Can cats actually predict death?

Domesticated animals have long been thought to have an innate ability to sense distress in their owners, but there has been a growing list of anecdotal evidence from nursing home staff that suggests that cats may actually have an ability to detect a lot more than stress. 

I recently spoke with an ex-nurse who told me the story of a nursing home in Australia that frequently had a feline visitor known as ‘the death cat’ among both staff and residents.

Although this cat did not actually live at the aged care home, it managed to find its way into the home at times throughout the year, and single out particular residents for attention in the aged care home’s lounge room. 

While some may be quick to chalk these circumstances up to coincidence, it appears that this was not an isolated incident, as there have been many aged care homes and families with elderly loved ones who claim to have eerily similar stories.

In fact, a nursing home in the US actually has its own ‘death cat’ that has become somewhat of a celebrity.

Oscar The Cat has been living in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island since 2005, and has a facebook fan page with close to 4000 followers.

The staff at the facility believed that Oscar would nap near them in an attempt to comfort them in their last moments. And if he was sent out of the room, he would either sit by the door purring, or scratch at it to be let back in.

Regardless of your own personal views on the supernatural, the sheer amount of stories regarding cats and death clearly warrant some examination – but could this be the work of heightened senses? Or does the grim reaper just happen to have whiskers? 

Felines and Fatality

When you consider the amount of weird and wonderful creatures in the animal kingdom, the rich history and mystique that surrounds cats suggest that the average four-legged feline may be capable of much more than we give them credit for. 

Although the most obvious superstition associated with cats is the black cat being a symbol of impending bad luck, some cultures actually worshipped cats and saw them as a symbol of fertility, protection, and psychic ability.

Instinct is a word often associated with animal behaviours, but the term itself actually refers to tendencies that are hard-wired.

Cats rely primarily on body language to communicate with one another, which means that they must be attuned to the biological and behavioral changes in other species around them – including humans. 

Apart from their heightened senses of sight, hearing and smell, cats can actually detect changes in body temperature. 

Dogs have always been renowned for their sense of smell, but research suggests that cats are significantly better at sensing and discriminating between a wider variety of smells.

Although there have been no formal studies on the ability of cats to sniff out illness and disease, the fact the significant research suggests that dogs can detect odor signatures in the skin and sweat of humans as well as things like impending seizures and cancer – make it highly likely that cats can do the same – if not more. 

Even though the vast majority of evidence on this topic is anecdotal, the fact that dogs are used by authorities to sniff out dead bodies lends credibility to the idea that a cat may be able to detect a dying person.

While I certainly don’t suggest that every unexpected feline encounter may have sinister connotations, please don’t pussy-foot around the idea of seeing the doctor if the nextdoor neighbor’s cat suddenly comes calling.

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  1. I broke my fibula recently and my cat was extra cuddly during this time, jumping on my lap when she has never really done that before. They say purring may help to mend broken bones and mine certainly mended very well and my recovery overall has been very quick. She did take a shine to the wheelchair I was using whilst non weight bearing however and would glare at me until i transfered to my loungechair, when she would jump straight up and settle on it. Whenever I needed to use it again I would have to fight her to get off! lol

  2. My sister has stage 4 breast cancer and it’s in her bones and liver. My cat has been sleeping with her a lot during the day. I had another sister that passed away from cancer 9 years ago and her cat wouldn’t leave her bedside. I’m wondering if my cat can since she is dying.

    1. When my mother was dying I nursed her at home on my own. On the Monday she lost consciousness, a cat wandered in through the back door and sat beside me on the sofa. I’m not particularly a lover of cats, but he was company for me so I didn’t shoo him out. It was solace at night too as I slept beside my mum. The cat stayed too. It was hot so I left the door open so he could leave if he wanted to. By Friday at dusk he suddenly got up and left. My Mum died an hour later. He never came back. I found out he lived further up the road. I saw him about after wards but he never came in the house again.

  3. I was recently diagnosed with later onset type 1 diabetes. Some days it’s still a bit difficult to manage. After the (well, what-do-ya-know) *neighbour’s cat* stopped coming to my home about 6 months ago when their owner moved, I was longing to get another pusspuss.
    A few weeks ago I decided to adopt what turned into 2 rescue cats from a local shelter and give them a furever home. Initially, although timid, they were very affectionate. And the longer they spend within my home, the less timid they have become.
    I have however, been most surprised to see how they react when I have a hypo! Right from the first two days, they have come straight to me and rubbed my legs, looking right into my eyes as if to say “What’s wrong with you?” whenever my BSL is very low. One plonks himself on my foot and won’t move until I’ve treated the hypo. The other jumps onto the chair next to me and watches me intently until I pat her and tell her I’m ok.
    It’s fascinating!

