A sad cat looking out of a window.
A sad cat looking out of a window. Photography ©Zenobillis | Getty Images.

How to Help a Grieving Cat

Whether it’s sadness over the loss of a feline or human friend (or a former home) cats can and do grieve. Here’s how to help a grieving cat.
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Grief in cats is very real, and there are a few ways to help a grieving cat. I still remember the day like it was yesterday. I came home from my morning kitty visits to find that my sweet cat, Sadie, had passed away. She had a heart condition, so we knew the day would come eventually, but we were not at all prepared for it to happen as suddenly as it did.

I also was not prepared for her buddy, Trouble’s, response to the passing. Looking all around my house for the other cats to make sure everyone was alright, I couldn’t find Trouble anywhere. I called and called, finally opening my sliding closet door to find Trouble cowering in the corner, visibly shaking. To say that cats do not have feelings is such a fallacy; Trouble was scared and started crying the moment he saw me.

A grieving cat mourning other cats

Two happy cats cuddle together.
Cats may grieve the loss of kitty friends. Photography ©kozorog | Thinkstock.

Sadie had come home to live with us at the tender age of 6 weeks, and Trouble immediately took her under his wing. They were always together over the nearly seven years Sadie was with us, and my guess is that when Sadie had her heart attack, he must have been right there and witnessed it all.

He eventually “recovered” but he was never the same cat after that. He was no longer our alpha boy; he was now very quiet and subdued. I’m sure that when he passed six years later, it was with a still-broken heart over the loss of his pal. We both grieved her loss very hard. (I wrote a book about losing her called Sadie’s Heart, a Kindle download on Amazon.com).

A grieving cat mourning the loss of a human

I have also experienced a cat’s grief over the loss of her chosen human and her home. When I adopted 12-year-old Pickles from the Van Nuys, California, shelter, she was going through grief over the loss of her home and her human who had passed away.

She settled into our home nicely, and we became pals, but there was a sadness to Pickles. She never did befriend the other cats, preferring to be solitary or to sit quietly by my side. I know she came to love me, but I was not her human. She was with us for four years before she passed, joining her human on the other side.

How to help a grieving cat

A sad orange ginger cat being held by a human.
How do you help a grieving cat? Photography ©Dovapi| iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Cats do grieve the loss of their cat friends, their humans and sometimes the loss of their homes, too. You may see your cat hiding more, being more withdrawn or acting depressed. Sometimes, particularly with the loss of her human, your cat may decide to stick to you like glue, afraid that you may disappear as well.

While cats don’t like change in general, losing a fellow cat, their favorite human or their home is a change they often don’t adapt to without some support. But we can help get them through the process by following these guidelines for helping a grieving cat.

  1. Keep her routine the same as usual. Too many changes in the household, on top of the grief, can cause stress, fear and even illness to your already anxious grieving cat.
  2. Watch her actions closely. If your cat is avoiding places that may smell like the kitty or person they are grieving for, clean those places, or remove any items that may keep her feeling the loss. On the other hand, if she seems to be seeking comfort in those places, there is no hurry to clean up those items.
  3. Spend quality time with her. Sit by her, talk in soothing tones, pet or brush her, and reassure your grieving cat that you are not going anywhere and neither is she. Offer treats, toys and other distractions to help her come out of mourning quicker.
  4. Try calming remedies. Adding herbal calming remedies to your cat’s diet may help ease her feelings of sorrow and loss.
  5. Check your emotions. Cats are very sensitive creatures, and they pick up on our emotions. If you are also grieving deeply, your cat is likely to grieve the loss harder.
  6. Seek veterinary help. If your grieving cat seems to be stuck in grief for a long time, and/or is acting sick or refusing to eat, take her to your vet at once to prevent serious illness. Your vet can also prescribe medications to ease your cat’s feelings of sadness.

Should you get another cat friend for your grieving cat?

If your cat is grieving the loss of a cat friend, you may be tempted to bring home a new buddy for her. Eventually, this may be a good idea, but in the short run it’s best to wait until your cat is back to herself before adding a new feline friend to the family.

What about if grieving cat is mourning the loss of a human?

If your grieving cat is saddened by the loss of a human, be consistent in the rest of the household and with your attention to her. If you are taking in a grieving cat who is mourning over her human, give her a calm, stable environment and plenty of time to adjust to her new life. In either case, love, patience and time will help your cat get back to the business of being a happy cat.

