When Cats Grieve

10/14/12 - by TheCatCoach

The whole family suffers when a beloved companion animal dies. People aren’t the only ones who grieve—other household animals often miss and grieve their absent friend.

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.


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7 comments on “When Cats Grieve”

  1. When I moved to Virginia, I had to leave my cat with my daughter and granddaughter for about 3 months until I could find a new place to live. When I picked Mimi up and brought her home with me, she was very withdrawn and quiet, depressed. I knew she missed my granddaughter. She perked up in a very few weeks, but they do indeed miss those they're separated from and grieve for them.

  2. Cat Coach...Have a tan tabby who was born in our window well with 2 other kittens mother took the 2 kittens & left her there, so I raised her by feeding her KMR kitten milk with rubber nipples she grew up using her litter box next day drank out of a stainless steel cup she was a happy little kitten....we had 2 adult Maine Coon cats which enjoyed her except for Oreo who steered clear of her but any fight,Oreo was a petigreed Maine Coon as was Curleywho did like to "wrestle" and at times just a boxing match...when one had enougfht it would take off.....Curlay passed just 3 weeks ago at 18yrs....since then JoyPips hasn't been the same where she would play in the LVGR with all kinds of toys a happy kitten she's now
    4 going on 5....well since Curley passed she sticks to our son's room on his bed with Curley's towel never moving out of his room only to go downstairs to use the litter box which Oreo & Curley trained her ....she will go into the kittchen to drink water eat dry food but never playing as she did...only 1 room

    1. JoyPips used the LVGR every AM while she would open the sliding door where Curley would come thru after JoyPips a ritual......JoyPips did every thing playing with milk rings jumping into the air to catch 'the rings even seek the rings out of a little paper bag ...it's all gone & she loved the TV room where she was raised won't even go into it any more she used to eat in there while I/we watched TV...not now what can I do beside love the little creature with patient....please your advice Cat Coach

      1. I'm so sorry Bob. It can be heart breaking to watch our cats grieve. Thank you for contacting me and asking for my help. I sent you the information about consultations, including the history form to fill out.

  3. I've just taken ownership of a 6/7 year old cat who's owner passed away. She's been in my care now for over 48hrs, isn't eating, drinking or going 'toilet' since being here. She has decided to hide under my bed & only comes out an hour or 2 at a time. She's very withdrawn & not sure what to do. I had never met this cat prior to this...

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