How to Verify if a Cat is Dead (How veterinarians check)

If you find a motionless cat, you might wonder if the cat is dead or not. Thankfully, veterinarians have several ways to check to see if a cat is dead or if there is some other problem with the cat.

To verify if a cat is dead, check for any signs of breathing. If the cat’s chest does not rise or fall, it is probably dead. People also check by gently touching one of the cat’s eyeballs; living cats will blink if their eyeballs are touched. Their eyes will also be open and their pupils dilated.

Let’s take a look at how to identify ad deal with a dead cat.

Cat Death Signs

For most people, it can be disturbing to come across an animal that you think is dead. The experience can be even more difficult to deal with if the animal is your pet. Because most people are unfamiliar with some of the habits of cats, they might wonder if a cat that they come across is dead or simply sleeping/lying down.

Assuming that there are no obvious signs as to if the cat is dead or not (such as blood or the like) there are a lot of tests that you can do to determine if a cat is dead or if it is simply sleeping or injured. If you take the time to make sure, you could save a cat’s life or at the very least inform an owner that their cat has died.

The first check you can make is a simple and straightforward one: check to see if the cat’s eyes are open. If a cat is lying motionless, odds are that they are either sleeping or dead. Cats sleep with their eyes closed and dead cats may have their eyes open, as it takes muscle tension and strength for a cat to keep their eyes open. However, simply having open eyes is not a sure way to know that a cat is dead (though closed eyes are a pretty sure indicator that it is alive).

If a cat’s eyes are open, you can check the size of the cat’s pupils. Cat pupils will dilate when they die, so you can be reasonably sure that a cat is dead if its eyes are open and pupils are dilated. If you still aren’t sure that a cat is dead, you can make a final check by gently touching one of the cat’s eyes with a gloved finger, a leaf, or something else soft. A living cat’s eyes will blink when touched.

By checking the cat’s breathing and eyes, you should be able to declare if a cat is living or not with certainty. However, there are a few other checks that you can make if the eye checks do not work. Veterinarians will feel a cat to see if the muscles are stiffened, which indicates that the cat’s body has undergone rigor mortis, a process that occurs about 3 hours after a cat’s death.

Another common test done by veterinarians is shining a light in the cat’s eye. If the cat’s brain is still functioning, it will react to the brief shining of the light. A veterinarian will also check the cat’s gums to see if they have lost blood and if they react to pressure. If there is no response to either of these things, the veterinarian can confidently declare a cat to be dead.

Reviving a Dead Cat

If your cat is weak and near death, you will need to act quickly to prevent them from dying or to revive them. In this situation, you will need to keep your cat warm and hydrated at all times. Keep them wrapped in blankets and give them water as well. Keep a careful watch on your cat to save its life or to diagnose what the problem might be.

If your cat is sick or in mortal danger, you should rush it to a vet as quickly as possible. Veterinarians will be able to tell what is wrong with your cat and likely will have a solution on how to help it. However, if you don’t have access to a vet and your cat’s heart stops beating, you may be able to save its life by performing CPR. Knowing how to perform CPR on an animal can be a useful skill to have, both to save your own pet and the pets of others.

To perform CPR on a cat, place the cat on its side and extend its neck gently, tilting its head upwards to clear the breathing canal. Clear any obstacles in the cat’s mouth or throat, including the cat’s tongue. Do not interfere with the bones that are at the back of a cat’s throat.

Then, grab the cat around the chest with your fingers below the cat’s elbows. Using your thumbs, compress the cat’s chest very gently. Do 12 compressions in 10 seconds, and then perform a rescue breath by covering the cat’s entire nose and front of its muzzle with your lips. Gently exhale to cause the cat’s chest to rise, then do more compressions. Periodically press on the cat’s abdomen to drive out the air that has built up there.

Do not do chest compressions on a cat that has a pulse. You can check a cat’s pulse on the femoral artery, which is located on the inside of the thigh. If you are successful in reviving your cat, take it to a veterinarian immediately, as whatever caused its heart or breathing to stop may happen again soon.

If you are unable to revive a cat, you should call a service to dispose of them. If the cat is your pet, you can have the cat buried on your property or cremated. Whatever you choose, you should act fast as you have a little under 10 hours before the cat begins to decompose and smell horrible. This time is even shorter on hot and humid days but can be extended if you put your cat in a freezer or in an icebox.

Carolina Pieters

I'm Carolina and created this blog, to provide practical advice and emotional comfort for those dealing with pet loss.

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