Domestic cat post-mortem, autopsy, necropsy

I’ve used all three versions of words which mean the same thing in the title. A necropsy usually means an autopsy on animals which is also referred to as a post-mortem or autopsy. Hardly anyone ever has one done. However, my research indicates that they are not expensive at about £100 or the equivalent in dollars in America up to perhaps $200 depending upon the size of the animal.

Photo from Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

Personal experience

I decided to write about necropsies, a rather morbid subject, for two reasons. I prepared myself to have one done on my cat should he have died of rat poisoning. My neighbour, one house removed from me, decided unilaterally to put down rat poison because she felt she was plagued by rats in her back garden. She said they were eating the roots of her roses. She made no attempt to discuss the matter beforehand with her neighbours.

Her behaviour jeopardised the life of my cat because he is a prolific hunter and he regularly walks through a right-of-way at the rear of my house towards her back garden. In fact many animals use the right-of-way including other domestic cats, badgers and foxes. My cat had chased mice there and a rat on one occasion. Rat poison takes about two or three days to kill a rat. During this time they are vulnerable to being attacked by a cat like mine.

There was a real possibility that he would attack, kill and eat a rat dying from rat poison. There was a high chance that this would have killed him. He brought in a rat in one night at 2am and I took it off him. Fortunately I woke up. That rat is now inside a freezer in case I needed it. If my cat had died of rat poison I would have asked a veterinarian to do a necropsy on the rat and my cat to confirm that he died of rat poison. If that had been the case I would have sued my neighbour for compensation. I told her that. We used to be friends. No more because her behavior threatened my cat’s life. She could have trapped the rats instead. As it happens he got lucky but there was that very near miss when I took a poisoned rat from him. A highly unpleasant experience I should add.

Gemma Collins

Another story which is less personal and which is in the news media today (Metro.co.uk) concerns a celebrity in the UK called Gemma Collins. She suddenly lost her cat, Twinkle, who lived with her for 22 years – a great age for a domestic cat. Twinkle died in May. Gemma believes that her cat died of a Covid-19 infection.

Apparently Twinkle developed breathing problems so she took her to her veterinarian. It was difficult because during lockdown procedures were complicated and restrictive when taking your cat to a veterinarian. She had to leave her cat on the boot of her car in a box. She asked her vet to please keep her alive. Two hours after delivering her cat her veterinarian called her to tell her that he’d put her on a ventilator but that she had died.

It was a great shock to her as you can imagine. Gemma was so upset that she could hardly speak for two days. She wants to meet her beloved Twinkle again when she herself goes over the rainbow bridge. I understand that feeling. I wonder why she did not have a necropsy carried out on her cat. Perhaps it did not occur to her. But her veterinarian might have suggested it because at that time (and even today) it’s important to analyse how Covid-19 infects animals as well as humans. The knowledge helps us to control its spread. A necropsy on her cat would also have given her piece of mind. It would have confirmed or rejected the theory that Twinkle had died of Covid-19. There is a wider purpose to carrying out necropsies. They are important for monitoring diseases in the community.

Useful

Perhaps, cat owners hardly ever considering it. Knowing why your cat died could also improve cat caretaking standards. It may reveal a failure to provide a proper diet, for example. It may also reveal the existence of a disease amongst indoor/outdoor cats in the community where the cat owner lives. No doubt the barrier to having one done is the cost which I have said is relatively cheap. But that depends upon the budget of the cat owner. Often cat owners live on tight budgets.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

View Comments

  • If your neighbor was truly concerned about the rat overpopulation in her garden, the better solution would be to allow cats to visit her. That would be a win-win situation.

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