cat looking out window

Guest post by Arnold Plotnick, MS, DVM, ACVIM, ABVP

It happened 26 years ago, but my memory of the incident remains vivid.

With my sights set on becoming a veterinarian, I was working as a volunteer at a local veterinarian’s office in Gainesville, Florida, to obtain that all-important “real life” experience. It was a weekday, and the first appointment of the afternoon was a woman who was bringing in her cat, Sarah, for a physical examination. “She has no interest in food, no interest in people; she just sits next to the couch and doesn’t move”, said the owner, a woman in her 50s. This subdued behavior had been going on for four days. The doctor asked the woman about the days preceding Sarah’s lethargy and loss of appetite, and whether anything in the cat’s environment had changed.

In a soft, forlorn voice, the woman proceeded to tell the veterinarian that Sarah had a littermate – a sister – and that they were inseparable. Both cats had access to a small backyard through a kitty door, and would often hang out in the yard together. Four days prior, the sister was in the yard by herself when a neighborhood dog managed to get into the yard, chase down the sister, and attack and kill her. Sarah was inside the house at the time, looking into the yard from the window. She witnessed the entire incident. “From that point on”, said the woman, “she’s been like this”, pointing to Sarah. I looked over at the cat, huddled on the exam table, disinterested in her surroundings, inconsolable.

The veterinarian examined her from head to tail. A “use caution” sticker on Sarah’s record indicated that she was known to be feisty during veterinary exams. But not that day. She put up no fuss as the doctor poked and prodded. The doctor pronounced the cat healthy, and told the client that in his professional opinion, Sarah was clearly grieving for her sister. “I wouldn’t have thought cats were capable of mourning”, said her owner, “but I see it now with my own eyes. I’ve never seen anything so sad in my life.”

Do cats grieve?

Grief occurs as a result of the abrupt or unexpected severing of attachment. Although cats are thought of as being aloof and solitary, they are, in fact, social animals, and are as capable as dogs of forming deep attachments to people and other animals. It stands to reason that a severing of that attachment would lead to grieving. As a veterinarian and advice columnist, I am often asked whether I think cats grieve or mourn the loss of a feline companion. I certainly feel that they do, but cats cannot speak, and we can only guess at what their true emotions might be at any given time.

“Culturally, we try to deny human-like behaviors in animals,” says Alan Beck, Professor and Director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “People used to believe that animals didn’t feel pain”, says Beck. “We know, of course, that this isn’t true. Then, they used to question whether animals could think. Clearly, they can.” Beck adds, “I suppose that denying animal’s human-like behaviors allows us to be more comfortable eating them and using them.” But attitudes toward animals have changed over the years. While he believes that cats probably don’t perceive death the same way as people do, for pet cats experiencing a drastic change in their environment, it seems reasonable to think that they do grieve. “We can’t be certain if they mourn in the human sense of the word, but we should give them the benefit of the doubt”, says Beck. “If something would cause stress in a human, we should assume it would cause stress in animals.”

The difference between human and feline grieving

There are clear differences between human and feline grieving. Humans can show grief for distant relatives or for public figures. Cats lack the abstraction that allows people to grieve for those they’ve never met; cats only grieve for familiar and close companions. Cats do not demonstrate the same ritualized ways of dealing with their grief as humans do, but they do exhibit their own signs of mourning. In 1996, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals conducted the Companion Animal Mourning Project. The study found that 46% of cats ate less than usual after the death of a companion cat. Around 70% showed a change in vocalization pattern (they meowed significantly more often, or significantly less, than normal). More than half of the cats became more affectionate and “clingy” with their owners, and many of the cats slept more, and changed the location of where they usually slept. Overall, 65% of cats exhibited four or more behavior changes after losing a pet companion.

Cat mourns loss of human and feline companion

Alison Fraser needs no convincing. When not singing or dancing on Broadway, the Tony-nominated performer could usually be found doting on her cats, Iggy and Pete. This past August, however, tragedy struck when Iggy, who had been coping well with his heart disease (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), suffered an embolus and became acutely paralyzed in his rear legs. He died soon afterward. “Pete mourned for days”, says Alison.

This wasn’t the first time Pete had shown mourning behavior. When Alison’s husband Rusty became ill, Pete got very stressed and began to overgroom, barbering his tail nearly to the point of baldness. When Rusty passed away, Pete mourned for weeks. Not long afterward, Pete’s other feline companion, Valentine, died of chronic renal failure, and once again, Pete grieved for weeks, moping, hiding, and overgrooming. Alison adopted Iggy as a companion for the sullen Pete. Fortunately, Iggy and Pete clicked right away, with Pete acting as Iggy’s protector. “Iggy died so suddenly”, says Alison, “that Pete never got to say a proper goodbye.” Until Alison came home with Iggy’s ashes. “When I brought the ashes home, I placed the urn in the middle of the living room floor. Pete went over to the urn, laid his chin on it, and kept it there for an hour. I believe this was Pete’s way of saying his final goodbye.”

How cats perceive death

The question often arises as to whether it is a good idea to allow surviving cats to see the body of the deceased cat. “Whether this is helpful or not is the subject of debate”, says Dr. Nicholas Dodman, board certified veterinary behaviorist at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and author of The Cat Who Cried for Help, “and there is little evidence to support either view.”

Some researchers believe that a cat perceives death the way a young child might perceive it, i.e. they lack the concept of death being a permanent state. If that’s true, then showing them the body “would be like letting a 2 year-old see a deceased family member at a funeral. The consequences just don’t register”, says Dr. Dodman. On the other hand, if dogs and cats do comprehend death more than we give them credit for, viewing a deceased companion may help to explain why that companion cat won’t be around in the future. Anecdotally, people have reported that some cats stop searching for an absent companion after being shown the body of a deceased companion.

