficult to tell when your cat is sick. It can be even more difficult to determine whether your cat is nearing the end of her life. The signs are never the same, and every cat’s last months, weeks, and even days are different.
How do you tell if your cat is dying? Are there behaviors or symptoms you can watch for? Although it’s almost never certain exactly when a cat will pass away, there are a few signs that might indicate your cat’s time is coming closer.
Decreased Immune Response
As your cat ages, her immune system becomes less and less effective. She’s more likely to contract infections, to have trouble recovering from them, or to develop complications. There’s also a good chance she’ll become resistant or sensitive to medications over time. For this reason it’s important to keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date and to ensure she doesn’t come into contact with other cats who may be carrying diseases.
Diagnosable Medical Conditions
A variety of age-related diseases are common in cats. Hormonal disorders, kidney disease, arthritis, congestive heart failure, liver disorders, and renal disease are a few of the most-oft diagnosed diseases in older cats, most of which can be managed but not “cured.” Any one of these conditions can hasten your cat’s death, although in most cases your cat can be made more comfortable for a longer period of time with proper veterinary treatment.
Some of the first signs of the impending passing of your cat are likely to be behavioral. Your cat can’t tell you how she’s feeling, but if something’s amiss you might notice her behavior change. Maybe she starts hiding more often, as gravely ill cats are known to do, or maybe she becomes particularly clingy. Perhaps she becomes more vocal, or more likely to lash out unprovoked. What’s not important is the behavior, it’s the change in behavior that can indicate the beginning of a transition.
Weakness or Lethargy
Dying cats are usually relatively inactive. As your cat’s body finds it harder and harder to use energy efficiently, she’s likely to spend more time sleeping and less time playing. She might find it more difficult to move around your house as normal, and thus generally confine herself to one or two rooms. If your cat is spending more time resting and/or has a harder time rousing when awake, she might be telling you it’s time.
Healthy cats spend a lot of time grooming. As your cat nears death, she’ll likely be less willing or even less able to use her valuable energy for grooming. Her fur might become matted and she might develop bald spots. It’s possible you’ll need to help your cat keep herself clean during the final months and weeks of her life.
Extreme Weight Loss
Weakness in dying cats is often precipitated by a change in eating habits. Your cat may start eating less and less, or even stop eating at all. One of the surest signs your cat will pass soon is when she stops eating and drinking; dehydration can very quickly shut down your cat’s organ function. As your cat’s body works harder to keep her alive, she may subconsciously decide ingestion isn’t worth the energy she’ll expend to do it.
Have you noticed worrying changes in your cat? It’s time to talk to your vet. You have options when it comes to helping treating your cat’s medical issues, but also in terms of making her more comfortable. There’s no one right way to help a dying cat, but there’s a right way for your situation. Your vet can help you determine what that is.