How did my cat die?
December 3, 2009 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out what happened.

Two days ago I was at home and I heard a strange sound coming from the kitchen. I entered and saw my cat laying on his side, his mouth open, and he wasn't breathing, but it looked like he was trying to. At this point he was still alive. I lost my shit, and tried a panicky-i-have-no-clue-what-im-doing attempt to dislodge what he was possibly choking on, but he went completely limp about 15-20 seconds after I found him, and he never came back. I have no clue what happened. Was he choking on something? Nothing ever came out of his mouth, there was nothing around where he was that would give me a clue either. I checked everywhere around the house for possible poisonous materials but couldn't find anything. He was barely 2 years old. No previous health problems. Has this happened to anyone else... does anyone know what could have happened? I will miss him.
posted by thepalephantom to Pets & Animals (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a heart attack.
posted by fish tick at 7:18 AM on December 3, 2009

Almost this exact same thing happened to some friends of mine. The necropsy showed that the cat did choke on something, in this case a piece of plastic from a cigarette wrapper. It had worked itself pretty far down his windpipe and could not have been cleared by hand.

I'm sorry for your loss. Ever since it happened to our friends' cat, my wife and I have been super paranoid about what our pet rabbits get in to when they're playing outside their cages.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:19 AM on December 3, 2009

This is a pretty common description of sudden death in a cat, it can be caused by a variety of things. I have seen a few cats die, unfortunately, since I have worked in vet clinics for many years, and they often look exactly as you describe when they are near death (I have never seen a cat choke to death, so your cat did not necessarily choke to death). There is likely no way to know what happened, even if you'd had a necropsy done, and he was likely already past saving by the time you found him. I'm so sorry for your loss, and sorry you lost your cat in such a distressing way.
posted by biscotti at 7:23 AM on December 3, 2009

I'm so sorry.

I lost a cat very unexpectedly in what sounds like a similar way; I came home from work and he was lying on his side, completely limp and unable to move, panting and yowling. I took him to the vet immediately, but he had to be put down due to a blood clot that had paralyzed him. My vet said that owners will often come home to find the cat already dead from this condition; I was just fortunate that I was able to get there in time to say goodbye.
posted by something something at 7:25 AM on December 3, 2009

When my wonderful Stanley died with similar symptoms, the emergency vet I had on the phone as he died suggested that it may have been from kidney trouble. Stan was a 26-lb miniature panther (not fat, just huge) who mostly behaved like a dog. He made it to 7 years and had a very healthy and happy life.

We didn't get a necropsy, but buried him under a rose bush. He loved to eat rose petals when he could get them; one of his many idiosyncrasies.

Sometimes, it's just a mystery and nothing anyone did wrong. So sorry about your kitty.
posted by lilywing13 at 8:07 AM on December 3, 2009

posted by dancestoblue at 8:20 AM on December 3, 2009

I am so sorry for your loss. I think Biscotti has it; unfortunately you may never know the cause of death. I know that it is cold comfort but you did all that was within your power to do for him.
posted by Verdant at 8:20 AM on December 3, 2009

I'm so sorry.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:47 AM on December 3, 2009

I am so sorry for your loss.
posted by pointystick at 9:04 AM on December 3, 2009

Very sorry, dear.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:06 AM on December 3, 2009

Oh man, that's horrifying. It makes me tear up just reading this. I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by desjardins at 9:08 AM on December 3, 2009

I am very sorry for your loss.

We had a similar experience except that the vet said that it could have been a stroke.
posted by Drasher at 9:10 AM on December 3, 2009

Any of a huge numbe rof things could have occurred: choking, aneurism, heart attack, organ failure, ... (some of which are mentioned above).

Without an autopsy, there's no way to tell - thus the existence of the coroner's profession for justice & pathology purposes. Anything we offer is pure guesswork...

except our heartfelt sympathy.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:12 AM on December 3, 2009

"number of"
posted by IAmBroom at 9:12 AM on December 3, 2009

We had a cat that died in this manner - he "threw an embolism." This was about 2 days after surgery, though. But how you described it was exactly what happened to him.

