The soft, rhythmic purr of a cat is one of the most soothing and beloved sounds for pet owners. But as a cat nears the end of its life, many cat parents wonder – will my cat stop purring when it’s dying?
It’s a common question, but the answer isn’t quite so simple. Keep reading to learn if and when a dying cat stops purring, how to provide comfort, and what other signs indicate your feline friend is nearing the end.
Purring Often Continues Until Death
First, the good news – it’s perfectly normal for a cat to continue purring up until it passes away. This is because purring is deeply rooted in a cat’s biology and psychology:
- Purring is an innate ability in cats – they learn to purr just a few days after birth, without needing to be taught by the mother cat. Scientists believe purring is hardwired into a cat’s nervous system.
- It’s a self-soothing behavior – the act of purring releases endorphins that help cats relieve pain and stress. So it stands to reason that a dying cat may purr more as an attempt to comfort itself.
- Many cats purr through euthanasia – veterinarians report that most cats continue to purr even during the euthanasia process. The purring only ceases once the cat’s heart stops beating.
So even when a cat can sense its declining health, it will likely keep purring out of instinct – up until it passes away.
Subtle Changes in Purring May Occur
While the purring itself continues, owners may notice subtle changes as their cat’s health fails:
- The purring may get louder or deeper in pitch as the end nears. This can result from congestion or fluid buildup in the lungs and airways.
- The purr may sound raspy or thick if the cat is having difficulty breathing.
- The vibrations may feel weaker if the cat loses strength. Place your hand on your cat’s side to assess the purring’s strength.
- An extremely sick or weak cat may purr intermittently, with longer pauses between purrs.
- The purring may be accompanied by other signs of discomfort like twitching, fidgeting, or a hunched posture.
So monitor any subtle changes in your cat’s purring closely for clues about their wellbeing. But the purring itself continuing is normal and expected.
Other Indicators a Cat Is Dying
While purring persists, veterinarians say these other signs are more reliable indicators that a cat is transitioning:
Decreased or Loss of Appetite
- Cats losing interest in food or refusing their favorite treats is often one of the first signs of decline.
- Tip: Tempt your cat’s waning appetite with strong-smelling foods like tuna or salmon. Hand feed small portions to encourage eating.
Lethargy and Hiding
- Sick cats tend to sleep more and lose interest in daily activities and playtime.
- They may hide in closets or under furniture due to feeling vulnerable.
- Tip: Check on your quiet cat frequently and watch for changes in alertness. Cats typically perk up even when sick or elderly. Long periods of stillness or inability to wake up are serious.
- Dying cats stop grooming themselves, leading to a unkempt, matted coat.
- Litter box habits may change or fail as a cat loses mobility.
- Tip: Gently brush your cat’s coat to remove mats and keep their skin and fur clean. Assist with litter box use or switch to puppy pads if needed.
- As cats feel unwell, they usually seek more affection and comfort from owners.
- Increased rubbing, kneading, and following you around are attempts to self-soothe.
- Tip: Reassure your clingy cat with gentle petting, lap time, soft bedding, and your calming presence.
Collapsing or Difficulty Moving
- Weakness in the legs, trouble standing or walking, and collapsing are common near end of life.
- Unsteadiness, stumbling, or limb tremors point to deteriorating muscular control.
- Tip: Prevent falls or injuries by keeping your cat restricted to easily accessible food/litter and soft bedding on the floor.
- Dehydration is common and dangerous for dying cats who stop eating and drinking.
- Symptoms include lethargy, dry gums, sunken eyes, and skin tenting when pinched.
- Tip: Encourage water intake with canned food, bone broths, hydrating gel packs, and gentle syringe feeding if needed.
- Some cats may meow, cry, yowl, or whine more as they get sicker.
- This could indicate pain, discomfort, disorientation, or cognitive decline.
- Tip: Try calming aids like Feliway and discuss pain medication with your vet to keep your talkative cat comfortable.
- Irregular, labored, or rapid breathing can signal heart issues or that death is imminent.
- The abdomen may move dramatically with each breath.
- Tip: Keep your cat relaxed. Call the vet if breathing seems distressed, as medications may provide relief.
When Purring Does Stop
While it’s perfectly normal for purring to persist until death, you may notice it suddenly stops if:
- Your cat experiences severe, acute pain.
- They are extremely anxious or fearful.
- Your cat slips into unconsciousness as death nears.
- Agonal breathing starts, which is an irregular pattern just before death.
- Your cat is actively dying (within hours to minutes).
If the purring stops along with signs of agitation like crying or thrashing, your cat may be in distress. Consult your vet about adjusting palliative medications to ease any suffering. But typically, the purring will gradually and peacefully fade as your cat’s life comes to an end.
Providing Comfort as Your Cat’s Health Declines
Whether your cat stops purring or continues to purr till the end, the most important thing is ensuring they feel safe, loved, and as comfortable as possible. Here are some tips for palliative and hospice care at home:
- Have soft bedding readily available, like blankets on the floor near you.
- Spend ample time gently petting, brushing, and holding your cat.
- Keep food, water, and litter easily accessible.
- Monitor for signs of pain or distress, and discuss pain medication with your vet.
- Consider in-home euthanasia when your cat’s quality of life declines.
- Get guidance from your vet on providing hospice care safely at home.
- Research pet loss support services like grief counseling.
- Celebrate your cat’s life and the joy they brought you.
The end of a beloved cat’s life is terribly hard. But understanding the typical changes that occur – like the persistent purr – can help you support their remaining time. Stay focused on keeping your cat as comfortable as possible, and consult your vet if any concerns arise.
Saying Goodbye with Grace
While painful, remembering that dying cats purring is natural can ease some worry. Focus on making each day peaceful, and take pride in seeing your lifelong companion off with love. Stay nearby, trust your vet’s advice, and find solace knowing your cat rests calmly in its final moments. Honor the gift of purring they gave till the very end.