When Cats Grieve
Cats can become depressed and anxious when a companion they were bonded to dies or is separated from them. The companion can be another cat, dog or a person they were strongly attached to. The ways they express their grief as well as the depth varies with individual cats—some are deeply affected by their friend’s passing; others process the loss easily and quickly.
Grieving can be serious
Grieving cats need to be monitored. Although it doesn’t happen often, cats can become so deeply affected by their friend’s passing they stop eating. Cats refusing to eat need to be seen immediately by a veterinarian.
Grieving is stressful and stress can compromise the immune system, making cats susceptible to illness. Change is also stressful and should be kept to a minimum. If possible, wait until the cat has finished grieving before making major changes such as remodeling, moving or adopting another animal.
Grief Counseling for Cats
Routines, schedules and consistency help reduce stress and ease cats through their grief. Those who enjoy being groomed will appreciate gentle brushings every day at the same time. Meals should be served on a schedule as well. Treasure hunts are helpful for those who love treats. Hide coveted treats around the house, on shelves and in toys, on cat trees and scratchers. The best times to do treasure hunts are just before leaving the house for work and at night, before bed.
Petting and cuddling will help cats who enjoy interacting with people adjust quicker to their loss. They aren’t the only ones who benefit from the one on one time—these shared, sweet moments between people and their cats will also help people process their grief.
New cat toys can help them through stressful times. Puzzle boxes and ball and tract toys double as hiding places for treats when conducting treasure hunts. Sometimes cats who show no interest in playing can be inspired to play by dipping toys in a sodium/spice-free meat broth.
Scratching appropriate objects can help reduce feelings of anxiousness and stress. Sturdy scratching posts and horizontal scratchers should be placed throughout the home for the cats to scratch. In addition to nail maintenance, they scratch to mark territory and when they are conflicted and stressed. Grieving is stressful.
The whole family is affected when a loved companion animal dies. Cats aren’t the only household members who grieve. Recovery should be a shared journey of healing for everyone touched by the loss.