Tell us: Have you ever had a grieving cat? How did you help your grieving cat?

Dealing with grief yourself? Check out this post on the power of positive thinking >>

Thumbnail: Photography ©Zenobillis | Getty Images.

This piece was originally published in 2018.

About the author:

Rita Reimers’ Cat Behavior Coaching has helped many cat owners better understand their feline friends. Visit RitaReimers.com to read her cat behavior blog or to book a cat behavior coaching session. Rita is also the CEO/owner of JustForCatsPetSitting.com. Connect with her on Facebook and on Twitter at @thecatanalyst.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you!

Read more about cat behavior on Catster.com:

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35 thoughts on “How to Help a Grieving Cat”

  1. I am actually asking for a little advice. My two 15 year old cats Rooster and Callie are siblings and have never been apart except twice in their lives for less than 24 hours. Rooster got sick and had to be put to sleep on the 29th of September. They always slept next to each and now Callie is sleeping very close to me at night. She has been waking up several times during the night sitting up looking for her brother as well as during the day constantly looking around for him. My problem is Callie lost her hearing a couple of years ago and she cannot hear me trying to comfort her and telling her that everything is ok and it will be alright. I feel like she lives in a silent world. How do I help her?

  2. I had two cats Cagney had cancer and I put her down. She was cremated so I can’t bring her body back, I don’t think I’d be able to do that anyway. My other cat Lacey is mourning I haven’t realized why she was meowing all the time until now. I just bought Cagney’s carrier back and put it down for Lacey to smell? I don’t want her to feel worse, do think if that was the right thing to do. Lacey has been laying right by it now. Thank you so much.

  3. Katherine Roberts

    We recently lost our 17 year old kitty Jack. He and our remaining cat, Katie, were together for 16 years. We knew he did not have long and discussed letting Katie see him after he died. He died at home so we let Katie see and sniff him. She did not show any signs of grieving or knowing he was gone until two to three days later. Now she is crying more and looking for him. We are home and are giving her tons of attention. It has only been two weeks, so I hope more time will help her. We all miss him terribly. There are some very comforting comments here. I am grateful to you all.

  4. I’m reading this because we lost our 13 yr old black lab and our 3 yr old kitty seems to be searching for him and acting clingy. Reading all of these comments reminds me of my work at an animal shelter as an adoption counselor. I remember trying to convince adopters to take both cats who were bonded and came into the shelter together, but sadly sometimes they were separated.

  5. Susan Tackabury

    Any suggestions on how I can help Shooter whilst his papa is in the hospital? Sounds like this will be an extended stay for his human daddy. I’ve been told he is a “one mans cat” and I only see him if I look under the couch. My heart breaks for him and I don’t know what to do to comfort him :-(

  6. when our Bunny crossed the bridge, Trish was heartbroken,they had become very close over time. We were not ready for a new kitty till about 4 months later,I asked God to show me what we needed and be blatant because I may be dense. Not long after a tiny kitten appeared at the neighbors, it was not his, he was an addict. We scooped her up the next day an$230.00 later she was ours. Not knowing how Trish would act we put her in a large crate in the house where ours live,inside ONLY. They looked at each other in surprise and Trish patted her and that was it.LOVE

  7. When my little guy, Bijou died of GI Lymphoma at the age of 12 and a half, my other cat CriCri found it unbearable: “Where was he?” etc and he started spraying almost immediately, to cover the smell of his little lost friend and long term companion. At the same time the local house-call vet who does strays occasionally for a cat carer group said, “We have a little cat for you which needs a home”. I see-sawed about having her. Both CriCri and I needed time to grieve, on our own. The spraying continued so I decided that at least, she would be a distraction. I have to say that I probably would not do it again – not so soon after the death of our previous animal. CriCri did not like her – and she caused him consternation – she looked like Bijou yet he knew she was not, yet she puzzled him and caused him heartache due to her similarity in appearance. Fractioned coconut oil was an incredible help at this point. I would syringe it up in a ml syringe and squirt it on his fur. Within a few hours he was happy and soothed. Every time it seemed he might go into deep depression, I did this, with the exact same results – a very soothed and happy cat. (He also lost his appetite with it, as it causes animals and humans to lose their appetite. I can’t use coconut due to its effect on cholesterol and circulation, in my body. Or perhaps lite coconut might be useable for animals and people with cholesterol – ask your dietician!)
    I do not use it as much now. It is nine months after Bijou’s death. We still love him and miss him very much. But CriCri has come – slowly – to appreciate the company of his new friend Pepi, who has found it equally difficult to deal with his aloofness and attitude. For her an equal mix of vinegar and water on the back of her neck (about half a ml or a whole ml) using a cotton wool ball soaked in it helped not only against unwanted microbes but also lifted her spirits. Getting them to play together is a tonic for both of them …this would have worked much sooner if I’d had more time. Just getting a new cat used to being outside and coming back in in a reasonable time has been a major stress factor all on its own.