I'm sorry.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:13 AM on December 3, 2009

He might have choked, or had a stroke, or an aneurysm or embolism, or...but I don't know that you will ever know for sure.

It's always so sad to have a pet die. I can only imagine the alarm and confusion and then panic you must have felt when you found him. I'm so, so sorry for your loss.
posted by misha at 9:48 AM on December 3, 2009

As often as we've probably all seen a cat coughing something up onto the floor, it sure doesn't sound like he was choking on something. If that were the case, he'd probably be bracing himself with all four feet, aiming for a spot directly in front of him, and clearly trying to retch.

If he was lying on his side, heaving, I think there was very little anyone could have done. Must have been something internal and very broken already--neurological, cardiovascular . . . probably impossible to know.

Poor kitty.
posted by General Tonic at 9:49 AM on December 3, 2009

Thanks everyone for the answers. I know it will be impossible to know, but it's helpful just to hear of your experiences. And thank you for the kind words. I wish I could mark all these as best answers :)
posted by thepalephantom at 9:58 AM on December 3, 2009

I’m so sorry for your loss.

That’s how my cat died, even down to the strange sounds - as if he was having a bad dream (he was gone in under 5 seconds though and in his sleep). The vet said it was a heart attack. Consider having a necropsy done – it might ease your pain a bit.
Again, I’m really sorry.
posted by Dotty at 10:41 AM on December 3, 2009

My condolences. Your situation sounds very similar to what happened to our Decar a few years ago -- she was still breathing (barely) and making weird sounds with her mouth open, but couldn't really move.

Got her to the vet, she determined that it was likely a stroke, and told us that it was pretty much over. She administered the meds and sent Decar off to Neverland.
posted by davidmsc at 11:08 AM on December 3, 2009

My heartfelt condolences and a big {{{hug}}}. We had a similar situation with the late, great Sparky. I had an autopsy done and they found blood clots in his kidneys.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:24 AM on December 3, 2009

Aw, I'm so sorry about your cat.

I agree with others who say you might never know what happened. I had a cat who died in a similar way, right in front of me. It was very upsetting. We didn't have her necropsied, but my friend's father, who was a vet, said from my description it could have been a collapsed lung.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:51 AM on December 3, 2009

So sorry about your kitty; I can't imagine how scary and sad that must have been for you. I just wanted to echo the sentiments that this wasn't your fault.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:55 AM on December 3, 2009

A friend had something like this happen to her recently -- her very young cat (under 2) just suddenly died with no warning. She was terribly upset about it and had an autopsy done (she just had to know) -- turns out, IIRC, it was a birth defect and she couldn't have done anything differently.

So sorry for your loss.
posted by pised at 12:51 PM on December 3, 2009

I am so sorry about your kitty. :(

I have recently had to look up some information about cardiomyopathy (enlarged hearts) in cats and learned that many times, they go completely unnoticed until something bad happens, like a clot is thrown and the cat dies. Heart disease in cats can start at a very young age - I have a 4.5 month old kitten who already has an enlarged left ventricle.

The appearance of attempting to breathe was likely a reflex. Cats undergoing euthanasia do the same thing for up to half an hour after their hearts have stopped.

I'll ask my friends across the Rainbow Bridge to make him feel at home. Sorry for your loss.
posted by Addlepated at 1:27 PM on December 3, 2009

I lost my first cat, Elijah, to cardiomyopathy when he was three. Other than some occasional lethargy (which looked a lot like the kitten to cat transition), there were no symptoms until that last day.

I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by 26.2 at 10:12 AM on December 5, 2009

Same thing happened to my cat a couple months back, and I was thinking about posting a similar question but never got around to it. Thank you for this post, thepalephantom, and sorry for your loss.
posted by christopherious at 1:56 PM on December 18, 2009

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