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.

  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 .

  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.

  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?”

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