Comfort For Your Dying Cat

How To Soothe Them At Home In Their Final Days

The hardest part about losing a loved one can sometimes be the long and hard days or months leading up to saying goodbye. Maybe your cat is getting older and you begin to notice some changes that make you question its health; it is important to be able to recognize the signs that your pet’s health is declining and to understand what steps need to be taken next.

Although it is difficult to think about the death of a cat, as a pet owner, you have the responsibility to ensure that the end-of-life care for your feline is at its best. We are here to help you identify if your cat is unwell, as well as how to move forward through the process of saying goodbye and mourning the loss of a pet. Here is what you will learn:

  1. Is Your Cat Dying?
  2. What is Hospice Care?
  3. Should You Turn to Hospice Care?
  4. Other Ways to Comfort Your Cat
  5. How to Support Yourself
  6. What to Do if Your Cat Dies at Home
  7. Memorialize Your Cat
  8. FAQs
  9. Conclusion

Is Your Cat Dying?

The only way to be able to comfort your cat in its last days or months is to know that it is nearing the end of its life, so it is important to be able to recognize the signs that your cat’s health is declining. There are many possible clues that something may be wrong and there are some general stages of death in a cat.

If you have noticed any, or maybe all of these symptoms, it is possible that your cat is dying. You should monitor these behaviors to take the best course of action possible. It can be difficult to pay attention to these things because no one wants to admit that it is almost time to say goodbye to their beloved pet, but it is important to do so.


Perhaps you have already picked up on the signs and gone to see your vet, or maybe at a routine check-up your vet had this difficult conversation with you; if your vet has explained to you that your cat has an illness or that the cat’s general health is worsening, trust that they are knowledgeable and want what is best for you and your animal.

If you have any questions or have information on symptoms that your cat has been demonstrating, now would be the proper time to mention these and allow your vet to make an accurate and informed diagnosis.


One of the most common ways that owners identify that something is wrong with their feline is by noticing a change in their cat’s behavior; a change in behavior signals internal changes that affect how the cat acts. You know your cat best, so if you feel as if they are suddenly behaving differently or picking up new habits, this may be a sign that your cat is dying.

They Become Solitary Or Confused

Sometimes when a cat has become sick or is nearing its final days, it becomes increasingly solitary and hides more than it typically would (Howe); as mentioned earlier, you know your pet well, so if they are usually a solitary cat, then hiding may not be a sign of change.    

If your cat seems to be more confused, this may also signal that something is wrong. Signs of confusion could include a change in their vocalization patterns, such as meowing more or less or meowing at seemingly random times (Howe).

Oftentimes, if a cat is confused or dying, it could become more aggressive out of anxiety and distress (Howe); however, it is also possible that your cat may become more affectionate towards you and others as they approach their final days (Paws & More). Be sure to keep in mind your cat’s typical behavior before coming to any definite conclusions and take all information to your vet.

They Lack Interest In Eating Or Drinking

There can be many reasons that your pet stops eating or drinking, but this is usually a clue that something is wrong. It could simply be a symptom of growing older, but often there are underlying issues that accompany old age, causing this behavior.

For example, illness can be the cause of a loss of appetite; some possible conditions include kidney failure, intestinal problems, cancer, infections, and so on (Parker). Regardless, it is important to investigate if your cat is not eating and drinking. Sometimes lack of appetite is a symptom of psychological issues like anxiety or depression, and these could be linked to illnesses or a decrease in overall health, which should also be checked (Parker).

They Have Odd Bodily Functions

Just like with people, when a cat is sick or dying, it will have involuntary bodily functions that demonstrate its deteriorating health condition; it is important to pay attention to these and to contact your vet if you notice it happening with your feline. Perhaps your cat is vomiting, or you notice muscle twitching, or they are experiencing issues controlling their bladder (Howe).

Their Sleep Schedule Changes

This symptom may be hard to identify, especially if you are sleeping at night and working during the day, but if you sense a change in your cat’s sleeping and waking schedule, this may be something to mention to your vet, especially if this change is accompanied by other signs of distress (Howe).


