Do Cats Grieve? How You Can Help Your Cat Deal with Loss
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Great Minded
September 2018

Cats do exhibit behavioural changes after the loss of a beloved companion.

Cats are largely seen as independent animals, so when they lose a sibling or companion, too little attention is paid to their needs or their emotional responses. But in reality, cats do exhibit behavioural changes after the loss of a beloved companion. Even if they were constantly fighting and hissing at each other life, the hole left by the loss of another cat can be very difficult for your cat to process.

It is difficult to say whether your cat is grieving, because we have no way of knowing if cats really understand grieving. But what we do know is that when cats lose a companion, they will exhibit behavioural changes and as their owner it is important that you work to help them overcome these.

Behavioural Changes

One of the main differences you may notice in your cat is that their behaviour has changed: in fact, in some cats their whole personality may seem to change. Previously happy-go-lucky cats might become withdrawn, lose interest in their surroundings, not want to play, sitting and staring for hours at a time. In humans, these behaviours would be considered to be a sign of depression.

Feline bereavement isn't something many people talk about, and it also isn't something that has received much research. But a survey that was recently conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found that many people reported that their cats ate less, slept more and also became more vocal after the death of a companion cat.

The good news though, particularly if you are worrying about your pet who is suffering the loss of a friend, is that most cats had returned to normal within six months, their old personalities began to shine through and they seemed to have forgotten that they ever had a companion cat. Whilst cats do grief, their grief seems to last a much shorter period of time than our comparative human emotion.

Is your cat still struggling with the loss of a companion pet more than six months after the loss? Whilst this is unusual, it still shouldn’t be considered a cause for concern. Animals who have been closely bonded may take longer to get offer their grief, but allowing more time and continuing to treat them as you always have will certainly help. Maintaining their routines will be an important part of helping your cat: feed them at the same time each day, keep your furniture in the same place and so on. This will minimise their stress and reassure them that everything else will remain the same. Sitting with your cat will also provide reassurance for them, and put a positive spin on them suddenly becoming the only cat in the house. Stroking them, grooming them and giving them attention will certainly help your cat.

Sharing Your Grief

Just as cats might grieve the loss of a sibling or companion, it is perfectly normal and natural for you to grieve the loss of a beloved pet [read How to Cope with Uncaring Friends after You Lose a Pet]. There are many ways that you can deal with this loss. Some people find talking about their lost pet both useful and therapeutic, whilst others want to organise a funeral or cremation for their cat so they can say a proper goodbye and receive some closure. Some people even have their cat’s ashes turned into a piece of memorial jewelry so that they can always keep them close [read Remembering Your Precious Cat with Diamonds].

However you and your other pets grieve, remember that immediately replacing your cat is not a good idea, either for your remaining cat or for you. A new cat might simply serve as an extra source of stress for you both. Instead, grieve together and focus on getting over your loss before you think about introducing a new cat.

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