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3 Questions About Rigor Mortis In Cats Answered!

Cats are definitely one of the most popular pets in the areas where the majority of our readers live so we often see a huge number of questions from the cat owning community relating to how they should be taking care of their pet cat.

Unfortunately though, even if you do absolutely everything perfectly for your cat and it lives a long and happy life, it will eventually die and we often see people reaching out with various questions about what happens when their cat dies.

We usually see three commonly asked questions about rigor mortis in cats once a cat dies and there seems to be some confusion about it on social media too with there often being incorrect answers suggested to people asking about rigor mortis in cats.

This is why we wanted to publish our own article on the topic to try and help as many of our readers as possible as it is hard enough losing a pet, the last thing you need is incorrect information.

We have decided to have a dedicated section for each of the three most commonly asked questions about rigor mortis in cats to try and cover everything that we see people asking in a single article.

The table of contents below should be able to help you quickly navigate the article as required though to help save you as much time as possible.

What Is Rigor Mortis In Cats?

Rigor mortis in cats describes the effect of a cat’s muscles stiffening after death due to various chemical changes taking place due to a lack of regular bodily functions taking place.

The exact change in the chemicals take place at the myofibrils level and the stiffening of the muscles in your cat will usually last until all of the ATP has been used up.

If your cat dies in the evening and you don’t discover this until the next morning then the rigor mortis will likely have set in and have stiffened the muscles in your cat.

This can take many people by surprise when they try to move their cat to get its attention as in some cases it will be as solid as a rock and the slightest movement you do it its tail will end up moving the full cat.

Although there are some “methods” on social media that can apparently prevent or stop the rigor mortis effect taking place in cats and other pets, these seem to be based on theory rather than science.

We would never recommend that you try any of them as the chances of them working are slim to none and the majority of dead cats will use up all of the ATP in their bodies within a maximum of three days anyway causing the rigor mortis effect to end.

How Quickly Does Rigor Mortis Set In For A Dead Cat?

Rigot mortis can set in on a dead cat anywhere from an hour after death to around six hours after death depending on the exact situation and circumstances.

An average of two to three hours is the most common timeframe for the rigor mortis effect to start in your cat with it being fully developed by the nine hour mark and your cat being solid and ridgid.

The time range for rigor mortis to set in for a dead cat is so broad due to there being a number of things that come into play ranging from the age of your cat, how it died, how healthy its muscles are, and even the diet of the cat.

These all play an effect on the amount of ATP in the cat at the time of dead meaning that it will have a direct effect on both how quickly rigor mortis can set in as well as how long it will last.

If a veterinarian has to put your cat to sleep due to a health problem, they will often try to put the cat into a position where the cat is both comfortable but will also be easy for you to carry if you choose to take the cat with you.

This accounts for the chance of the rigor mortis effect quickly taking hold of the cat after death making it easier for you to take your cat with you if you want to bury it yourself.

How Long Will Rigor Mortis Last In Cats?

Rigor mortis will last for up to 72 hours in cats but it is usually less than 36 hours due to the rigor mortis effect ending once there is no more ATP available in your cat’s muscles.

In some situations, the rigor mortis in your cat may only end up lasting for a hour or two but this does tend to be rare and it will usually last for over a day at an absolute minimum.

If your cat has been suffering from a serious illness of health problem for weeks or month prior to its death, the amount of ATP in its muscles will be severely depleted so rigor mortis will not last as long but in most cases, you are usually looking at around 36 hours before the effects wear off. In younger cats with can sometimes last as long as 72 hours though.


That brings our article going over rigor mortis in cats to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you better understand what rigor mortis actually is in cats as well as how long it takes to set in and how long it can last for. There really are too many variables at play to offer specific timelines though and it really can be difficult to predict how long the effect will last in your cat too.