While you may not hesitate to call out for a bowl of soup when you're sick, an ill kitty keeps to herself. Cats instinctively hide when they are sick or dying, but by understanding why and what the signs are, you can help your pet even in her final days.
The life of a cat can be pretty dangerous outside the comfort of your home. Out in the wild, a cat has to fend for herself, and can easily fall prey to other wild animals. When your cat is sick or dying, she is vulnerable, and she knows it. In the wild, she would have to hide herself away from attackers, because she would be too weak to defend herself. Even in the home, then, if she senses that she's weak or dying, she'll protect herself by hiding.
In the wild, a cat typically lives on her own. Unlike dogs, cats don't run in packs, so a cat's instinct says that she has nobody to depend on but herself. While you know that isn't true because you love your cat, her instincts tell her that looking for help from others won't do her any good. That's why as her owner, you have to actively pay attention to her and her behavior. She'll never go out of her way to show you that she's sick, but you can discover it for yourself.
Other Behavioral Signs
When a cat is sick or dying, she won't just try to hide. Her general behavior will give you plenty of clues as to whether or not she feels well. For example, sick or dying cats may seem bored or depressed, opting to sleep more often and refusing offers to play. She may eat less or not at all. She may even resist your companionship, showing aggression when you try to hold or pet her. If she demonstrates any of these signs, it's time to see the vet.
Caring for Seniors
As your kitty nears the end of her life, there's little you can do but make her comfortable. One key way is to reduce the stress in her environment. For example, keep a favorite blanket or one of your old T-shirts nearby, so that she has something familiar and comforting when you can't be around. Brushing her coat every day helps too, because she may not be able to groom herself with much ease anymore. And hard as it may be, if your cat insists on having some solitude, go ahead and give it to her. If that's what gives her peace, then show your love by granting it.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.