Did you know that cats can experience grief?

by K Marie Alto November 01, 2020 2 min read

Did you know that cats can experience grief?

While I had read about animals mourning the loss of a furry friend I had yet to see it firsthand in my 20 years of pet parenting.  That all changed 3 weeks ago when we said goodbye to our little Randa Bean, leaving Sosa as the only kitty in the house.

We noticed the change that night.  As usual, we put Sosa to bed in the kitty safe room (read the explanation for this routine here) leaving her with some extra snacks.  When we checked the camera the next day, she essentially spent the entire night pacing the room while crying out.  When morning came Sosa continued pacing the house going into rooms she usually ignored.  She began making new crying sounds we had never heard before and would continue non-stop until we called her and encouraged her to come sit with us.  She even started going behind furniture and crying; we could only deduce that she was looking and calling out for her sister.  Our hearts were breaking and so was hers.

Sosa immediately became my little shadow.  If I got up, she followed.  If I managed to sneak away while she was sleeping, she would wake up and start crying for me.  Sosa has always been a pretty skittish kitty and not having her little partner in crime was clearly making her less confident and much clingier.

Common Behaviors

Just like humans, cats are all individuals and can show grief in unique ways.  Essentially any behavior that is out of the ordinary may be an expression of their mourning.  Some common behaviors are as follows:

  • Change in vocalization
  • Decrease in play
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Overgrooming
  • Change in desire for interaction (hiding or becoming clingy)
  • Change in sleep pattern
  • Misbehaving (ex. refusing to use the litterbox)

How to help

  • Stick to your normal routine.  Cats are generally creatures of habit, so providing the stability of their usual routine will help them feel secure.
  • Spend more time with your kitty doing things they enjoy, whether that’s playtime or more quality snuggle time.
  • If your kitty is acting out in a negative way, remember to be patient.  Negative reactions may scare your kitty and perpetuate the unwanted behavior.
  • There is no timeline for grief, so if your kitty’s appetite or behavior isn’t returning to normal, reach out to your veterinarian to discuss recommendations.

In our home, we’ve always known that our fur babies can pick up on our emotions.  Over the last 3 months, we had basically been on an emotional rollercoaster, which I’m sure they picked up on.  Seeing how Sosa reacted to Beany’s passing has helped me be stronger so that she didn’t have to suffer anymore than she was already.  While I have been hurting tremendously her reaction has actually helped me by distracting me from my grief in order to help her cope.  I know we are all in this together as a family and we are here to help each other heal.

Have you ever had a fur baby display signs of grief?  How did you help him/her cope?

K Marie Alto
K Marie Alto

K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 22K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).


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