Cats have grief

Signs that your cat is grieving and how you can help her

Grief in cats is not a high-profile issue, in large part because cats are often viewed as independent animals that have retained many of their "wildlife" traits. But cats do indeed show behavioral changes after another cat dies that are sometimes difficult to interpret.

When animals are closely related, the loss of their four-legged friend takes them more seriously. Even cats who constantly fight each other can mourn the loss of such a comrade. Even if you will never know whether cats understand what death means, they naturally understand that a “roommate” is missing and that something has changed in their home. The cat may sense the owner's grief over the loss of his pet, which increases the sense of confusion it may be feeling.

Signs of grief

It is not really possible to predict how a cat will react to the death of a comrade. Some cats seem completely unaffected by it and others even seem quite happy when their roommate is suddenly no longer there. Others, on the other hand, may stop eating and lose interest in what is happening around them, sit on the spot and stare into space. You appear depressed. Some cats, on the other hand, show changes in nature or behavior when a comrade dies.

No major studies have been done on cat grief, but a survey by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found that cats ate less, slept more, and made more noises after another cat died. Fortunately, the cats in the 160 households surveyed behaved normally again within 6 months of the death of their animal friend.

How can we help?

There are a few things that can be done to help a grieving cat cope with the loss. As little change as possible gives the cat time to come to terms with the loss of a four-legged friend. Do not change anything in the cat's routine. Changing feeding times or even moving furniture can cause the cat additional stress. A grieving cat may not like to eat. A cat who does not eat for several days is at risk of developing a potentially fatal liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. Encourage your cat to eat by warming the food slightly or adding water or meat juice. Sit with your cat during meals to calm them down. Do not feed any other food to whet your appetite, as changing the food can lead to indigestion. If the cat does not eat for three days, ask your veterinarian for advice.

Time together

Spend more time with your cat. Brush her, stroke her and play with her. This gives a positive feel to the changes the cat is feeling. Do not try to immediately replace a deceased cat. While your bereaved cat misses its longtime comrade and is still confused at the loss, it will most likely not welcome a strange cat. At this point, a new cat is just causing additional stress. As with many species, it can be important for cats to sniff and poke their mate's dead body as part of the grieving process. Therefore, it can be helpful to bring the body of an euthanized cat home with you and not have it cremated by the veterinarian. If there are drastic changes in behavior, the cat should always be examined by a veterinarian to see if there is a physical problem. An animal psychologist can also be called in in the event of unexplained behavioral problems.

Support in the event of death

Helping a cat get over the loss can be especially difficult if you are struggling to cope with the death of your beloved four-legged friend. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone who knows from their own experience how disturbing the death of an animal can be. The Pet Bereavement Support Service is a confidential phone line that provides assistance through a national network of trained volunteers. The helpline is run by two charities - Blue Cross and The Society for Companion Animal Studies - and is available every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. An answering machine is available outside of these times.
You can reach the helpline on 0800 096 6606. The call is free.
A coordinator will then give you the contact information of a volunteer in your area. Feline Advisory Board