Behavior of a cat that is sick and dying
A cat that is sick and dying will experience major changes in its appearance, behaviour, physical stature, and personality. Cat owners should be aware of dying symptoms in order to differentiate temporary pain from terminal illness.
Some of these symptoms include loss of appetite, changes in physical appearance, and disorientation.
All cats react differently to pain
As many owners know, every cat has a unique personality. Although there are typical symptoms noted in dying cats, because of each one's personality, some of these symptoms will vary.
Avoidance of company
The Newton "Ask a Scientist" website (a division of Educational Programs of Argonne National Laboratory) states that a dying cat will search out a place of quiet comfort, away from where it typically goes during its normal routine. Dr. Mabel Rodrigues also states that pet companions (such as another cat or a small dog) "do not get close if they feel their friend is dying."
An affectionate goodbye
Some dying cats will let a family know of their dying state. They may give more affection and perhaps wake up beloved family members on a more frequent basis. The "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook" by Delbert G. Carlson and James M. Giffin states that some cats purr excessively when in their dying moments. Owners must discern what is out of the ordinary for their individual cat.
Major physical changes
The "Love to Know" website states that a cat's breathing will change in its dying stage, becoming "rapid and shallow." The cat's sleeping habits can change. Ill cats will spend a "majority of the time in light sleep, occasionally waking up in response to what is going on." They will lose a healthy appetite, and weight loss will result, as will darker coloured urine, fluid retention, and body cooling. One of the most telling symptoms is a general disorientation.
A dying cat may spend an inordinate amount of time in grooming, to the point of licking off much of its fur. Some dying cats will become physically restless and miaow or "cry" on a regular basis. The ability to lick is very important to a cat, for grooming, licking wounds, and the like. If this basic ability is affected, it is a definite sign of physical dysfunction.
Loss of enjoyment of life
PetPlace.com states that even chronically ill cats should be able to eat and drink without breathing problems, have control over their urine and bowel movements, maintain an observant and playful attitude, and exercise to a reasonable degree. If a cat is unable to perform these basic functions and seems to be in severe pain (as evidenced by the aforementioned symptoms), then the animal may be on his or her "last legs."