Would you call yourself a cat person or do you prefer dogs? If you’re one of the millions of people across the country that share their home with a feline friend, you can attest to the benefits of having them as a family pet.
Who is ready to snuggle up with you for an afternoon nap? Who loves chasing a toy mouse around, or can watch the birds in the yard outside with such intensity for hours?
If you’re a new cat owner, you’ll see that cats are creatures of habit. They follow the same daily behavior patterns. Your cat may have a special place to sleep at night, another spot for a morning cat nap and, quite possibly, a different location for some shut eye in the afternoon.
Cats will let you know, often loudly, if you’re tardy serving dinner. Plus, you might observe that they have their own little walk about routine, checking out the premises and anything new that you’ve brought home.
Cats are curious creatures. They have a definite air of mystique and can certainly be quite independent. While many households are home to just one cat, a number have two or more cats. Although you don’t expect them to hang on your every word, so to speak, having a cat (or several cats) in your life is definitely a delight!
Just like dogs, these pets can be a very comforting companion. When you have a cat in the family, you want to return all the love that they give to you. Understandably, if you think your cat may be grieving, you want to get to the bottom of it.
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Do Cats Grieve?
Yes, just like their owners, cats will grieve the loss of someone close to them. Do you remember what we said about cats being creatures of habit? Well, this goes hand in hand with disliking changes in their environment.
You might recognize that cats experience grief when the humans they’ve bonded with pass away. However, cats will also grieve the passing of other pets in the home, particularly those they seem to have a real connection with.
Maybe you adopted a sibling pair of kittens from the animal shelter and they’ve grown up together. They’ve shared the same cozy pet bed and chased each other through the kitty door. It stands to reason that when Midnight’s life changes in an instant and Fluffy, who has been their constant companion, is no longer around, the surviving cat will feel extremely sad.
Cats also grieve when other animals are no longer in their life. No matter whether they share your love with dogs, birds, or other house pets, your cat will undergo a big emotional adjustment when the other pet dies. This grieving process can be just as long and difficult for a surviving cat as it can be for a human.
Signs of a Grieving Cat
Of course, Boots or Bella can’t tell humans when they’re feeling out of sorts. It’s up to the people they live with to notice when something seems off with them. Granted, not all cats grieve in the same way. Therefore, watch for the signs below.
Just like people, your kitty might lose their appetite when they’re feeling especially sad. You know what that’s like – food might be the last thing you want to think about. Sure, Mittens doesn’t have to make their own dinner but cats can find it just as difficult to eat when they’re grieving.
It’s best to keep track of this to make sure they get at least a little nutrition while going through the worst of things for a day or two. If they ate less than normal for longer, it can be a concern.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals conducted a Companion Animal Mourning Project and found that appetite loss is one of the more common signs of grief for cats.
Does your pet seem a bit listless or bored lately? Cats sleep a lot, but if your feline is uncharacteristically quiet and not as active as normal when they’re awake they could be grieving.
Conversely, you might see a change in your cat’s energy level in the other direction. Your pet might become highly charged, tearing around the house or climbing on the furniture.
By the same token, your cat can show signs of depression. If you notice that they don’t want to play in their cat tunnel or they’re just napping on top of their cat tree and ignoring the chirping birds outside, you may have a depressed cat on your hands.
Is Buttons exceptionally needy since one of their friends has passed? Maybe they’re following you from room to room, not letting you out of their sight.
They may be seeking more comfort and reassurance by climbing on your lap whenever you sit down. Increased neediness is another sign of sadness in a surviving cat.
Looking for a lost companionis a way that cats grieve. The surviving cat may search around the house, or go in and out the kitty door to try to find their companion cat in the yard. You might also catch them staring out the front window for hours, waiting for a human friend to come home.
There are two ways this can happen when a cat is grieving. You might expect that your feline will become more vocal – almost as though they’re asking you to explain the situation. Alternatively, they may vocalize much less than normal, or stop talking altogether.
This is something you really want to watch for. When cats are grieving, the sadness might be so strong that it leads to stress-related health issues.
For example, they may over-groom themselves, they might vomit or their digestion may be affected with diarrhea or constipation. Stress can also lead to cystitis, an infection or swelling of the urinary tract and bladder.
Ways to Help Your Grieving Cat
Cats understand when another cat has died. If fact, you may see them paying special attention to their companion cat when their friend is ill and close to dying. If you notice your pet doing this, let them show some affection to the other animal. This will help them grieve when the time comes.
