can a cat look dead but still be alive

As an emergency critical care veterinarian, I’ve seen many a kitten or cat be presumed dead, only to survive. I’ve seen hypothermic kittens brought in from the cold snow by good Samaritans.

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  • Rachel M. “My cat suddenly went blind and started panting heavily. I used this guide to examine her eyes, feel for her pulse, and check her breathing using a mirror. Taking it step-by-step helped me determine just how unfortunate she was. It was difficult, but I’m glad I knew what symptoms to watch out for. Now, I can check symptoms when something seems wrong. “. ” more .

Expert Q&ASearch

  • Ask someone to assist you if you are uncomfortable determining whether your cat is dead. It can be very distressing, particularly if you adore the feline. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0 .
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How to check if a cat has died

Loss of muscle control The muscles which control the bowels and bladder loosen which can cause urination and defecation. Sometimes the muscles will twitch for up to ten minutes after death.
Eyes The eyes are open and the pupils remain dilated/large (see above) and fixed even in response to light.The cornea (the transparent layer forming the front of the eye) begins to lose its transparency around two hours after death.

Corneal reflex refers to the involuntary blinking of the eyelids due to stimulation of the cornea. Use a q tip or cotton bud to gently make contact with the surface of the eye. If there’s no blink reflex, the cat has passed.

The eye contains a transparent jelly-like fluid known as intraocular fluid or aqueous humour, which maintains the shape of the eye and nourishes the tissues within the eye. This pressure is known as intraocular pressure (IOP). After death, intraocular pressure drops, and the eyes become sunken.

No pulse or heartbeat The best place to check the cat’s pulse is the femoral artery which is located on the inside of the cat’s hind leg, close to the groin.I find it difficult to find the femoral artery to check the pulse, another which is easier is to feel the heartbeat. To do this, press against the rib cage over the heart. With the cat standing, feel the pulse just behind the elbow.
No signs of breathing Watch for the rise and fall of your cat’s chest to determine if he is breathing or place a mirror in front of the cat’s nose, if it fogs up, the cat is breathing.Note: I tried this with my very much alive cat, the mirror must be extremely close to the nose, and even then, there was not much fogging due to the small size of their nostrils.
No response to painful stimuli Separate the paws and pinch the skin between the toes to see if you get a response.
No response to verbal stimuli Try calling the cat’s name or clap loudly and watch for a response.
No response to strong smells Place an onion or another strong-smelling object under the nose to see if there is a response.
Algor mortis All mammals regulate their body temperature, after death, the cat’s body temperature will drop. In humans, the rate of cooling is approximately 1 C per hour until it reaches ambient (room) temperature.
Pallor mortis The tissues become pale in the absence of oxygenation which can occur 15-30 minutes after death. The gums will appear pale to white.
Rigor mortis Rigor mortis is the stiffening of muscles after death and occurs 3-4 hours after death, lasting for 12 hours.

FAQ

Can a cat look dead but not be?

Checking the pupils: Pupils often appear larger than usual after a cat has died. You can check whether the cat is unconscious rather than dead by shining a light into its eyes. If the pupils change size, the cat may be unconscious, not dead.

How do you tell if a cat is unconscious or dead?

Shining a light briefly in the cat’s eye is one way to test brain reactivity. If the pupils react, the cat is unconscious but not dead.

Do cats still move after death?

For all intents and purposes, the pet is already gone. Other reactions that can be seen are little twitches of the muscles or skin. These can sometimes last for several minutes after the pet has passed away. They are normal nerve reactions but do not always occur either.