Do Cats Mourn? Supporting Your Pet through Loss

Ever wondered if cats mourn? You might be surprised to learn that our furry companions, much like us, have their own emotional world. They form friendships, have families, and yes, they feel the absence of a lost companion.

In this article, we'll delve into the intriguing topic of feline grief. We'll explore the signs that suggest your cat may be mourning, the different stages they might go through, and most importantly, how you can help them navigate this difficult time.

We'll look into why some cats might seem unfazed by a companion's absence while others grieve deeply. Also, we'll examine how cats grieve not just for their feline friends, but for humans and other animals they were close to. And, we'll share some touching stories from pet owners who have observed this behavior in their own cats.

Understanding the emotional life of cats can help us better cater to their needs and support them during tough times.

do cats mourn

Recognizing Cat Grief And Its Variations

Cats, just like us, build close connections. They have their own circle of best friends, companions, and even roommates. When one of these cherished beings is no longer there, it can cause a significant change in your cat's behavior. Just like humans, cats can grieve. The big question is, how can we as responsible and loving pet owners help them navigate this period of sadness?

However, it's important to understand that not every cat will grieve for every loss. Just as we humans do, cats also differentiate between close friends and mere acquaintances. For instance, your cat may perceive another cat in the household as just a roommate rather than a close buddy. In such cases, the absence of the 'roommate' cat may not significantly affect your cat.

Furthermore, if a cat companion has been unwell for a prolonged period, your cat may gradually come to terms with their friend's failing health. This gradual adjustment might make the eventual passing of the sick cat less shocking and therefore, less distressing. Every cat is unique, and so is their way of processing grief.


Understanding Your Cat's Grief: A Three-Stage Journey

Grief doesn't discriminate. It hits not just us, but our pets too. A significant loss in your cat's life, whether it's another cat, their human companion, or even their dog buddy, can trigger the grief process. And the first step towards helping them is understanding what they are going through.

The Initial Shock: Expressing Pain And Searching

Stlsandy, an active TCS member, shares a touching story about her cat Reilly. When their dog, Avery, passed away at an emergency clinic overnight, Reilly couldn't say goodbye. He spent the next two weeks incessantly crying and scouring the house for Avery.

Stlsandy could only comfort him by gently reminding him that Avery didn't want to leave and missed him too. Such behavior marks the first stage of grief in cats, filled with pain and the desperate search for their missing friend.

The Middle Phase: Depression And Withdrawal

As the initial shock subsides, cats enter the second stage of grief - a quieter, more somber phase. Here, they often become less active, choosing to hide away, reflecting their depressed state.

Certain breeds like Siamese and Burmese cats may even lose their appetite and appear ill for several weeks. If this happens, an immediate visit to the vet is necessary. Cats' bodies can't withstand long periods without food.

A TCS member named Winchester shared her experience when her cat, Banshee, passed away. Her other cat, Booboo, though he continued eating, spent most of his time sleeping and gazing out of the living room window.

He didn't cry much, but his unusual silence was telling. His grief-stricken behavior lasted for more than a month.

The Final Stage: Acceptance And Personality Changes

Just like in humans, the last stage of cat grief is acceptance. This stage can bring about a change in your cat's personality. They may become more talkative, friendlier, or more likely to approach you as if they're compensating for the absence of their departed companion. Sometimes, a shy cat might even open up and become more social after the passing of a more outgoing companion.

Grief is a journey, a process. Each cat will traverse this path in its own unique way. Your understanding and patience during this difficult time can make a world of difference to your grieving friend.

Supporting Your Cat During The Grieving Process

Your reaction to the loss of a family member, furred or otherwise, can influence your cat's behavior. Feeling the pain, shedding tears, and mourning is a natural part of the process. Yet maintaining regularity can bring some much-needed stability to both you and your cat.

Keeping Up With Routines

Sticking to the usual schedule of meals, cleaning the litter box, playtime or grooming sessions, and providing loving cuddles, can provide comfort. This routine creates a familiar environment, offering a sense of security to your cat during such a tumultuous time.

Resisting The Temptation To Bring A New Pet

It's common to believe that a new pet could fill the void left behind. But in reality, it's more of a distraction than a solution. Grief is a process, for both you and Kitty, that must run its course.

An excitable new kitten, while providing a joyful distraction, might not be the best fit for a mourning cat. It's essential to allow time for healing before introducing a new family member.

Everyone Grieves Differently

Remember, grieving is not a one-size-fits-all process. The duration varies vastly among individuals, humans, and cats alike. Some may traverse the stages of grief swiftly within days, while others may take weeks or even months.

