My Cat Is Dying How Long Will It Take
As a cat enters his or her senior years, a number of age-related diseases can develop. Many of these can be managed if they are caught early enough, but eventually, there will come a time when treatment is no longer an option and palliative (end-of-life) care must be instituted.

What is the final stage of death in cats?

What Is the Cat Dying Process? – Euthanasia allows you to say goodbye to your pet before their quality of life becomes unacceptable or their pain becomes unbearable. Your veterinarian or hospice care team can help you to determine what options are best for your pet.

  • Euthanasia is generally a very peaceful way for your pet to pass on, in which they generally fall asleep and do not wake.
  • Your veterinarian will administer medication to your pet to relax them, usually followed by a final injection.
  • The transition to death comes when the cat stops breathing and their heart stops beating.

After death, there may be some brief muscle twitching, a last deep exhale, and loss of bladder and bowel control as their muscles relax. This can be very troubling for pet parents to watch, because they may mistakenly believe their cat is still alive.

Your veterinarian will listen to your cat’s heart to ensure they have passed. If your cat is passing unexpectedly and you are not able to reach your veterinarian, the final stage of dying can be very stressful for both your cat and you. Having a hospice plan in place can help prevent your cat from passing stressfully at home.

In the final stages of unmedicated death, a cat’s breathing may continue to falter, and cats may appear to be gasping for breath. Their body temperature will begin to fall, and their extremities may feel cooler to the touch. Cats are typically unable to rise and will typically show no interest in eating or drinking.

What happens when cat dies at home?

You are here: Home What we do Paws to listen What happens after your cat dies or is put to sleep

As you are likely to be very upset when your cat dies, it can be worthwhile thinking about what you want to happen to the body in advance. Your vet will be happy to discuss the options and prices with you. If the death is unexpected, most vets will keep the body for you for a couple of days while you decide what you want to do.

  • Burial You can choose to take your cat back home to bury, perhaps in a favourite spot in the garden, or you can opt for a pet cemetery.
  • If you decide on a burial at home, you will need to check with your local authority that this is permissible.
  • It is recommended the body is buried at least three feet below the surface and a heavy object is placed on top of the grave to prevent scavengers.

Either way, you might like to arrange a short memorial service. If you have children, taking part in the service by writing a poem or drawing a picture can help them to share their grief and say goodbye. You may also wish to let them see the body so they can understand what has happened.

  • Cremation Your vet can arrange for your cat to be cremated, or you may wish to take them to the pet crematorium yourself.
  • Your cat can be part of a communal cremation after which their ashes will be scattered with others in the garden of rest.
  • Alternatively, you can opt for an individual cremation and have your cat’s ashes returned to you to keep or scatter.

You may wish to enquire about costs before making a choice as an individual cremation will be significantly more expensive. Another option you may not have considered is to donate your cat’s body to a veterinary school for medical research. Whatever you choose for your cat, they will be treated with dignity and respect.

How long before a cat dies of dehydration?

How Long Can a Cat Go Without Water? – Historically, cats are, “That means healthy cats are quite good at maintaining their hydration status with relatively little water, often derived from their food,” Anthony explains. “It’s also why they make a very concentrated—and smelly—.” Yet they still need water and can’t survive longer than two or three days without access to it.

  1. Once about 24 hours pass without water,,” she says.
  2. The longer this goes on, the more stress and strain is placed on their internal organs, leading eventually to failure and death.” How long can sick cats go without water? Don’t let that happen, as they’re more prone to severe dehydration, especially if they’re already or having and losing body water that way, and can get into trouble even faster.

Kitties suffering from,, or tend to be more thirsty as well. “If you’re concerned about the hydration status of your cat, you can gently pinch and lift the skin on the back of their neck,” Anthony suggests. “The skin should ‘snap’ back quickly. If the skin stays tented or you’re unsure, contact your veterinarian.”

What happens right before a cat dies?

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.

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.

How does a cat act before it dies?

Abnormal Odor – As your cat nears the end of her life she may develop an abnormal body odor. This is due to the breakdown of tissues and buildup of toxins in the body. The exact smell can vary depending on the exact underlying condition. Cats experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis can have a sickly sweet smell, and cats in kidney failure may have breath that smells like ammonia.

Can cats pass away peacefully in their sleep?

