What could have caused my cat's sudden death? I am crushed!

by Mary Brown

Yesterday he came down the stairs and looked, to me, like he was biting at his hind quarters with a passion. After, he walked a little funny for a few seconds and then was fine. Later, he seemed like he might not be feeling great but nothing alarming that could not wait until morning for a vet visit. He was eating, drinking etc. Throughout the night I heard him making a noise, got up to see him in what looked like a full seizure, picked him up, and he died in my arms. We are shocked and we are devastated.

I saw after he had passed that he had vomited a couple of times. My question is, what could have happened? He never displayed any signs of illness, ever, but when I look back to last night, his episode at the bottom of the steps was probably a seizure of some sort.

What did I miss? What could I have done? Does sudden death occur often in seemingly healthy cats? We did tons of research on what type of cat would fit best into our family before we purchased him and tried to find out about any genetic problems with his breed. It took about nine months for us to find him and it was wonderful. Was this a fluke thing that without a necropsy will never be understood?

Sorry for the novel. I am just trying to make a single bit of sense from this and praying that there is nothing to feel guilty about.

Warm regards,

Dear Mary,

Let me begin by saying how very sorry I am to hear about your loss.
While a number of things may have caused his sudden passing, such as the ingestion of poisons/toxins, as soon as I began reading your letter, the first condition that occurred to me was that your little boy died of feline cardiomyopathy.

Young male cats, especially Ragdolls, are prone to this condition. Feline cardiomyopathy can set in very suddenly and cause all of the symptoms you described. The biting at his hind quarters that you witnessed earlier in the day was probably the result of a blood clot that was thrown to his extremities, decreasing the blood flow to his legs and causing pain or discomfort in the area.

Later, during his episode that appeared to be a seizure, while he may have actually been having a seizure, it was more likely another clot was thrown to his brain or his heart. The seizure-like symptoms could have been caused by a clot in his brain creating involuntary movements, or could have been the involuntary reactions as your cat was dying.

Of course, the only way to know for certain what caused your beloved kitty’s sudden passing would be to have a necropsy conducted. However, after having lost my own cats suddenly to this same condition, it seems that feline cardiomyopathy is what took your kitty’s life.

Let me reassure you that there is nothing you should feel guilty about. Sadly, feline cardiomyopathy does not often present with any warning signs, and cats with the condition can be the picture of health until their death. There was nothing you really could have done to prevent his sudden and tragic passing.

Again, you have my deepest condolences. I know firsthand how painful it can be to lose such a young, seemingly healthy pet so suddenly, and my thoughts are with you during this very difficult time.

With sympathy,
Dr. Neely

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