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Cat Grief - How To Help a Pet Grieving

Do cats grieve the loss of a pet or human companion?

People often don't realise that just like humans, cats can suffer from the loss of a pet or human companion. Cats are sensitive creatures who commonly form close bonds with other pets or humans.

We will never know if cats understand the full meaning of death, it is unlikely. But some cats do form particularly close bonds with others and when they are suddenly no longer around (be that they've gone to college, divorced, died), there is a possibility your cat will miss the person or pet.

We shared our lives with two Burmese cats who from the second day of meeting had formed an extremely close relationship with one another. They played together,  slept together and wherever you found one, the other one would be there also. They really were an inseparable pair. Sadly, one of our Burmese cats recently passed away and his "sister" has struggled to come to terms with the loss of her lifetime companion.  Walking around the house looking for and crying out for her companion.

How do I know if my cat is grieving?

Some signs your cat may be suffering grief include:

The first stage of grief is known as "activation", where the cat is looking for his missing companion:

  • Pacing the house looking for their missing companion.
  • Crying out, as if trying to find their companion.

Following activation is depression:

  • Loss of appetite - This is serious and potentially life-threatening. Anorexia in cats can lead to hepatic lipidosis. It is important to seek veterinary attention if your cat stops eating.
  • Lethargy.
  • Depressed behaviour.
  • Withdrawal/loss of interest in surroundings and other interests.
  • Clingy/needy behaviour and or separation anxiety.

How can I help my cat?

  • It is important to reassure the grieving cat, but this should be done at the cat's pace and in his own time. Also making allowances for the individual cat's nature and current condition.
  • Plenty of extra tender loving care, this includes lots of cuddles, grooming, stroking and making time to play with your cat.
  • This may sound contradictory to the above suggestion, but also provide your cat with a quiet and private spot where it can have some time alone if it desires.
  • Offer him some special food to encourage it to eat. Try warming the food up slightly.
  • Keep your pet's routine as normal as possible.
  • Bach's rescue remedy. Speak to your veterinarian about dosage.

Multiple pets:

If you have numerous pets in the house and one dies, then the hierarchy will possibly change.

Should I get another pet?

If your cat is suffering from the loss of an animal companion it is probably best to wait for a few months until you and your cat have had some time to heal. Getting a new pet won't stop your cat grieving the lost companion.

It has been suggested that if you know that an animal is going to die, to possibly introduce a new animal before this happens, so the remaining cat has another familiar companion when the animal dies.

Also see:

Why do cats go away to die?