This may indicate that cats have at least some comprehension that something dead cannot come alive again. This may be linked to the fact that they are predators. “The weight of opinion today is that a ‘viewing’ is not likely to help a pet understand the death of a companion”, says Dodman. “But”, he adds, “I think we should give our pets the benefit of the doubt and allow them to, if we feel it might help. After all, if the human experience is anything to go by, it may help some come to terms with what has transpired.”

How to tell whether your cat is grieving

Life abruptly becomes very different for the surviving cat, and it will require extra attention, compassion, and reassurance during this period. If the surviving cat had access to the outdoors, this should be restricted, as the cat may stray off into unfamiliar territory and get into dangerous situations as it searches for the lost companion. Time heals all wounds, and if the cat is showing other signs of depression (poor appetite, change in sleeping pattern, excessive vocalization, overgrooming, pacing, searching), these often dissipate after a few weeks, although it can take as long as six months. “Enriching the environment, by offering new toys, treats, etc. is helpful and recommended”, says Dr. Dodman, as this may help reduce a clingy cat’s sudden over-attachment, and may draw the cat out of its shell.

In a multi-cat household, the surviving cats will eventually work out the new social order. Whether getting a replacement cat right away is a good idea is debatable. Pete found Iggy to be a welcome distraction, but this is usually the exception rather than the rule. A cat in the throes of grief may not be able to handle the additional stress of a new feline intruder. “In some instances, severely affected cats may require anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication”, warns Dodman. As with humans, cats need time to process the loss.

Cats are resilient animals. If given time to grieve, they will return to some of their old rituals, develop new rituals, and once again regain the contentment that they previously enjoyed.

Dr. Arnold Plotnick is a retired feline veterinarian and the former owner of Manhattan Cat Specialists, a cats-only veterinary clinic on the Upper Westside of Manhattan.

92 Comments on Do Cats Grieve for Other Cats?

  1. This is the first post that came up as I began looking for peace this afternoon. I have had Fred and Ginger for 16 years and this morning I had to say goodbye to Ginger. Poor Fred. I did bring him with me because the two had never been apart. I believe giving him the benefit of the doubt for understanding is the best thing. I have only been home a couple of hours with him and he is already looking for her. He just sits looking in different directions and meowing. I feel that he understands more than most give animals credit for. I kept wondering if getting another cat before I list one would be a good and I even considered stopping at the shelter on the way home but I am glad I did not as I think taking time is good for both of us. I have actually had a tough three weeks which also include a sudden end to my marriage and my youngest sister, and best friend, taking her own life.

    This is just really hard. I just wanted to let you know I appreciate finding your article very much. All of this will be okay, and Fred will make a new friend when he is ready. Take care.

    • Oh Tamara, you’ve been through so much these past few weeks, and to loose Ginger on top of everything else – my heart goes out to you. Watching a cat grief is so hard, but I think you’re wise to give both of you some time before making any decisions.

  2. Hello , thank you for this wonderful and caring site.
    I love Cats and have had them all my life.
    Two months ago our nearly aged 15 tabby, Holly , passed away. She had hyperthyroidism. How she suffered towards the last few days. We all said our goodbyes, my daughter sang to her all night . I held her all day. Then my Son took her to our wonderful Vet. He gave Holly part of the injection so my Son could hold her for awhile. Then our Vet gave her the remainder.
    I was so worried about Holly’s Son, Tigger.
    He was 14 and was breastfed for 6 months by Holly , and She would always bath Him a lot.
    After Holly crossed the bridge, initially Tigger was so different it seemed He was finally allowed to be His own Cat.
    That surprised us as Tigger would sleep with all of us . But He wouldn’t cross the door entry to the balcony as every day he would lay out there to catch the sun.
    It’s been two months now, and Tigger is apathetic, he bellows at times. Which is so very sad. I’ve never seen Him do that. He sleeps all day and night. If my Son alters His routine, He bellows for hours.
    I’ve never seen a Cat do that before and it’s hard to explain.
    We want to take Tigger to the Vet, but we are worried that Holly’s scent will be in the Cat carrier.
    I know Cats grieve and mourn their companions.
    It is as if the light has gone out in Tigger.
    Cats do have expressions and are so aware of our feelings and our health , they are there when we are sick or sad.
    And we are there for them.
    I hope Tigger will feel better. We give Him attention and love, His favourite foods .
    I just hope He feels better .
    I am worried as We all love Him so much.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss, Cherie. I urge you to take Tigger to the vet. While his behavior may be an expression of his grief, any change in behavior can be an indicator of a health problem, and it’s always better to find out sooner rather than later.

  3. My cat Lilac and her brother Butchy were very close, used to lay together and groom each other. When Butchy passed away, Lilac was definitely in mourning. I remember her laying next to a cat tree where Butchy used to climb on, looking very sad with her head resting on her paws. She also insisted on looking for Butchy in our basement den, almost until the day she died. She would look at me and cry, as if to say, “where is he?” She survived him by 4 years.