There Is Light Beyond The Grief

No matter how dark the days might seem now, time is the great healer. Gradually, the pain lessens, the sun shines a little brighter, and the hurt transforms into warm memories. It gets better with time, for you and your beloved cat. Stand by each other and navigate this journey of healing together.


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7 comments on “Do Cats Mourn? Supporting Your Pet through Loss

Catlover772 March 15, 2019
It still boggles my mind that people do not believe animals have feelings. When I adopted my two rag doll brothers, I learned their sad situation. Their last owner had sadly committed suicide. One of her other cats had died, another friend had died and she lost her job. These multiple losses were too much for her. The poor dears were so traumatized and their initial behavior was very different to how their true personalities came to show over the months. My gray and white boy would lie against the wall and cry for his lost Mommy. I had never seen a cat do that before but it was obvious he was mourning his loss. He was such a special cat with a beautiful personality. He loved people and even let it be known he preferred to be called another name. Perhaps it helped him to move on but when I would call them by the names their previous owner gave them he would shake his head in disapproval at me!! Sadly, he was struck down with a feline aortic thromboembolism (creepily abbreviated F.A.T.E.) three years later and stopped eating and drinking and I had to compassionately euthanize him. He was purring until the end and even tried to comfort me in my grief in his suffering and soon crossing over. He had this cute thing he did by stroking the back of his head with his front paws to generate the cooing and “awwws” from the humans and did that despite his own excruciating pain. His remaining brother has been grieving his loss now. We lost his brother four months ago and he has taken to hiding under the couch and just looks depressed. They were together since birth and this is a major loss. We will get through this.
MrHandsomesMama June 9, 2018
Absolutely they grieve! My handsome boy was so depressed when I first adopted him that he stopped eating and nearly died. He was broken hearted because his family of 7 years decided to move and so they dumped him at a shelter, where he stayed for 3 months before I found and adopted him. He is literally THE BEST CAT EVER! I can't begin to fathom how they could just abandon him after 7 years! I never met his previous family but I loathe them and believe there is a special place in hell for people like that. You don't throw away family! Ever! Period! The only thing that redeems them at all in my eyes is that their cruelty gave me my precious baby kitty!
    Betty Blue Easton December 30, 2019
    I don't understand how anyone would even think about doing that to their pets either.
Katie M May 21, 2018
My last two cats were littermates, so they had been together literally from day one. When Belle died, Beau seemed to fall apart. He stopped grooming himself, had the occasional accident outside of the litter box, and started sleeping more and more. The vet couldn't find any health problems. The changes took place within a couple days of Belle's death, and I have no doubt that they were the result of grief and the shock of losing his sister. Beau lived another two years, but never went back to his old self. My current two are still young, but they've bonded quickly. I dread that (hopefully) far-off day when one dies. I know I'll be devastated, and I suspect the surviving cat will be too.
tarasgirl06 June 23, 2015
I am so sorry for your and your family's loss.  Having been born and raised with cats, and having lived almost every day of my life with cats, I don't doubt that they grieve -- cats, after all, are far more sensitive than humans, and their bond with those they love is purer and stronger than ours could ever be.  And as for the clothes issue, yes, I'm sure you're right -- cats' sense of smell is far more powerful than ours, and scent plays a huge part in their lives in terms of finding and concealing prey, keeping themselves clean so as not to attract larger predators and so as to remain undetected by their potential prey, and establishing territory.  Those they love, whether feline, human, or other, are part of that "territory" and they scent-mark us by rubbing on us, releasing pheromones in their skin's glands onto us.  As far as they are concerned, it probably works both ways, too -- they not only want to "mark" their loved ones, they want to be "marked" by us.  
navigator June 23, 2015
i have 2 cats a solid black male tom about 6 years old and a female calico less than a year old both fixed they get along real well my wife passed away 3 months ago @66  the cats are still looking for her watching the door expecting her to come in and when they cant find her they are allways looking at me with a look that says where is mama? i have a question i was wandering why my tom always wants to lay on the clothes i was wearing is it the scent? so do they grieve i truly believe they do at least my 2 
tarasgirl06 September 18, 2014
As someone who does not believe in "closure" or any of the other silly platitudes obviously made up by those who have either never experienced deep caring and grief, or who lack empathy completely, I know that cats, who are probably much more sensitive than humans, absolutely experience grief.  Each cat does this in his/her own way, and I play it by ear as to how best to help one of my grieving feline family members after we have lost a beloved one. One thing I do as a rule is adopt another needy cat when I feel the time is right, not as a "replacement" (!) for our lost loved one but in tribute to them and, most of all, to share the love and care with someone else who is deserving and in need.

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