Do Pets Grieve The Passing of Another Pet?
Do pets grieve the passing of another pet?
If so, what are the symptoms and what would a grieving pet look like?
Would a grieving pet display changes in sleep patterns or food intake?
Will a pet become vocal – a cat meowing more, or a dog barking and whining?
Would the loss of a pet cause a dog or cat to withdraw, become quieter, or begin to seek out additional comfort and constant companionship?
The idea of a pet grieving and mourning the loss of another pet is not a topic I’ve ever given much thought about. That is, until the passing of our cat Lily. It was after Lily’s passing that I believed my cat Lloyd was showing signs of grief over her loss.
After a Pet Passes
The Silence is Deafening
The Grief is Real
The silence in a home after a pet passes is deafening, and for those left behind, people and pets included, the grief is very real. Since the passing of our cat Lily, all I can say is, for the quietest pet in our household, the silence without her after 17 years is deafening.
The Grief of Losing a Pet is Very Real
No matter what anyone says, the grief of losing a pet is very real – is “losing” even the right word? How can one not grieve and mourn after sharing a life and home with a pet, a part of the family, in our case, a part of our family for 17 years!
Do Pets Grieve?
My vet asked, “are any of your other pets close to Lily?”
The question took me off guard. I had to stop and think for a moment.
Our cat Lloyd never really bonded with Lily. To be honest, Lily tolerated Lloyd at best. And although Lily LOVED dogs, she put up with our youngest dog Edna and her shenanigans.
However, my dog Edie’s relationship with Lily was different. Perhaps it was because Lily and Edie shared the past 9 years together. Maybe it was because Edie was always gentle and calm with Lily. It was not uncommon for Edie and Lily to share a bed, sit beside one another, gently sniff each others noses, or sit together staring out a window.
So in answer to my vet’s question, “are any of your other pets close to Lily?”, I answered, “Edie”.
Pets Mourn Too
So what was the reason for this question from my vet?
Why is so important to remember and watch the pets that are left behind?
I was soon to find out.
Grieving and mourning the loss and absence of our cat Lily had not only affected the humans, but it affected the other pets she left behind
The Pet I Thought Would Be Most Affected
Was Not The One I Thought
The pet I thought would be most affected by the loss of our cat Lily was not the one I thought. Yes, I believe Edie and Edna feel the change and loss of no longer having Lily included in their daily lives. But it was our cat Lloyd that showed signs of loss and confusion without Lily.
I assumed – wrongly, that because Lily and Lloyd were not close, Lloyd wouldn’t be as affected. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, it makes total sense that Lloyd would grieve Lily.
Lily had been there to greet Lloyd, a straggly, frighted little kitten, on the very first day we welcomed him into our home. From that day on, Lloyd never knew a time when Lily wasn’t part of his daily life and routine.
Lily and Lloyd may not have been what I call “best of friends”, you would never find them grooming one another, but they weren’t enemies either.
What Does A Grieving Cat Look Like?
What does a grieving cat even look like? And what was it that made me believe Lloyd was mourning our cat Lily?
I can’t say for sure how pets look, how their personalities may change, or what symptoms they may exhibit, but I can tell you what grief looked like for our cat Lloyd.
But first, a little bit about Lloyd.
Lloyd has a big personality! He LOVES to be petted, cuddled and talked too. All you have to do is look at Lloyd to get him to purr.
Lloyd loves food. Why is this important to know? Because if you’re not sure where to find Lloyd, and he’s not to be found cuddled up on a bed, or looking out a window, then check the chair by his auto feeder, you will be sure to find him laying there waiting for his next meal to be dispensed.
However, after Lily,’s passing, Lloyd’s routine changed.
Is My Cat Depressed?
I was actually beginning to worry and wonder if my cat could be depressed!
Lloyd knows Lily is no longer here with us, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand why or where she has gone?
Lloyd began seeking constant companionship with us. He’s even sought out comfort by laying next to, and sleeping with the dogs.
Our vet suggested keeping the dogs on their regular routine of walks, going outside and playing. But what about Lloyd? He doesn’t go outside to play, nor does he go for walks.