What about a natural death? – Yes, some pets peacefully fall asleep and pass naturally on their own, but as in humans, such a peaceful death is rare. Many owners fear their pet passing alone, while others do not. Occasionally, we are asked to help families through the natural dying process with their pet.

  1. For different reasons, these families are opposed to euthanasia.
  2. We explain everything we possibly can, including how a natural death may look, how long it may take, and what their pet may experience, but inevitably, almost all families regret choosing a natural death.
  3. Most comment afterward, “I wish I would not have done that.
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I wish she didn’t have to suffer.” A natural death can be difficult to watch, especially for non-medically oriented people. Most people can more easily watch a human family member in pain than their pet. To an extent, we can talk other humans through physical pain or discomfort, but we cannot comfort a pet who is suffering.

How do you know if your cat is crying for help?

Signs Your Cat Needs To Go To The Veterinarian – Regular check-ups are important for your cat’s health. These regular pet examinations keep your cat caught up on vaccinations and catch early signs of disease. There are times, however, that your cat may exhibit certain symptoms, and you aren’t sure whether they require a trip to the veterinarian or a wait and see attitude at home.

Signs Of Obvious Distress Cats are typically very stoic animals, so if your cat suddenly seems to be in distress, it is a cause for concern. Howling, crying, hiding, and otherwise acting in a way that is out of character for your pet should alert you that something may be seriously wrong. Abnormal Litter Box Behavior Changes in litter box habits, particularly in male cats, can indicate a serious health problem. Urinary obstruction is a condition that prevents the cat from passing urine and can be fatal without treatment. If your cat suddenly begins urinating outside the litter box, straining and crying while producing little urine, or begins grooming the genital area excessively, contact your veterinarian immediately. Repeated Vomiting Occasional vomiting of food or hair is normal. Repeated vomiting may indicate that something is seriously wrong. If your cat continues to eat and drink, as well as use the litter box, contact your veterinarian to discuss his symptoms. However, if your cat stops eating, drinking, and urinating, it should be considered a medical emergency. Overwhelming Fatigue Many cats are naturally low energy, but if your cat suddenly becomes entirely sedentary, does not work up enthusiasm for things she normally enjoys, and even goes off by herself to sleep in strange areas, something could be seriously wrong. Sudden Change In Appetite Cats can have a reputation for being finicky, but you know what is normal for your pet. If his appetite changes suddenly, with him showing either more or less interest in his food that usual, he may have an undiagnosed health issue. Dragging Back Legs Aortic thromboembolism is a complication that can develop in cats with heart disease. In this condition, a blood clot becomes lodged in the back legs, causing paralysis and distress. It is vital to get your cat medical attention immediately. A Lump Or Unusual Growth Lumps or bumps may be perfectly harmless, but without an examination, it is impossible to tell. Even if the new growth is benign, it can develop on an area that causes discomfort for your pet. Coughing Or Other Breathing Changes Any changes to your cat’s respiratory system such as, sounds, from coughing, to an increase in the number of breathes, to the sound of more shallow breathing, should be taken seriously. Respiratory issues can be a symptom of tumors, parasites, respiratory disease, or exposure to toxins. Discharge From the Eyes Or Nose Discharge from the eyes or nose, particularly when combined with shortness of breath, panting or sneezing, can be a sign of a respiratory infection. These infections can progress quickly if left untreated. After Any Major Trauma or Fighting With Another Cat If your cat is struck by a car, tangles with another animal, or otherwise experiences trauma, a visit to the veterinarian is in order. Even if your pet seems fine, he may have internal injuries or wounds hidden beneath his fur. A quick trip to the veterinarian for a check-up can is worth the time, to reduce the risk of infection or other complications later on.

If your cat experiences any of the conditions listed above, call Town & Country Veterinarians and Pet Resort or another animal hospital for an appointment. Prompt medical condition can improve the outcome of many illnesses, not to mention help your cat feel better as quickly as possible.

Why is my dying cat drinking so much water?

When Your Senior Cat Drinks A Lot Of Water It’s natural for your treasured cat to experience some changes in their behavior and habits, especially as they grow older. Aging cats tend to sleep and drink more while being less hungry and less active. If you live in a warm climate or your house is kept at a fairly warm temperature, frequent trips to the water bowl may not be a cause for alarm in and of itself.

The key is understanding what is normal for Fluffy. If your cat suddenly runs to the water bowl more often, this could be indicative of potentially serious health problems — especially in your feline’s golden years. Let’s discuss what to keep an eye out for. What Is Excessive Thirst In Cats? The clinical term for this is polydipsia.

