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What happens to a cat before death?

DelzhandDelzhand Noxalas!Registered User regular
edited March 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
I've got a 19 year old Abyssinian who seems to be in his last days. He eats little, moves little, has a hard time breathing, and is rapidly losing weight. I don't know if I can handle euthanizing him while he still recognizes me and my wife. I've been wrong before and he's recovered from a pretty serious URI, but I won't be wrong forever. I don't know what to expect. Will he thrash around in his last moments or just slip away quietly? Has anyone here lost a pet without euthanasia?

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Delzhand on


  • blakfeldblakfeld Registered User
    edited March 2009
    My pets slipped away quietly, but instinctively they will try to hide, although I did have a cat that crawled into my dad's arms for her last moments.

    blakfeld on
  • DuffelDuffel jacobkosh Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Take him to a vet you trust. He might not be dying, although there's a good chance that he is because 19 yrs is very old for a cat (although some housecats live longer than that). Then, when you get there, make your decision based on what the vet tells you. I'm not going to advise you to get it put to sleep because I've never been able to do that to one of my own pets, but we've had a couple that in retrospect it would have been a more humane thing to do.

    I had a hound when I was a little kid that we probably had for over a decade, but eventually he got a brain tumor, lost all his senses, didn't recognise us at all and would growl at us, had to be put in a pen - it was awful. It finally got bad enough that he just laid there and shook for days before he died. We really should have had him euthanised but we couldn't, although looking back on it we probably should have.

    Still, since your cat still knows you I'm sure that would be a very hard decision to make. So just take him to the vet and get him checked on, it can't hurt.

    EDIT: And yeah animals will try to slip away before they die, for whatever reason. We've got a grove of trees behind our house where we bury all our pets, and creepily that's where our pets usually go if they die of natural causes. We had a dog that actually dug herself a little hole down there before she died.

    Duffel on
  • FyreWulffFyreWulff Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited March 2009
    I had to put a cat to sleep last year. It was having the rapid weight loss, etc, and still recognized voices. It was also going into hiding mode. Once the rapid weight loss begins it's downhill from there, because the cat has stopped eating.

    Sorry, man, but it's going to be hard to do even if he doesn't recognize who you are. Go to the vet, and if they recommend putting him to sleep, do it.

    FyreWulff on
  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Someone up there was correct about cats usually hiding. They instinctually want to die somewhere where they won't be of any danger to their pride/family.

    We had to put one of our dogs down. I was incredibly, incredibly sad about it, but she was in a great deal of pain and wasn't really able to participate in life anymore. I try to think about what I'd want done in my own life. If I was in constant pain and couldn't really get around on my own, I'd like to slip away quietly in my sleep without being a burden on my family. However, I don't think I'd ever put my pet down before they reached that point.

    Good luck. I'm sure your cat knows you love him, and you'll make a decision with his happiness in mind.

    Darkewolfe on
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  • mullymully Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I will also back up the "cats usually try to hide" bit. I remember we had a cat named Motley, who was in her last days, and I kept see her slinking around the woodstove in the basement, near my room. Whenever she'd see me, she'd slowly slink away like as if she didn't want me to know she had interest in that spot. I eventually put a small cat-sized pillow down in a corner by the woodstove, where it would be hidden, and the next morning I found her laying on it - dead.

    mully on
  • 1ddqd1ddqd Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    We had a dog when I was a kid that crawled under our porch while my parents had gone out of town. My aunt found it and had to tell us...

    1ddqd on
  • Beren39Beren39 Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    They'll usually become incontinent and ignore their litter box altogether, even if the were pretty housetrained before. Slinking away does occur, my cat was almost skittish before she died, and some of them will develop an unpleasant "feline" odour that is strongly noticeable. It's hard when a pet comes to the end of its life and while it may seem cruel, euthanasia is sometimes the best option. I lost my last cat at the age of 17 to live failure and she was in so much pain at the end that it was the only viable option. I just couldn't stand to see her like that :cry:.