So I began encouraging Lloyd to join us and the dogs, even if it was just to sit and watch a tv show. I’d pet him, brush him more often, and I always talk to him – Lloyd LOVES to be spoken to. It’s not unusual for Lloyd to meow back. I joke that Lloyd and I can have complete conversations.
I may have been fulfilling our cat’s need for physical comfort, but what about his mind? I believed what Lloyd needed was mental stimulation as well. So I made a special effort to play with Lloyd more, and used interactive toys to keep him occupied and challenged.
It has taken time for all of us to adjust to life without Lily, and I’m thankful to say Lloyd is returning to his usual self and routine. But I think is important to remember that although saying goodbye to a pet is one of the most difficult and emotional times , we must remember that the pets left behind grieve as well, and require just as much support and comfort to get them through the loss.
February 29, 2020
Pets totally do grieve. Whatever way humans or pets react to loss (in my opinion) is totally normal. No two humans or pets react the same way … and how one reacts in one loss isn’t necessarily the way they’ll react to another loss. All of it is normal and does happen.
December 15, 2019
When we quite suddenly lost our dachshund Oz in October, our life changed in an instant. The deafening silence in our home was just as you mentioned. Oz wasn’t really that noisy, but the click, click click of his nails on the kitchen floor was surely noticed.I realized that I no longer had my best pal to talk to. Constantly, all day, every day. I was certainly overcome by grief. First shock, then painful sadness. Our cat Zeus was never close with Oz. I like to say that they happily co-existed for the most part. When Oz didn’t come home, Zeus reacted to my grief by watching over me even more than usual. I really didn’t see any obvious signs of Zeus missing Oz, but he certainly was very in tune with my sadness. Three weeks later, we brought home Grace. Zeus surely knew that this was a different dachshund, but he reacted in almost exactly the same way he did to Oz. I am conflicted about whether or not I think our pets miss the one who has passed, or more so they are reacting to the emotions of their humans who are displaying outward signs of grief. All my pet family is attached to me before the the other family members. The pet family is always intuitive when it comes to me.
November 11, 2019
Such a poignant article. Give Lloyd a hug from Milo.❤️
November 11, 2019
This will be a long comment, sorry. No one can convince me that animals don’t feel. Last year, I boarded 11 sheep for a man who had little interaction with them, I did all the feeding, watering, etc.. He came once a day to assure himself they were all still here.
Suddenly one day, without warning, he came by and told me he had sold them, and would be picking them up the next day. My heart fell, I had fallen in love with all of them. I asked to buy two. He told me he would leave Mama and her baby, Mama was very, very tame and I had patted and talked to her all year. On the day, it was breaking my heart to see them run into the trailer, and I came inside. When I went back out, there were two sheep in the pen, THE WRONG ONE… he had left a black faced ewe lamb, and taken Mama’s baby, who also had a black face. She was calling pitifully, and I ran up the drive but could not stop them.
Mama called for her 8 months old lamb for at least six hours that day, but stopped, occasionally, to graze. The other ewe lamb, Fluffy, had been at the bottom of the totem pole pecking order, so all she did was follow Mama around, and stay out of her way, though her bosom companion, Freckles, had been sent with the others. By the next day, mama was down, and I called the vet to come from forty miles away. He told me if we could not get her up, she would die of pneumonia. We dragged her into the barn in the middle of an early snow. I was left injections to give her, I brought her warm water and food…. two more days went by and she could no longer walk and was suffering terribly, and I had the vet come back and he euthanized her. Her broken heart over her lamb (and the other sheep going) killed her. I had already called the owner and begged him to bring her baby back… he would not.
I ended up buying another sheep to keep Fluffy company, and today, they are good friends, they each had a lamb last spring, and the four live here as pets.
I saw what losing her lamb did to her. Yes, it was probably losing the whole small herd (which was down to eight when they were sold) but even the vet agreed she appeared to be grieving for the loss of her lamb. I would give anything for things to be different, but yes, I believe animals do grieve. Whenever we have lost one here, dog or cat, there has always seemed to be a reshuffling in priorities.