Just as people do, a cat needs time to grieve and your support to come to terms with their loss. Not only might your cat grieve missing a human, cat companion or another animal family member that they’ve been close to, cats can also experience grief when they move to a new house. Even though you’re still with them, they might react this way to a change in their surroundings.
Remember, their grief will usually run its course and they’ll adjust after a while, so don’t be too worried. Having said that, there are a number of ways you can help them overcome their sadness. Following are our suggestions.
Keep Their Routine the Same
When your feline is going through one of the biggest adjustments they’ll experience – the loss of a friend – it’s important to keep other changes to a minimum. Take care to follow the same daily routine that your pet is used to.
Sure, they may miss having their dinner at the same time as the animal companion that’s no longer around. But, maintaining a stable home environment will help. This is not the time to move their pet bed or paint the kitchen!
Spend Quality Time with Your Cat
It should be intuitive that when your cat needs you in this situation, you should spend extra time for them. Even if they’re not exhibiting needy behavior, making a point to be with them and showing that you care can make a big difference while they work through their loss.
Give them additional attention with a few more treats, or a new toy. Spend time brushing or petting them and try to interest them in a game with their cat wand or another cat toy.
Try Calming Remedies
Calming herbal remedies can assist your feline at a time like this. There are several with soothing or antidepressant properties that can be added to Ziggy’s food. These include the Bach Flower and Saint John’s-wort.
You may already be familiar with them as calming remedies that people can benefit from. If you decide to try introducing an herbal remedy, it’s a good idea to get some advice from your veterinarian first
Talk to Them
Speak to your cat and let them know that you understand that they miss their companion but everything is going to be alright. It may interest you to know that cats comprehend a lot more of what we say than we give them credit for!
Use a quiet, reassuring tone and keep your emotions in check. If your pet knows how hard you’re taking the loss, they might start worrying about you!
Finally, keep a close eye on how your feline is behaving. Have they taken to sleeping in the pet bed that belonged to their companion cat or spending time sniffing around the places that the other kitty frequented?
If so, then give your cat the time and space that they need to do this. This activity is probably giving them some comfort. Don’t rush to make changes by washing their friend’s bed or putting away the items that belonged to the other animal.
That said, if Zoey seems to be avoiding these places, then it could be reminding them of their loss and adding to their stress. In this case, they may have an easier time coming to terms with their sadness if you give them a little help by quietly removing these things where you can.
If you’re thinking it might be a good time to get another cat to help your cat cope, don’t do this right away. Allow your feline to grieve their loss properly. Then, when you think the time is right to get another cat, you can consider bringing one into the family. You want to make sure that Shadow and the new cat take well to each other.
When to Seek Veterinary Help
You know your pet, so when to check in with the veterinarian to discuss you’re your cat’s behavior changes is your judgement call. Give your feline a few days and try out some of the suggestions to help them through the grieving process, all the while monitoring their reactions.
If you note they ate less than normal for a more than a few days, their loss of appetite might be a problem. This and other worrying signs, like digestive issues or ongoing lethargy, warrant a call to the animal clinic to see the veterinarian. Your cat may need attention so that this behavior doesn’t lead to serious health problems.
Plus, a trip to the animal clinic can put your mind at ease if there’s nothing to worry about. Your vet may suggest some other ways you can help support your cat to feel better, like looking for a good animal behaviorist or a pet bereavement support service.
Our Final Thoughts
We humans realize that it can take a while for us to work through our sadness when we’re facing a pet loss or loss of a human family member. It’s no different for our furry friends facing these changes. Cats also experience grief.
Be mindful that your grieving cat needs time and support to absorb the impact of loosing a loved one. The good news is that there are a number of moves we can make to help them.
Don’t forget that you can also read the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Companion Animal Mourning Project results to find out more about grief in cats.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you help a grieving cat?
There are many things you can do to help – from keeping their environment and routine as stable as possible to spending more time with them and trying calming herbal remedies.
How long do cats grieve?
It may take a cat a few weeks or a number of months to come to terms with the loss of a companion in the family. Just like humans, cats are individuals and need to grieve in their own time.
Do cats know when another cat has died?
Yes, cats understand when another cat has died. If fact, you may see them paying special attention to their feline friend when the other cat is ill and close to dying.