When a family member or a beloved pet dies, naturally the remaining members of the household will go through a grieving process as you all try to deal with your loss. But do cats grieve too? Whether it’s the loss of a feline or human companion, or even another pet, such as the family dog, you may notice a change in your cat’s behaviour that may be attributable to grief.
Do Cats Grieve?
Cats may not process their grief in the same way we do as humans, but you’ll often notice changes in the behaviour of a cat after the death of someone in the household, whether feline, canine or human. When someone who was a part of your cat’s life is suddenly gone, your cat will have to adjust to this and any changes in his normal routine. For example, your cat will have to accept that someone else will feed him from now on, or that he’ll have to eat alone instead of alongside another family pet.
How Can I Tell if My Cat is Grieving?
There are a number of ways that cats exhibit grief, and the most common is that they seem to search for their lost companion. You may find your cat appears to be looking everywhere, and could even call out for them, and this can be very distressing to pet parents. Naturally your cat won’t understand why his companion has disappeared, and unfortunately you can’t explain to him why they’re not around anymore. Your cat may also show symptoms of anxiety and depression, such as a loss of appetite, lethargy, hiding, excessive grooming, or inappropriate toileting.
An ASPCA study of grief in animals showed that 65% of cats exhibited four or more behavioural changes after losing a pet companion. 46% of cats ate less than usual after the death of a companion cat, 70% showed a change in vocalization pattern (they meowed significantly more often, or significantly less, than normal), over 50% became more affectionate and “clingy” with their owners, and many of the cats slept more and changed their sleeping location.
How Can I Help my Grieving Cat?
- If your cat is grieving, he’ll need extra love and attention to reassure him that despite the change in your household, you’re still there for him.
- It’s also important to try to keep your cat’s daily routines such as feeding and playtime as close to normal as possible.
- A plug-in feline pheromone diffuser often helps to calm and reassure cats that are stressed, so it’s always worth trying to see if it helps your cat through the grieving process.
- If your cat is an outdoor cat, consider preventing access to the outside world for a period of time in case he wanders too far away looking for his lost companion.
- In severe cases of grief, some cats will stop eating completely. In this case, you’ll need to see your vet for advice and perhaps medication to help encourage him to eat.
- Although you may think that getting another cat straight away will provide companionship for your cat, it’s not necessarily a good idea until after your cat has gone through the grieving process. Introducing a new pet at such a delicate time may cause territorial issues and confusion for both your existing cat and any new family member.
Just like us humans, all cats are different, and we all grieve differently. Your cat may not show any signs of grief at all, and this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, after the loss of a companion cat, you may notice your remaining cat actually starts to display more dominant behaviour because the dynamics of the household have changed and now he can.
Have you had a cat who has grieved the loss of a companion? What signs of grief did they display and how did you help them cope?
Image: Irita Kirsbluma via Flickr