Do dogs/cats wander away from home to die alone?

I’d like this to be a factual question… but I think it may turn into an IMHO question…

I’ve heard from several people that dogs & cats will sometimes run away from home to die. Is there any evidence that pets really do this? And why?

I have a thread in MPSIMS about my dog’s escape on Saturday. I’m hopeful - but I do think it’s possible that she left to die. She’s been acting weird for the last couple months. Hiding in strange places and looking for places to hide, etc. She’s 13 years old and is slowing down - so it is inevitable that she will pass sometime soon. I’d be comforted to know that she may have left to pass away - rather than if she got hit by a car.


No more than humans with Alzheimers wander away from their homes to die. They wander away due to altered mentation.

While growing up, our family experienced several aged pet deaths in which they didn’t wander away but did try to hide. More recently, when one of my cats died from cancer I remarked to the vet that I felt terrible about not having recognized he was so sick until it was too late. She said that it is considered a defensive mechanism for animals to hide their vulnerabilities when they are sick and it is not unusual for an ill animal to try to hide.

All I can offer is anecdote, in the tale of my grandmother’s black lab named Abby. All of her life, Abby was only let in and out the back door. When she wanted to go out, she’d stand at the back door and let out a quiet “woof,” and we’d let her out.

The day she died, we were over at Grandma’s, and Abby came to each of us, set her head in our laps, and got a few scritches. She even did this to my ex, whom she had otherwise ignored for the two years she knew him. After (to anthropomorphize) “saying goodbye”, she, for the first time ever, went to the front door and went “woof” and then started scratching at it. She never went to the front door, was never let out the front door, and never scratched at any door. Until then. Bemused, Grandma let her out the front door, where Abby went out, lay down on the front porch, and stopped breathing.

That was it. Definite change in routine and what appeared to be an urge to remove herself from “the pack” to a place not frequented by the pack before dying.

All my dogs have been put down at a vet’s office, so I have no other natural dog death experiences to compare it to. I’m willing to wager it’s anomalous, but it’s stuck with me.

WhyNot - that’s sad, but interesting. I’ve never heard a story like that before. It makes sense though.

My cat Allison had FIV… She was in and out all the time, then just dissapeared one day… I think that she did, in fact, go away to die.

This spring, I was home at the farm, using a hose to fill the water bucket in the stall of our nearly-30-year-old stallion. He pushed the stall door open, and wandered up and down the aisle, checking on all the other horses in their stalls. But instead of snorting & acting studly, he just stuck his head near each stall and nickered quietly to the other horses, and nuzzeled them. Rather different from his normal pattern, when he had to assert his position as senior stallion at all times. When he had been to all the stalls, he came back to me to be petted, and then followed me back into his stall.

The next morning, my mother found him lying in his stall – he had died peacefully of old age during the night.

It’s hard not to think that he knew what was coming, and was saying goodby to all the other horses. Though I know it isn’t rational to think that.

My 16-year old cat, after years of being satisfied staying 95% of the time indoors and the rest within meters of the house disappeared one day, never to be seen again, even by any of the neighbors. This after several months of gradual weakening and increasing passivity due to terminal illness (she was happy to purr on my lap to the end, though). I’m pretty sure she went away from home to die.