It is important to pay particular attention to your cat physically, as well as behaviorally when trying to determine if they are dying; oftentimes physical changes can be indicators that there are changes in the cat’s behavior that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.

They Look Different

Your cat is bound to change in appearance as they age, as does any person or animal; however, if you notice significant or odd differences in how they look, this could be cause for concern. One common sign that your cat is dying is if they are experiencing rapid or major weight loss (Howe); this is often a result of a lack of appetite.

Some other symptoms that may be less obvious include glazed or dull eyes (Howe), and an enlarged abdomen is also usually a sign that there may be a health concern to address (Paws & More). Abnormal grooming habits or loss of fur can signal that your cat is battling discomfort and cannot continue to groom itself as it normally would (Paws & More).

They Smell Different

Along with changes in how your cat looks, you may notice a difference in how they smell; this can be a side effect of changes in their grooming habits. If you notice bad breath or a strange body odor coming from your cat, this may be a sign that your cat is dying (Howe).

They Have Odd Bodily Functions

Just like with people, when a cat is sick or dying, it will have involuntary bodily functions that demonstrate its deteriorating health condition; it is important to pay attention to these and to contact your vet if you notice it happening with your feline. Perhaps your cat is vomiting, or you notice muscle twitching, or they are experiencing issues controlling their bladder (Howe).


A general health decline in your cat and decreased efficiency at normal, daily functions can also signal that your cat is dying from old age or that it may be sick. Some symptoms you may want to watch for include lethargy, lack of coordination, and slow breathing or breathing that seems increasingly laborious (Howe).

What Is Hospice Care?

The American Veterinary Medical Association defines end-of-life care “as care that will allow a terminally ill animal to live comfortably at home or in an appropriate facility, and that includes the option of euthanasia”; it is a philosophy that always prioritizes the animal’s quality of life (AVMA). Hospice care for cats is similar to that for people, as it allows the patient to approach their final days as comfortably as possible and cultivates an environment of peace and love, even during such a difficult period for the patient and loved ones.


In hospice care, one of the main goals is to reduce or manage your cat’s pain. If you have recognized signs of pain in your cat like hiding, changes in sleep patterns or positions, and other subtle signals, you can work with your veterinarian to develop a program to ensure your cat’s pain is being controlled as effectively as possible (King). This time in your cat’s life is likely going to be a struggle, however, hospice care aims to keep their pain to a minimum to have their quality of life remain high (King).


Along with pain management, comfort is a major tenant of hospice care as your pet approaches its final days. Some ways of comforting a dying cat include ensuring easy access to their necessities: bed, litter box, food, and water (King). It is also important to provide good sleeping arrangements with warmth and cushioning because pressure sores can develop as mobility in your pet decreases (ASPCA). Since your cat may be in discomfort, be sure to handle them with care and pay particular attention to any specific health issues they are dealing with.


Since lack of appetite or difficulty eating and drinking often occurs as a cat’s health declines, hospice care includes measures to nourish your pet. During end-of-life care it is important to always have water available and accessible for your cat, and high-quality food as well; with dying or sick cats, you may need to test a variety of different food to see what they like and what they can tolerate in their weak state (King).


Hospice care includes assisting with your cat’s hygiene as it has likely become difficult for your cat to groom itself. Helping your cat with this can look like brushing their fur, and cleaning areas like the mouth, eyes, and ears, as well as around their genital area (King).


Another beneficial aspect of hospice care is that it can often include other treatments that, although they are not curative for the cat, can help alleviate or reduce some of your cat’s discomfort. Some of these methods are the following: Reiki, Healing Touch, and Tellington Touch (King). There are also other alternative treatments for dying cats and it is worth discussing with your vet if you are interested in any of these extra measures.

Should You Turn To Hospice Care?

