Do Cats Mourn?

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Cats have “besties,” BFFs and buddies. They have family and roommates. Just like humans, they grieve when a friend passes away. What can you do to help them through it?

Keep in mind, a cat may not grieve every death. There will be cats Kitty views only as a roommate but not a close friend so he may ignore the sudden absence. If the other cat has been ill for a while, Kitty may have adjusted to the idea before death occurs.

Three Stages of Grief

Bereavement won’t be limited to other cats in the household. This also applies to the death of his human, his dog or another cat. When possible, it’s best to let him see the body so he knows what happened.

Stlsandy, a TCS member, says her cat Reilly grieved for weeks after the death of their dog, Avery. “Avery went to the emergency clinic and was kept overnight. She passed away there so Reilly didn’t get to see her. He cried and searched the house non-stop for two weeks. The

only way I could calm him was to say her name over and over—Avery didn’t want to leave you, Avery misses you too—and rock him to sleep. It was heartbreaking to see.” That kind of behavior seems to be the first of three stages of grief cats experience.

The next stage is much more passive. Kitty is less active and prone to hiding out, depressed. Siamese and Burmese are even more sensitive, can lose their appetite and look sick for several weeks. If this happens, get Kitty to the vet to jump start his appetite. Cats can’t go more than a few days without eating—the impact to his system is life-threatening.

Winchester, a TCS forum member, says when her cat Banshee died, Booboo ate his meals, but spent most of his time sleeping and looking out of the living room window. He didn’t really cry or meow that much, but he wasn’t himself at all. The behavior lasted a month or more.

As with humans, the last stage of grief is acceptance. Some cats show a change in personality after the death of a companion. They are chattier, friendlier and more likely to approach, as if they no longer have the other cat to do it for them. A shy cat can blossom when a more outgoing cat passes away.

How Can You Help a Cat in Mourning?

How you react to the death of a family member, cat or otherwise, is reflected in your cat’s behavior. Of course, it’s natural to miss them, to cry and to mourn but if a regular routine is kept, it gives both you and the cat stability. Meals at the normal time, a clean litter box, playtime or grooming and cuddles will help.

Many people think a new cat is the answer but it’s a distraction rather than a cure. It’s best to let Kitty (and yourself) grieve and work through the loss. A kitten is a wonderful way to take your mind off sadness but introductions between Kitty and a rambunctious baby don’t go well under the circumstances.

The length of time for grieving can vary from human to human and cat to cat. Some pass through the stages of grief in a matter of days; others take weeks or months.

It will get better over time.

Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

7 comments on “Do Cats Mourn?

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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