LIFESTYLE

Do Cats Know When Another Cat Is Dying: How to Help a Grieving Cat

cats hugging each other
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

Knowing that your beloved cat is going to die gives you a chance to prepare yourself for the grief and pain that will set in once she passes away. However, do other cats get the same kind of forewarning? Sharing a home with more than one cat often brings to mind the question of do cats know when another cat is dying and how are they going to react?

Like all other animals, cats are very intuitive, and while it isn’t scientifically proven that they comprehend the principle of death, they do feel the absence of a dead feline companion.

While it is hard to get through your pain, you will have to pull yourself together to provide comfort and support to the remaining cats in your household. All cats are able to feel grief and pain, but not all of them will express it in the same way, so it is your job to help your remaining cat come to terms with the loss, and she will do the same for you.

In this article, we will tell you if cats are able to sense when another cat is dying and how they are going to behave. You will also learn how to help a grieving cat come to terms with the loss of her furry companion.

Do Cats Sense When Another Cat is Dying?

two cats communicating

Cats, like other animals, have the ability to sense things that we as people can’t, thanks to their superior senses. For centuries, in many cultures, it was believed that cats have a sixth sense that gives them the ability to predict when a person is going to die.

Nowadays, some scientists believe that cats are able to sense certain chemicals that are released when a living being is dying, and that their keen noses help them smell and sense the imminent death.

This ability stems from domestic cats’ wild ancestry since wild cats are known for sensing weak and dying members of their clan. In these occasions, wild cats perceive a sick cat as a weak link that will attract predators. Thus they turn their back on it or kill it to eliminate the threat. Luckily, domestic cats only inherited the excellent senses and not the killer instinct of their wild ancestors.

How Will Cats React to a Dying Cat?

Contrary to many beliefs, domestic cats won’t turn their backs on their dying friends as their ancestors did. All cats are able to feel when another cat is dying, but the reaction to that fact varies significantly from one cat to another. Unfortunately, there is no telling for sure how your kitty will behave towards her sick companion, but there are a few factors that may influence her behavior:

#1: The Owner’s Feelings

depressed cat

Some cats sense the distress and pain that their owners are feeling as the result of the imminent loss of a sick cat and will start to behave the same way.

Some cats will become depressed, withdrawn, and will try to tempt a sick cat to eat, play, or interact with them. In some occasions, a healthy cat will groom, sleep with a sick cat, and defend her from other cats in the household.

#2: The Circumstances

indifferent cat

Cats that grow up together or come from the same litter will have a harder time dealing with the fact that one of them is dying. In some ways, cats experience the same feelings people go through when they find out their cat is at the end of her road.

However, not all cats will become sad once they realize that another cat is sick and going to die. Some cats will be completely indifferent and will act like the whole situation doesn’t have anything to do with them. Moreover, some felines will seem happy that the other cat is sick and demand even more attention from their owners.

These behaviors are more often observed in homes with more than two cats—in environments where cats can develop close bonds or decide not to interact with one another.

If you have only two cats, it can be harder for a cat to come to terms with the fact that her only furry companion is sick and is going to die, which in most cases results in depression and behavioral changes.

This kind of behavior was noted in occasions when sick cats were dying from diseases that didn’t have anything to do with cancer.

#3: The Cause of Impending Death

cats kissing

According to the vets, cancer creates a distinctive odor, that puts most cats off, and keeps them away from a sick feline. The only exception is seen in the behavior of cats mothered by felines with cancer since they tend to stay by her side until the end—offering their support and company.

Cats aren’t able to communicate with other cats the way we communicate with other people, and they use body language to convey messages and their thoughts to other felines. Being so, they are able to notice even the slightest changes in the posture, behavior, body temperature, or odor of other cats, which tells them if a cat is, in fact, weak, sick, or going to die.

What comes as a surprise is that cats don’t understand the concept of death even though they are so attuned to the signs and smells of a sick cat’s body. In this sense, people are lucky because they can choose to believe that their cat is now in a better place, but for the remaining household cats, it’s just like the sick cat simply vanished from their lives.

A healthy cat will feel the absence of her friend, which can result in behavior changes and depression that can last for as long as six months and may require treatment with mood stabilizers and antidepressants.

See Also: How to Help a Depressed Cat

Signs that a Cat is Mourning the Loss of Her Furry Companion

There isn’t any way to predict how a cat is going to react when another house cat passes away. As we’ve said earlier, some cats become withdrawn and depressed, while others aren’t affected at all and even act happier than usual. Some cats will go through stages of the grieving process, and it is essential that you recognize the signs in order to help your kitty deal with the loss.

#1: Loss of Appetite

sad cat

Decreased appetite is one of the first behavioral changes a cat may show after the loss of her furry companion. In this way, cats are the same as people who are mourning the loss of a human or animal companion and aren’t motivated to eat.

You should try to entice your kitty by offering treats or canned cat food. If she refuses to eat for two days despite your efforts, you will have to take her to the vet.

#2: Increased Vocalization

cat screaming

Cats aren’t able to express their grief the way people do, and the one way they can do it is to vocalize more than usual. A grieving cat will meow and yowl for hours in hopes of getting an answer from a dead cat. If this behavior continues, you may have to take your cat to the vet who will prescribe therapy.

#3: Motionlessness

cat sitting

A clear sign that a cat is mourning her feline companion is if she is seated for hours in one spot looking at things without really seeing them. In this case, it is clear that the cat misses her buddy, and she isn’t motivated to do anything without him.

You will have to cheer your cat up and reintroduce her to her favorite toys and games in order to help her deal with the loss.

