How to help your cat through grief or trauma
If your cat is grieving
Up until 20 years ago, it was believed that pets didn’t grieve the loss of another cat, dog, or the death of a human caregiver, but a 1996 study conducted by the American SPCA came out with conclusive evidence that at least 50 percent of cats do indeed experience grief.
If the remaining cat(s) shows a reaction, there are three common stages of grief:
Stage 1: Excessive vocalising, pacing and searching.
This is an active phase as the cat attempts to find the missing individual. Cats may be observed looking out of windows or sniffing while going from room to room. It is best at this time to make yourself available but allow your cat to initiate social contact.
Stage 2: Withdrawal and inactivity.
Some cats may lose their appetite and appear quite unwell for several weeks during this part of the process, often needing intervention to stimulate a return to normal eating habits. This can take some time. If your cat stops eating for more than 24 to 36 hours, seek veterinary help.
Stage 3: Acceptance and changes
With acceptance comes change, especially if there are multiple pets in the house. There may be some scuffles between your remaining pets, as they create a new order in the hierarchy. Unless the discord is serious, it’s best to let them settle things, or it will only prolong it, or possibly make it worse.
Not all cats grieve
The other 50 percent of cats do not grieve. If a cat does not grieve, it is typically because it did not bond with the deceased pet. It could actually come out of its shell if it was dominated by a cat that was higher up the cat hierarchy. Remember that cat emotions are not identical to human emotions. The survivor(s) may be relieved at the removal of a stress factor or may be indifferent to presence or absence of the other animal.
If you are grieving
It’s hard when any pet dies, but if your remaining cats are showing signs of grief, you will help them greatly (and possibly yourself) by staying as close to your routine as possible. Cats are creatures of habit and change upon change will cause additional stress.
Bringing a new cat into the house
If your cat is grieving (and you are grieving) don’t rush out and adopt a new friend for your grieving cat. Grieving is stressful. Introducing a new cat into the mix stresses everyone. Wait until the household members are through grieving and have settled into a regular routine before adopting another cat.
Some people choose to add a new cat into the house before an older cat becomes unable to make the adjustment.
If your cat has experienced emotional trauma
If for example, your cat is scared by thunder or fireworks, or has been chased by a dog (but is otherwise unhurt physically) the best thing you can do is allow your cat to do what he needs to do. Cats who are frightened typically seek dark spaces they can hide in, so if he goes under the bed, don’t force him to come out. Leave some water and food nearby, if he stays hidden for long.
There is help
One of the fastest ways to help your cat to feel comfortable is through an energy treatment. Cats (like dogs) are very sensitive to energy, and may have blockages in some of their energy centers (called chakras). Read about Steve Clayton, who has very positive outcomes in treating traumatized or grieving cats in his holistic practice.