Softening the Blow for a Cat Mourning the Loss of Another Cat

Your own attention to your pet is critical.


The average number of cats in American homes with feline pets is 1.8, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. In other words, many people have two or more cats, which means one is going to die first and perhaps leave the remaining pet feeling bereft. Cats who mourn for a furry housemate can become more vocal as well as clingier and more needy for your reassurance with petting and close physical proximity. What should you do?

  • Lean in. Acknowledge that your cat is in emotional pain and be game for taking on the role of companionable and even entertaining playmate while he grieves, which can take months if not longer. The best way to distract him from his depression so he can ease his way back to emotional equilibrium is with environmental enrichment. To that end:
  • More play time. Physical activity increases serotonin, which in turn decreases anxiety and lifts mood. Even 15 minutes a day of helping your cat engage in fun predatory activity — chasing a fishing toy or some other object — will go a long way.
  • More training. Too many people don’t train their cats. They think that’s a dog thing. But cats can definitely learn cooperative play. With an inexpensive clicker, you can train your cat to do such things as sit for a treat or perform some other trick. Start by clicking the clicker and immediately giving your cat a favorite morsel of food. Then wait for your cat to sit. Just as he does, click the clicker and toss a treat to a spot that will make him have to get up to retrieve it. Wait for the cat to sit again and repeat the sequence. He will soon learn that sitting gets him the food. When he does, start adding the word “Sit” as he begins to get into position. That way, he’ll learn that he gets the treat when you ask him to sit rather than when he decides to.
  • New toys. Tunnels to walk through, a window seat, and new objects to chase will help distract your cat from his sadness.

All the extra attention and play time will not only help soften the blow of your other cat’s death, it will also bond your pet to you more closely and improve your relationship.


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