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What to Expect When a Cat is Dying: Signs & Stages

Watching your beloved pet reach the end of their life can be incredibly difficult and emotional. Knowing what to expect can help prepare you for the stages of death your cat will undergo, as well as provide peace of mind that your furry friend’s last days will not be uncomfortable.

As your cat reaches the end of their life, you need to be able to identify the indicators that their time is nearly up, like poor appetite, lethargy or difficulty moving. During the end stages you may need to provide palliative care for them. Finally you need to be prepared to be with them during their final moments.

Saying goodbye to a beloved pet never gets easier but understanding what happens during the stages of death can help us better prepare ourselves emotionally for what lays ahead.

In this article, we’ll look at when it’s time to put down a cat and how to say goodbye to your beloved pet. 

3 Stages to Expect When a Cat Dying 

There are several stages of a cat dying, each having its own hurdles and obligations that you should be aware of before the time comes. Below are the different stages of a cat’s passing. 

  • The First Signs – The first signs that your cat may be entering their final stages typically include lack of appetite, fatigue or lethargy, difficulty moving around, and changes in alertness. Your vet may also detect physical changes such as an enlarged abdomen due to fluid accumulation, poor muscle mass, and increased breathing effort. It is important to consult with a vet when you notice these signs so they can advise on treatments and make sure your pet is comfortable. 

  • End-of-Life Care – You may wish to provide palliative care for your cat during their last days. This often involves providing pain relief for any discomfort, managing nutrition if necessary (often through liquid diets), keeping them warm and comfortable in a peaceful environment, providing loads of love and attention from family members, and monitoring the situation closely until it’s time for euthanasia. It’s important to speak with a vet about how best to maintain quality of life for them until the end.

  • Final Moments – When the time comes for the vet to put your cat to sleep, it is important to keep yourself composed while saying goodbye. Be prepared that your cat may take one or two deep breaths before passing away peacefully—this is normal! 

    You should always have someone present with you during this time who can offer comfort and support both during the euthanasia procedure (if applicable) and afterwards when processing the emotions you are feeling at this difficult moment.

    Some cat owners find it very distressing to be in the room as their cat is put down, but if you can, it’s very important to be in the room during their final moments. While it may be confronting and difficult, take comfort knowing that your cat’s final moments were shared with you. 

3 Signs a Cat is Nearing the End of its Life 

As pet owners, it can be hard to tell when a cat is approaching the end of their life. Changes in behaviour and appearance can happen slowly over time, making it difficult to spot the signs. It’s important to learn how to recognise these signs so that you can provide the best possible care during their last days. 

Let’s break down what you need to know about knowing when a cat is dying. 

  • Changes in Behaviour – One of the most obvious signs that your cat may be dying is a sudden change in behaviour or temperament. Cats will often become more affectionate as they approach their last days, wanting more attention than normal and being more vocal.

    Other cats may become less active and more withdrawn, sleeping more than usual and losing interest in playtime or interaction with humans. Keep an eye out for any changes in behaviour that could signal that something isn’t right. 

  • Physical Symptoms – Certain physical symptoms can also signal that a cat is near the end of their life. Loss of appetite, weight loss, and poor coat condition are all common signs of illness in cats, as well as difficulty breathing or laboured breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, make sure you take them to the vet immediately for assessment and treatment. Additionally, cats may start limping or losing coordination if they are nearing death due to age-related conditions like arthritis or other joint issues.  

  • Signs of Pain – Cats will usually display clear signs if they are feeling pain due to an illness or injury. They may meow constantly or hide away from people; some cats will even stop grooming themselves if they are too uncomfortable or unwell. Paying close attention to behaviour changes can help you determine whether your cat is having a difficult time coping with pain from an illness or injury before it becomes fatal. 

What Should I Do if I Think My Cat Is Dying?

If you know that your cat is nearing the end of its life, and you’ve always sought veterinary advice, you can aim to make them comfortable. Of course, if your cat is unwell and hasn’t received treatment, it’s time to see an emergency vet ASAP. 

