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Nine Signs of Grief in Cats

For a long time, people believed that cats were loners who didn't need any other creatures in their lives. While some cats may be content living a solitary life, others form deep and lasting attachments to other cats and people. When a cat loses a friend, he can go through a grieving process just as real as any human's. Just as people have different ways of showing their grief, so do cats.

Here are a few typical reactions to grief:

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Change in eating patterns

  • Disinterest in playing

  • House-training mistakes

  • Excessive crying, meowing, or other vocalization

  • Loss of appetite, including refusal to eat

  • Repeatedly returning to locations where the lost companion used to spend time, or searching for the missing companion

  • Sitting silently, staring at the wall or out the window

  • Running away

The most important thing you can do to help your cat through his grief is to understand that he is grieving and support him through that process. Keep your routines such as feeding and grooming. Spend as much time with him as you can, and have friends the cat knows come over for visits and play with him. Give him something with the scent of the lost person or animal. Keep him company at mealtimes and make his meals extra-tasty. Most of all, do not get another cat right away; wait until both of you have processed your grief.

Advice from Other Cat Owners 

Have Patience During This Time

Having experienced the death of one of my cats, I would add that lots of patience and lots and lots of love will help. Two of my cats still go looking for her under the bed and in the closet of the bedroom where she spent her last few weeks. It has been 7 months and they still search for her. I know what they are feeling because I can't seem to get past the grieving either.

~Vicki W, owner of three cats

A Word on Feline Grief

I've read that if one cat in a multiple cat home dies, it's a good idea - when possible - to let the survivors actually see the deceased. A little gruesome perhaps from our monkey point of view, but it's supposed to let them see what happened and come to terms.

~Chris, owner of a big orange tabby

Cats Do Grieve

I absolutely agree with this article. When we lost our very old alpha kitty in November 2009, my other cats were as devastated as me. They moped around for weeks and took turns sleeping on his old cushion (and still do). Eventually we helped each other to move on, but I still catch them staring intently at old kitty's urn.

~Coinneach F., owner of a Ragdoll and a Persian

A new cat helped with my grieving

I disagree with the advice that you should wait before adopting another pet after your pet has passed away. I adopted a new rescue kitten shortly after one of my beloved cats passed away suddenly. My new kitten provided much needed joy to our home and helped with the grieving process. I've spoken with many friends and co-workers who did the same thing with the same positive results. It may be that bringing a new pet home is not the answer for everyone, but it certainly is the answer for others.

~Debra R., owner of Domestic Shorthairs

Let the Cats Grieve

I had two cats put down at home. All three remaining cats had a chance to sniff the deceased. They were fine.

A few years later, I had another cat put down. Two of my cats sniffed it and were fine. The third spent half an hour with the deceased cat before walking away. Last year, I put another cat down. The remaining two cats sniffed for 10 minutes, then walked away.

~Evelyn F.

Remember Your Cat Is Losing a Friend

Years ago my neighbor's cat died -- and as it was my cat's best friend, he went over there every day looking for her and crying horribly. My neighbor said it was the saddest thing.

Now whenever one of my babies goes over the rainbow bridge, I make sure all of the others come to say goodbye. To some this seems harsh or weird, but animals know and understand death. They get confused by sudden disappearances, and this causes them grief.

If you have to have your pet put to sleep because of illness, or if they die from old age, bring their body home, put it in a quiet spot, and let the others come and investigate. This helps them more than you could realize. There won't be days and weeks of searching and crying while they look for their missing friend. They will know they aren't coming back, and will proceed to go on with their lives.

~Teresa H., owner of two Domestic Shorthairs

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