  4. I had 2 cats also. The older one who I had first, died today of heart failure. The remaining cat, a female ferral, worshipped the ground he walked on even tho he couldn’t stand her. Unfortunately I have to leave out of town in 6 days (have to – its my daughter’s wedding) and I’m so worried about leaving her alone. I’ll have someone come twice a day to feed her, but she’s afraid of people so shewon’t come out. I want to get her another cat but the vets say wait until I come back…is this the best thing to do? I would think another cat would distract her while I’m gone. I’d keep them separate of course..advice please

      • That makes so much sense Thank you so much! So far She is doing good. I told her we’ll make it through this together:) Extra playtime and cuddles.
        *Any suggestions to make my absence easier on her? I’m leaving in 6 days, back in. 3 1/2 days. I’ll leave my scented clothes, bed unmade so she has my and other cat’s scent & I’ll leave treats for the person who will feed her.

        • It sounds like you’ve already have a good plan for making her as comfortable as possible while you’re gone. Maybe consider playing some soft music while you’re away. Classical music has been shown to calm cats.

  5. My Bombay, Victory, is apparently still mourning the loss of my dog, Cujo, who died protecting me from an aggressive stray dog. That was in Sept. He is still exhibiting all the signs of grief. I had Cujo for the past 3 yrs, they were buddies, but I just didn’t know how good of buddies they were until I read this. He has lost considerable amount of weight from eating less, meows more, is needy, and now sleeps on top of the bird cage. When he used to sleep in his beds or with us. He hardly ever leaves that bird cage now. We have taken in 3 stray kittens since then, he seems to be OK with it, but still in his funk.

  6. Funny, I’m exhibiting most of these behaviours after having given away a cat I’d grown attached to (neighbor cat who became mine but who I couldnt keep as moving). I miss him a lot. My older cat grew used to him but wasnt as attached and seems to be okay with the change in ritual. But I’m the one pacing etc!

  7. Excellent article. Am I the only one who read it with a lump at the back of my throat. So sad. I have four cats, each cat is unique, with there own personalities (sometimes even ‘facial expressions’).

    They do enrich our lives! 🙂

    • My cat Martini recently passed!! I have another kitty Rossi!, grief?? yes.. they all morn the the loss of that other differently.. Of course Martini was the “main” dude, had him since he was 5 weeks old and passed at 17, since he is gone Rossi has been more needy…so to speak.. almost trying to make up for Martini.since Martini was always with me everywhere I went he did too… Now Rossi, even though they grew up together give or take a few years.. but they were buddies!!
      grief.. yes.. we all morn loss…differently.. because the trust of a cat is earned.. never given!! so when you get it..honor it!!

  8. As always…… EXCELLENT article, Ingrid. You always provide me with a great deal of insight. 13 years ago when my first cat (the most exalted and magnificent Calpurnia) died, I was the one overcome with grief, while my other cat, the amazing Dave, was the one who consoled me. Today at 19 years young, Dave still looks after me and is always there when I need him. I couldn’t have asked for a better baby boy!!

  9. Poor babies… I think it’s a good idea bringing home a new kitten for them to take care of… when my dearest Toby passed, his companion for over 10 years, Beba, grieved for days, even shed tears from her eyes and I was so sad that I was looking for him in every cat I came across, so it haven’t pass a month when I took home a little kitten, grey tabby like Toby… and Beba felt better ever since, although at first she was a little uncomfort in her presence… but soon enough she adopted her and I too felt a little better…

    • We are trying very hard to find another Siamese. It’s difficult. We want it to be another Siamese, because they are so family oriented. Plus we don’t want to spend a fortune, because we owe a lot of money on vet bills.

  10. Than you very much! It’s been an extremely difficult week. Oscar is doing some what better, but I’m still worried about Shelby. I feel that I may need to get her another Siamese kitten for her to care for. She was an incredible mother. And Oscar was the ultimate father. He feel on love with his babies the day they were born. Oscar is seeking extra attention. Shelby is hiding in Graebel’s favorite hiding place.

  11. I had three Siamese cats up until a few days ago. I have a male and a female, Oscar and Shelby. They had one litter of kittens 4.5 years ago. We kept one and have the other three away to wonderful homes where they receive incredible love and care. I even get to visit them all. Their daughter whom we kept, Graebel had calcium oxalate stones. This past Tuesday she went for surgery to remove the eight stones. The surgery was sucessful and we brought her home. A few hours later (roughly 7-8 after surgery) she mostly likely had a heart attack and passed away. A couple hours later Oscar really wanted into the room, because he knew something was wrong and I didn’t have the heart to keep him out. I let him in and laid in her basket next to her for a couple minutes and then ran away. My cats haven’t been the same since their daughter got sick. Now that she is gone they aren’t doing well and I am worried that they will not be able to get over their loss. Siamese are extremely family oriented cats. I can honestly say that I have never ever in my life have I ever seen such a strong love and bond in people or cats. They were inseparable. They slept together in a pile all the time. They did everything together. Shelby actually nursed Graebel for a full year until I got Graebel spayed.
    Now Oscar and Shelby are barely eating or drinking. They won’t come out from under the couch, which was Graebel’s hiding space. Graebel was very shy. She had come a long way over these past few month. I don’t know what to do for Shelby and Oscar. Oscar is much stronger and more resilient than Shelby. My heart is breaking even more than it already is.

  12. I’m heartbroken, my 16 year old cat jasper passed away suddenly 4 months ago, his sister jasmine is till grieving I am sure. She cries in the night and won’t leave my side. She is overgrooming and hardly eats 🙁

    • I’m so sorry for your loss, Shelley. It’s devastating to loose a cat, and watching your other cat grieve only adds to your pain. My heart goes out to you.

  13. Yes, I know cats grieve. Thank you for such a well presented article.

    Malcolm was 7 months old when he was adopted to be a companion to Pusspuss. They lived together with me for 12 years when Pusspuss succumbed to complications from kidney disease. Malcolm (and I) missed her terribly and he retreated to his basket with no interest in his usual activities or mischief for months. It wasn’t until later in hindsight that I realized he too, was grieving the loss of Pusspuss.

