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Looking to find out if animals grieve, or how to help a grieving cat? Find out more in our expert guide.

Do cats grieve?

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.

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 They may show this by either acting distressed on their behalf or by appearing sad or withdrawn. 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.

You’ll need to be prepared that your cat’s body may smell differently to when your pet was alive, and this may upset your cat and cause them to react in a way that is not as respectful as you might anticipate. Cats don’t have the same awareness of respect for the dead as people.

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.

For more information on getting another cat and how they can be introduced to your current pet, find out more in our guide.

Getting another cat

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If you're experiencing the loss of a pet or want to talk about telling your child about your pet's death, you can talk to us.

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