  4. I agree cats can tell about death and change in health of an individual.
    I worked in aged care where we had a cat and she would wander the hallways and head to an area or a bedroom .Most of the time we would find a change in a persons health status .At night the cat would curl up on a bed and if this occurred over a few night we noted that this person eventually died short after the cats sleeping on the bed .

  5. My Mum was in hospital, terminal cancer. Her cat ‘Janeway’ couldn’t be with her. Janeway has never let anyone but my Mum & Dad touch her. I stayed in my Mum’s room whilst staying with my Dad and brothers out Northam way (Perth, WA) to be able to visit Mum more often.
    Mum passed away at approximately 3am on a Friday. Janeway had spent all that Thursday night cuddled up next to me, welcoming my affection until the phone rang notifying us of Mum’s passing.
    I am convinced Janeway knew.

    1. I’m so sorry that happened, but you’re got a wonderful cat. I would have been worried it was snuggling you because YOU were going to pass

  6. When my 37 yr old sister succumbed to brain cancer at our mother’s home, our mother and her husband were at her bedside and noted it was 3:07 am.
    During the 6 months prior to this, her 9 yr old Siamese, Tigger, started sleeping on her head at night.

    On the night she passed, my husband was at her home 10 mi away watching her 7 and 2 yr old daughters as they slept.

    A couple hours after she passed, I phoned my husband to say she passed. He asked if it happened around 3:07 am. I said yes, how did he know?

    He told me that at 3:07 he was woken up by an extremely loud and prolonged wail from Tigger. Two weeks later, Tigger passed as well.

  7. My cat Baby has always been clingy but lately she’s been extra clingy. I have recently been having a lot of life threatening conditions.
    Is this a sign of my passing?

  8. This is true. My uncle owned a cat and it never liked him. After a few years, I could sense my uncle getting ill and the cat started staying with him. A few days later he died. It’s my cat now so watch out. It’s a black cat

  9. I’m crazy about facts but I have noticed something, I have a very bad heart problem and can’t work due to it. I have 4 cats. Ages 18 – 1/5 – 14 weeks and 13 weeks.

    My heart problem is two different things completely and it’s getting worse and I hate the way I feel and my doctors tell me I can’t push myself and quite frankly I don’t know how not to do that.
    I’m also 22 but chaos is my 1 and 5 month old girl who has always been close to me but now she follows me around and watch’s me. I find it hard to breathe a lot and I’m very exhausted all the time and my 18 year old Tika and chaos cuddle me but all my cats sleep with me but so does another and she’s not mine.

    This was just weird to me from the side No that I can actually in seconds have a heart attack or going to cardiac arrest because that’s what my heart can actually do it goes high enough to go to her a heart attack and low enough to cardiac rest which it has done but I have not done that .

  10. My partner has just been diagnosed with cancer although I suspect it’s much longer as diagnoses was delayed significantly since covid.
    My cat has been sleeping with him every night and during the day since his diagnosis
    Somehow it’s comforting

  11. Yes , this thing about cats , a white cat in this case , coming to my mother’s room on the night she was dying, I saw with my own eyes .
    It stayed by her bed & would go in & out of the room with my brother & I as the staff attended to her , and wait in the corridor.
    When it 1st appeared in the door way to her room it made the hair on my neck stand up .
    But it was quiet & attentive so I got used to it .
    I took several photos of it & it was known to the nurses for this behaviour with people who were shortly to die .

    1. Nice comment, cats are supernatural animals that sence death. My personal experience with strange cats crying at my window at about 4am when I was about passing to the next world…. I was really awake and waiting for death but God replenished me that day with a second chance to live again…. I quickly went out side my room to disperse the cats but surprisingly they disappeared within a blink of an eye…. I have been battling with spiritual attacks that seem to try to really take my life but thank God I have been victorious thrice…. My story is unique but for real cats are very misterious and that’s why if you hear them crying hard at your neighbors window strangely at odd hours of the night, better check on them the next day.

  12. A few weeks before my Dad died, he gave away one cat without informing anyone, and the other one, he said ran away while he was left alone with it while the rest of the family were away.
    I don’t know why this didn’t seem to go to me.
    I have read about this some years ago, just a bit about it, but when events started playing out that way, I got curious.
    My Dad was a very spiritual man and I believe that, he didn’t enjoy their presence very much because of how in-depth cats are. .
    I am convinced, he didn’t want the cats around because he saw that they knew.
    His death was something he felt was coming , even if he didn’t tell us.
    One cat would randomly want to sit on his lap , always following him around.
    It’s not eerie at all to me, it makes sense.

  13. My cat started sleeping on my husband’s side of the bed 4 days before he died of cancer. My kitty always sleep on my side. He knew he was not allowed on his side. But the cat would not move. My husband said,( I think the kitty knows). I said I think he does to. The last 3 nights my husband spent in a hospital bed before his death.. Kitty would not leave him. My husband was ok with kitty next to him.

