No scientific evidence to prove 'dying cats urinate around the house to be remembered'

Feline behavioural experts have rejected a claim shared thousands of times in Thai-language posts that cats approaching death will urinate around the house in order to leave their scent, ensuring their owners remember them. They told AFP that although cats might urinate outside their litter box due to health or age-related issues, there is no scientific evidence to support the posts' claim.

"There is a belief that when an old cat realises it is about to die, it will urinate in various places around the house in the hope that its owners will always remember it," reads the false text superimposed above a photo of a cat posted here on Facebook on January 14, 2023.

The caption adds that cats will also leave their footprints around the house with the same intention.

"A cat that has a deep connection with its home and its owner does not want to be forgotten," the caption concludes.

The Thai-language post -- published by a cat-product seller with 81,000 followers -- was shared more than 7,000 times on Facebook.

Cats are a popular domestic pet in Thailand, accounting for 23 percent of 14.5 million pets in 2020, second to dogs at 62 percent, according to the Thai Pet Product Association.

A screenshot of the false post captured on 18 January 2023.

A similar claim was shared here, here and here.

Comments on the posts suggested some users believed the claim was valid.

One commenter wrote: "(My cat and I) lived together for 22 years. Before she died, she would sometimes pee in the middle of the house or on the sofa. I used to clean it for her."

Another said: "It is true that when my cat is getting older, she started to pee everywhere: on the floor, the pillows and the bed."

Animal experts told AFP that the posts, however, are false.

No scientific evidence

No scientific evidence indicates cats take any conscious action to be remembered after they die, said Carlo Siracusa, associate professor of clinical animal behaviour and welfare at the University of Pennsylvania's school of veterinary medicine.

"I do not believe cats would or could do anything to be remembered, as this would imply the existence of a life-after-death concept. This is a very high order of thinking that involves cortical areas in the brain of humans that are not well developed in cats," Siracusa told AFP.

However, some old cats urinate inappropriately due to health issues such as osteoarthritis, kidney disease and cognitive decline, he added.

On its website, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine says certain health issues, location preferences and marking behaviour may explain inappropriate urinating in cats.

Felines also spray urine to announce their presence or establish territorial boundaries, the site says.

Dennis Clair Turner, the founder and director of the Institute for Applied Ethology and Animal Psychology in Switzerland, said that cats approaching death might urinate around the house due to loss of bladder control in their old age or a urinary tract infection -- "but certainly not to hope that the owner will remember it".

"A well-socialised cat desires to have contact with the owner when it desires such, but not to ensure the memory of the animal," he said.