As your cat ages or as its health condition worsens, you will need to start thinking about what actions to take that best suit you and your feline. This is a difficult decision, so it is crucial that you take all aspects of your cat’s health into consideration and that you speak with your veterinarian. Hospice care is a choice that is based on the idea that death for your cat can be dignified, and in making this decision, you must use caution that you are not extending a life of suffering to your beloved pet (ASPCA).

According to the American Association for Feline Practitioners (AAFP), there are some qualifications that your cat must meet to be eligible for hospice care, and we have provided them below:

  • There was a decision not to pursue curative treatments
  • Curative treatment failed to work
  • Your cat has received a diagnosis of a terminal illness
  • Your cat has received a diagnosis of a chronic illness
  • A chronic illness has symptoms that interfere with your cat’s routine
  • Your cat has issues that need long-term intensive care
  • Your cat has an illness that will progressively worsen over time
  • Your cat has a disease or trauma that has associated health complications


One reason you may decide to pursue hospice care for your cat is that there is no promising treatment, or you have tried treatment and it has not worked. Depending on your cat’s condition, you and your vet may conclude that treatment is not effective and end-of-life care measures should be taken; for example, if your cat has a poor prognosis, it may be wise to forego aggressive surgery or treatment (King).


Hospice care is also a good option when treatment for your cat is increasing its pain and discomfort, as the quality of life is always the priority in these situations. You may decide to discontinue treatment that is not working, or even treatment that is causing side effects that are decreasing the cat’s quality of life; this can sometimes include stopping medications that are difficult to administer to the cat as well (King).


If you and your vet, after evaluating your cat’s condition and comfort, have concluded that euthanasia at this point is premature then end-of-life care may be the right decision for you (King). Hospice care also offers you some time to make sure you are making the right decision regarding euthanasia, so if you are still unsure or you do not have all the information you need to make a good choice for your pet, hospice care is worth considering (AVMA).

Other Ways To Comfort Your Cat

When you have a cat dying at home and you have either decided to proceed with hospice care or not, there are still other ways and more things that you should keep in mind as you prepare for the death of your feline companion to ensure that their last days are as good as they can be.

These ideas and tasks are easy to do and could make a major difference when you are caring for a dying cat. Whether your cat is dying from old age or is suffering from an unfortunate illness, these things could go a long way for them.


Although it may seem obvious, simply being intentional each day to bring some happiness to your cat is an amazing thing you can do for them as they near the end of their life. You know what they enjoyed most when they were young or at their healthiest, so consider facilitating some of these activities for them again; sitting with them and watching the birds outside, cuddling in their favorite spot in the house, or gently playing with a toy they love are all wonderful ways of spiking their pleasure even as they deal with decline.


Sometimes your cat does not need something as grand as their favorite activity to comfort them, but just some genuine affection from you. This can be a very stressful time for you and your cat, so it is important to remember to cherish the time you have together. Take a few extra minutes in the morning to pet them or bring them into your bed to nap before you go to bed; even small acts of love like these can bring joy to your dying feline.


If your cat has not resorted to hiding now that it is getting older or sicker, and especially if your cat has never taken well to petting or other overt forms of affection, you can try to just be close by during this difficult time. The sound of your voice and even just the sense of your presence could help put them more at ease.


Now that comforting a dying cat is your responsibility, it is your duty to be mindful of what they need and what they deserve as they near the end of their life. If you have a dying pet that requires a lot of care or is in a lot of distress, consider avoiding company, especially in large groups like parties or dinner gatherings.

Try to keep noise or specifically loud sounds to a minimum. Make an effort to be at home as much as possible; do not plan vacations or other events while your feline companion is undergoing end-of-life care.


It is important to remain aware of how your cat is doing throughout this process; any changes in behavior could signal a change in their condition and this information could be valuable. Perhaps you could keep track on a calendar or in a notebook of how your cat is doing day-to-day so that it is easier to recognize when changes have occurred. This information may help determine when the end-of-life care for your cat should be re-evaluated and may be adapted.

