Thank you to our guest writer, Nomi Berger!
For most cats, the passing of a cherished feline companion can be an extremely emotional experience. The intensity and length of their relationship, coupled with the circumstances – sudden or gradual – surrounding their furry friend’s demise will usually determine their response: ranging from no reaction whatsoever to utter and easily recognizable despair.
In fact, many animal experts describe three distinct stages of kitty grief.
The first stage is known as “activation.” Immediately after the loss of her pussycat playmate, the “survivor” will start looking for her missing companion. She will pace your home, searching here, there and everywhere, often vocalizing or crying out as she attempts to locate her lost friend.
The second stage is depression. This phase is characterized by one or more of the following: lethargy, withdrawal (loss of interest in her surroundings, playing and socialization), clingy and needy behavior or its polar opposite, separation anxiety, and loss of appetite. The latter is the most serious with the potential to be life threatening. Because anorexia in cats can lead to hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), contact your vet immediately if your cat refuses to eat.
The third stage is acceptance. This is when many cats exhibit permanent “character changes.” Some will become chattier, friendlier and more approachable. Shy cats in particular may appear to “blossom” without their more assertive counterparts by becoming more outgoing and more active in general.
As a concerned cat guardian, there are numerous ways to help your mourning “mouser” as she moves through the grieving process. Keep her routine as normal as possible while lavishing her with extra affection in the form of more cuddles and pets, grooming and playing. Provide her with a quiet and private spot where she can spend time alone should she want it or place a cozy new cat bed close to a sunny window. Offer her some tasty new food to encourage her to eat and warm it slightly to more fully release its aroma. Present her with a new interactive toy to spark some fresh interest in playtime.
While some think adding a new cat to their diminished household is the cure for their current cat’s distress, most animal experts caution against it. They consider it a distraction not a cure and that a new pet won’t stop yours from grieving her lost companion. They suggest waiting a few months until both you and your kitty have fully healed.
As with humans, felines differ not only in the way they grieve but in how long they grieve. Your particular pussycat may return to behaving “normally” after only a few days. On the other hand, it could take weeks, even months. If, however, yours seems stuck in the grieving process, speak to your veterinarian and ask to be referred to a veterinary behaviorist or other certified behavioral expert.
It may not seem so at the moment, but it will get better in time.