  14. I have a heart murmer. In the last 4 years, I have had two cats who also had heart murmers. One has passed away. These two cats have had a habit of climing on my chest and nuzzeling my neck. None of my other cats have ever been so drawn to my neck. Both cats began doing this as soon as I adopted them after fostering them as bottle babies. What’s up?

  15. I have remains of a cancerous brain tumour which is inoperable, last scans have all shown no growth, was given 5-7 years left, I’m now on year 8.
    We have a rescue cat who had been mistreated (psychically with way she used to act) who has been with us for 7 years and the change in her has been amazing to see. She has never tried to sleep on our bed until about a week ago where she has to lay next me when I sleep or go for a rest due to fatigue. I’m getting worried now. She definitely can sense things, I have absent seizures (I’m conscious of my surroundings) and she always hovers while I’m having one, after she will sit on my lap almost in a caring sense as if she is checking I’m ok.

  16. My fiancee was taking a nap & I went to check on him & all my cat’s were on the bed encircling him watching him sleep. After he got up for a while he went & took a shower. Hours later he went outside and committed suicide by shooting himself in the forehead. It was Christmas morning. I had just had a stroke a few days earlier.

    1. That’s such a tragic event Beth. I had to reply to your post and offer my sincerest sympathy
      Your cats seem to be very intuitive.
      Stay strong and take the very best of care x

  17. My husbands cat hates me but I was diagnosed with liver failure last year and she has been following me and laying on me lately. Should I be worried?

  18. I adopted my soulmate, Coral the day before lock down 2020. Immediately, we were inseparable. Though I have had and bonded with many cats during my life, Coral is truly extraordinary. We spend hours everyday playing, or just in comfortable companionship together. Several months back, I became ill and Coral spent an extra amount of time being funny and engaging me in ways to make me laugh. Now, I am facing a cancer diagnosis. I have become chronically ill. My energy levels have dropped dramatically. Coral has now stopped playing all together. Instead, she presses herself as close to my body round the clock. Demands that I am touching her at all times. Wanting me to spoon her, something special her and I have always done. Whither I am sleeping 10-20 hours at a time, I can wake up to find her pressed into my arms. She is generally an active cat but has adopted my energy levels. I’ve taken her to the vets, to make sure that she is healthy and repeatedly has recieved a clean bill of health. I am worried, she know something I have yet to learn. I do admit, however, I am grateful for her continued companionship and extra attention.

    1. We have had our cats since the day they were born and my cat has been sleeping on my left side of my chest close to my neck for over a year now. I just went in for tests for cancer. Now I am waiting for a cat scan. But she will not sleep any where else. No matter what. My husband says that she is trying to protect me from what ever is wrong. I say she was sent from my grandmother who passed away from Hodgkin’s lymphoma years ago. And she is my guardian angel kitty.

  19. Years ago, when I was stressed, I used to sit and nurse my cat. Resting my hands on her body and feeling the vibrations of her purring. I always believed she would take away any illness I had. Sadly, I found she had cancer, and I sent her over the rainbow.
    Later I had a card reading, I told the lady I was very lonely, and missed my cat. She told me Pussa had done the job she was on earth for. I thought this strange.
    6 months later, I had a bad bleed, and found I had a huge tumour in MY bowel. After the operation, I found it had not turned to cancer, and I firmly believe PUSSA took the cancer for me.

  20. My mom, sister, brother and I recently tested positive for COVID-19. I swear to god my cat is the QUIETEST cat you’ll ever meet. Except the last few days after we got sick. He won’t stop talking, and CONSTANTLY purrs everytime he sees me, and CONSTANTLY rubs against my legs. He is NOT normally the cuddly kind.

  21. My cat gets upset whith me when I’m talking sometimes. She jumps on me and touches my face but if I ignore her she’ll bite me until I sit and stay steal. Then she’ll sit on my lap and lick me and won’t let me get up?

  22. I we have a cat but she’s no clingy. But today i don’t know but i have anxiety attack, and i was taken aback when i saw our cat lying on my bed. She didn’t do that before, and she’s extra clingy to me wich is really shock. But I kinda scared it is a sign that I’m dying or not?

  23. i have a health problem this last 2months and til now that i carry on. and because of that i have a long day to not see and have a time for my cat shadow , because on a month of april i spent that all day on my aunt house because they took care of me when i was sick. and after 1 month i decide to back to our home because i miss so much my grandma and my father to be with in our house, and ofcourse my cats and the day that im in our house, shadow didnt know who i’am so what i do is to make her comfortable to me ( i think she didnt recognize me that time) and boom in a few minutes she comback to my bedroom and making a loud noise like shes crying, shes missing me so much and cuddle on me. And to the next week ive got a follow up check up and i take another medicine’s and i need to do some labtest again and ct scan when the day that im done doing that test on me.when im home my cat shadow always more being sweet and more doing cuddle on me,from the very first day when ive got diagnost/ sick. And thats why im here to read some of like this and to know if my thinkin about “why my cat like this , em i going to die or what?”

