Do Cats Run Away to Die? The Surprising Truth

Key takeaways

Whether your cat is currently missing or you're grieving your recently deceased buddy, the question 'Do cats run away to die?' is one cat owners have been asking for years.

When cats feel unwell, they become aware that they are easy prey to potential predators. They may feel weak and unable to defend themselves, which causes them to seek somewhere safe.

Even though you may think your cat feels safest in their home, their solitary instincts cause even indoor cats to leave and find somewhere completely isolated.

This is why many cats do run away to die. We'll be exploring why this is and giving you top tips on how to find your furry friend.

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. Do cats run away to die?
  3. Why do dying cats hide?
  4. Where do dying cats hide?
  5. Tips to find a missing cat
  6. FAQs
  7. Final thoughts

Do cats run away to die?

The short answer is yes. Most cats will go away to die, but it's not necessarily because they have a sixth sense. While anecdotal evidence implies that some pets knew about their impending death (source), it is more likely because cats are aware when they feel sick and want to seek isolated and safe places to hide.
Not all cats will behave the same way, and ultimately it will depend on your pet's personality. Some cats prefer leaving home, and some prefer staying close to their owners. But why?

Why do dying cats hide?

Many cat owners share the experience of being unable to find their cats in their final days. So let's look at some of the main reasons why cats run away to die.
Anxious cat hiding under furniture

Staying safe from potential dangers

When cats feel unwell, they become aware that they are easy prey to potential predators. They may feel weak and unable to defend themselves, which causes them to seek somewhere safe.
Even though you may think your cat feels safest in their home, their solitary instincts are hard wired and can cause even an indoor cat to leave and find somewhere completely isolated from other animals and humans.
It may seem counterintuitive to venture outside when trying to avoid danger, but actually, this stems from an evolutionary instinct in wild cats who feel most comfortable outdoors.
Many owners feel disappointed and sad when their fur baby runs away, but it's important to remember that your cat's behavior when they're nearing death doesn't reflect how they feel about their owners.

"Even though you may think your cat feels safest in their home, their solitary instincts cause even indoor cats to leave and find somewhere completely isolated."

Black cat peeking out from long grass and plants, hiding outside from predators

Conserving energy

Unwell cats can attempt to conserve energy by hiding. Whether it's in the house or somewhere further afield. When cats are conserving energy, they will look for somewhere:

Close to home




This is because they won't be able to run away from danger, predators, or unwanted attention. Pet cats also may not have the energy to eat and drink, so they will hide longer without returning home for dinner.

Spending more time sleeping

You may think your cat is hiding, but it may be the case that they are simply sleeping longer and more deeply in their old age. Your beloved pet knows it is vulnerable when it is in a deep sleep.
This means they will seek very sheltered secret spots for their snoozes in older age or sickness, which means they are often hidden. Although few pets pass peacefully in their sleep, it is still possible.
Orange cat sleeping outside under a tree

Where do dying cats hide?

A lost cat can be incredibly distressing. However, if they are unwell or old, it can be even more upsetting when you can't find them. Cats isolate in many places, so be sure to check the following most common hiding spots.

Abandoned buildings

Abandoned buildings make the perfect hiding place for sick cats. They provide shelter from extreme weather and often have nooks and crannies that are secure and secluded.
If you own an outdoor cat, they have probably already ventured into the buildings in your area. This means they'll know exactly where to go when they feel unwell, and you'll probably have an idea too.
However, if your furry friend is usually indoors only, follow these top tips when trying to locate them:

Search buildings away from roads

Check sheds in your and your neighbors' gardens

Check outbuildings in quiet areas

Make sure you look in smaller spaces than usual. When my best buddy of 21 years passed away, she had hidden in a tiny space under a stack of crates in an abandoned farm building. So, don't disregard places that look too small!
Cat sitting in an abandoned building

Dense woodland areas

Wooded areas offer cats privacy, peace, and safety. Trees shelter the woodland floor from rain and wind, and their roots provide the perfect hidden sleeping place.
Leaves, twigs, and debris also allow cats to curl up without being seen by other animals or walkers. If you suspect your kitty has ventured into the woods, grab their treats and a torch (even in daylight) and walk softly while calling their name.

"Wooded areas offer cats privacy, peace, and safety. Trees shelter the woodland floor from rain and wind and their roots provide the perfect hidden sleeping place."

