Many people don’t realize animals grieve the loss of companions and family members. Even if companion cats had a hostile relationship, the surviving cat may still grieve the loss. There’s confusion about where the other cat has gone. The cat, regardless of whether they were close or not, had negotiated territories within the household and now the surviving cat has to figure out whether to risk crossing onto that cat’s turf.
The Household Dynamic
To add to the initial grief of the surviving cat, there’s the fact that human family members are acting distraught. Cats are creatures of habit and they depend on their human family members to behave the same way each day. As the human grieves the loss of a pet, the household dynamic changes and the grieving cat picks up on the elevated stress level. When the cat sees the cat parent crying and stressed out, it sends a red flag that everything in his world has turned upside down. During our own grieving time, we also are more at risk of neglecting normal routines so mealtime may end up being late, pets don’t get played with as often, and general interaction with surviving pets can become tense. You may clutch and hold onto your cat desperately as you grieve. The message that gets sent to the cat is one of restraint and confusion and not affection and love.
Here are some tips for you to help your cat through the grieving process:
Monitor Your Cat’s Routine
Observe your cat’s eating and litter box habits. It’s not unusual for a grieving cat to stop eating or to experience a change in litter box habits. If you notice either of these, contact your veterinarian. It’s very dangerous for a cat to go two days without eating because of the very serious risk of liver damage. Watch that your cat doesn’t fall into a depression. Stay in contact with your veterinarian if you’re at all in doubt about how your cat is handling the loss of his companion.
When grieving a loss, it’s not uncommon for a cat to experience a change in eating habits, altered sleeping patterns, a strong desire to stay physically closer to human family members, and he may even walk through the house in an attempt to find his companion. Keep an eye on behavioral changes as well as changes in eating, grooming and litter box habits to make sure the situation doesn’t become serious or dangerous. Everybody, whether human, feline or canine, grieves differently. Your best tool is the fact that you know your cat’s typical patterns and behavior so you can be alerted to potentially dangerous changes.