  8. Baxter was a rescue from the Cat Hospital of Tidewater. he was stressed, as if a human had died. wife said he heartbreakingly cried constantly if i was out of the house, and when home for about 3 years he was “clingy”. he’s still a Guy’s Cat, but much more secure now. much more relaxed, but i can’t imagine what horror he must have experienced. cats have emotions too.

  9. I have had cat companions for many years. When my cat Boo died after 20 years it hit me pretty hard. My other cat Jake was despondent for months. Fortunately I found this article and helped both Jake and I cope with the loss. For weeks I had to make sure he ate something at least twice a day. I held him and talked to him as often as he would let me. But it was reading the comments on this article that really tore me up. So much grief and loss, it is hard to bear sometimes but my heart goes out to you all. Much love

  10. Oh my gosh! I thought my Twiggy cat and I would never get over grieving for our Smokey Bear kitty. I cried and cried and so did she. We were making each other more and more sad.
    She seems better now, though she is not the same cat that she was. She is very clingy yet standoffish at the same time. She developed a heartbreaking “whisper cry” which she’d never had before.
    I started giving her CBD Oil and it seems to have helped some (it did nothing for me), that, and just time I guess…

  11. We just had to put 15 year old “Little One” down last week because of cancer. His brother Blue is glued to my side. Every few hours he will get up and search for his brother and call out for him. We are making sure he eats and drinks. I wish there was a way to communicate to Blue better to let him know how much we love him. Hugs and sweet talk are all I have, these cats were the center of my home life daily. Thank You for the suggestions about not making changes my husband was going to switch Blue’s food now we will hold off. Your articles are helpful.

    1. Baxter was a rescue from the Cat Hospital of Tidewater. he was stressed, as if a human had died. wife said he heartbreakingly cried constantly if i was out of the house, and when home for about 3 years he was “clingy”. he’s still a Guy’s Cat, but much more secure now. much more relaxed, but i can’t imagine what horror he must have experienced. cats have emotions too.

  12. I have had cats all of my life, usuallly 2 which happened in differant ways , but they always had a nice long life. After my last cat Triscuit died , I was without a cat for a few months and knew I wanted to adopt 2 together. After looking at various shelters I adopted 2 one year old cats. After a few months Bear became very ill and jaundiced and diagnosed with FIP (feline infectious peritonitis} . He was so oo sick but I put him with Toby and he groomed him. The day I had scheduled him to be put to sleep he died, still makes me cry.

  13. If you have more than one cat and one dies, it is extremely helpful, if at all possible, to allow the remaining cat or cats to see the body of the cat who died. We’ve had cats for more than 30 years. After reading about this years ago we began doing this when we would lose one of our much-loved felines. We just lost our buddy Keeley last week, leaving six remaining. We brought Keeley back from the vet and laid him on the kitchen floor. The others came up to him, sniffed, walked around him, sat down by him a while — each in their way, some for only a moment or two, some longer, based, I think, on their relationship to him. It’s clear that several of the cats particularly miss Keeley (and we’re giving them, and the others as well, added attention). But they have not, and will not, hunt through the house for him, meowing (as cats sometimes do) because they do know what happened; in their way they understand death.

    1. @Marian, thank you so much for this reply post and your input! I’ve had to put down 2 cats while having another buddy still living in the house at the different times, and it’s just so freakin sad when they go around looking for their buddy that’s not there anymore! It’s the most heart wrenching meowing ever! But I never thought of doing this, probably from thinking selfishly and not wanting to put myself through having the body back in the house, I think now! However, after reading this, I completely agree with you, and think this is a great idea to do, and in the future will give this a try in these circumstances!! Thanks again! And I’m so sorry for your recent loss!

    2. I have always brought the body home for the other pets to know. Never had them searching or crying for the lost one. Always give more pets to everyone for a few weeks.

