Loss of a loved one or a companion cat definitely disrupts your surviving kitty. Just like their human counterparts, cats do experience grief.
Although research on feline bereavement isn’t readily available, an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals survey of animal parents discovered cats react to loss in a variety of ways. Respondents said they observed behavioral changes in their surviving cats after the death of a companion cat. The animals ate less, slept more, and appeared to seek out the missing member of the family by wandering around the house and vocalizing more often.
Grieving cats may isolate themselves, become depressed, seek more attention, or act aggressively when they experience loss. Cats who are typically shy may become more outgoing, and a demanding cat might withdraw. Each will respond in their own way when grieving. Cats also will pick up on your grief as well, adding to their confusion that something is amiss in the household.
As you deal with your own grief, you can also set out to help your grieving cat as well. There are some things you can do to move them through the process, saysJackson Galaxy, a cat behaviorist and host of the TV show “My Cat from Hell.” “In order to ask your cat to move through their process, you have to move through yours too,” Galaxy says. “Put your attention on the ones who are living. Do what you can to get them moving through it.”
Here are five tips to help your grieving cat cope with loss:
Allow your cat to detach. It might sound morbid, but consider allowing your kitty to sniff or check out the body of the companion cat who has passed away before tending to the remains. That way, your cat can sense the finality and may not feel compelled to search for the missing friend.
Offer extra love and affection. Devote a little more one-on-one time to your surviving kitty. The extra support will help distract him from his grief and depression. Talk softly and gently to your kitty, keeping the exchange positive and reassuring. Give some extra petting and playtime as well.
Maintain your cat’s routine. Cats are creatures of habit. Avoid making any changes, like moving feeding time or rearranging furniture, which will add further confusion and distress to the situation.
Keep an eye on your cat’s feeding habits. If your cat seems uninterested in his food, try warming it up or adding a bit of broth to make it more palatable during this stressful time. You might also consider sitting with him while he eats. If your cat does not eat for three days, however, a trip to the vet is necessary to prevent potentially fatal liver disease.
Consider an antidepressant. If your cat seems quite sad and is worsening, talk to your vet about an antidepressant for your furry friend. Other remedies might be adding pheromones or herbal supplements like St. John’s Wort or Bach Flower to relieve depression. Talk to your vet about any supplements before adding them to your cat’s diet.
Losing a loved one is heartbreaking and difficult for everyone in the house, including your four-legged friend. The best way to cope is by supporting one another and offering extra love and affection.