How do you support a grieving pet?

Help & Support for those who have lost a beloved cat
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Mollycat
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How do you support a grieving pet?

Post by Mollycat » Sun Aug 18, 2019 10:56 pm

For only the second time in my life, I find myself responsible for pets who have just lost their pet companion, which of course means I have lost one of my beloved furry friends and am grieving too. One cat and one dog.

I'm not so much looking for advice myself, though that is welcome, more trying to open up a conversation about people's different experiences, the different ways we and our remaining pets (not just cats) grieve, and what we can do well or learn from at such a difficult time. And how we manage the practicalities of the death of one furry household member, whether it be accident, euthanasia, ago or illness, at home or at the vets. Do you show others the body, and how do you manage this if it is done at the vets?

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Cat-FAQ
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Re: How do you support a grieving pet?

Post by Cat-FAQ » Mon Aug 19, 2019 3:27 pm

Hello,

I am so sorry to hear of your loss; we have some advice on our Pet Bereavement page which may be able to answer your question or point you in the right direction.

https://www.catchat.org/index.php/pet-b ... nt-support

Mollycat
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Re: How do you support a grieving pet?

Post by Mollycat » Mon Aug 19, 2019 4:30 pm

Cat-FAQ wrote:
Mon Aug 19, 2019 3:27 pm
Hello,

I am so sorry to hear of your loss; we have some advice on our Pet Bereavement page which may be able to answer your question or point you in the right direction.

https://www.catchat.org/index.php/pet-b ... nt-support
Thanks. As stated I'm not so much looking for advice as to open up a discussion, sharing experiences with other members. The pet bereavement page appears to give some numbers of support services for humans - I'm trying to open up discussion of how we support our surviving pets.

Thanks anyway.

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Re: How do you support a grieving pet?

Post by alanc » Mon Aug 19, 2019 5:37 pm

Tilly was so involved in the events around Badger's death from cancer, that I am not certain how much of her evident grief was due to her loss of her lifelong companion, the traumatic experience she had of coming home for dinner only to be whisked away to the vets to give Badger blood or my depression at Badger's death (which must have been very evident to her). Probably all three affected her. I did show her Badger's body before I buried him. Otherwise, I just fussed her more than normal.
The previous time I lost a cat with another one in residence was when Misty died. I don't recall Honey being particularly bothered, but they had never been close and had not grown up together from kittenhood.

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Re: How do you support a grieving pet?

Post by Mollycat » Wed Aug 21, 2019 9:25 am

Well five days on and the dog is fine when we're out but at home he lies on Bobby's beds and blankets in all his favourite places, my dressing gown, the shirt I wore to the vets and even the blanket that was in the carrier for that final trip, nose on paws. Last night he would not get off my dressing gown to let me get into bed and I had to invest a good 15 minutes of gentle care and lay it out on the floor for him. Yesterday morning he had his first full meal. Molly cat surprised me by not being mean to Bobby when he came home for what was to be his last night, even following him around and guarding the bathroom door when he went to the litter tray, but she has done something truly extraordinary - she has kept a clump of Bobby's last brushings and occasionally picks it up with her paw, sniffs it for a while, then drops it back on her bed and sometimes lies on it.

I didn't bring the body home but was careful to keep the scent on my hands to let them smell, and because of the way they have responded I am not rushing to wash bedding or hoover the house, they seem to draw comfort from items that smell of him and I sense that letting the smell fade naturally is the right thing to do for them. They knew before I left with Bobby. We all had an hour or so on the bed together and when I picked Bobby up to go, the dog licked my ear. They knew. They knew it was time. I needn't have worried about them. They reacted completely differently to my coming home without him than they had done when he was still alive and left at the vets for treatment.

I suppose I was very aware of potential difficulties for them because 7 years ago my cat from a previous relationship died at home in her sleep and her companion, a very sensitive boy we lost less than 2 years ago, was not himself for a good 8 months. He wouldn't go into the room where she died for weeks, he pined, he really struggled. It was so hard to see him in so much pain and unable to help him, and yet he had all night to say goodbye to his friend. He used to sit on her grave quietly, and we would be careful not to disturb him. Keeping the smell of Bobby on my hands, I learned last year when a dog we knew collapsed and died as we owners were talking ... I took my dog home and went back to help, and both cat and dog interrogated me when I got home again, though the dog obviously already knew, but he was out for sorts for a couple of days.

They are way more sensitive and intelligent than we give them credit for. In a way I actually find it helpful to be super-attentive to their grieving needs, I suppose it's a focus outside of my own pain and sadness and this way we all kind of comfort each other. It reminds me that we honour the dead and care for the living.

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Re: How do you support a grieving pet?

Post by lilynmitz » Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:07 pm

My cats have had very different responses to losing a companion. Ranging from deep depression to apparent indifference. In each case I’ve always talked to them a lot about what’s happened, given them extra love and attention, and mourned with them. Quite often it has seemed that they were looking after me, rather than the other way round, which I suspect was true. My grieving was so much more visible than theirs.

I’m so sorry to hear about your own loss. Sending hugs. X

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Re: How do you support a grieving pet?

Post by Bertie 2017 » Tue Sep 03, 2019 11:16 pm

Hi sorry to hear about your loss ,I lost my cat Bertie back in November 2017 ,his loss
Not only hit me hard ,but Bertie’s brother ( Basil ) too ,Basil was very clingy always
Whated too be near me at all times ,and often seemed stressed at times ,the best thing I d
Advice you too do is ,make a fuss of any other pets you have , reassured them ,and try
Not too worry so much ,pet grief is totally different than human grief ,I believe cats live
In the hear and now ,so they grief is short ,almost two years on ,you d think there’s
Nothing wrong with basil ,he is happy and contented

Take care xx

issiandarchie+68
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Re: How do you support a grieving pet?

Post by issiandarchie+68 » Thu Sep 12, 2019 11:36 am

I was thinking about you recently Bertie and wondered how you are getting along. I am pleased to hear Basil is happy and content. His actions mirror those of my dear Gandhi cat. You will recall we lost both Cody, who he adored, as did everybody she encountered and my mad chatty wee geezer Armand, within 4 weeks to the day of each other. Gandhi would sit with his face to the wall then wander round the house yelling 'where are you? come out now' but settled into being an 'only' within the week, became deeply affectionate. It helped that we moved house and he became an outside cat, wandering the woods and scouring the undergrowth for a couple of hours a day. Personally I don't think pets need special support as any change in our demeanour merely unsettles them even more. Anyway, I am not on Catchat much these days, no longer being a pet owner but I do hope you, as well as dear Basil have found the happiness and contentment you were searching for and life is treating you well.

Issi

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Re: How do you support a grieving pet?

Post by Mollycat » Thu Sep 12, 2019 3:38 pm

issiandarchie+68 wrote:
Thu Sep 12, 2019 11:36 am
Personally I don't think pets need special support as any change in our demeanour merely unsettles them even more.
I agree that changes can unsettle them but the reason for raising the topic was in my experience how 4 different animals losing three different companions have had such a different response and such different needs. At one extreme Purdy didn't seem phased at all while at the other Henry was in deep grieving for around 8 months. Some are more needy of reassurance, some need normality, I do believe we should be sensitive to those needs.

And practical considerations, like whether to show the body, whether to euthanise at home, whether to actively scrub out the scent and disappear all food bowls beds and toys, those are choices we must make and I believe we should make considering our surviving pets' needs not just our own.

Still, there doesn't seem to be much interest in the subject generally.

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