Is It True That Cats Go Away to Die?

The question presupposes that domestic cats know when they are dying. The well-known Dr Desmond Morris (a zoologist who I completely trust) believes that cats don’t know what death is. If that’s the case they won’t know when they are dying which means they don’t go away to die.

However, cats do go away to quiet places if they are injured or frightened. Having been injured and hidden in a quiet place they might die there because of the injury. This may give the impression that the cat has gone away to die.

I had thought that cats might go away to die when a female cat that I loved very much was hit by a car on the road outside my house. It happened at night so in effect she disappeared. When I came back from work she wasn’t there so I knew something was wrong. I searched for her. I found her under some low branches of a tree not far from the road. She was dead, and I died inside. She must have run there after being hit as a quiet place to hide; to hide her injuries and to recuperate but she passed away.

There was a time when I believe that cat should be given the chance to roam freely outside. Nowadays I don’t believe it and have built a rather nice garden enclosure for my cat.

So in answer to the question in the title: I don’t believe that domestic cats do go away to hide. There will be many examples of cats dying in full view of their owner (due to poisoning for example) or in open places. And if a cat has got lost and subsequently been injured then this is not an example of a cat going away to die but of a cat that was lost and who was injured and possibly killed.

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Is It True That Cats Go Away to Die? — 5 Comments

  1. I am so sorry about your cat. I will not let my Pippa out to roam because on top of the usual hazards we have coyotes. I see too many posts on our neighborhood app that a coyote jumped a fence and snatched a pet before the owner could get out. Heartbreaking. But the garden enclosure sounds great. I see on the web instructions for DIY catios for very little money. I may give it a go.

  2. I am sorry about the heartbreak you suffered over the loss of your beloved cat. I have felt the same.

    I disagree with the conclusions of this article. I believe that the cats who die in view of their owners (like the poisoning you mentioned) do so as their way of asking for help. Obviously, the human is not able to help them, so they die.

    Also, I believe that many cats do go away to die. As a child/young adult, we owned a Siamese, Samantha, who lived to be about 17. We had a fenced in yard and she loved to go outside. The day she passed away, she decided to stay inside. She had a clean bill of health from the vet. Later that evening, my mother called in tears. Samantha had crawled under a chair and passed away.

    Many years later, I had an indoor/outdoor cat, Arnold Swartzenkitty, who loved to explore the countryside. He was neutered. At night, if he wasn’t inside, I panicked because we lived in the country and had wild dogs and coyotes who eat cats. He always came home to the clanking of a spoon on a bowl. 😀 One afternoon, we went to visit my in-laws. When we came home, he didn’t come to greet the car. My husband found his body underneath his work truck. Arnold never went underneath the truck. He was very street-smart and knew to stay away from cars. Because Arnold knew I would have a stroke if he didn’t come home that night, he chose to “hide” under the truck where his body would be safe and he knew I could find him.

  3. Domestic cats still have their wild ancestors instincts, one of which is to hole up to die in privacy, but modern day life prevents them from following that instinct. We have had very old cats, who as their life was coming to an end, wanted to go outside, even in bad weather. It’s well known that cats withdraw from their loved ones if they are unwell, that they hide the fact as long as they can. Of course in this world which is dangerous to cats now, we can’t just open the door and let them go off to hole up somewhere and die. But I do think most would prefer to do that if they had the choice!

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