Grief in surviving pets – how to help a grieving cat

Looking to find out if animals grieve, or how to help a grieving cat?

Although grief in animals is not well understood currently, you may recognise changes in behaviour in your cats, which may be attributed to grief. While the question of ‘do animals grieve?’ has been widely debated, some animals show varying degrees of grief-attributed behaviour. Others may show no outward signs at all.

In a multiple cat household, the death of a cat can lead to surviving cats showing less inhibition and a new willingness to seek attention from their owner.

While it is important to remember that each cat will behave differently in their grief, there are some common behaviours that may be seen while a cat adjusts to the death of a housemate.

These include:

changes in appetite
changes in sleep patterns
unsettled, restless, wandering around
increase or decrease in confidence
searching and crying
increased or reduced interest in other activities
loss of confidence or a general sadness
attention seeking
in contrast, a pet may not appear to be missing the deceased pet at all
increased use of space in the house

How can I help my cat grieve?

If your cat has died, you’re likely to be worried about the cat that is left behind. Helping pets cope with death can be tricky – their grief is as individual as it would be for you, or any other family member. If you’re worried about how to help a grieving cat, you can try the following:

Stick to a familiar routine. This is helpful in helping your cat adjust to the change in the household

Avoid spending increasing amounts of time with an existing cat following the death of your pet – an increase in attention can be stressful and intense, combined with the potential stress of losing their companion

Think before you introduce another pet into your household. It usually takes some time for cats to settle and for a relationship to form. Assessing your cat’s needs is important at this time when the remaining cat is adjusting to the change

Do cats know when another cat is dying?

There is no evidence to suggest whether cats are aware that their feline friend is dying, and all cats are different in their behaviour.  When Jasper my elderly cat was nearing his end, we had 5 kittens and one of them didn’t leave Jasper’s side for about a year.  Jasper went blind instantly overnight and Minnie used to lay with Jasper and follow him around, Minne really really loved Jasper.  When Jasper was very poorly at the end, Minnie used to sort of ‘talk to Jasper’ by making little chirruping sounds.  I know that Minnie misses Jasper.  And I pay extra attention to Minnie for being such a lovely girl to Jasper.  She’s one of the timidest out of the three feral kittens we rescued from my mum’s garden.  And she was the last to be caught so she is warier of humans than Kiki and Coco, her brother and sister.

In some cases, cats seem to understand that the other cat is experiencing pain. They may show this by either acting distressed on their behalf or by appearing sad or withdrawn. Or,  as previously stated they can actually seek out and take care of the other pet. 

However, some cats can appear indifferent to their fellow cats who are ill.

Should I show the dead body of my pet to my surviving cat?

If your cat has died from a cause that doesn’t pose a risk of infection to other cats, and you feel comfortable doing so, you can show your cat the body of your deceased cat. There is, however, no studies to suggest that this aids the grieving process in your cat. And it’s not something personally I would do.  Jasper was cremated after he was put to sleep so I didn’t have that issue, however, Freddie one of my other cats got run over earlier last year and we buried him in the garden but I wouldn’t have dreamt of showing the other cats his body.  But take what you need, what’s right for me, is not necessarily be what’s right for you <3 

Should I get a new pet to keep my cat company?

Before you think about getting another cat as a companion for your current cat, it is important to think carefully. Grief is entirely personal to you – you might find that you want to adopt another cat almost immediately or wait until you have come to terms with your loss. Don’t rush the experience – do what is best for you.

It is also important to remember that while your cat might display behaviour changes and even appear to miss their feline friend, cats do not need companions to be happy. In fact, cats prefer mostly to live on their own due to their solitary nature. However, I have 9 cats now and they all live perfectly happily together with the exception of Lenny and Lulu who I can’t leave unsupervised with our other cats as they are really nasty to my elder cats.  So at bedtime, they sleep in my daughter’s bedroom separate from the rest of the cats and if I need to go anywhere else they are either in the bedroom or in the kitchen away from the others

I hope that this helps you. 

If you have any questions or want any Reiki Healing for your pets, or you would like to try EFT aka Tapping with your pets then please contact me. 

You can contact me by emailing me or by sending me a message on my Facebook page or sending me a message on Instagram.

Hope this helps,

Trudy xox


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