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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 12 December 2002 Issue


Grieving Animals

Dear Jill:

Our 13 year old dog died of heart failure two months ago. We miss Trudy with all our heart and are still grieving. Our 3 year old cat, Gracie, is behaving oddly and driving us nuts. She sits by the door and yowls, something she never did before. She never even so much as meowed by the front door before. She won't eat her food regularly and when she does it is not very much. She is losing weight. She won't let us pick her up either. I tried many times and she bit me and when my wife picked her up she screamed and put up a struggle. This is NOT normal. She's acting very strange and we are concerned about her. What's wrong with her? Do you think she misses her friend Trudy? (They used to sleep together in the same bed every night and spend all day together.)

Our vet told us that cats don't grieve, but we are starting to think he is wrong. Can you help us? It's hard to sleep at night with her yowling. Thanks,

-Sleep Deprived With Yowling Cat

Dear Friends,

I am so sorry for your loss. It is very difficult when one loses a member of the family. Oftentimes other (furry) family members grieve just as much, if not more than the humans. I suggest you find yourselves a more compassionate and more educated veterinarian.

I suggest that you take Gracie in for a checkup a.s.a.p. to ANOTHER veterinarian, one experienced in pet loss. Have them give her a physical examination to rule out any medical problems which might be causing Gracie to act out.

Is she using the litterbox? Is she using the litterbox more frequently than usual? Make sure she is thoroughly checked for any urinary infection or problems as well as other conditions. If the vet rules out any physical problems, discuss therapy for helping Gracie cope with the loss of her best friend. It is possible that anti-anixiety medication might be helpful for short term usage with Gracie (to enable you to pick her up, hold her and comfort her in her time of great need. And also to get her appetite up, so she does not lose any more weight.)

Gracie needs your attention and love to get through this exceptionally hard time of grief and loneliness. Spend more time with Gracie and shower her with attention. Leave the radio on a classical music station or talk radio when you are not able to be at home with her. If she enjoys toys, get some new, interesting, easy and non-frustrating toys to play with. Get her some fresh cat nip, some gourmet fishy-type, yummy canned food (or whatever flavour she prefers), to stimulate her appetite. Do things you know she loves to do... whether it's car rides, supervised walks outside, bringing a cat or dog friend over to cheer her up...whatever she enjoys.

When my cat Maxamillion passed on, one of my other cats, Miel exhibited behavior similar to your Gracie's. Maxamillion and Miel were lifelong snugglemates and were inseparable. When Maxamillion died, Miel also sat by my front door, crying. It was heartbreaking to watch. When I'd try to pick her up, she would bite and scream (highly unusual behaviour for her!). She stopped eating and lost weight. Eventually I was hand feeding her canned food and as she did NOT want to be picked up AT ALL, I decided to let her be. (She checked out O.K. by our vet.) When I was not at home I left both the television and radio on, to comfort her. Eventually Miel gradually began to work through her grief. I showered her with (unwanted) attention, which, despite her protests, helped her feel loved and supported in the end.

Be patient and supportive of Gracie. She's hurting as much as you are. Give her time to adjust and please be patient with her. Hang in there and please let me know how you and your feline friend are doing. I look forward to hearing from you again and wish you all the best.

Love and paw pats,
Jillouise Breslauer
Companion Animal Behavior Consultant
What Jill Knows, Copyright 2002
e-mail: [email protected]  

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