    One day when I heard another ‘damaged’ cat needed a home I decided to bring him into ours and work with him through his behavioural issues. Little did I realize that he was the very thing Malcolm and I needed to bring us back to ‘life.’ And Malcolm’s laid back nature was perfect for Monty as he worked through is toileting issues. Malcolm became kittenish again, playing with mischievous Monty and watching his antics but giving him his privacy in the loo. Monty learned to use the litterbox without anxiety and became the house comedian constantly entertaining his new buddy and me.

    Sweet Monty was only with us for 18 months before his heart gave out and suddenly he was gone too. Fortunately, while I missed Monty terribly Malcolm’s reaction was less severe this time. He did miss our sweet boy but was more focused on dealing with his failing eye-sight and finding his way around the house. Also, I decided to not add more stress (another cat) as he adjusted to his blindness so I spent my waking moments being his companion until he too passed at 18+ years. I miss them all to this day…. And Yes, animals grieve.

    • So sorry for your loss, Dorothy… very touching your story, hope you can find another sweet baby to give love and be happy with again, until you meet Pusspuss, Malcom and Monty at the bridge one day… <3

      • Thank you Miss Toby.
        After Malcolm passed I started fostering cats. I adopted three of them and still have two looking for a home but am fast reaching the point where it’ll be too hard to part with them too. They range in ages from 1 year to about 5 or 6 years old. My house is filled with cat mischief and mayhem. I love it.

        • so glad is that way… I think I can’t live without them, they’re a big part of my life and my heart, so when my Toby died I adopted a new baby right away, willing to give all the love I still feel for him to another kitten, because at that moment I was still grieving and mourning for him, looking for him in every single cat I stumbled upon… and the two kittens I adopted after his passing are my very heart and made me so happy I can’t think about living without them, or a cat (s) in my life. Besides, the new kitty who turned out to be a female, helped my older cat, Beba, to overcome her own grief about Toby, who was her companion for about eight years.

          • I agree… Can’t imagine a life without them and would remortgage the house to care for them if I had to. Thank you. For sharing, Miss Toby


  14. We lost one of our cats, Rye, on January 6, 2012 to renal failure. I had always said that if Rye died, our girl Tonks wouldn’t be far behind. When Rye died, Tonks, was devastated. She absolutely adored Rye, followed him everywhere, constantly cuddling and grooming him. When Rye died, Tonks looked for him for almost 3 weeks. She would wander from room to room calling for him, sitting up to look on the couch, bed tables, looking under the bed and tables. It was heartbreaking. She became very clingy with my husband (a BIG change seeing as we couldn’t pet her for the first 6 years we had her! She was a feral we adopted and it took that long for her to trust us).

    4 months after he died, Tonks was diagnosed with a mass on her liver. She went downhill very quickly – not even time to do many tests. One night, we came home from work and she was just laying on the floor, not moving, wouldn’t even lift her head. We sat with her while we talked about what to do. My husband and I both knew it was her time, but neither of us wanted to say it. Finally, my husband said “I think we should let her go see Rye” As soon as he said that, Tonks lifted her head and meowed. It was the only time she responded to us that night and there is no doubt in my mind that she understood what he said and was letting us know that’s what she wanted. I can’t help but think that if Rye had been around Tonks would have fought harder, but she just missed him too much. We took her to the clinic shortly after and let her go. Their urns are side by side, just as they always were in life.

    • I see this comment was 5 years ago but I’m just reading it and I will remember this forever! Such a touching story and testimate to how much our pets understand. Although one of my two cats died yesterday, I still say his name and have called his name like I did multiple times a day when he was here. I think it’s good for my surviving cat to hear his name. Thanks again for sharing. Your story definitely tugged on my heart strings.

  15. My Siamese cats Zooey and Tillie were inseparable, Tillie was younger and was attached to Zooey like felcro almost from day one. Zooey lived with having IBD,She did well but eventually went downhill fast, I think the vets (specialists included) I had at the time tried too hard, giving me the advice of ‘there’s always hope’, I think Zooey suffered too much which is guilt I have until this day. The last 2 weeks she stayed in the basement, Tillie and my other cat Annie took turns sitting with her, she was never alone-she ran from me because I always had a pill to give her but she had them. After she passed Tillie went into a tailspin, her entire personality changed..she had become my little heart breaker and she clung to me. But every year around the time Zooey died both Annie and Tillie would head to the basement, to the couch where they sat with Zooey, they would do this for 2-3 weeks and then resume sleeping upstairs, it was very touching. After Annie died I got Bucky another Siamese but Tillie never bonded very well with him, she just wanted me. Tillie died in 2011, I miss her so much and have yet to get another cat because I’m moving this summer. Bucky is ok, lonely but ok, he clings to me too-and I to him, when I brought Tillie’s ashes home I put them on the floor and he too sat with them for the longest time.
    Cats grieve, some like Bucky are ok, others like Tillie never get over it, they live, they play, they seem like normal cats to outsiders but at least in Tillie’s case she was permanently changed. My heart breaker.
    As to whether cats understand when shown a dead companion I have to say that people didn’t think any animal understood death but research into elephants has blown that apart, elephants will recognize the bones of a dead relative years after their death, they also grieve quite openly. Big cats mothers too will seemingly grieve for a dead cub, trying to get it to get up etc, eventually (hours as opposed to days) they will leave it (apparently not seeing it as meat and not eating it) so they must have a concept of the finality of death. Animals are amazing and so much more research needs to be done. Thanks for this chance to talk.

