Cats have “besties,” BFFs and buddies. They have family and roommates. Just like humans, they grieve when a friend passes away. What can you do to help them through it?
Keep in mind, a cat may not grieve every death. There will be cats Kitty views only as a roommate but not a close friend so he may ignore the sudden absence. If the other cat has been ill for a while, Kitty may have adjusted to the idea before death occurs.
Three Stages of Grief
Bereavement won’t be limited to other cats in the household. This also applies to the death of his human, his dog or another cat. When possible, it’s best to let him see the body so he knows what happened.
Stlsandy, a TCS member, says her cat Reilly grieved for weeks after the death of their dog, Avery. “Avery went to the emergency clinic and was kept overnight. She passed away there so Reilly didn’t get to see her. He cried and searched the house non-stop for two weeks. The
only way I could calm him was to say her name over and over—Avery didn’t want to leave you, Avery misses you too—and rock him to sleep. It was heartbreaking to see.” That kind of behavior seems to be the first of three stages of grief cats experience.
The next stage is much more passive. Kitty is less active and prone to hiding out, depressed. Siamese and Burmese are even more sensitive, can lose their appetite and look sick for several weeks. If this happens, get Kitty to the vet to jump start his appetite. Cats can’t go more than a few days without eating—the impact to his system is life-threatening.
Winchester, a TCS forum member, says when her cat Banshee died, Booboo ate his meals, but spent most of his time sleeping and looking out of the living room window. He didn’t really cry or meow that much, but he wasn’t himself at all. The behavior lasted a month or more.
As with humans, the last stage of grief is acceptance. Some cats show a change in personality after the death of a companion. They are chattier, friendlier and more likely to approach, as if they no longer have the other cat to do it for them. A shy cat can blossom when a more outgoing cat passes away.
How Can You Help a Cat in Mourning?
How you react to the death of a family member, cat or otherwise, is reflected in your cat’s behavior. Of course, it’s natural to miss them, to cry and to mourn but if a regular routine is kept, it gives both you and the cat stability. Meals at the normal time, a clean litter box, playtime or grooming and cuddles will help.
Many people think a new cat is the answer but it’s a distraction rather than a cure. It’s best to let Kitty (and yourself) grieve and work through the loss. A kitten is a wonderful way to take your mind off sadness but introductions between Kitty and a rambunctious baby don’t go well under the circumstances.
The length of time for grieving can vary from human to human and cat to cat. Some pass through the stages of grief in a matter of days; others take weeks or months.
It will get better over time.
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