#4: Depression

grieving orange cat

Depressed cats show signs of lethargy, decreased appetite, lack of grooming habits, and spend more hours sleeping. If you notice any of these symptoms or several of them combined and your kitty acts completely out of character, it is time to take her to the vet.

#5: Personality Changes

cat sitting alone

Once funny, playful, active, and friendly cat can become aggressive, anti-social, and spend her days hiding from everyone. This is the same way some people deal with loss, and you need to show your cat that you still love her and that she isn’t completely alone.

If all of your efforts fail, a trip to a behavioral expert will be necessary in order to get your cat back to her usual self.

How to Help a Grieving Cat

It isn’t clear if cats go through the same grieving process people go through, but what is certain is that at some point they reach acceptance and are able to continue living normally.

It is true that time is the best cure when it comes to dealing with loss, and depending on the cat, it may take two weeks to six months until she is ready to resume her old life.

It is also important to note that not all cats will go through the grieving process after the loss of a feline companion, but the ones that do tend to suffer greatly and it is your duty to help your cat during the mourning period.

#1: Stick with the Regular Routine

grooming a cat

A cat’s life has gone through enough changes with the death of her furry friend, and it won’t do her any good if you start implementing changes in your home.

Keep your cat’s feeding, grooming, and playing routine the same in order to help her rely on things again. Postpone any home renovation projects, vacations, or big family reunions that are likely to stress your kitty even further until she is back to her old self.

#2: Spend Quality Time Together

spending time with cat

During the grieving process, some cats become more demanding and attention-seeking than before, and that is completely normal. You should spend more time with your cat on a daily basis in order to fill the void that is created by the departure of her furry friend.

Speak with your kitty in a calm and soothing voice. Talk about anything you like. Stroke and pet her if she allows it, and shower her with love and attention every day.

See Also: How to Show Your Cat You Love Them

#3: Remove the Belongings of a Deceased Cat

Cats have a stronger sense of smell than we do, and passing by food bowls, toys, beds, litter boxes, or other belongings of the departed friend will just remind her that he is no longer there.

In order to help your cat deal with her grief, remove all the things that belonged to the departed feline. You don’t have to throw these things away; instead, store them in boxes where their smell won’t be a constant reminder for the remaining cat.

#4: Keep Your Cat Active

cat playing

It is important that you participate in interactive play sessions with your cat every night for at least 15 minutes. This will keep your cat mentally stimulated and active, which will improve her overall happiness and help speed up the grieving process.

Invest in puzzle toys and other means of entertainment so your cat can play while you aren’t at home in order to prevent boredom, obesity, and depression.

#5: Give Your Kitty a Chance to Say Goodbye

cat crying

It may seem morbid, but some experts advise that it is beneficial for a cat to see the dead body of her companion. Since cats don’t understand the concept of death, sniffing and nudging at the dead body can give a cat a sense of closure.

Talk with the vet to see if you can bring the cat’s body back home after the euthanasia, or if it’s better to bring both cats with you so they can have a proper goodbye.

#6: Don’t Try to Replace the Old Cat Immediately

Although it is beneficial for a cat to have another furry companion, you shouldn’t rush getting the replacement while your cat is grieving. You need to let your kitty get used to the new family dynamics, and a new companion can upset her even further.

Some cats can become aggressive towards the new kitty and withdraw even more. Thus, give your cat and yourself time to heal after the loss.

#7: Make the Food More Appealing

laid table for a cat

As we said earlier, grieving cats aren’t particularly motivated to eat, and some may need a little help in this department. Try to entice your kitty by offering her canned cat food. You can even warm it to room temperature, so it smells more enticing.

You shouldn’t try to change your cat’s diet during this period since an abrupt change will only cause an upset stomach and more problems to your already sad cat.

If your kitty is also refusing to drink water, you can make it more appealing by adding a little bit of tuna water in it. If by any chance your kitty stays unappreciative of your efforts and refuses to eat for more than two days, you will have to take her to the vet.

See Also: How to Make Homemade Cat Food

#8: Give Your Cat Time

Every cat is an individual, and the grieving process won’t be the same for every feline. You should give your cat as long as it takes to mourn her friend. In no way should you rush her or express frustrations because of her behavior. Be supportive, offer comfort, and give your cat as long as she needs to come to terms with the loss.

#9: Take Your Cat to the Vet

sad cat visiting a vet

In some occasions, a cat may be so sad and grief-stricken that she won’t be perceptive to your efforts to cheer her up. In that case, it is time to see a professional.

Some cats, despite the owner’s best efforts, become depressed and can’t cope with the loss without the help of medication.

The good news is that your cat won’t have to be on antidepressants for the rest of her life, but only for the limited amount of time that it will take for her to get back to being her regular happy and content self.

Wrap Up

sad tabby cat

Losing a cat is the hardest thing an owner can experience, however, the knowledge that a cat is going to a better place may offer you a little peace. But the remaining cat doesn’t have this to fall back on.

Since cats are very intuitive and are known for their excellent senses, many owners wonder do cats know when another cat is dying. As far as we know, cats don’t comprehend the concept of dying, but they are able to feel when another cat is sick and dying.

Every cat is different, and there is no way for you to predict how your kitty is going to react to the loss of her companion. Some cats become withdrawn, depressed, and mourn the loss of their friend, while others are indifferent and even happy.

A cat won’t understand the reason for the disappearance of her friend. However, she will feel his absence and you should comfort and support your kitty during the grieving period and give her as much time as she needs to come to terms with the loss.

Did your cat show any behavioral changes after the passing of her feline companion? What are the things that helped her deal with her grief? Tell us and our readers about your experience in the comment section below. To prepare yourself and your cat better, check out our article on how long a cat with kidney failure can live.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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