Pets Grieve, Too
Experiencing the loss of a companion
After the death of a human or animal companion, pets grieve too, says pet advisor Cathy M. Rosenthal. She offers two examples of grieving animals and provides suggestions for their owners.
My seven-year-old cat is over-grooming to the point of causing bald spots. He did this as a kitten, and then it stopped, so I thought it might be stress related. I see nothing different in his life, though, so I’m at a loss for why he has started to do this again.
The only thing I can think of is that I lost my husband 18 months ago, and I am experiencing a lot of stress in dealing with everything on my own. Could he be feeling my anxiety, and if so, how do I help him?
— Joan, Glen Cove, New York
I am sorry for your loss. Losing a loved one is never easy for people or pets. Over-grooming is a symptom of stress; so yes, in addition to your cat’s grief over the loss of your husband, he may be feeling your anxiety and grief too.
There are several things you can do. First, get a pheromone collar, plug-in, wipes, or spray; the latter two you can use on him and you as well. Spray the pheromones wherever he plays or sleeps – even on your lap, so that he will feel a calmer energy coming from you. Overall, pheromones can sooth him and make him help him feel more secure.
Second, you can take him to the vet to discuss putting him on some anti-anxiety medication, which should help with the over-grooming. After he’s kicked that habit, the pheromones can be used as maintenance care to keep him from over-grooming again.
Finally, don’t forget the two of you have each other to get through this tough time. So, spend lots of time together. Petting him gently will calm you both.
We recently lost our 12-year-old English Bull Dog. We also have a six-year-old old Corgi. Both dogs got along very well. Now the Corgi lays down where the Bully’s cage was and looks sad. Is this normal?
— Dave, Virginia Beach, Virginia
It’s very normal. Dogs grieve when they lose a beloved friend, whether human or canine (or feline, etc.). Depending on a dog’s personality, they may appear sad, sleep more than normal, find comfort in a new sleeping spot, eat more or less, and even bark more or less.
You know they are grieving because it’s a change in behavior that you have never seen before. Pheromones, like the ones mentioned in the previous question but for dogs, may help during this time. But also keep him active by taking him for walks and scheduling more playtime to distract him from missing his best friend.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist, and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. She addresses reader questions as diverse as outdoor cat safety to bizarre dog behavior and the reminder that pets grieve too. Send your pet questions, stories, and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.
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