A black cat exploring a wooded area

A secluded and peaceful place

If you're lucky, your cat may find a secluded place in your home. It's every owner's dream, but unfortunately, it is rare. In their final days, cats are often just seeking a bit of peace and quiet. If you have a garden, check the following places:



Under/on garden furniture

In long grass

Outdoor cat sleeping in a secret hiding spot in a garden

Tips to find a missing cat

Whether you believe they are alive or not, it's important to find your missing cat. While it is a stressful time, there are some tips and tricks that will make finding your lost cat easier.
If you can't find your lost cat, why not try a cat detective?

Utilize social media

Social media is an incredible tool for finding a missing cat. The ability to spread the message far and wide to people who can help you makes the search effort easier and quicker. Check out the following ways to use this technology:

Paid advertisements: PetRadar allows you to create personalized adverts for your missing cats and choose how many people you want to reach. We then organize sponsored ads on Instagram and Facebook that will target a significant amount of your neighbors. We'll manage all reported sightings and support you through the tricky time.

Reach out to your followers: You've likely got a fair few followers who live nearby. By posting on your social accounts, you can increase awareness of your missing cat and hopefully recruit a few more searchers!

Image of a social media post about a lost cat

Reach out to your neighbors

Searching your neighbors' houses and gardens just as thoroughly as your own can be very effective if you can. Sometimes these places may be quieter and safer than their own home. Be sure to check their:



Under beds

In cupboards

In drawers

In wardrobes


Under cars

Neighbors working together to find a lost cat
Distributing lost cat posters can be effective in spreading the message far and wide.

Attract your cat back home

There are a few ways that can help attract your cat back to your house. However, if they are unwell, it is unlikely they'll return. But it's always worth trying tolure them back home. Taking the following actions can help:

Leave their food outside

Leave their litter box outside

Call their name loudly and often

Keep doors open

Keep disruptive noise to a minimum

Avoid having visitors over while your cat is missing

For more tips, read our guide on how to get a cat to come home.


Do indoor cats run away to die?

It is common for indoor cats to run away to die. This is because they often seek isolated and secluded places to protect themselves in their vulnerable state.

Why do dogs run away?

Dogs run away for many reasons, including fear, neglect, and lack of training.

Do old cats run away to die?

Yes, old cats often run away to die because they can sense when they are unwell. They seek isolated and secluded areas to protect themselves from predators and other dangers.

Do cats run away when they are sick?

Yes, cats often run away when they are sick because they are more vulnerable to predators. This means they sometimes run away from home to find a hidden safe place.

Why do cats leave home?

Cats leave home for a variety of reasons, including:

Feeling threatened by new pets

They are sick

They are injured

Moving house

They are in heat, looking for mates

They are hunting[[/faq-answer]]

How do cats act when they sense death?

When cats sense their own death, their behavior changes. This can include acting withdrawn, anxious, and restless. It can also mean that they stop eating, drinking, and grooming.

Do cats come back after running away?

67% of cats that live both indoors and outdoors will be able to find their way home. However, if you have recently moved house, your cat may return to your old home.

What happens right before a cat dies?

Depending on the cat, their behavior right before they die will differ. Some will be more affectionate, sleeping next to you and wanting attention. Whereas others may run away, hide, or become anxious around people.

Final thoughts

Coping with the passing of a pet can be incredibly difficult. It is devastating for the whole family and can disrupt everyone's lives. There is no way around the pain, but there are ways to make coping with grief a little easier.
As a cat owner, it's important to celebrate your pet's life and remember all of the happy memories you shared together rather than dwelling on their final days.
Consider gathering some photos together and going through them as a family. This will bring up some lovely memories to talk about and allow you to process your emotions. Even though it hurts, it's better to feel the grief rather than deny it. And remember, it will only get easier!
Sad cat owner grieving the loss of their cat that died
If your pet is still missing, start a PetRadar search to reach as many people as possible. Think of it as the modern missing cat poster that reaches as many people as you want. With reportings and sightings managed by us, you don't have to worry about sharing personal information with strangers, like your telephone number. It's the stress-free and safe way to help locate your best pet friend.
If you feel as though you've tried everything, have a read of when you should stop looking for a lost cat.

Written by

Image of the author
Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

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