30/10/14 Do cats grieve?

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How do these four-legged felines respond to the loss of a member of the household?

Read and check you understand this vocabulary before you read and listen to the text:

grieve: to feel emotional pain caused by loss, to cry after someone dies

realize: to be aware, to recognize

ease: to make less intense

surviving: still alive, living

figure out: learn through calculation

risk: to take action involving danger

turf: (colloquial): territory

distraught: very sad, upset

owners:  the people who have the cat

pick up on:  to notice, to sense

handle:  to manage, to tolerate

newcomer:  one who has arrived recently

pass away:  to die

petting:  touching a pet affectionately

grooming:  brushing an animal’s hair

at all: any quantity, even just a little

Listen to the audio and read the text (refresh the page if it’s not visible).

Many people don’t realise animals grieve the loss of companions and family members. There are also many pet parents who recognise their cats are grieving but then make the mistake of rushing out to find another companion cat to ease the emotional pain.

Even if two companion cats had a hostile relationship, the surviving cat may still grieve the loss. There’s confusion about where the other cat has gone. The two cats, whether they were close or not, had negotiated territories within the household and now the surviving kitty has to figure out whether to risk crossing onto the other cat’s turf.

To add to the initial grief of the surviving cat, there’s the fact that human family members are acting distraught. Cats are creatures of habit and they depend on their owners to behave the same way each day. As the owner grieves the loss of a pet, the grieving cat picks up on the elevated stress level.

In an effort to prevent the cat from being lonely, the owner may bring home another cat. This is a recipe for disaster. The grieving cat is not emotionally ready to handle the intrusion of an unfamiliar animal in his home, and could become aggressive. If the resident cat is in the middle of grieving for a lost companion, it puts the newcomer in a no-win situation.

Don’t rush to fill an empty space left by the cat who recently passed away. The surviving cat needs his normal routine. He needs to be with you in the form of playtime, interaction with family members, petting and grooming as usual. Make sure the environment provides stimulation and activity for the cat to keep his mind focused on positive activities.

It’s not unusual for a grieving cat to stop eating or to experience a change in litter box habits. If you notice either of these, contact your veterinarian. Watch that your cat doesn’t fall into a depression. Stay in contact with your veterinarian if you’re at all in doubt about how your cat is handling the loss of his companion.

Something to chat about

  • What advice is given in the article about…
  • getting a replacement cat?
  • spending time together?
  • observing habits?
  • How can you tell if a cat is grieving?
  • What things do you think a cat misses when it loses a companion?
  • Why do people often bury dead pets?
  • Do you think animals experience grieve in the same way as humans?
  • What about dogs, horses, fish and other animals?


This story was adapted from:



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