The loss of a beloved pet can be devastating. When you’re used to your pup running to greet you after a long day of work or a fluffy cat winding between your legs as you cook dinner, the quiet and absence following its passing can be unsettling and heartbreaking. No doubt, it will take time to come to terms with your loss.
If you have multiple pets, you’re likely to be grateful for the remaining pets’ company following the death of a pet. But have you considered that pets can feel loss, too?
As you mourn your lost pet, be sure to give special attention to the other pets in your household, as they may be experiencing grief from the loss, as well. Since cats and dogs aren’t able to communicate their feelings like humans can, they are more likely to show grief through behavior, and it’s up to us as pet parents to recognize the signs and offer them even more love and support than before.
How pets might grieve after another pet’s death
In a multi-pet household, your cats and dogs get used to each other’s company in the same way you do. Whether they are each other’s best friends, playing and snuggling all day and night, or tend to squabble and push each other’s buttons, the existence of the other pet becomes a standard in their lives.
Thus, when a pet passes away, the remaining pets are faced with a sudden change. Experts are not sure whether pets understand death, but pets are able to identify when a pet friend who was always there is no longer in its favorite spot on the couch or near the fireplace. A sudden change like the loss of a pet is enough to cause your pet to grieve.
Additionally, it is believed that cats and dogs are very in-tune to their owners’ emotions and can show signs of grieving when you are distraught, too.
Grieving pets tend to display a few common signs, typically reflected in their behavior. They may eat less or stop eating altogether and may become more withdrawn and prone to hiding. Some pets become much more vocal, whining or crying throughout the day as if they are restless.
Some pets roam through the house in search of the fellow pet, checking the deceased pets’ usual spots and pacing. Others may have a drastic change in behavior, such as demanding more or less attention than they usually do or being increasingly lethargic.
Pets may also begin to show signs of separation anxiety with its owners. Household destruction and distraught behavior when you leave the home are most common signs of this issue.
It’s important to note that some pets will not grieve at all. This is normal, as well. Every pet will react differently to the loss of a fellow pet. Dogs tend to be more expressive when it comes to grief, but not all dogs will grieve. Pets that have very strong bonds, such as kittens who were raised together from birth, are more likely to grieve, as well.
Helping your pet cope with a loss
During times of grieving (for both humans and pets), you may be tempted to curl on the couch with your distraught pet and reassure it to soothe its grieving behaviors. While extra TLC can be helpful in calming grieving pets, you want to make sure you’re not rewarding unwanted behavior like whining, crying and destroying things.
One of the first things you should do is speak with your veterinarian to discuss the behaviors your pet is displaying and see if there’s anything you can do to alleviate your pet’s feelings of anxiety. This is especially important if your pet is not eating. The solution may just be to give your pet time and help keep it happy and distracted so it moves on from its loss.
Helping your pet learn or experience something new is a good way to keep its mind off the loss and change in routine—not only that, but it can be a good bonding experience that can help you cope, too! Giving your pet lots of attention, love and reassurance when it is not displaying undesirable behavior will also ensure that it feels loved, safe and happy.
If you’re considering adopting a new pet after your loss, give it some time to ensure your pet is feeling secure. Bringing a new pet into the household when your current pets are grieving can cause a mess of confusion and change that your pet will have a hard time coping with.
In time, your pet will effectively mourn the loss of its furry friend, as will you. Be sure to stay positive for your pet’s sake and make sure it feels loved and appreciated during this sad and emotional time.