Catster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Can Cats Sense & Predict Death? What Science Says

Written by: Misty Layne

Last Updated on March 27, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Tabby cat smelling a young man in front of the window

Can Cats Sense & Predict Death? What Science Says


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


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

Learn more »

Cat parents know that their cats can sense certain things. They might sense you’re feeling down, so they curl up with you for a cuddle. And sometimes, they can be a little creepy when they stare at a corner of a room like they sense something is there that we can’t see. But can cats sense and predict death?

There isn’t any scientific proof that cats can sense and predict death, but there is anecdotal evidence that they may be able to do so. Whether it’s a cat realizing that they are going to die soon or determining that a nearby human, or another animal may soon pass, there are stories of cats sensing impending death. Here’s a closer look at what we know.

3 cat face divider

Can Cats Sense & Predict Death in People?

It’s possible that cats can sense when a person is about to die, but we don’t know for sure. However, one feline made headlines in 2007 for predicting upcoming deaths in people. Oscar was a therapy cat who worked and lived in a nursing and rehab center. In 2007, he was featured in the New England Journal of Medicine1, as he was seemingly capable of predicting when someone in the nursing and rehab center was about to die.

How did he predict this? By curling up next to people for a nap just hours before they passed. Oscar kept curling up to people who ended up passing in the next few hours so often that staff at the nursing and rehab center would call family members when they discovered the cat sleeping next to someone. In total, it’s believed this cat predicted the deaths of anywhere from 50 to 100 patients.

Of course, some have theorized that Oscar wasn’t so much sensing impending death as taking advantage of the fact that these patients didn’t move around as often as other patients, making their rooms a better spot to sleep. Plus, the rooms these people were in were very quiet. So, the cat might have been simply finding the best napping spots.

Either way, Oscar was able to bring comfort to the families of the patients who passed away.

cat waking up its sleeping senior owner
Image Credit: Kasefoto, Shutterstock

Can Cats Sense & Predict Death for Themselves?

If you’ve ever had a kitty who died, then your cat possibly went off somewhere to hide right before they did so. But was this your pet sensing they were about to pass or something else?

It’s difficult to say. Felines seem to be aware of death, but how much of the concept they understand is unknown. We do know cats are aware when they aren’t feeling well or feel something is wrong with them. Cats tend to hide when they aren’t feeling well due to their instincts, which tell them they need to hide any signs, so predators won’t know they’re ill (blame it on their wild feline ancestors!). So, a cat going to hide not long before they pass away may just be them realizing their symptoms are getting worse and wanting to hide that from predators, rather than hiding because they know they will die soon.

How Do Cats Sense & Predict Death?

If cats are indeed sensing death, how exactly are they doing so? Felines have a sense of smell that is much stronger than ours, and it’s thought that cats (and other animals) can smell chemical changes in the body that occur right before someone passes away. (This applies to chemical changes in both humans and animals.) So, our kitties might just be detecting a change in scent.

Cats may also be more sensitive to the behavioral and biological changes that happen when a person or animal is dying. For example, a cat may notice a slight decrease in body temperature or pick up on the fact that someone is feeling weaker than normal. Felines have been known to respond to the needs of people and animals who will pass soon, whether those needs are emotional or physical, so it makes sense that they are picking up on these small changes in the body and behavior.

nose and mouth and whisker of a cat close-up
Image Credit: Photographerivanov, Shutterstock

3 cat divider


Whether cats can sense and predict death isn’t known for sure, but it certainly does seem like they may be able to. While there isn’t any scientific evidence to back it up, cats have been known to be cuddlier with people who will soon pass (as in the case of Oscar) or go off to hide if they will be passing soon. Realistically, it may be less that a cat is sensing death and more that they are sniffing out or picking up on changes in biology and behavior that let them know something is wrong. Whatever the case, our feline friends can help provide comfort with their behavior in situations where people or other animals may be passing soon.


Featured Image Credit: Magui RF, Shutterstock

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Catster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.