Do other pets Grieve?
Coping with the death of a pet can be a very difficult and painful time for many people. Other pets in the household may be upset or distressed as a result of the loss of their fellow animals as they too may have formed very strong bonds. The pets may have been dependant on each other emotionally, for company, for play or even for practical reasons such as assistance in some tasks.
- When grieving for the loss of a pet it is important to remember that our surviving pets also need us at this time. Surviving pets may show some signs associated with their distress, such as -
- No desire to play or interact with the family.
- Anxious behaviours such as running up and down, scratching doors or destroying objects.
- limited or no appetite or interest in food.
- Continuously looking for their animal partner and even scratching to find them.
- Look for more attention, affection or physical contact from their owners
- What can you do to support your pet at this time:
- Keep your daily routine in place- particularly walks and physical activity.
- Increase exercise so they are more likely to be tired at home.
- Offer them regular food even it they are not eating it – small amounts of favorite food throughout the day.
- Whilst giving them what they need, try not to reinforce changed behaviour so as not to encourage behavioural problems later on.
- By all means give your pet lots of love and attention but remember that they will be picking up on your stress levels too, so clinging to them constantly will further confuse
- Seek professional help from your veterinarian if the change in behaviour is intense or putting your pet’s life at risk (such as not eating in a thin animal).
- Don’t bring a new pet into the house quickly in an effort to replace the relationship. This may cause more problems and add to the stress. Cats may bond closely to one pet but there is no guarantee that they will welcome another into the home. Just like between humans, relationships between animals are personal.
As all of you travel through the weeks and months following the death of your pet, it is important to support the other pets in your life. It is a personal journey for everyone and some pets are more affected by the death of a companion than others.
Author Dr Kersti Seksel
Information taken from:
Frid, M., Perea, A., 2007. Euthanasia and Thanatology in small animals. Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, 2, 35-39.