  14. Love the info you post. So many times it can apply to me or someone I know. I volunteer at an animal shelter and your advice is taken very seriously. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and research. It is priceless.

  15. Sheri Cunningham

    So many sad stories…it is a dilemma as to whether to get a new cat pal for the one remaining. I debated for several months when our 13 year old cat died and left our 15 year old cat, Sophie, an “only child”. For 6 months, Sophie would only stay in the front part of the house (where all the activity was). She finally discovered the house was hers alone and is now enjoying every part of it – including our bed during the day and night. She “sings” to us and has truly blossomed into the cat she could be. Although I still look at other cat options, I have decided to let Sophie enjoy her life to the fullest and receive all the pampering she can get.

  16. When my 21 year old Ragdoll Archie died last year my big 12 year old Bombay Mickey lay in his last resting spot for four months. I had 3 other cats but they couldn’t fill the void. I eventually went to a shelter and brought home 9-year old Manny a little Selkirk Rex. Mickey and Manny touched noses and became instant friends. Manny was not meant as a replacement as that is never possible but he shook up the household and gave Mickey a new interest. I’m now down to four cats after losing three elderly cats in one year. Losing a family member is hard on all of us.

  17. I went away on a trip. I got a call my friend who was taking care of my cats, Winston wasn’t able to use his rear legs. Got him into my vet, there was nothing to be done as he had blood clots, we had to put him to sleep. So I was not home and it happened very suddenly ! When I returned, Snow came running outside, I think he expected me to have Winston. Over the next 10 months, he completely changed, He went from being top cat, to hiding and not eating like he used to. He would sit on my breezeway waiting for Winston to come home. Then one morning I noticed swelling on the right side of his head and bloog coming out of his ear. I really don’t what had attacked, but something had. His wgt was 8 lbs, he used like 18 and been 15 lbs 6 months before. I went ahead and put him to sleep. With his depression being so bad and nothig comfortong him, I couldn’t see him being able to heal ad recover. During that time I didn’t have the $$$ to spent on doctor visits, I really regret not getting him help sooner !!

  18. My partner Andy died suddenly and my cat Ronnie was never the same after. Ronnie used to spend all his time with Andy because he worked from home and made a fuss of him. Amusingly he always sat on his lap while he tried to type.
    Since his death, Ronnie follows me round all the time, he is at the door when I get home and sits on my lap all the time. Poor boy has also lost weight and seems depressed.
    I know it’s only a year and I am sad too, he is such a sweet boy and a comfort to me.
    Cats definitely have feelings.

  19. Elizabeth Prosser

    Dog stories: 1) I take my dogs with me to the vet when one of their doggie companions needs to “leave” – unless the vet comes to my home. This seems to help them. Some sniff their deceased friend, so turn rather forcefully away. 2) When an acquaintance died, her little poodle was bereft. The new widower took the little dog to the funeral home, where his much loved mistress was being “viewed. The poodle wagged his tail, but when held close to the body, sniffed, turned away, and never showed signs of mourning after that. With cats, I don’t know…some of my cats have snuggled, some have ignored their buddies, all different.

  20. This is very accurate and helps me confirm the sudden change in behavior of my kitty after the loss of our dog. It’s was a sudden unexpected loss and she was our cat’s best friend. She has changed a lot and is still not the same. Her bathroom habits re altered and she seems to go when upset. She is very clingy. I am trying to help her best I can, but it is tough. Thanks you for the helpful article.

  21. Very useful article. When our Pooterman died at 16 years, we had our petsitter come in and spend a half hour a day with his mother, Miss Ivy who was 17 at the time. We did this for a month. Both my husband and I work and felt that the time she would be by herself was too great for a senior grieving kitty and Miss Ivy knew our petsitter well. It was well worth it, and 6 months later, Miss Ivy appears to have adapted well.

  22. When Teagan, my dad’s first cat died, she did so with all of us there, including our next oldest cat Cricket. (I hate to say it was painful and we didn’t have time to bring her to the emergency vets.) She wanted us there, especially my dad, her chosen human. Cricket snuggled and tried to soothe her (they tolerated each other but weren’t hugely close). Unforunately whatever Teagan died of at the age of 18 was probably contagious because we lost Cricket only a few days later at the age of 16. Cricket’s daughter never batted an eye or seemed to know the others were gone. I find it so strange how they were so different in their responses.

    Our four cats now are close in pairs. The two oldest are adopted siblings and love each other and the two younger are littermates and snuggle. I’m happy they’re relatively young and all healthy because I couldn’t bear to see their grief!