Excessive thirst can be life-threatening, especially if it goes unaddressed.

So, if your kitty has been running to and from the water bowl a lot more than they usually do — and this has been going on for a few days — it’s time to visit your vet. Common Causes Of Excessive Thirst When a cat drinks too much water, it could be caused by one of more of the following medical conditions:

Diabetes: Often, the first sign of diabetes mellitus is drinking a lot more water than usual. Diabetes means your cat has too much sugar in their blood. Fortunately, diet changes and insulin injections go a long way toward making Tigger feel better. Kidney Disease: When the kidneys aren’t working properly, your cat may be dehydrated.

This causes them to drink more and urinate more. Common causes of kidney problems in cats can be kidney stones, a kidney infection, or even kidney failure. Pyometra: Older, unspayed female cats are especially susceptible to this condition. Pyometra is a life-threatening infection of the uterus. Surgery as well as intravenous nutrition and antibiotics are vital.

Other Causes Of Excessive Thirst Many other conditions can cause your beloved cat to drink a lot more water than usual. The importance of swift medical attention cannot be stressed enough.

CancerDehydrationDiarrheaFeverHeatstrokeHyperthermiaLiver diseaseMedications (e.g., steroids and diuretics)ParasitesUrinary tract infectionVomiting

Additional Tips Changes in bathroom habits, energy, appetite, and temperament may or may not accompany excessive thirst in older cats. If you notice other changes in your feline companion, definitely get to your vet as soon as possible. Many of the aforementioned problems are curable or manageable, but time is of the essence. : When Your Senior Cat Drinks A Lot Of Water

What to do if your cat dies in the middle of the night?

“> July 5, 2016 Losing your beloved pet is difficult in any situation. If your pet passes away or is put to sleep at the veterinarian’s office, they can help handle the remains for you. If your pet passes away suddenly at home, you will need to take certain steps and make a few decisions right away.

Call for Help

This is a difficult time, and it’s probably best if you don’t have to be alone (though some people may prefer that). If possible, call a close friend or family member that can help you deal in a practical way with your pet’s remains and offer emotional support. If you do not think you will physically and/or emotionally be able to handle your pet’s body, choose someone than likely can.

Contact Your Veterinarian

If it is during normal business hours, your veterinary office can help talk you through the steps. Alternatively, if it is during the middle of the night or a holiday, you can try to contact a 24 hour emergency office (if one exists nearby). They may also have a way of getting you in touch with someone who can pick up your pet’s body (like a pet crematory or mobile vet service).

In most cases, your veterinary office will be able to store your pet’s body for a few days while you make a decision about arrangements.3. Proper Handling of the Body You (or your friend/relative) may need to handle your pet’s body. If you plan to cremate or bury your pet, but cannot do it right away, then the body must be stored properly.

If you wish to have your pet cremated or have the burial handled by a company that cannot take your pet’s remains right away, you will also need to properly store the remains. This is likely to be the case if your pet dies in the middle of the night or over a holiday.

  1. The most important thing to understand is that the remains of the deceased pet must be handled as soon as possible.
  2. The fact is that an animal’s body begins to decompose immediately after death and will soon begin to give off an odor.
  3. The hotter the temperature, the faster the rate of decomposition.
  4. Be aware that rigor mortis, the stiffening of the joints, typically begins within 10 minutes to three hours after death and can last as long as 72 hours.
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Again, temperature will affect this process. Ideally, the remains will be properly handled before the onset of rigor mortis. If you need to handle and prepare the remains yourself, here is how to proceed:

  • Wear latex gloves while handling the body. Upon death, bodily fluids are often released. You may wish to clean the areas around your dog’s mouth, genitals, and anus if you notice fluid and/or waste. Note that additional bodily fluids and/or waste might be released when the body is moved.
  • Obtain a blanket, towel or bed sheet that is large enough to wrap around the body. Also get a heavy duty plastic trash bag (double them up if the body is very large or if the bags are thin).
  • Arrange the body on the blanket, towel or sheet. Place the body on its side in a curled-up position, as if sleeping. This will not only offer a sense of peace, it will also make it easier to handle the body.
  • Tightly wrap the body in the blanket, towel or sheet. Slide the body into the plastic bag(s). In the case of a larger dog, this will be a two-person job.
  • If possible, tie the bag into a secure knot (or, tape it closed if need be). You may wish to double up on bags. If the remains will be going elsewhere, be sure to attach a label or tag with your name and your dog’s name.
  • Remains should be kept in a freezer or refrigerator until burial, cremation or other arrangement takes place. If you are unable to store the remains in this manner and cannot get the body to your veterinary office or a local pet aftercare company, a garage or basement may need to suffice. This should be for no longer than 4-6 hours as the odor may become strong. Use of additional plastic bags is recommended if freezer or refrigerator storage is not possible. Be sure to remove the body from non-biodegradable materials (like plastic) before cremation or burial.

