Why do cats go away to die?
Unlike people, cats do not anticipate or know about death as we do, so they are not fearing what might happen.
(Q) My cat recently went missing for a few days before we sadly found him dead in our stable. Nothing seems to make it easier as we didn't even get a chance to say goodbye. Why do cats go away to die?
(A) Pet Bereavement Counsellor, Dr Sue Dawson says: It is not fully known why some cats go away to die. It is likely that when our cats become very old and feel unwell, they prefer to be alone and rest. Unlike people, cats do not anticipate or know about death as we do, so they are not fearing what might happen. Of course for us it can feel as though we were being avoided or maybe even shut out by our cat, but this is not the case. Cats are drawing from their evolutionary past in going away to be alone to die, as in the wild there might be larger predators they need to hide from. It is important to know that nothing you did caused your cat to behave like this at the end of his life.
Not having the chance to say goodbye to someone we love before they die can complicate our grief reaction. Initially your loss was ambiguous because your cat was missing, but once found, the reality became very concrete. It may help to write your cat a letter and put onto paper the things you would like to have said. Alternatively, say these things now as it is important we say goodbye.
It could help to talk through your feelings with someone who has experience of pet bereavement, donating to a cat welfare charity, making a memory book or planting a tree could also be ways for you to honour his memory and say goodbye. Remember, we are all unique in how we process loss.