October 2009 Issue

How to Help Your Grieving Cat

The loss of a feline or human companion can be difficult for many cats. Here are the signs to look for — and how to help.

Ever since one of your beloved cats died several weeks ago, you’ve been feeling pretty down. People who have been through the same experience tell you this is normal after such a loss. But then you notice that your other cat is eating a lot less, doesn’t play like he used to and wanders around the house, yowling, as if he was looking for his lost companion. Do cats grieve like we do? And if so, are there things we can do to help them? Animals and Emotions. It’s only within the last ten years or so that scientists have begun to recognize that animals lead rich emotional lives. There is evidence that cats and other animals experience emotional responses to significant changes in their environment — and this includes going through the grieving process after the loss of feline or human companions. "What is important for people to realize is that the same brain neurochemistry that allows humans to feel is the same neurochemistry that many animals have — including cats. Cats can mourn," says Katherine Houpt, VMD, PhD, the James Law Professor of Behavior Medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

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