  16. Yes they do. When Emmie died Maggie grieved for 3 weeks. I watched her go to her food bowl several times and not eat. She lost weight.

    When we were still living with my parents my Dad’s rabbit died. It was sick and the night before it died my Dad had the rabbit on his lap. She jumped up and nuzzled it. When the rabbit dies she looked for it as though it was a lost kitten. It was winter time so the rabbit could not be buried right away. I had to show her that her little friend had died unwrapping the cloth it was wrapped in to show her it was dead.

    • I think that was the best thing to do, instead of letting her to look for the rabbit in vane. Poor kitty, so sweet…

  17. I now have 6 cats. at the time I had 3 and a bunny. I got a bunny and a kitten a month apart they did everything together. She would crawl in his cage and sleep with him. I never worried about the whole predtor vs prey. He passed suddleny after a 2yrs. My cat was pregant at the time, although I was unaware. The father cat was very very loving best friends and lovers, is what help her plus my older female cat which was like an older sister. But hours after he died she sat at his cage and cried. This being a cat who NEVER meows unless something seriously worng. like when she was about to give birth or her second pergancy 7 months later. Other than that not a peep. I couldn’t comfort her she just had to be in the cage. I ended up having to take the cage and putting it in a closet… now and then she get in and go in the cage a just meow.

  18. A few years ago a friend brought an adorable tabby kitten to church. I couldn’t take him, but a few weeks later, my calico, who didn’t like other cats – died. When I asked about the tabby kitten, the woman at church told me she still had him, as well as his mother. I adopted them both. the woman who found them assumed assumed they were litter mates, until the vet noticed that the female was lactating.

    This was the first time I’d had two cats- and what a joy it was. Rose, the mom, was smaller than Jack, but clearly the alpha cat. She groomed him; he deferred to her. They were inseparable.

    After about two years, she suddenly developed seizures that we were unable to get under control. Jack’s grief over the loss was as real as any human grief. There are still periods where he vocalizes his loss.

    • poor baby… he misses his mom… maybe a new companion could alleviate his pain, and help you both to overcome the loss, as both of them did before when you lost your calico <3

  19. I now live with six cats, they are all related. The mother and father were my first two. I bought my male, he was being kept in a contraption that looked like a bird cage, and I couldn’t stand to see that. I promptly took him home; we were recovering from a great loss at the time, my almost 18 years old cat had passed over the Rainbow Bridge just a month earlier, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another pet yet. But I also believe that things happen for a reason, and who am I to say…Anyway, he became so attached to me, he would grab at me and hold on for dear life any time I went near the front door, I think he knew I was leaving for school or work and didn’t want to be alone in the house. ( I wear the scars from that time still) About a year and a half later we rescued a tiny kitten from a situation and I said that as long as my male accepted the kitten, it would have a home. I brought home this little fur ball (not sure if it were male or female) and left it in the carrier, with the door open, and waited to see what would happen. I wish I could post a picture of the first meeting between the two of them, but I have other pictures of them the very next day, and my adult male taught this kitten (which turned out to be a female) how to eat solid foods, and use the litter box, and how to play; basically how to be a cat. I no longer was grabbed as I left the house, and these two were very happy together, so happy that they beat me to the punch and made four more cats to join our humble abode. Each one is their own personality, and have their own wants and desires, even silly habits, but they are all family, even though they have four legs and we have two, we will be together where ever we go. I know that when the mom, and babies were getting fixed, the dad went around the house crying the whole time. (dad had already been fixed) So if you ever want to tell me that these creatures don’t miss the companions whether or not they have two or four legs, I will argue that with you til the cows come home.
    Just because they can’t speak like you and I, don’t take away their ability to love, and care.

  20. My little girl Tesah has emotions just like a human, and she shows it everyday. She lets me know when she is happy, excited, hungry, mad or sad. Anytime I am sad and crying or in pain she knows, and comes over to me and lays either on my chest, stomach or legs and just lays there kneeding on me, rubbing her head against me and softly purring while looking up to my face “checking” on me. She is my little angel, and she definitely knows how to make me feel better! I’d be lost without her.

    • Tesah too had a sister, Sasha who I had to have put down due to a chemical inbalance, where she refused to use a litter box anymore, didn’t matter how many I put out, she refused to use them. And myself nor my husband could not deal with all of our clothing, bedding and furniture being urinating and pooped on. I miss her dearly, she was my little bitty cotton ball, who was full of energy and lots of love. Tesah grieved for Sasha for almost 4 months, calling for her everyday all day long. We let her have her space for a week or so, then began to distract her with toys, games, treats and extra extra lovings! It’s been almost 3 years since Sasha’s been gone, and every now and then Tesah will catch a scent of Sasha and call for her, but once she realizes there is no response she goes about her business. Breaks my heart everytime.

  21. I agree that cats grieve. Last year I had to put down my 16 year old cat and for 3days my other cat made such a mournful cry many times during the day. He would walk around, smelling and trying to find her. (He’s completely blind.) Just hearing him cry, killed me a little inside. We now have another cat and thankfully my 18 year old doesn’t cry anymore.

  22. Our cat Jade was inconsolable when we lost her older companion. She paced the house in circles day after day, calling with every breath – she drove us to distraction until her new friend eventually arrived in the form of our chosen kitten. As he strolled boldly out of the cat basket she stopped crying and followed him. Barely 3 hours later they were sharing a bed and she was mothering him. She never pined any more and adored her new companion who obviously replaced her much loved deceased friend.