4. Arrange Cremation or Burial After you’ve properly handled the body of your beloved pet, now you need to determine the next step with either a cremation or burial. With a quick internet search, you can typically find multiple options in your area. You can also call your veterinarian or friends and family to see who they’ve used in the past.

  • There are some services that will pick up your pet and others where you have to bring your pet to them.5.
  • Order an Urn or Other Memorial If you choose to cremate your pet and receive the ashes back, many people find it important to do something with them to honor a pet.
  • This can include keeping the ashes in a simple traditional urn in the home to planting a tree with the pet ashes or having the ashes infused into a stunning glass pet cremation keepsake or check out cremation jewelry options.

With the rise in cremation, there are many more options available today then just a few years ago with many more alternatives coming soon!

What not to say when a pet dies?

Don’t make the person feel worse by suggesting that they can replace their pet and move on. Grief doesn’t work that way. Rather than asking ‘when are you getting another dog,’ just offer your condolences. Tell them that you’re sorry for their loss, and that you’re there for them if they need anything.

How long a cat can survive without food?

The average cat can technically survive for one to two weeks without food if they have a water supply. However, without protein, it may be more like three to four days, even if they have enough water. With no water or food, it is unlikely that a cat would survive longer than three days.

How long has a cat been dead if its stiff?

Handling the Body – It is not pretty to talk about, but it may come down to this: you (or your friend/relative) may need to handle your pet’s body. If you wish to have your pet’s cremation handled by a company that cannot take your pet right away, you will also need to properly store the remains.

The most important thing to understand is that the remains of the deceased pet must be handled as soon as possible. The tragic fact is that an animal’s body begins to decompose immediately after death and will soon begin to give off a foul odor and attract insects. The hotter the temperature, the faster the rate of decomposition.

Be aware that rigor mortis, the stiffening of the joints, typically begins within 10 minutes to three hours after death and can last as long as 72 hours. Again, temperature will affect this process. Ideally, the remains will be properly handled before the onset of rigor mortis.

What happens if a cat doesn’t eat for 3 days?

‘If your cat does not eat for three days, their body will use the excessive fat and break it down into energy for their body to use,’ Dr. Ochoa explains. ‘This can cause a build-up of fat in your cat’s liver.’ This build-up of fat in the liver is called hepatic lipidosis—AKA a fatty liver.

Do cats know when a cat dies?

Do cats know when another cat is dying? – There is no evidence to suggest whether cats are aware that their feline friend is dying, and all cats are different in their behaviour. In some cases, cats seem to understand that the other cat is experiencing pain.

How old is a 15 year old cat in human years?

Cat age chart

Cat Age Human Age
13 years 68 years
14 years 72 years
15 years 76 years
16 years 80 years

How can you tell if a cat is close to dying?

Extreme Weakness – You will notice your cat becoming more lethargic, sedentary and refusing to move. Their weakness will be very apparent in their hind legs, and they will also sleep a great deal more than usual.

Can cats sense their own death coming?

Can a Cat Sense Death? – Cats do seem to be aware of death, but it is hard to know how much they understand the concept and whether they fully understand the finality of their own passing. They certainly understand when they are feeling ill or that something is different or wrong.

  1. As far as we know, cats do not fear death, though they may wish to be free from pain or discomfort.
  2. It is not uncommon for an ill cat or any other predator to hide symptoms of illness, as this may alert other predators that they are ill.
  3. As such, it is not unusual for a cat to begin to hide as their time draws near, but this could be a symptom of their worsening illness and not a direct sign that they know the end is coming.

It is thought that animals, and especially cats, can detect by smell the chemical changes that occur in an animal or human body immediately before death. They have also been known to respond to the physical and emotional needs of the animal or person that is passing away.