  23. I LOVE THAT LINE…..”He has purpose.” Isn’t that the truth? Everybody needs a purpose. A daily destination. Even a cat.

  24. Baxter walked up to the Cat Hospital’s door covered in blood, when their tech Dave was unlocking for business. He became a resident cat, but seemed too feral around the other cats, needed a quiet single pet home, so they called us–we had lost our Patches of 17 years earlier. jumpy, clinging, silent, and didn’t start vocalizing for 2 years (he sings! a sweet cat-voice!). my wife says when i’m in the yard, he sits at the storm door and cries his heart out, until i come back in. i strongly suspected, in addition to moving homes twice in 6 months, that his human was gone as well as his kitten home. he is still a little clingy, and my wife is convinced he’s a Guy’s Cat. happy ending! and thank you for this article, and for sharing your heart!

  25. I am currently going through this very experience, and it is actually twofold. Not only did Sophie lose her humans (my mother-in-law and sister-in-law), she also lost her home that was the only home she knew. We (my wife and I) took Sophie and her sisters to live with us at our house (which is occupied with our own brood), so we are crowded. However, we are making it work.

    That said, while Sophie’s sisters have adapted fairly well to the new digs and roommates, Sophie has taken up residence in our garage. Which on the surface is not unusual as that was where they liked to hang out at their home; however, it has been over six months, and I have only heard her shuffling about behind the midst of the boxes and other items that we brought over from the house.

    We make sure that she has food (which she always eats), plenty of water, and a clean box. So, we know she is moving around and at least eating/drinking/using the restroom. Our access door from the house to the garage is not equipped with a “kitty door”, so we keep the light on and the door cracked for her, but she has never (to our knowledge) come into the house, nor have the others ventured into the garage.

    Nevertheless, I did find some solace in this article about recognizing that Sophie is grieving, not just for the loss of her humans, but of her home as well. We have been giving her space, and have not disrupted anything in the garage so that we don’t cause her any more anxiety. I’m just happy to know that what she’s going through is not unusual, and am more hopeful that she will come around when she’s ready.

  26. Another way to help a grieving cat is to seek out an animal communicator. I did this for one of my cats that was grieving and it helped immensely. After the animal communicator “spoke” with her, she immediately seemed to understand where her friend was and shortly after was feeling much better. She definitely understood what was communicated to her.
    I’ve used animal communicators for decades with various pets of mine and have always found them to be right on. Be sure you find someone who has good references or that you have heard of.

    1. Thanks, Dale. Here’s an article on cat communicators that we published recently https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/how-to-talk-to-your-cat-through-a-cat-communicator

  27. Just over a year ago my older cat, Chloe, became ill suddenly, and I had to have her euthenized. My remaining cat, Maddy, had known Chloe was sick, and after Chloe died, Maddy stuck to me like glue for several weeks. She was very clingy, always wanting to know where I was, and if she found herself in a room alone, she would start to cry until I called her to let her know where I was.

    She does miss her friend; Chloe’s mom instincts kicked in when I adopted Maddy as a 7-week-old, and they became good friends.

    Many years ago I had to spend several weeks in the hospital, and one of my cats actually thought I was dead. She had seen 4 of her siblings given away, never to return. One of the family dogs had died. Then my grandmother died. When I left one night and didn’t come back for so long, she never expected to see me again.

    So it was a shock to her when I did come home and saw her at the top of the stairs. I greeted her, and she reacted as though she had seen a ghost. She turned around and ran back into the room she’d come out of, and was very uncertain when I approached.

    Finally she did come around, though, and after that she stayed very close to me for the remainder of her life.

  28. This article is helpful. I have a 14-year-old kitty whose health is now failing. His adoring little “girlfriend” is only 2 and she’s really going to miss him. I feel a bit better equipped to handle the situation now. Thank you.

  29. This article really left a deposit in my heart.
    Spooky and Patrick were the very best of friends. Spooky just past her 16th birthday developed pancreatitis, stopped eating and never recovered.
    Shortly after, our orange tabby, Patrick just stopped eating and when we took him for an ultrasound and various other procedures to the tune of $2500, our holistic vet informed us that he was depressed and grieving.
    He did recover with our loving care, force feeding, subcutaneous hydration, etc. And eventually we got two more cats and now our Patrick runs the show again. He has purpose. We are thankful.

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