How To Support Yourself

You will best be able to take care of your dying feline if you take care of yourself as well. It is important during any time of high stress or grief to keep self-care as a priority; although this can be a busy period with many responsibilities, try your best to be mindful of your own needs and feelings. We have provided you with some ideas and ways to support yourself as you are caring for a dying cat.


As always, it is beneficial and recommended to turn to a trusted loved one in a time of sadness. It is likely that your close family and friends also knew your beloved cat and can mourn and reminisce with you. They will be able to understand your pain and will know how to comfort you better than anyone. Simply having someone by your side during times of difficult emotions can make a huge difference as you grieve.


Connecting with others who are experiencing similar emotions as you at this time can be so beneficial as you deal with the loss of a cat. It is worth looking into any local groups that exist or reaching out online to the various resources there. We have provided one location that you could consider looking at, however, there are numerous other resources depending on the kind of support you are looking for:


It is important to keep touching base with your veterinarian throughout the whole end-of-life process with your cat; they can also be helpful when it comes to your questions, concerns, and distresses. Next to you and your close companions, the vet probably knows your cat best and has had time during its last days or months to get to know them even better— you have also probably spent more time with your vet.

They are professionals and deal with pet parents every day, so they may be able to provide you with some comfort or other resources that can be advantageous in your healing journey.


Taking some time to be by yourself, to be without distractions, and to allow yourself to feel all the emotions that circulate during this time is a healthy part of the grieving process. You can relax or you can do some activities that make you feel at peace and encourage emotional release.

In our article, “Art Therapy and Grief”, we list how art can be one of the things you use to help you in your healing process; it includes things like painting, drawing, collage-making, writing, photography, sculpting, and many other art forms.


If you are feeling up for it, or if you know that being alone or not doing things and getting back out there stunts your healing process, try keeping yourself busy with things that make you happy or allow you to connect with others. The emotions that accompany the loss of a pet can be overwhelming, but pushing yourself to do some of your normal daily tasks, or even striving to try some new things, can help you take your mind off of the sadness.

Consider going for a walk with a friend, grabbing a coffee at your favorite cafe, or trying that new Pilates class. It may be difficult, but you will likely feel much better after!


You may not want to do it, and you might not think this will make you feel any better during such a tough time, but being prepared will allow things to go smoothly when the time has come, and this will definitely feel like a self-care move. Making important decisions regarding when your pet dies, and making preparations, as well as mentally preparing yourself can go a long way when it comes to supporting yourself during end-of-life care for a feline.

What To Do If Your Cat Dies At Home

If you have decided to provide hospice care for your cat, it may pass while at home. It is a sad moment when it comes, though it can be refreshing to remember that your home, full of love and life, was one of your cat’s favorite places; they get to pass peacefully where they have felt so comforted and cherished, especially in their last days. We have listed some steps for you to take if this happens with your feline companion.


Before doing anything else, the first step is to confirm that your cat has passed on. You can do this by checking their pulse and see if they are breathing.


As soon as you can, contact your vet. They can help you make further decisions, tell you what may need to be done, and they may also have information about cat burial or cat cremation.


If you have not done so already, now would be the time to decide between burial or cremation. You or your vet can arrange for a cremation ceremony. If you have decided that you would like to bury your cat, you would need to look into local laws to locate where it is legal, or you can find a pet cemetery as well (ASPCA).

Some owners request a necropsy, which is an autopsy, which will determine the cause of death; if this is what you choose, try to keep your cat cool by wrapping them and placing them in a refrigerator, and contact your vet as quickly as you can (ASPCA).


If your cat dies in your home, take a moment to place a towel under their head and tail end; this will ensure that the area will remain clean if the body excretes any liquids, and it can also help in the moving of the body later. If your cat has passed and its legs are stretched, try to tuck them in because this can help move the body later as well.


If your cat dies in your home, take a moment to place a towel under their head and tail end; this will ensure that the area will remain clean if the body excretes any liquids, and it can also help in the moving of the body later. If your cat has passed and its legs are stretched, try to tuck them in because this can help move the body later as well.


