Why Do Cats Disappear to Die featured image

Why Do Cats Disappear to Die?

We’ve talked a lot on this site about many of the strange and interesting behaviors cats tend to do. Here, we’ll be talking about why cats disappear to die.

There are many instinctual reasons why cats disappear to die – chief of which is to be left alone. A vulnerable cat will normally hide whether it’s time to pass away or not. Nearing the end, they go where they feel comfortable and safe after knowing that it’s beyond being able to defend itself.

This is a concerning behavior to cat owners, who start thinking the worst if their cat hasn’t come home as it normally does. To be unsure about the well-being of your pet is always a terrible experience for owners.

However, cats aren’t concerned about worried owners, particularly if they’re feeling lousy, vulnerable, and simply want to be left alone. No matter how well trained a cat may be, there are particular times in a cat’s life where instinct will trump other things it loves or cares about.

When Instinct Contradicts Normal Behavior

a cat in forest

Being onset with death is a condition that will trigger deeply routed behaviors that are engrained into them through natural instinct. It’s an instinct that a cat falls back upon when feeling ill, or when it’s time to pass.

At the root, the instinct that kicks into gear is engulfed around survival. We might not understand this because we know better. We know that we as owners have the capacity to at least keep the cat safe and as comfortable as possible.

The cat on the other hand doesn’t know this, and, arguably, it can’t know it as its instinct winds up calling the shots, rather than a lifetime of wonderful experiences with its owner.

The same instinct that will cause a cat to chase, will also cause a cat to hide. It’s decided upon instantly without any thought. Unlike other aspects of a cat’s instinct, hiding isn’t one we even begin to think about training out of a domesticated house cat.

Why Does a Cat Hide to Die?

a cat hiding in the forest

Because we’re not the cat, nor are we experiencing what they’re going through physically and mentally, we get hurt a little that they don’t come to us in whatever way they can, right?

The choice to hide rather than get closer to us might cause us to wonder how well the cat trusts us or why the cat doesn’t feel more at ease by our side. In a couple of ways, we as owners may be guilty of thinking selfishly as it would relate to this topic.

Despite how we’d like for the cat to behave during its final days or perhaps even if it feels lousy, the cat is doing what it feels is best for itself. It’s nothing personal because the cat still loves you. As we’ve mentioned, it’s an instinctual behavior that kicks in when the cat feels vulnerable.

Illnesses or the process of death (even early stages) produce that vulnerability, causing the cat to rest upon its instinctual behavior.

Does a Cat Sense that It’s Time to Go?

a cat hiding in the hole

This is a sticky topic, as there’s no sure way to know. We can guess, and even take educated guesses, but the general consensus is that they aren’t aware that they will die. Well, at least unaware of death as we understand it.

Self-preservation and survival instincts mean that they understand surviving and not surviving; being aware of threats to their life and avoiding them. But in the final days of a cat’s life, when passing naturally or through sickness, the cat behaves as if it knows something is up.

Does it know that its days are few? Likely not. It just wants to get past whatever makes it feel strange, weak, or abnormal. Often a cat picks a hiding place quite sometime before it dies.

At first, it may display a more elusive or timid behavior, retreating to its chosen area infrequently. But as the day draws near, you’ll likely see less and less of the cat around the house doing normal cat things.

A rapid change in diet will happen as well, eating considerably less than what you’re used to seeing it consume. Ultimately, it will spend more and more time tucked away from view or any action that goes on around the home.

These things are more noticeable and relevant for indoor cats. Outdoor cats may leave home and simply not return because they’ve picked a spot outside.

A Cat Disappearing Doesn’t Have to Mean It’s Passed Away

a cat sitting behind grass

Outdoor cats are far less predictable due to all of the added things to consider outside of the home. Yes, cats go off somewhere to die, but a cat that has not turned up for an extended time isn’t necessarily passed away.

Cats do Get Lost

Cats can get lost from time to time by stepping out of the area they’ve grown accustomed to. Though they have excellent senses like seeing clearly at night and an exceptional sense of smell, they do at times stray into places that limit these senses as it relates to retracing their steps to get home.

Joining Other Cats

Though cats are notorious for being territorial, they tend to enjoy the company of other cats- at least, this is true for some. Depending on where you live, your cat might have hooked itself up with a bunch of other cats who are homeless and tear about the place unhindered.

This is common to see in more urban settings rather than rural ones. An urban environment is great for a cat who decides or is forced to live feral, as there are ample opportunities to get food and no shortage of places to hide from the weather.

Why Your Cat Didn’t Come Home

People are weird and will do things that they shouldn’t. Some people play finders-keepers with cats, especially if it’s an expensive type of breed and is friendly enough for someone to get their hands on it.

Then there are the well-intentioned folks who will see a cat who appears to be a stray and will start leaving food out for it just in case. After a short time, the cat might even wind up being invited into the house.

In this scenario, the cat may never come back or might come back after being away for weeks or even months.

Final Thoughts

a cat behind grass

The death of our cats is painful for any owner to go through, no matter what the nature of the problem involved with its death. It’s our loved one who is going away.

If anything is to be taken to heart after reading this article, it’s that the cat hiding is not an act of mistrust or anything along those lines. It’s what it feels like it has to do through instinct.

Scroll to Top