However, if your cat has a terminal condition, your goal should be to provide them with the very best care for their final days. If your cat is suffering or in pain, you can also consider euthanasia for a peaceful goodbye. 

If caring for your cat at home, make sure that their food and water bowls are easily accessible—we recommend placing them on the floor if needed—and ensure that their bedding is kept clean and warm. Keep them in a quiet space away from kids and other pets so that they can rest peacefully. 

If your cat has any medical conditions or needs any additional treatments, talk to your vet about how best to proceed. You should also make the effort to show more affection to your cat while you still have time. While they may not be willing or able to play and move around, you can still keep them company and show them lots of love and affection while they rest. 

Dealing with Grief 

After your cat has passed away, it’s important to allow yourself to grieve. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings; talking about it can help you process what happened and come to terms with your loss. Also consider reaching out for professional help such as grief counselling or pet loss support groups. 

It might also be helpful to create a memory book or memorial for your pet – something that can help you remember all the good times you shared together over the years.  

Losing a pet can be very difficult, especially when it’s a beloved family member like a cat. While coping with this difficult situation may seem overwhelming at first, there are steps you can take both during and after the passing of your cat to make things easier for yourself and those around you. 

By taking care of practical matters like making sure their environment is comfortable, allowing yourself time to grieve, and seeking out emotional support if needed, it will become easier over time to preserve all the fond memories of your furry friend who enriched so many lives while they were here with us.


Recognising the signs that your cat is dying isn’t easy – but with careful observation and attentive care, you can ensure that your feline friend has the best possible quality of life towards the end of its days with you. 

Knowing what physical symptoms and behavioural changes to look out for can help alert you when something might not be quite right with your pet – allowing you to seek professional help for them before it’s too late. 

Ultimately, knowing when a cat is nearing the end of its life allows owners from Australia and around the world to provide their pets with comfort and love while they still have time together – something we all would want for our beloved furry family members at this special time!

Related Questions

What Is the Average Lifespan of a House Cat?

The average lifespan of a house cat is around 12 to 14 years, although some cats can live much longer. In Australia, the average life expectancy for cats is slightly higher at 15 years. However, there are a number of factors that can affect a cat’s lifespan, including diet, exercise, and genetics. 

For instance, indoor cats tend to live longer than outdoor cats, since they are less exposed to danger and disease. Similarly, cats that are fed a high-quality diet and given plenty of opportunities to exercise are also likely to enjoy a longer life. Ultimately, however, the lifespan of a house cat is largely determined by genetics. 

Some breeds of cat, such as Siamese and Russian Blues, are known to have particularly long lifespans, while others may only live for 10 years or less.

How Long Will It Take for My Cat to Pass Away?

It’s hard to say how long it will take for your cat to die. This can vary depending on the breed, health, and lifestyle. If your cat is sick or elderly, it may only have a few months or weeks left to live. However, if it is otherwise healthy, it could live for many more years. 

If you are concerned about your cat’s health, it is best to consult with a veterinarian. They will be able to give you an estimate of how long your cat is likely to live and advise you on the best course of action. Either way, it is important to cherish the time you have with your furry friend and make the most of every moment.

Do Cats Run Away to Die?

There’s a popular belief that when cats get old or sick, they’ll run away from home to die. While there’s no scientific evidence to support this claim, many cat owners in Australia say they’ve seen it happen firsthand. 

They describe how their beloved pet will suddenly disappear and then be found days later, often in a place that’s difficult to reach or far from home. While it’s impossible to know for sure what goes through a cat’s mind in these situations, it’s possible that they’re simply trying to find a quiet, peaceful place. 

Try not to worry about your cat running away – the best thing you can do is keep them well-fed and give them plenty of love and attention.


This article is published in good faith, for general informational and educational purposes only. Paws and More Vet Centre does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information. This article should not be used as a substitute for veterinary advice, including for diagnosis or treatment of a pet’s medical condition. Always consult a veterinary professional before making decisions on your pet’s health.