    Ours miss each other eve in one of them just goes to the vet for an hour’s visit. They waiat byt the door for their companion to come home – they don’t do that for us!

  23. I absolutely believe that cats grieve. I had two sister cats and one died of pancreatic cancer and her sister mourned her for months until her own passing of the same cancer six months later. Cats are very in tune with their surroundings and companions both human and animal.

  24. Oh yes they grieve & miss their counter cats. My kizzy & Karley were a year apart & grew up together. Kizzy was a year older than karley. Karley unexpectedly died at 8 years young of an undetected brain tumor. At first I didnt think Kizzy cared. But about 4 months after karley was gone I had to bring my moms cat Toby in to care for him while my mom was ill. Kizzy didn’t like Toby – BUT she liked having another cat in the house! I could tell by her behavior. So I knew it was time when Toby went back home for me to find us a new companion kitty.
    I ended up adopting Kaize a tuxedo about 5 years ago. and she is the PITA (Pain In The Ass) of the house. Constantly bugging everybody in in our business. LOL But we all love her its just part of her personality. Kizzy likes her & tolerates her. She just kinda wishes she was more like Karley who was more laid back. 😉

  25. We had Bogart & Bacall for 16 years and two years ago Bogart had to be put down. Bacall Called for him every day for about 2 months. She waited every day at the front door at 6:00 AM for him to come back in the house. I had a whistle that I used to call him to come home when I needed or wanted him. Every time Bacall heard mw whisle for him she would go to the front door to great him, and that lasted for about 2 more months. Now I use the same whistle (the tone my dad used to call me) to call her for food being ready. She will be 18 on April 10, 2013. She has become daddy’s girl so I get to take her out to eat grass, clean boxes twice a day, scratch and brush her, play the string game. They do grive and her greving helped me to get over Bogarts passing. RIP Big Cat!!!

  26. This is an amazing article. We are a very multi cat house. In 2011 we lost our beloved cat Taffy of Evans syndrome. We brought him home and after working for the vet for 10 years I knew he wouldn’t make it through the night. The hour before he passed most of my other cats would come up to him and give a sniff or a lick and sit far away. To me it looked like the other cats were giving him there last respect. Taffy was the head of the house I always said he was the pack leader. My 80# German Shepherd even came and sat with us. Cats defiantly know and feel pain and mourn the death of a house mate.

  27. Excellent article!
    Years ago, we had 5 cats, and two of them, Geoffrey and Christina, were best pals. When Christina suddenly died after being poisoned by a neighbor, we buried her in our yard, and Geoffrey spent a whole day over her grave. Yes, cats grieve.

  28. This has been very helpful information for me as we just lost Mozart (aka Mr. Mo) to heart disease. His two companions, Shadow and Lily, seem very subdued – especially Lily who was very close to him. After Mr. Mo became ill on Sunday night, while I waited for my daughter to come to take us to the vet, he was lying on the recliner clearly uncomfortable. I was sitting on the floor next to the recliner talking to him when Lily jumped onto the recliner and sat down beside him. Mr. Mo imediately leaned toward her and licked her face and then he let her lay down close to him even though he was suffering. She stayed by him for several minutes as though she knew she was saying good-bye. And he continued to allow her to stay snuggled close – as though he knew too.

    I think she is kind of looking for him now – as though she knows something changed but she doesn’t want to believe it. I’ve noticed that Shadow who was the “Senior Cat” of the group, has been napping in places that were Mozart’s favorites. He also has this distracted look on his face… I started to wonder if it was just that I was projecting my grief onto them. But after reading the information on this page I don’t think so.

    It takes me back to my earliest cat family when I first lived on my own. Juno and Neptune were very close – both still kittens when they met. Neptune died young from feline leukemia. This was the first time I had ever heard of that horrible diagnosis and apparently veterinary science knew much less about it then (late 1970’s) – based on what I remember about my conversations with Neptune’s vet. After Neptune was gone, Juno grieved but I assumed she would reintegrate into the remaining cat family – there was Jupiter, Mercury and Apollo – and she eventually did, forming a bond with Mercury. But her personality had changed after losing Neptune – once outgoing and playful, she was much more introverted. And she stayed that way throughout her life She outlived all the other cats in her group including her pal, Mercury, and she always stayed quiet and demure. After Mercury passed at age 13, she was the only one left and she lived peacefully with me until she passed at age 16.

    I’m hoping things will work out for Lily and Shadow… And I’m hoping Mr. Mo ran into Juno and her crew at the Rainbow Bridge…

    • It sounds like Lily in particular was very close to Mr. Mo, and Shadow is missing him in his own way. I never doubted that cats grieve when they lose a companion, and your experiences certainly confirm that they do. All my best to all of you as you mourn Mr. Mo’s passing.

  29. Hi Ingrid!

    I found your website while ‘binging’ “do cats grieve when another cat dies”. I found your story to be quite helpful. Yesterday, we lost our ‘lap cat’, Onyx. He was the leader of our two cats. The playful cat. The outgoing cat. Asher, whom is our other cat, seems to be grieving. He and Onyx shared a great bond. We got both the cats together from an animal shelter when they were about 10 weeks old. They were even both caged together at the shelter. It was love at first sight for us. Onyx and Asher ate together, played together, climbed trees together, slept together, and at times you would find them apart- I suppose for their own personal space. Where one was, the other was not far behind. On day two of the loss of Onyx, Asher does not seem the same. I can see the sadness in his eyes. He has slept all day today, and has not ate much. Yesterday he was somewhat more vocal that usual. He kept to himself yesterday. Asher did see the body of Onyx. He was frightened. It seemed as if he knew he was dead, but did not quite know what to make of the death. Asher was more skitish than usual. After the body was removed, a storm came through washing down the concrete where Onyx had laid. My husband had even removed the blood with the hose prior to the rain. This morning when we lifted the garage, Asher knew excatly where Onyx laid and smelled around. He then left the spot, did his morning business and returned to his sleeping spot. He had not moved much since then, expect when we would go outside to show him extra affection. He did take to the cuddles. It breaks my heart to see my cat grieve. We did talk about getting another cat for Asher. I am glad I read your article because I would have got the new cat much quicker than needed. After a cat loses a compainion, is it wise to get another cat or let the cat be?

