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Can Cats Really Sense & Predict Death? Vet-Reviewed Science & Info

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 26, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

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Can Cats Really Sense & Predict Death? Vet-Reviewed Science & Info


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Anecdotally, some cat owners claim to have noticed that their cats would sense when they were about to die and would spend some time with each family member before retreating to their own devices for the last time. Though very few studies have been conducted to confirm the validity of this phenomenon, it seems to offer some pet owners a form of closure knowing that their pet was at peace with their time about to end soon.

But can cats really tell when their time is up, and can they tell when your time is up too, as many experts suggest? While there are no confirmed studies that can suggest your cat knows they’re close to the end of their life, it seems that there is some considerable evidence that some cats may indeed pick up on certain scents that the human body produces just before death. Keep reading while we dive deeper into these peculiar answers.

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Can Cats Sense Their Death?

While no one is quite sure what a cat knows or feels, there are some anecdotal claims of strong indications that a cat knows when their time is coming to an end. These claims are mostly through the alleged observations of their owners; many owners claim to notice a change in the cat’s behavior early on. A cat that was aloof will now become cuddly, while a cat that always loved attention will withdraw. They may spend less time grooming, and their appearance will change as a result. The fur can become dirty and matted, and there may be other changes in appearance as well, like a sunken face or glazed-over eyes that rarely blink. They may also eat and drink less, break housetraining, and even cry when you pick it up due to being in pain.

There’s no denying that these are all signs that something might be potentially wrong with a pet cat. However, these signs aren’t indicative of impending death, and these signs are associated with many ailments or diseases. A cat can certainly be treated by a vet in a plethora of cases, and bounce back. Therefore, while these signs might be associated with a cat that’s about to pass away, they aren’t exclusive to just this life event. We recommend taking your pet to the vet immediately if you notice such signs in your pet.

Other owners claim that their pet will look for a comfortable and quiet place to spend their last minutes. These claims might not be entirely unfounded. Cats are territorial, and a cat that’s about to pass away from complications of illnesses may opt to rest in the most comfortable spot in their territory, as they would feel that such a place keeps them safest from other threats. Cats instinctively try to mask their illnesses, so a cat that’s unwell may indeed try to retreat to their safe space.

man petting a sick siberian cat
Image Credit: Olesya_Alexandrova, Shutterstock

Euthanizing A Cat

At times, your veterinarian may recommend humane euthanasia for your cat. This is a decision veterinarians often make when they’ve exhausted all realistic treatment options for a condition that just doesn’t seem to improve or significantly impact your pet’s quality of life. It goes without saying that this is a very emotional and serious decision. Therefore, if your veterinarian has informed you about a poor prognosis for your cat, they may also advise you on the possibility of considering this option to minimize your pet’s suffering.3 cat face divider

Can Cats Sense When Humans Are Going To Die?

There is evidence that cats can sense when a person is about to die. One example is of a two-year-old cat named Oscar that accurately predicted 50 deaths of patients in an advanced dementia ward in a nursing and rehabilitation center.1 In each case, Oscar would jump into the bed of the ailing person, cuddle up with them, and begin to purr, to help bring some comfort to them and to their family members. If put out of the room, Oscar would stand at the door and cry and scratch to get back in.

In each case, the person died within a few hours of the cat’s visit. Many other people have experienced something similar, and most experts believe it is more likely due to their keen sense of smell than an ability to predict the future.

It has been found that as the body is shutting down, chemical reactions occur that could affect our natural scent 2. Cats have sensitive noses that can probably smell these changes, and there’s a good chance that through this mechanism, they can smell our death approaching. This might be a plausible explanation as to how Oscar was able to predict the death of patients.

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There are definitely documented cases of evidence that cats sense the death of humans. However, whether or not a cat can predict their own death hasn’t been determined yet. However, their ability to smell chemical changes in humans may be a plausible explanation as to how some cats, like Oscar, have successfully been able to sense and predict the events associated with the impending passing of an elderly person.

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Featured Image Credit: zavalnia, Pixabay

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