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Do Cats Grieve? How to Help a Grieving Cat

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: January 21, 2024 - Author: Rebekah Carter
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: December 15, 2022  
Author:  Rebekah Carter

Do cats grieve? It might sound like an unusual question at first. 

After all, we often see cats as relatively “solitary” creatures, known for being aloof and distant. However, cats aren’t heartless, nor are they unaffected by the loss of a pet or human being. 

do cats grieve

Bringing a cat into your home makes them a part of your family. It’s not just you who sees your cat as another part of the “tribe”.  Your cat also forms deep emotional attachments to the people and other creatures around them. 

Do Cats Grieve?

While animal behaviorists don’t know for certain whether cats perceive death in the same way as humans, studies indicate cats are capable of grief, and regularly show behavioral changes after the loss of a family pet or friend. 

Grieving Cat: The Signs

The ASPCA conducted a study in the 90s that found:

  • 65% of cats showed around 4 behavioral changes and upset following the loss of another animal companion.
  • Many cats slept more than usual following a loss, while others changed the location where they normally slept, or had trouble falling asleep as often as usual.
  • Over 50% of cats became more clingy, dependent, and affectionate with humans after another animal or human being passed away.
  • 70% of cats showed changes in their vocal patterns. While some meowed more often, others became a lot quieter after a passing.
  • 46% of cats demonstrated changes in their appetite after a fellow feline companion passed away, typically eating less than normal
grieving cat

Do Cats Grieve? The Symptoms of Cat Grief

Unfortunately, cats don’t speak our language, nor do we speak theirs. We can’t ask our feline companions how they feel about the loss of a person or animal, which means it’s difficult to understand for certain how cats “grieve”. 

However, research into changing cat behaviors following the passing of another human or creature seems to suggest cats are capable of grieving. 

In a multi-cat household, the death of another kitty can lead to significant changes in the behaviors of surviving cats. 

Some cats become more aloof or spend increased time around areas where they would have typically interacted with the other cat. Others attach themselves to their human companions, showing more affection than usual. 

Each cat is different, so the way yours expresses grief may differ compared to other animals. However, some of the most common symptoms of cat grief can include:

  • Changes in appetite (Loss of appetite, or ignoring certain foods)
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (sleeping more or less than usual)
  • Restless behavior, such as walking around more often
  • Increased or decreased confidence
  • Searching and crying behaviors
  • Increased or reduced interest in other activities
  • Attention-seeking behavior like pawing and approaching humans
how long do cats grieve for another cat

How Long Will a Cat Grieve? 

Since the process of grieving in cats isn’t fully understood, it’s difficult to say for certain what it might look like, or how long it might last.

Some experts, such as cat behavior counselor Vicky Halls say there are often three stages involved in “cat grief”. 

In most cases, the process will begin with your cat searching for the other cat, human, or animal, wandering around the house, and vocalizing more excessively. 

They may pace more frequently, and spend less time simply laying down and relaxing. 

This relatively active initial stage of grief can often be followed by a more “passive” stage when depression signs begin to exhibit themselves, and the cat becomes more withdrawn. 

In the third and final stage (acceptance), the cat starts to settle into its new routine. Here, human owners might notice some permanent changes to their cat’s personality, such as a cat becoming more affectionate.

As with humans, there’s no specific timeline for how long these stages might last. Some cats pass through the stages of grief pretty quickly, while others take months to feel comfortable again after another animal or human passes away. 

How to Help Your Cat Cope with Grief

Helping a feline companion deal with grief can be difficult. 

When human beings pass away, we can provide. guidance to them based on our own experiences. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t possible with a cat. In most cases, the best thing you can do is show your kitty extra attention during the mourning period. 

A few ways you might be able to help your cat include:

  • Avoid any significant changes: Cats don’t always respond well to change at the best of times. During the mourning period, it’s important not to change too much about your cat’s routine, such as moving their furniture or changing their feeding schedule. These changes can sometimes add to your cat’s stress levels. Don’t be too quick to remove the deceased's belongings from home either.
  • Show extra affection and attention: Extra attention and affection can be particularly important for your cat during times of grieving. If possible, it’s worth spending extra time with your cat, talking to them, and petting them when they come close. Not only will this soothe your cat, but it could be helpful for you too when you’re suffering from your own grieving process.
  • Divert their attention: This strategy can be particularly useful for cats who are spending a lot of time searching for their lost companion. Try distracting your cat with extra toys and treats. You could even hide treats around the house for them to find when you’re not going to be at home. 
  • Limit access to the outdoors: If you have an outdoor cat, it’s usually a good idea to stop them from venturing too far during the mourning period. They could start exploring far and wide in search of the departed individual, which could increase their chances of getting lost. Try to keep your cat close to home.
  • Speak to a vet: If your cat seems to struggle significantly with a loss, it’s helpful to speak to your veterinarian. They may be able to suggest natural supplements to reduce stress and anxiety. Some vets can even offer anti-depression medications to cats.
do cats grieve other cats

Do Cats Grieve? Summary

Do cats grieve? Well, yes, cat grief can be a difficult thing to manage. The chances are you’re feeling your own negative emotions following the loss of a companion, another person, or animal, but it’s important not to let your feelings overwhelm your ability to care for your cat. 

One thing to keep in mind is that introducing a new companion cat “replacement” to your feline after they lose a kitty companion too quickly can be problematic. 

Your cat might be less likely to welcome a new stranger into the household when they’re still adjusting to the initial loss. 

Give them some time to grieve and get over their sadness before you decide on your next steps and consider a new cat.

About the author

Rebekah Carter is a dedicated animal lover. Her Savannah cat, Roscoe, has a lot of attitude, while her Maine Coon, Dukino, is full of love. When not writing, she’s looking after her cats and researching ways to help them live their best possible life. Her passion for animals and natural skill for writing led her to pursue pet blogging.