  24. My Tuxedo cat named Butch was very much in tune with my neighbor Charlie as he was battleing cancer. Charlie wasn’t crazy about cats but learned to look forward to Bitch visiting and sleeping next to him. The cat never went to Charlie’s until Charlie became ill

  25. My cat got sick 2 days before my mom passed away now she seems perfectly fine, is this a coincidence? Just really strange

  26. My recntly passed partners cat has suddenly become very smoochy.To say that I am a trifle worreid is putting it mildly

    1. That’s easy.

      That cat is telling you that YOU are her human now.

      Own it, and love it.

      So sorry for your loss.

  27. My 100 year old mother-in-law was dying. The day before she passed two of our cats (neither of which ever visited her room because she had her iwn kitty) jumped onto her bed and laid with her. Oddly, we suddenly could not keep them away from her. Sadly she was in a coma so we are not sure she was aware. The next day she slipped away with both cats by her side. But even after her passing we had to pick up the cats and put them out (they held on to the covers with their claws). They laid at the door until the funeral home came for her.

    We have had cats my entire life and have been amazed by their unique abilities. But this was the oddest behavior exhibited by them yet.

  28. Dying or sick people are colder than healthy people. The cats feel that, so they lie down next to them to warm them up.

  29. My husband got up one morning wasn’t feeling well
    During this the cat started screaming and running through the house and wouldn’t stop! I called 911 and as soon as they took him out the cat stopped!
    My husband passed away in hospital.

  30. Really interesting read.
    My cat would sleep on my bed continuously when I had Covid. Only leaving me when needing food or her toilet which gave great comfort. She knows when I’m not we’ll too.
    She’s a rescue cat and been with us 16 years. She chose us
    At times of difficulty she’s been there, she’s lived with an alcohol who I add would never intentionally harm her but she’d detect he’d been drinking before I did and give him a wide berth. The alcoholic is no longer with us but I think she misses him as she’s always in his old room, maybe she has hope he will get better one day. My husband is not in good health but she leaves him alone. Making sure she’s keeping me calm. I had a recent spell in hospital and she didn’t want to know me for a few days but now she is constantly by side.. looking out for me. I’m her pet really

  31. My mother cats knew early on that its kitten was too sick. I observed a change in its behaviour, strange meowing it goes out & meows as if looking out for kitten while all its 4 kittens including sick one were inside home. While we humans look for clear symptoms like vomit etc for sickness somehow mother cat knew early on the deadly sickness (FPV Feline Panleukopenia virus) of its kitten. The night before it took all its kitten roof top and spent time with together. At times it kept all other kittens together so sick one can leave far away. On last day remained passive not even having food. Fish was its favourite & if I held it close to it strangely it did not eat at all. An hour before death I took mother cat close to its kitten but it did not care to remain close or groom its kitten I presume it smelled as if its kitten had already left or leaving away. After death it lived in solitude skipping dinner. Even tiny kittens sense their own sickness and tend to move far away if they are ok to walk, stay close to water or hole or pond water I presume they intend to fall inside water if they loose consciousness or tuck inside hole and eventually disappear burying away themselves and others may never discover them. I somehow believe mother cat & kitten both had instinct of end moment.

  32. One day a random white cat with what looked to be a hole in the center of its head in between the eyes appeared my house. It would follow me, and for some reason anytime I’d smoke a cigarette ot would run all over my leg and stand on its legs and almost asif it tried to knock the cigarette from my hand. It was around every night for about a week. One day it was just gone. I was actually really upset it left. 2 days later my left lung collapsed. No explanation of what really caused the collapse…….it was as if it was a sign or the cat was trying to get me to focus9n it rather than the smoking……beautiful but so mysteriously unexplainable to this day…..

  33. My husband died recently. He came home on Hospice, was concious at times. He died three days afters coming home. Most of that time, my cat spent curled up on the wood floor under his bed. I am a nurse and knew he would die soon after coming home. The night that he died, I was in my bed, close to where he was and listened to him breathe. I woke up to hear his breathing had become very irregular with periods of apnea. When I walked in the room, I found my kitty laying on his chest, watching him. She was still there when he died about 30 minutes later.

  34. Over 40 years ago a stray cat walked into my house when I opened the door. Walked straight to my 20 year old daughter’s room, who was sick in bed with infected lungs and I called out to her that she had company. He laid on her chest and slept for about an hour. Came back up and went to the door He left and I never saw him again. I would have kept him but he didn’t look hungry and was very clean. She healed faster than we expected!

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