Dying Cat Sleeping With Eyes Open: Causes and Solutions

A dying cat sleeping with eyes open can be a frightening sight for any cat owner. You may find yourself wondering why your cat is displaying this behavior and what you can do to help. In this article, we will explore the main reasons behind a dying cat sleeping with eyes open and provide some solutions to address this issue.

Instinctual Behavior

Cats have a natural instinct to sleep with their eyes open as a survival mechanism. Even before they were domesticated, cats were hunting experts. However, they were also hunted by other animals. Sleeping with open eyes allowed them to be vigilant of their surroundings while resting. This evolutionary adaptation is still present in cats today, even after centuries of domestication.

When a cat is in the final stages of its life, it may sleep with its eyes open because it instinctively understands that it is more vulnerable to “predators” compared to healthy cats. This behavior helps them stay alert and aware of any potential dangers.

Separation Anxiety

Cats often form strong bonds with their owners and can experience separation anxiety when left alone for extended periods of time. Research has shown that cats emotionally connect with their humans for security. They feel less stressed and more relaxed when their owner is present. Some bonded cats may even follow their owners everywhere and sleep with their eyes open to keep track of their movements.

During the dying process, some cats may become overly attached to their owners and exhibit clingy behavior, including sleeping with their eyes open. This behavior provides them with a sense of comfort and security in their vulnerable state.

Light Sleep

Similar to humans, cats go through two sleeping stages: REM (rapid eye movement) and SWS (slow wave sleep). Studies have found that cats sleeping with their eyes open are often in the light slow wave sleep stage. During this stage, they can easily wake up at the slightest disturbance.

If you notice your dying cat resting with eyes open, it is likely in this light sleep stage. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to change this behavior, as it is a normal part of their sleep cycle. However, if you are concerned, it is always a good idea to consult with a professional veterinarian for advice.

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How to Identify a Dying Cat

Watching your cat nearing the end of its life can be a heartbreaking experience. However, being aware of the common signs can help you prepare and provide the best care possible. Here are some signs to look out for:

Lack of Appetite

As cats approach the end of their lives, they may lose their appetite. This is a normal instinct as they instinctively know that digesting food requires energy, which they may lack. Additionally, certain prescription drugs can affect a cat’s sense of smell and taste, reducing their interest in food. Keep an eye out for extreme weight loss, weakness, sunken eyes, and loose skin as signs of anorexia in a dying cat.


Reduced activity and increased lethargy are common signs of a dying cat. As their energy levels decrease, they become more sedentary and sluggish. Look out for sleepiness, disinterest in the surroundings, and behavioral changes like aggression or eliminating outside the litter box. Fever and difficulty breathing may also accompany lethargy.

Decreased Heart Rate

A healthy cat’s heart rate ranges between 140 to 220 beats per minute (bpm). However, when a cat is nearing the end of its life, its heart rate may drop due to its failing heart. To check your cat’s heart rate, place your palm over its left side, right behind the front limb. Count the number of beats within 15 seconds and multiply by four to get the beats per minute. Consult with a veterinarian to determine if the heart rate is healthy or abnormal.

Labored Breathing

A cat’s weakening heart can cause its lungs to work less efficiently, resulting in abnormal breathing patterns. Your cat may breathe rapidly as it fights for oxygen, followed by slow and difficult breathing due to fluid buildup in the lungs. Healthy cats typically take about 20 to 30 breaths per minute, so any significant deviations may indicate that the cat is nearing the end of its life.

Decreased Body Temperature

A cat’s normal body temperature ranges between 100°F and 102.5°F (37.78°C and 39.17°C). As a cat’s heart weakens and its organ systems begin to fail, its body temperature may drop below 100°F (37.78°C). You can use an ear or rectal thermometer or simply touch their paws to check for signs of decreased body temperature.

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Changes in Smell and Appearance

Dying cats may stop grooming themselves due to exhaustion and weakness. This can result in a dirty and unkempt appearance, with greasy fur, excessive dandruff, and scaly skin. Long-haired cats may develop mats in their fur. Additionally, a dying cat may emit an unpleasant odor due to the accumulation of toxins in their deteriorating organs.

Seeking Solitude

When gravely ill, cats often withdraw and hide as an instinctive behavior inherited from their wild counterparts. They seek solitude to protect themselves from potential predators. If your cat starts hiding in secluded spots or refuses to appear for routine activities like play and mealtimes, it may be a sign that it is nearing the end of its life.

It is important to note that while these signs indicate a cat may be nearing the end of its life, they are also symptoms of serious illnesses that can be successfully treated with proper medication. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your cat.

Do Sick Cats Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Not all cats that sleep with their eyes open are necessarily sick. In fact, this behavior is quite common among cats, especially senior cats. However, it is still important to keep an eye on them and monitor their overall health. While sleeping with eyes open is generally not a cause for concern, it can sometimes indicate underlying medical issues such as dry eye syndrome, eye injuries, or eye contaminants. If you suspect that your cat’s eye behavior is due to a medical issue, consult with a veterinarian for proper evaluation and guidance.

Why Were My Cat’s Eyes Open When He Died?

When a cat dies, it loses muscular control, including the ability to shut its eyes. The muscles responsible for eye closure relax naturally, but since the cat can no longer control them, its eyes remain open. This is a normal physiological response after death.

Final Thoughts

Although it may seem strange, cats sleeping with their eyes open is a common behavior and nothing to be concerned about in most cases. It is a natural instinct for cats to be alert at all times, and this instinct is heightened in dying cats due to their vulnerability. However, if you have any concerns about your cat sleeping with its eyes open, it is always best to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any potential medical issues. Remember to provide your beloved feline companion with the best care during this delicate time.

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