    Thank you for posting such a great article!

    • I’m so sorry about Onyx, Jessica. Seeing Asher grieve must be so heartbreaking on top of your own grief.

      I would probably give Asher some time to grieve before getting another cat, but there really is no one correct answer. It depends on the cat’s age and personality.

  30. Yes, they do grieve. When my beloved Toby passed, two years ago, her “sister” Beba seemed scared and upset, probably because she felt my own grieve, I don’t know… one day I got home and saw in her eye one big tear! It was a real tear, a big, clear one… and the next day, I found another tear again. They were mates for almost eight years, and I know she really cryed for him…

  31. Since Possum, my seven-year-old Tabby disappeared six days ago, Prissy, my sister’s ten-year-old black cat has lay on the stairs for hours, watching the front window for any sign of her return. Though they did not get along (she rebuffed his repeated attempts to get her to play with him), it is obvious that he cared deeply for his little “adopted sister” and misses her.

  32. I believe that cats most certainly do grieve. When my Soulcat Montana left last year, our little special girl Grace (she has CH – cerebellar hypoplasia) stopped eating raw food entirely. Montana was the only cat that didn’t treat her as “different” and would lay with her & let her fall on him. It took almost a year for Grace to get back on track with her food.

    Some suggest that showing them the body of the departed companion helps them with closure. I know the body certainly would smell different to them, even if recently departed. Some cats have smelled and walked away, others have smelled and hissed – I think the reaction depends upon the bond the cats had with each other.

    I usually use & recommend homeopathic “Ignatia” after a loss for the remaining companions – it helps with the grieving process – for people and animals.

  33. I currently have 3 siamese cats, Sabrina, Sam and Simon. I experienced the grieving of one cat for another … when I had to send my tuxedo cat Max to the Bridge, Sabrina was depressed for quite some time because her and Max were best buddies, even though I had gotten Sam prior to Max’s death. Luckily Sabrina and Sam are became best buddies, and are both good buddies to my other cat Simon also.

    • I’m glad that Sabrina and Sam eventually became best buddies, Jan. Sometimes, it seems to help the grieving cat when there are already other cats in the household.

  34. I’ve experienced grieving survivor cats twice. Most recently, in December, my 19-yr-old cat, Rocky, died. He was napping on my bed, and I was sitting beside him when he passed. Rocky was the only cat pal my 6-yr-old formerly feral cat, Tripper, had. Trip would groom and groom Rocky (who was not so adept at grooming himself in later years), and they’d hang out together. At the time, Tripper would sleep on our bed at night.

    When Rocky passed, I showed Tripper his body. Tripper showed no interest in it (whereas, when Rocky was alive, he’d always greet him with a lick.) Tripper’s day-to-day behavior didn’t change afterward, except for the fact that it was more than six months before he would enter our bedroom. Even now, he rarely goes in the room and never sleeps in there.

    About six years earlier, one of our Siamese died suddenly. His bonded “brother,” another Siamese named Mao, was horribly depressed. He’d roam the house calling for Junior. Rocky was also Junior’s buddy, and he was extremely mopey afterward.

    When I was a kid, we had a bonded pair of basset littermates, Herbie and Peaches. When Peaches died, Herbie slept atop her grave and died three days later.

    Animals have emotional lives as rich as ours. They are not “just animals.”

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences, Karen. I thought it was interesting that Tripper showed no interest in Rocky’s body. I had the same reaction from Amber after Buckley died. I think she already knew that that body was no longer Buckley and that her spirit had already moved on.

      Herbie’s reaction must have been a devastating experience.

  35. I know that cats understand more than we think. My calico watched me shepherd my orange tabby across the bridge. My gut was that he wanted to die at home and not at the vet so as he wasn’t too uncomfortable as his body failed, I kept him as comfortable as possible. I was with him when he died and it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. I recall being there telling him to just let go and visualizing everyone I knew who had died hoping they could call to him from the other side. It took perhaps half an hour that seemed like ages for him to let go and for his body to calm down and finish it’s process. My calico sat on the sofa watching me below her on the floor with him in his covered bed.

    It was only a few years later, as she went into kidney failure and she held on beyond all reason–holding her tail high whenever possible, working as hard as she could to look happy and normal, although her fur was constantly matted and she couldn’t see well and was well into dementia that I realized she might be afraid of what had happened with the other cat. So I talked to her about the issue–just in human language. I’m not really an animal communicator (as we think of professionals!). The next day she stopped eating. I tried to get a mobile vet out to do a home euthanasia for her because my gut seemed to be right that she had only been afraid and was ready to go. However, they had to wait one more day and she died two days after “the talk” very peacefully and quietly and probably as quickly as anyone could ask. It was certainly healing for me to hold her (after my other cat) and watch her go peacefully and I know that when she went, she was more than ready. I only wish I had thought to have someone talk to her sooner so she hadn’t held on so long out of fear.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with your calico and your orange tabby, Bonnie. It takes a lot of courage to be with a beloved cat through the dying process – what a gift you gave your orange boy. It sounds to me like your calico held the space for him, and for you, during that process.

