Dying cat symptoms

Updated April 17, 2017

Every pet owner wishes her companion cat will die peacefully--and painlessly--in its sleep when its time comes. Even if a cat does pass away while it's napping, one that is elderly, terminally ill or seriously injured can display various symptoms for weeks or days beforehand that death is close. Discomfort or pain, trouble urinating or defecating, dizziness, loss of coordination and convulsions, or seizures are a few signs to watch for when monitoring a feline.


Cats often hide when they are dying. They crawl under a bed or dresser, into a closet or an enclosed place in a house, or find a private shelter outside. This is believed to be related to the pet's instinct to conceal its pain from predators so they won't be perceived as weak.

Change in Behavior

A normally friendly feline that's terminally ill can turn irritable and act out by doing things like hissing, scratching or biting if it's in pain, or it may relieve itself outside of its litter box.


You may hear a gurgling sound in a cat's chest, or its breathing will slow down with pauses between breaths that lengthen as the end nears. Sometimes the cat's breathing is rapid or shallow.


Like humans, animals that are dying can become lethargic. They can display difficulty or be unable to jump up on furniture, walk or change positions when they are resting.

Prolonged Sleep

There are cats who will sleep up to 18 hours per day. Even so, a healthy kitty should nap with intervals of activity, not continuously sleep and wake only for a few minutes before drifting off again.

Change in Eating Habits

Your pet may show difficulty eating or drinking, may drink more water than usual, or may shun food altogether if it's close to passing away.

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About the Author

Christa Titus is a dedicated journalism professional with over 10 years writing experience as a freelancer with a variety of publications that include "Billboard" and "Radio & Records." Her writing has also been syndicated to such media outlets as the "Washington Post," the "Seattle-Post Intelligencer," the Associated Press and Reuters. Titus earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Rowan College.