Dealing with the death of a feline companion is a very sad experience, and if your cat has died at home and you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions, take some time to allow yourself to mourn; they were your friend and it will be hard to say goodbye. You may get carried away making sure their body is dealt with and that you have made arrangements, but remember that you are allowed to grieve. We have several helpful articles about loss and grief on our page, including “7 Strategies for Dealing with the Loss of a Pet; it describes the stages of grief and also outlines some ways of coping with loss.

Memorialize Your Cat

It is so hard to say goodbye after the loss of a pet, and one way to ease the pain or to help us remember the positive times while we mourn is to find a creative and fulfilling way to memorialize them. Below there are some options, hopefully, some which resonate with you as you remember your feline. Finding a way to appreciate and honor a pet’s memory can be a very enriching experience and can help us move past the pain, even in the slightest way.


One fun and lasting way to cherish your lost pet is to get a stuffed animal made in their likeness or find one that reminds you of them. This could be especially nice if a child has also undergone the sad process of losing a feline companion; they could always keep it with them and even keep it when they are older as a reminder of their beloved friend.


A memory stone is a unique way to memorialize your pet. These can be beautiful objects and can often be custom-made to have an image, quote, pawprint, nose print, or dates engraved that means a lot to you or the cat’s owner.


If your cat has passed, consider collecting their memories in a box, a photo album, or a collage. This idea can be particularly useful as your go through your healing journey because it allows you to mourn as well as remember the positive memories you have with your pet. You can also make this a collaborative activity if many people are mourning the loss by gathering and putting together photos and objects that everyone has to remind them of the lost pet.


In an increasingly online world, and with many moments captured on devices, consider creating an online memorial to honor your pet; you can keep it for yourself and cultivate a page full of love and memories to look back on, or you can share it with family and friends so you can all mourn your loss and celebrate your cat’s life together. We have a guide on the website if you don’t know where to start.


If you have the means, commissioning a piece of personalized artwork for your pet can be an amazing way to honor their memory. You can keep it in their favorite spot in your house or somewhere where you will see it every day and be reminded of the love you shared.


A beautiful and long-lasting way to remember your pet is to invest in good quality jewelry. This can also be a thoughtful gift if someone you know has lost a pet. We have many different types of pet jewelry on our website, and we also have an in-depth guide to pet memorial jewelry to help you. Below we have provided a few options if you are considering investing in pet jewelry.

Cremation Jewelry

Cat cremation jewelry can be such a meaningful way of keeping your pet’s memory close as you move on through life without them. It is a piece of jewelry that you will be able to cherish forever, knowing that you will always have a piece of them with you. We have a variety of different colors and shapes for pieces like necklaces and bracelets.

Photo Engraved Jewelry

Another way of memorializing your feline companion is purchasing photo-engraved jewelry for cats. If you have a favorite photo of your pet, or you prefer to have a visual reminder of them, this could be the perfect way to honor their memory. Take a look at our options if this idea sounds right for you.

Jewelry From Ashes

Ash jewelry for pets is a unique way to remember your cat. These pieces, which you can see in more detail on our website, are high-quality and are a beautiful option if you love jewelry and want to keep a piece of your pet with you. If you have had your pet cremated, some of the ashes are mixed in, with brilliant artistry, into the pendant to create an amazing and meaningful piece of jewelry. We also have options to include a photo as well into ash jewelry.

Caring For Dying Cat Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between hospice care and palliative care?

Hospice care seeks to provide the maximum amount of comfort to the patient while they approach the end of their life, whereas palliative care for cats offers treatment to try to cure the cat while they are made comfortable.

How do I know how to provide hospice care for my cat?

If you have chosen to provide hospice care for your cat, your vet should teach you how to give the proper care; since hospice care is an active commitment, you will continue to work with your vet throughout the process to ensure that you are always maintaining the highest possible quality of life for your pet (ASPCA).

