Do pets grieve the loss of another pet?

Grief is a powerful emotion, and a natural response when somebody in our life dies, including ourselves. But do our pets grieve, and if so do they experience grief in the same way we do?

If you’ve ever had two or more pets and one passes away, you might notice a change in behaviour for your furry friend that has been left alone. Even though our pets can’t verbalise their emotions to us, their behaviour should be enough to show their grief.

How dogs and cats express themselves when grieving. 

Cats and dogs are very different creatures; dogs are often described as friendly, energetic and joyful, whereas cats are often aloof and independent, but can still be playful and social. 

Despite their differences, dogs and cats have similar reactions to loss, and you can see this through a shift in behaviour. With pets, the household unit is their entire world and everything they know, so the change with another pet missing can be colossal.

We can’t know for certain that pets understand the finality and significance of death. Your pet might not even understand that the loss is permanent, and wait patiently for their friend to return home. 

Dogs and cats can also be in tune with their owners emotional states, and what we perceive to be grief and mourning could be a reaction to our own changes in behaviour.

Changes in your pet’s behaviour to watch out for:

  • Lack of energy.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Little to no desire to play.
  • Sleeping more.
  • Moving slowly.
  • Whining, howling or crying.
  • Hiding and avoiding people.
  • Pacing or searching the house for the missing pet.
  • Destructive behaviour, particularly in cats.

How to help your pet through their grief while working through yours. 

It can be an incredibly challenging time to lose one pet and mourn for them while watching the other completely change and act lost and disturbed. Here are some ways to help your pet while being mindful of your own feelings and actions.

  • Reinforce good behaviour and ignore unwanted behaviour. As tempting as it is to comfort your pet while they’re howling or crying, this only reinforces the poor behaviour and will encourage them to continue. It will be hard and heartbreaking, but it’s better to ignore, and rather give them love and attention when they’re better behaved.
  • Spend more time with your pet. Playing games, taking them for walks, even just more pats and physical attention is important during this time, and it can be comforting for you too. 
  • Make sure they’re entertained, even when you’re not home. You can hide toys and treats in their favourite places around the house, or even use foraging toys and food puzzles to keep their mind busy.
  • Don’t rush into getting a new pet. Introducing a new pet too soon after losing one might have a negative affect on your current pet. What you think might be helpful could add extra stress to an already stressful situation. Once enough time has passed and your pet is mostly back to normal behaviour, you can start looking into getting a new pet.
  • Consider seeing a vet. If your cat or dog’s behaviour doesn’t start to improve after a while, it’s best to check in with your vet.

About Goodbye Goodboy.

At Goodbye Good Boy, we provide home euthanasia services to support loving owners in providing a peaceful passing for their beloved pets. Learn more about this service in our article what happens at a home pet euthanasia appointment and read about the difference between dog euthanasia at home vs in-clinic.

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. Our services can even be pre-paid to help ease the financial burden at the time of your pet’s passing.

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give our team of passionate pet lovers a call on 1800 953 619 or visit our website.