    Beren39 on
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  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I am the GF - two of my parent's cats died at home without euthanasia. Sam was put down when he could no longer walk or eat - it just seemed too cruel. We found a vet who would come to our house, to make it easier on all of us. Jilly had a heart attack and was gone in an instant. Jack had had diabetes for two years and gone into comatose states several times before (when he had misjudged what time to get home and had missed his shots by a few hours). One night he didn't come home. I went out with a flashlight and found him finally, around 10pm, in a coma under a bush. I brought him home and tried to put caro syrup on his tongue to give him the sugar injection that could have saved him, and we stayed with him all night but he never woke up. His breathing slowed and by dawn he stopped breathing. A note: cats get "rigor" very quickly. If you are home-burying your cat, make sure you do it VERY quickly because within an hour or two the rigor sets in and the body will be as stiff as a board - really. We had some very um - awkward - moments, when we tried to bury him and we couldn't bend his body into the hole we had dug. A tip - immediately after death, wrap the body into a round sleeping position, and bury quickly. That might sound sort of superfluous - I mean, you will be really upset at the time, but it's something to keep in mind...

    The Crowing One on
  • DelzhandDelzhand Noxalas! Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    So he sneezed for about 15 seconds straight the other day, and by the time he was done, there was a huge snotty booger hanging out of his nose. We wiped it away, and noticed shortly afterwards that he was breathing regularly again. Plus, now he's eating like a horse, purring, and generally being affectionate.

    I swear, this cat must love life, because he keeps coming back for more. I love him, but damn if it isn't stressful.

    Delzhand on
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  • TaGuelleTaGuelle Registered User
    edited March 2009
    Lol, sounds like my dog. 18 year old beagle without sight/hearing/memory. He really enjoys being walked now because he can't remember any smells or locations. We've been waiting for the other shoe to drop for years now and it just seems like he has no interest in throwing in the towel.

    TaGuelle on
  • TaximesTaximes Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Glad to hear he's ok. :)

    On the subject of euthanasia, though, I would definitely take a vet's advice for when it comes up again. The situation will depend a lot on what's afflicting them...if they're just dying of old age it could be peaceful enough to keep them comfortable at home, but our first dying cat had kidney failure, and I really regret that we couldn't bear to have her put to sleep when the vet advised it. We tried to keep her comfortable, but for the last several hours we just sat with her as she cried non-stop. :(

    Though, I do think it gave us more closure to be able to bury the body at home than to just have the vet take it. I don't know what it's like in other places, but I know around here they don't let you take the body after euthanasia due to health codes.

    Taximes on
  • DuffelDuffel jacobkosh Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    This is great news. Still, I might take him to the vet just in case - he may have a sinus infection or something, and for older pets you need to be really careful regarding illnesses. Glad to hear he's doing better, though.

    Duffel on
  • valerycevaleryce Registered User
    edited March 2009
    I had to put the cat I raised from a little kitten to sleep when I was 15. He was like 8 years old, his death was really sudden. Apparently he had a rare irreversible condition where his body cavity would fill with liquid- one of his lungs had already collapsed and his other lung/heart were surrounded by liquid. The vet gave him less than 48 hours to live, so I made the choice to put him to sleep even though he was still fully aware of his surroundings. He was bloated, very uncomfortable and had trouble breathing but I figured it would be better for him to die fast than by suffocation.

    All I could do was hold him in his final moments to make his death as comfortable as possible.

    Anyhow, talk to your vet about your cat's condition. Even if your cat is fully aware of his surroundings he might be in a great deal of pain and not have much time to live anyhow. And, as hard as this sounds, try to be in the room with the kitty during his final momments. It'll be easier for him if he's with someone he loves. If you don't think you can do it see if someone else your cat knows will be there with him.

    valeryce on
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  • poohpooh Registered User
    I just lost my love "Trouble" a 15 year old cat due to possible brain tumor. She started loosing her sight a few months ago along with her appetite and gait as well as consisant vommiting and being more vocal. The vet could not see anything in her blood work that would justify her sight loss or new behaviors and suggested the possibility of brain tumors. AT 5:30 am I heard a loud screeching noise that woke me up followed my the sound of Trouble growling. As i approached her lying on her bed she didnt move even by me calling her name. I held her and could feel shaking like a seizure for a few seconds and then she stopped breathing. It looks as though it went quickly as she was still lying in her same sleeping position. I hope this helps someone going thru similar circumstances. She was still playing and loving till the very end, didnt seem to be suffering.

  • zepherinzepherin Registered User regular
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