How do I know if my cat is suffering or in pain?

Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize when your cat is suffering or in pain, especially when you are trying to distinguish discomfort with general aging; keep in mind some of the behavioral and physical changes we mentioned in this article, and remain in contact with your vet if you have concerns about your cat.

What do I do with my cat’s body if they’ve died at home?

If your cat has passed at home and you have already heeded the advice given in this article, you have done as much as you can! In the case that you have not made a decision about what to do with your cat’s body, or if for some reason your vet cannot assist you, keep the body well-cooled; it can be held like this for up to 24 hours, but try to take measures as soon as possible (ASPCA).

How do I comfort a loved one who has lost a cat?

Perhaps it is not you dealing with the death of a feline companion, but a family member or friend of yours. It can be difficult to know how to help or support someone who is going through a stressful and upsetting period like saying goodbye to a dying pet. Try your best to be there for them and offer assistance because end-of-life care for cats can be a demanding duty. To learn more about comforting an owner who is losing their pet, take a look at our educational articles.

How do I know when euthanasia is the best option for my dying cat?

Generally, end-of-life care should be replaced by euthanasia when the cat’s discomfort or pain is increasing and hospice can no longer maintain a reasonable quality of life (AVMA). Your vet should be involved in making this decision because the medical information they gain is usually more accurate than an owner’s conclusion on their pet’s condition based on observation (ASPCA). Sometimes owners can delay euthanasia out of grief or denial, so keeping a record of the pet’s comfort levels, as well as staying in touch with the vet can help you decide when the pet’s suffering is outweighing their quality of life (ASPCA).

Does my cat know it is dying?

It is hard to know if a cat is aware when their time is nearing or has come. It is believed that cats may understand when they are ill or that death is approaching, but we cannot know if they truly understand what it means, especially on a human level; some of the symptoms they express as they near their time, like hiding, could be signs that they know their time is coming (Howe).

How long do I have left with my dying cat?

How long you have left with your cat is a question that is much too difficult to answer without knowing their condition, their age, and any other medical history. To get an idea of the amount of time they have left you should visit your vet; however, even then, we can never know when that time will come. 

What is the average lifespan of a house cat?

Many factors go into determining how long a housecat will live, including diet, exercise, genetics, and sometimes location; typically, a housecat lives to be between 12 and 14 years, but it can be more or less depending on those aforementioned factors or in the case of an accident or rare condition (Paws & More). 

Faithfully Caring For Our Feline Friends

Dealing with the loss of a pet and saying goodbye to your cat can be an excruciating experience, but being educated on the right choices for your animal and being best prepared for what comes when they are gone can go a long way in making this process slightly more bearable.

Always keep your pet’s quality of life in mind, and do not forget about your own well-being as you deal with this difficult situation. As your pet nears its final days, or if it already has, let go knowing that you have provided it with the best possible care; it is time to move forward from here, cherish the rest of the time you have together, and honor their memory forever.

July 27, 2023 by Frances Kay


American Association of Feline Practitioners. “Veterinary Hospice Care for Cats.” May 1, 2012. 

ASPCA. “End of Life Care.” 

AVMA. “Veterinary End-of-Life Care.” policies/veterinary-end-life care#:~:text=The%20AVMA%20views%20veterinary%20end,includes%20the%20opti n%20of%20euthanasia. 

Howe, Stephanie. “Signs a Cat is Dying.” PetMD, February 27, 2023. 

King, Ingrid. “Providing Hospice Care for Cats.” Conscious Cat, February 9, 2023. 

Parker, Hilary. “What to Do When Your Cat Won’t Eat.” WebMD, November 7, 2021. 

Paws & More Veterinary Centre. “What to Expect When a Cat is Dying: Signs & Stages.” stages#:~:text=Physical%20Symptoms%20%E2%80%93%20Certain%20physical%20s mptoms,difficulty%20breathing%20or%20laboured%20breathing. 

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