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.
To add to the initial grief of the surviving cat, there’s the fact that humn 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.
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.
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.
Create a memorial
This is something that may help the human family process grieving, which will then help the surviving cat. If you feel you have a way to honor the cat who has passed it may create more comfort for you. This can be especially helpful for children in the family who can easily feel left out and confused by what’s occurring in the household after the death of a pet.
Anything you can do, whether it’s to create a special garden, photo album, or even honoring the cat by making a special donation to an animal welfare organization, may provide a little more comfort and peace for you.
The surviving cat, being the sensitive animal he is, will benefit from any body language signal of peace and comfort you display.
Allow Time for Adjustments in Dynamics
In multipet homes, each relationship is unique and the pets have worked out a way of time-sharing in the environment. Even if there was hostility over territorial rights, the death of a pet causes an upset in that normal routine. The pets need time to renegotiate territory and establish a new dynamic. Relationships may shift a bit during this time of uncertainty. Monitor to make sure no one gets picked on but let them have space as they find their way back to “normal.”