Do Our Cats Grieve When Another Pet in the House Dies?

Clearly, some pets do appear depressed after a companion passes away.

Clearly, some pets do appear depressed after a companion passes away.

No one understands the extent of a cat’s grief; after all, they can’t tell us in words what they’re feeling. Clearly, some pets do appear depressed just after a companion passes away. These pets may go a few days without eating, generally act sad and/or develop random behavior problems, such as housebreaking lapses, meowing or looking desperately out a window.

However, there is a contingent of scientists who maintain that companion animals just don’t have the kinds of emotions that people do. They suggest these pets really aren’t truly grieving at all. Instead, they explain it’s merely the change in the household hierarchy that somehow upsets the apple cart creating confusion, a lack of clarity and therefore what we mistake as depression.

No one questions that most cats pick up the emotions of their humans. Maybe Fido or Fluffy is acting depressed simply because we’re depressed. Does the remaining pet really understand or even care that we’re upset because Fluffy passed away or because the phone bill was twice as high as it should be?

Mysteriously, some pets that are best buddies in life and then for all appearances can care less when they lose their best friend. Does the pet really know its buddy has gone to the Rainbow Bridge and is he or she able to cope with grief in some way we don’t understand? Or is that pet just totally oblivious?

In any case, following the loss of a pet, you should attempt to maintain your usual schedule of activities with the surviving pet(s) as much as humanly possible. Running and playing are great stress busters for both dogs and cats, so take out the tennis ball or the fishing pole toy with feathers. Certainly, sympathize, love and snuggle as much as you want with your fur-babies.

However, there’s a fine line here. If you play too much into that disparity and it may wind up reinforcing your pining pet, complete with new behaviors, ranging from yowling to missing the litter box.