  • Certain cats seem to have more of a sense of when other animals or people are nearing the end than others.
  • One cat named Oscar was the subject of several medical journals in the early 2000s.
  • During his time at a rehabilitation and nursing home in Rhode Island, Oscar seemed to “predict” 50 deaths.
  • Oscar would identify certain patients, and once he curled up with them, they would pass, usually within hours.

Not all cats are as sensitive to signs of the end of life, but they all may have some sense of when the end is coming.

Do cats know we love them?

Does My Cat Know I Love Her? Everyone knows about dog affection, but what about cat affection? Everyone who’s ever been in the presence of a dog for more than 30 seconds knows how they reciprocate affection, and you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a dog-owner who stares listlessly out the window wondering to himself, “does Captain Puddles get it? I mean, I know he knows I care for him, but does he like, get it? ” Dogs show their appreciation for the love they receive immediately and without restraint. Some people believe cats assume that getting fed every day is synonymous with love. However, this would an egregious misconception. Cats believe you feed them because that’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re not showing love – you’re simply fulfilling your duties as the caretaker you are.

And when you think about it, it does make sense. I mean, if you have a child and you feed them, you’re not necessarily showing that you love them, you’re just not being the worst person ever by allowing your offspring to starve to death. (Not that a cat couldn’t fend for itself, mind you.) You might say to me, “excuse the heck out of YOU, but MY precious Kitty Kitty Bang Bang LOVES showing me affection when she’s knows it’s dinner time!” No, my friend.

According to, cats will blast the cuteness level up to 100 if they think it will get them an early, or more hearty meal. Cats know they’re cute, and they know that you love when they’re cute, and they use their feline wiles to lure you into forking over some extra yum yums.

And, again, as the article states, “food is not affection”. That being said, not all hope is lost when it comes to making a meaningful connection with your fuzzy lovedumpling. As we know, there are a list of ways that cats show affection, and by reciprocating or simply accepting that affection, we can make good on the expression of fondness.

(And no, unfortunately squeezing their little schmoopy faces until you give yourself a nosebleed is not one of them. Cats don’t understand Cuteness Aggression, much to my dismay.) First and foremost, consider your cat’s body language. Does your fluffy pudding’s little swiffer tail swish around when you’re near? Does she seem relaxed in your presence? Does she present you with her little belly tum tum whenever you look at her? These are all signs of cat affection, and they all make the statement, “hey, you’re a pretty cool dude. When your delicious honeybean makes these gestures, make sure to give her the attention she deserves. Cats pick up on things that many humans often disregard – you know, vibes and whatever. How? Well, if you’d ask me I’d tell you that they are super psychic genius alien babies who can tap into the subconscious universe, but this is A Very Serious Article and I am A Very Serious Author so, maybe we’ll leave that discussion for another report.

  1. In any case, if you maintain a good, open, and loving vibe around your cat, they’ll pick up on it.
  2. Your cats get you more than you think they do.
  3. Next, take notice of her behavior.
  4. Does she run up to you and run between your legs when you first come home? She’s not trying to trip and kill you, though maybe you have come close to actually smashing your face on the kitchen counter because of it.
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She’s greeting you! Return the favor. Make sure she’s the first to receive attention when you walk through the door. Does she sit her fat tabby tush on your laptop when you’re trying to write an article about cats? She’s saying, “PAY ATTENTION TO ME AND NOT THE OTHER THING YOU ARE CURRENTLY DOING”, and that’s your opportunity to make sure she knows that she’s the center of your universe.

  1. Simply checking in with your cats and giving them some attention will ensure that they know how ya feel.
  2. Finally, observe your cat’s habits.
  3. Does she snuggle up with you when you go to sleep? Does she seek you out from time to time just to say hello? Whenever your cat approaches you for tenderness, make sure you acknowledge her.

All in all, even the most aloof and brooding cat will be able to pick up on your warmth and devotion. Whether they choose to admit it or not, they can sense when a person loves them (and hates them). So always make sure you’re emitting good, kitty-positive vibes, and your cat will be sure to indulge in the lovefest.

What are the final moments of a cat?

How Do Cats Act When They Are Near Death? – Cats, like people, respond differently to illness. Some cats may become reserved and secluded as they become ill, while others will become more affectionate and choose to spend all their time with their loved ones.

