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Do Cats Grieve?

do cats grieve

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.

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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.

4 Responses to Do Cats Grieve?

  1. Thank you for this informative post.
    I learned a lot!

  2. I found a lot of good information in the “Starting from Scratch” and “Think like a cat.” I was devastated and since the vets were incorrect about my cat that died I was hyper worried about my other cat. I made matters worse going to several veterinarians with my surviving cat. Keeping a normal routine like this article suggests is the best for help your cat.

  3. Thank you so much. We humans can be quick to assign human emotions to our furry family that aren’t possible but, that being said, I didn’t want to underestimate my remaining cat’s emotional life. Your article had exactly the common sense and cat-specific information I needed to care for and love my sweet surviving feline. He is alone for the first time in 18 years and the two were litter-mates. I am reassured that, so far, he appears to be coping well. Will stick close and stay with daily routine he knows.

  4. I found this very helpful. We lost one of our two fraternal cats just 7 weeks after moving to a new house. Our remaining cat was the more timid of the two. The move was already stressful for him and then losing his brother has been another blow. We’ve been wondering about getting him a new companion, but I now realize it’s too soon for us. This article offered great advice and I am reassured that he is coping. At least, he’s eating and playing and seeking contact. We will get another pet one day, but for now we will adjust to our new surroundings and work through the loss of his brother. Thank you.

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