Causes of sudden death in cats

All of us who love our furry ones would like them to live the longer the better. The problem appears when we do not realize that they are sick, or that we convince ourselves that they will recover on their own after a few days. This is when the disease progresses and, sometimes, gets so bad that when we take them to the vet it is usually late.

But to this we must also add that these animals are experts when it comes to hiding pain. So how can we avoid sudden death in cats?

What is sudden death?


Well, the name says it all: it is the sudden death of an animal (regardless of whether it is human, dog, cat …) . In the case of the feline, by its own survival instinct it has evolved so much that it knows well how to hide the pain; in fact, it will only show signs of weakness if you are very confident with your human and if you also live in a calm and pleasant environment.

Therefore, it is very important that we pay attention to the furry we have at home, since any symptom, any small change in its routine, can be a sign of illness.

What are the causes?

Next we are going to tell you what are the causes of sudden death in cats. When considering illness and death in cats, one thing that is important to remember is that cats are very good at hiding their illness as a survival measure, allowing cats to get sick for a long time before someone gets sick. realize.

This can be especially true for those who spend every day with their cat and do not notice subtle changes such as weight loss, hair loss, more sleep, or a dull coat. As our cats age, we may believe that symptoms such as weight loss, less activity, and / or lethargy are due to lessening with age rather than illness.

Causes of sudden death in cats include:

  • Trauma. This is more common in outdoor cats, but it can happen to any animal. Examples of trauma include being hit by a vehicle, attacks or bites from dogs or other animals, gunshot wounds, falls, or random trauma, such as being crushed.
  • Toxins. Ingestion and / or exposure to toxins and medications is more common in outdoor cats, but can also occur in indoor cats. Common toxins include antifreeze, plant toxicity, ingestion of rat poison, among others.
  • Heart disease. Heart disease can come with little or no warning signs. While some cats may have a history of a heart murmur, other cats may not have a history of abnormal symptoms or problems. Some cats will show subtle symptoms, such as playing less, sleeping more, decreased appetite, weight loss, or increased breathing rate. It is very common for cats to be in perfect health, only to show signs of illness quickly and in dire circumstances. Cats with heart disease can develop shortness of breath or difficulty using their hind legs, which can cause them to cry in pain. Some cat owners will simply find their cat dead without any indication of symptoms.
  • Heart failure. When heart failure occurs, it means that the heart can no longer meet the normal demands and functions of the body. This commonly causes a buildup of fluid in the lungs known as pulmonary edema. The most common underlying cause of heart failure is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Signs of heart failure often include a subtle decrease in appetite, decreased participation in normal activities, and increased breathing rate. Some cats will breathe so poorly that they appear to pant with their mouths open, and cats will carefully mask their signs until they are in a state of fulminant and life-threatening heart failure.
  • Myocardial infarction. A “heart attack” is the term commonly applied to people who have suffered a myocardial infarction (MI), often caused by coronary artery disease. The myocardium is the muscle tissue of the heart that receives nutrients and oxygen from the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are small blood vessels in the heart muscle that carry blood from the aorta, which is the main artery in the body. When the muscle does not receive a normal blood supply, a heart attack occurs.
  • Blood clot. A blood clot, also called a thromboembolism, can be caused by many different health problems, including heart disease in cats. Blood clots can go to the brain, lungs, or blood vessels in the hind legs, causing sudden death in cats.
  • Chronic kidney disease. Chronic kidney failure (CKD) is a very common problem in cats. When the kidneys fail, they can no longer eliminate waste products that lead to the accumulation of toxins in the blood. This produces clinical signs of kidney disease including weight loss, decreased appetite, vomiting, and lethargy as kidney disease progresses. Some cats with kidney disease will also have increased thirst and urination. This is more common in older cats, but it can occur at any age.
  • Feline urinary obstruction. Feline urinary obstruction is an acute obstruction of the urinary tract, and although this disease can affect any cat, it is most often found in males. The typical signs are urinating and crying. When left untreated, most cats will die within 72 hours.
  • Stroke in Cats. “Stroke” is a term commonly applied to people who have had a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) caused by cerebrovascular disease. A stroke is caused by the interruption of the blood supply to the brain, which precipitates the failure of nerve impulses that are transmitted from the brain to the rest of the body. Symptoms can appear quickly and cause sudden cat death. Signs of a stroke include difficulty walking, weakness, falling to one side, paralysis on one side of the body, and / or seizures.
  • Infections: Serious infections, commonly known as sepsis, can cause a progressive group of symptoms including lethargy, anorexia, weight loss, dehydration, fever, and sudden death in cats.
  • Commotion. Shock is defined as a life-threatening syndrome that causes low blood pressure and can lead to death. This can be caused by an allergic reaction, heart damage, severe infection (sepsis), trauma, blood loss, toxins, fluid loss, and spinal cord trauma. Cats in shock can die quickly, which can present as sudden death.
  • High blood sugar in cats. Severe symptoms caused by uncontrolled diabetes can lead to weakness, lethargy, vomiting, coma, and death.
  • Lowering blood sugar. Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, can cause lethargy, weakness, seizures, and sudden death. This can be a bad consequence of diabetes, trauma, and / or various infectious diseases.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy –The heart thickens and hardens, causing it to pump blood normally. Symptoms are: trouble breathing, abnormal heart rhythm, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Heartworm (filariasis):is a parasitic disease that affects the heart. Sick cats have a cough, vomit, heart failure, and lose weight.
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus:also known as feline AIDS , it is a viral disease that can cause diarrhea, general malaise, loss of appetite and weight, gingivitis, among others; however, the cat does not usually show symptoms until the disease is very advanced.
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP): it is another of the diseases that causes the most deaths in cats. It causes dehydration, loss of appetite and weight, eye discharge and discomfort.

How can it be avoided?


Well, what you have to know is that the only way to avoid sudden death in cats is to make sure they are well . They must be fed with high quality food (without cereals or by-products), and it is also very important that they receive an antiparasitic treatment so that they are protected against parasites, both external and internal.

In addition, we must take them to the vet every time we suspect that something happens to them, but also to vaccinate them, and castrate them before they have heat.

Compression of sudden death in cats

One of the worst things a pet lover can experience is the sudden loss of your beloved cat. Trying to understand sudden cat death is excruciatingly painful. You want to understand what happened, consider what you could have done differently, and determine if there were health problems that you didn’t realize. Sudden cat death is more difficult to understand when it happens to a young animal .

Feline life expectancy vs. risk of sudden death

The life expectancy of cats can be 14 to 22 years. There is a substantial difference in life expectancy depending on the individual lifestyle of the cat. Life expectancy can vary depending on whether the cat is indoors only, indoors and outdoors, or outdoors only.

Indoor-only cats have the longest life expectancy, followed by indoor and outdoor cats. Cats that live outdoors have the shortest lifespan, due to exposure to toxins, trauma, animal attacks, and infectious diseases. While this trend is a generalization, there are outdoor-only cats with good genes that receive a nutritious diet and veterinary care that have a very long lifespan.


While the loss of a beloved cat is extremely difficult to understand, especially at a young age, it does happen. Sudden death can occur in cats too, which can be so devastating and make little sense. The only comfort you can take from this situation is knowing that you did the best you could and that you gave your cat a wonderful life.



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