      I also believe that it’s important to talk to our cats about the dying process to help them through it. We all know how to communicate with our animals, even if it can be hard to set aside fear and worry long enough so we can really listen and communicate with our hearts.

      I’ve only had one cat who died on his own (and that happened while the vet was on her way to euthanize him), I had to let the other two go, but I was fortunate that I was able to be with and hold all three of them when they died, and I agree, as devastating as it was each time, it was also healing for me to be able to be there with them during that final moment.

  36. What a wonderful article! Thank you for sharing, Ingrid!

    I definitely KNOW that cats can grieve and mourn when they lose a beloved companion… When our E.T. (a sweet tortie) lost her beloved buddy Red (a handsome and sweet ginger boy), she just wasn’t herself. She was such a sweet, cuddly girl, but when her beloved friend died, she wouldn’t come to us and ask for her beloved cuddles. She was apparently depressed. Poor kitty, she had been sharing everything with Red – from eating together to sleeping in the same basket – it must have been terrible for her… It was heartbreaking. My mom had 3 more cats, but this special bond was between Red and E.T., and it was E.T. of course who suffered so much.
    Years later, in November 2009, it was Lilli’s turn to be grieving when our much loved Little White Paws left us at 18 and a half. Lilli was only a little over one year old, but she loved her old “sister” to bits. She groomed her as this was getting harder for the old lady, and she warmed her sleeping next to her. When the sweet “grandma” passed away, she just wasn’t herself, she lost her appetite, she stopped purring and playing… She mourned for a few weeks. Can you imagine — a one-year-old kitty grieving over a beloved “grandma”s death? That was so heartbreaking.

    • Did E.T. ever recover from her grief over losing Red, Anna? I can only imagine how devastating it must have been to not only lose Little White Paws, but to have to watch Lilli grieve so deeply. My heart goes out to you, even after the fact!

      • Thank you so much, Ingrid. Yes, it was devastating. It’s still very painful to think about it.

        Thankfully E.T. did recover eventually and she got back to her old, loving and sweet self, but she never had such a special bond with any other kitty afterwards. The good thing was she had two sisters (Little White Paws and Nerina) and a brother (Grisù), so she wasn’t alone.

        • I’m glad to hear that E.T. recovered after some time, Anna. Some of these bonds are once in a lifetime – it’s also why it hurts to much when they’re severed.

  37. On the other hand, I had two cats who did not like each other – they were both bonded to me and not at all to each other – and who coexisted in some sort of uneasy truce. When the older cat died, the relief and happiness coming from the other cat was palpable. She was overjoyed that she now had me to herself! Which I think actually proves your point, Ingrid – because isn’t grief all about attachment, and the cat was clearly attached to me to the extent that she felt the other cat was in the way!

    • That’s an interesting twist on the topic, Janiss. Your experience also shows that getting another cat may not always help – I would guess that your cat would not have appreciated having to share you again!

    • Oh.. this is what is happening to me right now… My little girl Précieuse died tragically a few days ago… and I can’t help but feel a little ”creeped out” to see my other cat Moka so cuddly, purring all the time, playing much more than usual… He is happier… But she did took a lot of space.

      • I’m so sorry about your Precieuse, Catherine. It is unsettling when your other cat doesn’t seem to care at all, but I’ve seen it more than once, especially when the departed cat had a huge presence.

  38. The most acute experience that I’ve observed was when Merlin’s sister Coco died. He was utterly bereft. I photograph all my cats regularly and you could denote to the grieving in the eyes. And yes, they usually bounce back; in his case when two new kitty companions were adopted.

  39. Losing companions seems hard for any member of any species, -in different ways- and all mourners deserve respect and -if needed- attention. We are lucky to understand… let’s help others!

  40. We had to have one of our elderly horses euthanized and his pasture buddy, also very elderly, would not come out of the stall for weeks. I seriously thought we were going to have to euthanize her also. When she finally emerged to the pasture again it was cause for celebration.

  41. I think that is so true. I have a cat that totally changed when her brother disappeared. She herself disappeared for 3 months but then came back with a horrible heart problem. I also had two ponies that were sisters and were together for 14 years and one of the sisters had to go to the bridge because of seizures and the other pony Itsy Bitsy grieved for a month. She looked all over our farm all day long for her sister. It was one of the saddest things I have seen.

  42. I’ve seen it to a certain extent many times, both grieving and recognition. Even in a multi-cat household it recognizable. Cookie grieves somewhat for each loss, but I thought I’d lose her after I lost Sophie–once I emerged enough from my own grief to see that she was very despondent, not eating and losing weight. Helping her helped me, and helping me helped her.

    And when Peaches died last fall, we were all around and said our goodbyes, but Giuseppe, who had become the gentleman guardian of his elderly sister, walked around talking for days afterward, confused.

    • I think it’s easy for us to overlook that our cats are grieving, too, Bernadette, especially when we’re in the awful, early stages of grief.

      • cats do grieved when my Husky died Knuckle the cat sat in the window and meowed for three hours. Angel was he best friend they slept together and ate together and played together where one was the other one was.

    • I had two cats who were brothers from the same litter. For many years, they were inseparable indoor/outdoor cats. And they were big (17 lbs and 22 lbs). Some people were afraid of them. I was confident that they could protect themselves. Then, some senseless, mercenary human stole one of them and sold him to a science lab! I was livid and reported this person to the veterinary clinic where she worked. They didn’t seem to care, since they were probably in on it. The surviving brother mourned for a long time.

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