When we’re forced to say goodbye to a furry family member, we’re faced with one of the toughest times we’re ever going to go through. More times than not, we go through the stages of grief, we cry our little hearts out, and we remember our feline friends with sadness.
Moreover, we take the time off to figure out how to cope with the awful loss. But, what about our other furry friends? Oftentimes, we forget about them when we’re going through a tough time because we don’t think they’re capable of experiencing grief.
“Oh, cats are self-sufficient and self-reliant!” We’re conditioned to think that cats are distant, detached, and standoffish, and dogs are the ones that are affectionate, appreciative, and attached to humans. Many think cats are incapable of understanding death, loss, and grief. But, are they, though?
Do cats mourn?
Now, cats can’t communicate with words. But that doesn’t mean that cats can’t express how they’re feeling through sounds, movements, and behavior patterns. Before we deem them “wooden,” we need to observe what they’re doing when they’re going through a tough time.
Sure, we could go on and on about how behaviorists don’t agree on whether or not cats can experience emotions. But when there’s a death of a family member (furry member included), cats showcase an array of behaviors that point toward sadness.
Cats grieve and mourn, too. Maybe they aren’t aware of what’s going on. Maybe they’re reacting to everyone else’s emotions. Or, maybe they’re annoyed because they’re aware that something changed, but they don’t know what that something might be.
Whatever the case, cats can become depressed and detached, refuse to eat, and cry the day away when they’re abandoned by someone they care about.
How do cats cope with loss?
1. They become depressed and detached
When someone passes away, you might notice your cat becoming more and more depressed as the days go by. Cats don’t always understand that someone’s passed away because they don’t understand the concept of death – rather, they think that they’ve been abandoned.
Cats notice that the person, the dog, or the other cat doesn’t come to play anymore, doesn’t eat with them, or doesn’t appear. And, when they notice that, they become depressed. When you spot your cat becoming more depressed, detached, and “silent,” know that she might be mourning.
2. They refuse to eat or play
When your cat starts turning her head away from Meow Mix, you know there’s something wrong.
Whenever they’re feeling unwell or dealing with some sort of discomfort, cats are known to refuse to eat or play. We would go as far as to argue that’s a telltale sign that they’re anxious, stressed out, and/or overwhelmed.
What’s even worse, when the damaging behavior continues over a period of time, they’re known to develop stress-related health problems, too.
3. They sleep the entire day and get up only when they have to
We mentioned the fact that cats become detached and depressed when they’re mourning. If you’re struggling to figure out whether your cat’s exhibiting signs of depression, keep an eye out for whether she’s sleeping throughout the day and getting up only when she has to.
While that behavior might not be alarming to pet parents whose cats prefer napping to running around, playing, or bird-watching, sleeping the day away might be an indication that something’s wrong.
4. They hide under the bed, the table, or somewhere where no one can see them
When cats are feeling under the weather, they aren’t strangers to hiding under objects where they’re out of sight. Why do they do this, you might be wondering?
Wild cats hide like this because they’re trying to protect themselves when they’re weak. Domesticated cats do this because of these same instincts.
Needless to say, when your cat’s mourning the death of a close friend or family member, she might be inclined to hide because that’s the only way she knows how to deal with the surge of emotions she’s going through.
5. They cry
Cats can cry, sort of. They don’t cry the same way humans do – they don’t shed tears (contrary to popular belief). Cats do, however, showcase a behavior change that’s similar to what we would describe as “crying out loud.”
When felines mourn, they change the way they meow. Whether they start meowing more frequently, more vehemently, or even more intentionally (like they’re trying to search for the loved one that’s gone), pet parents often notice a shift.
How can you help your cat cope with loss?
If your fluffy friend is exhibiting one, two, or more of these behavior patterns, know that she’s going through something.
Whether she’s starting to realize that someone’s gone for good or starting to catch on to what everyone else is going through, chances are she’s going to need more attention and affection than ever.
What are you supposed to do? Firstly, you need to show her you’re there for her. Offer her treats, groom her, spend time with her, cuddle with her, and do everything else she enjoys doing with you on a day-to-day basis.
When she refuses to do one of those things, try harder, try to engage her and get her attention, and reward her when she agrees.
Then, equally important, allow her the time and space she needs to understand what’s going on. When she hides under the bed or table, don’t chase her away or force her to come out. Make sure you provide her with enough food and water while she’s down there. Observe her behavior. Check up on her.
Of course, you can always resort to calming supplements, pheromone therapy, catnip, or even medication to alleviate some of the stress she’s under. Other than that, heated cat beds or mats are a great way to comfort her, too. Good luck!