  1. It is common for cats to move to a quiet place when they are very close to passing.
  2. They may eat less, groom themselves less, and behave differently than normal.
  3. Some cats may become irritable and growl or hiss when interacting with other animals or humans.
  4. They may also seem anxious or restless.
  5. Many cat parents find it surprising that cats will purr more when they are beginning to pass.

This is not something that we truly understand. Most people think of purring as a sign of a happy cat, but purring may be used as a form of communication, a sign of hunger, and even a calming mechanism, which could explain why they may purr during their final days or hours.

Grooming less Less energy Not eating or drinking as much as normal Grouchiness

What is palliative care for dying cat?

How can I make my home more comfortable for my cat who is receiving palliative care? – Palliative care includes modifying the home environment to maximize mobility and prevent injury to the cat, whose balance and ability to move normally may be compromised. Some simple modifications include:

Adding non-skid floor surfaces, which make moving around the house easier. There are several creative ways to create non-skid floors, including using area rugs or the spongy, interlocking floor tiles found in children’s play areas and gyms. Raising food and water dishes to just above elbow height. This change allows a cat to eat and drink with the spine in a neutral position, minimizing back pain. If the cat is minimally mobile, you can place food and water bowls in front of them wherever they are comfortable resting. Restricting access to stairs, which can help prevent a fall. Using soft and easily cleaned bedding to make them as comfortable as possible. Removing or lowering the walls on the litter box to make it easier to get in and out. Providing ramps or other assistive devices to access the bed or a favorite piece of furniture.

Palliative care for a cat can encompass many aspects of day-to-day life. The key parts of palliative care are controlling pain, maintaining mobility, and adapting the environment to keep your cat engaged in family activities. Your veterinary team will partner with you to put together the most appropriate palliative care plan for your cat.

How do I know if my cat is suffering?

Behaviour signs of a cat in pain –

Reduced appetite. Lethargy. Decreased interest in positive things like playing, social interaction and exploring outside. Being withdrawn and hiding away. Appearing lame and experiencing increased sensitivity to touch in specific areas of their body. Reduction in movement and activity. Changes in behavioural patterns. For example, your cat may start to avoid doing things that they either know or think will cause them pain. They may no longer jump up onto beds or other raised surfaces due to the expectation that this will hurt. Poor mood and temperament; increased irritability. Vocalisation e.g. frequent unpleasant or urgent sounding meowing, groaning, hissing, growling. When in pain, your cat may actively or passively avoid being handled by either moving away from people or behaving aggressively when approached or touched. Decreased grooming in general or increased grooming but to a particular area (potentially leading to bald patches and/or sore skin).

How long does the death rattle go on?

At some point, deciding not to undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation First-Aid Treatment for Cardiac Arrest (CPR—an emergency procedure that restores heart and lung function) is appropriate for virtually all people who are dying and who can accept death. Dying people, families, and the care team should also make and record other important decisions about medical care (such as whether the dying person should be hospitalized or use a ventilator).

Often, implementing these decisions requires specific actions (for instance, having the drugs at home ready to manage symptoms). Dying people and their family members should also be prepared for the characteristic physical signs that death is near. Consciousness may decrease. The limbs may become cool and perhaps bluish or mottled.

Breathing may become irregular. Confusion and sleepiness may occur in the last hours. Secretions in the throat or the relaxing of the throat muscles can lead to noisy breathing, sometimes called the death rattle. Repositioning the person, limiting fluid intake, or using drugs to dry secretions can minimize the noise.

  • Such treatment is aimed at the comfort of the family or caregivers because noisy breathing occurs at a time when the dying person is unaware of it.
  • The death rattle does not cause discomfort for the dying person.
  • This breathing can continue for hours and often means that death will occur in hours or days.

At the time of death, a few muscle contractions may occur, and the chest may heave as if to breathe. The heart may beat a few minutes after breathing stops, and a brief seizure may occur. Unless the dying person has a contagious infectious disease that poses a risk to others, family members should be assured that touching, caressing, and holding the body of a dying person, even for a while after the death, are acceptable.

Generally, seeing the body after death is helpful to those close to the person. The last moments of a person’s life can have a lasting effect on family members, friends, and caregivers. When possible, the person should be in an area that is peaceful, quiet, and physically comfortable. Family members should be encouraged to maintain physical contact with the person, such as holding hands.

If desired by the person, family members, friends, and clergy should be present. NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION Copyright © 2023 Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ, USA and its affiliates. All rights reserved.