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How Do Cats Grieve?

Updated: August 9, 2022 by Kristen Chapple

Many people have noticed that when a cat’s companion – whether it’s a dog, another cat or human companion – passes away, the cat’s behavior changes in a way that points to the fact that they feel a sense of loss. In other terms they seem to mourn or grieve for the loss of their friend. We already know that cats feel emotion, but how do cats grieve?

Because cats are emotional and affectionate in a similar way to us humans, it’s normal to assume that they grieve for the loss of their fellow cat or owner. But let’s find out more about how they do that.

How Cats Grieve

What usually happens during the grieving process of a cat is that they cry and meow more frequently than before, they may not have the same appetite as usual, or they are a lot less active. Some kittens might even wait long hours for their passed away companion to somehow return.

While grief is a form of anxiety we usually feel after the loss or strong absence of someone dear, it’s something common for our little furry friends too.

The Changes in Behavior

In a cat family – and that sometimes includes their owners too – things go as in a human family. Any abrupt changes caused by the death or sudden leaving of another member are felt by those who remain, everything reflecting in their behavior.

As cats rely so much on smell to feel the world around them, the absence of particular scents, like those of the companions who passed away, will disturb their daily habits and patterns and cause distress in their overall behavior.

Sometimes changes include the status quo of who owns what part of the house due to the fact that cats are territorial creatures. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

More sociable cats will often cry, search for and even mourn the ones lost. The stress involved – yes, cats do feel stress – will affect their bodies and behavior to the extent that they will lose hair, have stomach aches, lose interest even in their favorite activities or experience sulking and depression and the disruption of usual sleep and eating patterns.

If the cats are not that sociable, the changes will spin around hierarchy and territorial changes in the environment where they live. Sometimes, the privileges owned – and defended – until that moment by the cat who just passed away are afterward acquired by the next one in line in terms of hierarchy. And we can’t blame them as it’s the natural way of being.

According to some researchers and observations from many owners, cats have this way of understanding the concept of death or loss. They seem to somehow feel that their cat or human friend is gone and never to return.

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