Can cats mourn?

do cats mourn

Cat lovers find it heartwarming when one looks at them with sweet and expectant eyes. Those feline looks can melt some people’s hearts. However, after the loss of a dog, cat, or owner, those heart-warming eyes can turn into sad eyes. Can cats mourn? A cat who loses a buddy can be quite upset. That can even happen if they did not like each other. There are also sad stories about cats who get sick when their owner dies.

Cats are often seeing as independent animals that retain much of their ‘wild’ nature. However, cats show behavioral changes after the loss of another cat, domestic animal or owner, and they find it sometimes difficult to understand. Cats can mourn and do that just like people in different ways. Cats certainly know that something has changed in the house and a fellow housemate is missing.

In this post, I answer the question: can cats mourn. You can also read about how you recognize the signs of mourning, how you deal with it, and how long mourning lasts. In the end, I answer the question of how you can help your cat during mourning and give some related questions.

Do all cats mourn?

Little research has been doing on grieving cats, and the answer can only be based on the behavior of the cat. Many animal behaviorists believe that cats do mourn. In 1996 there was a survey from ASPCA. The survey study was focussing on common signs associated with mourning and found that.

Many different behavioral patterns were assessing during the study. This study concluded that 65% of cats had four or more behavioral changes following the loss of a pet, indicating sadness. So there are cats that mourn the death of someone.

Some cats don’t mourn at all. Especially if the relationship between the animals was not good, the cat that is left alone could be happy that it has its place back again and is no longer irritated/bullied.

What does not often happen but sometimes happens is that in a bad relationship, the cat that stays alone can go looking for the deceased cat and is confused for a few days. But this behavior actually seems to be due to stress and change in the home than due mourning.

The sadness of yourself can also affect your cat. Cats notice you quickly if you have stress or behavioral changes. Cats are smart animals that sense behavior and feelings quickly.

grieving cat

How do you recognize the signs of mourning?

When a cat loses an animal, human or companion, cats most certainly mourn and reacts to the changes in life, when cats mourn, their behavior changes, just like people do.

  • A cat becomes depressed and listless
  • Cat doesn’t like to play and a decreased appetite 
  • A cat is sleeping more than usual and move more slowly, sulking around.
  • Hiding under the bed, choosing to be alone even more than usual.
  • More dependent on the owner
  • Search for the “disappeared” cat

And sometimes

  • spraying
  • stare straight ahead 
  • no longer want to play

Cat owners recognize these changes in daily behavior as the same symptoms that mourning people often exhibit. The common thing about animals and humans is the loss of a central individual (animal or human) along with the associated bond.


Some people suggest that cats don’t really mourn and their behavior changes because they are upset because their schedule is off. With the loss of the deceased cat, the cat may miss the interaction and playing time.

With the loss of a human companion, the feed and schedules may change as the new caretaker takes the lead. It may also be that cats may not understand death as something permanent, because of this, a cat will sometimes wait patiently, believing that the deceased will return.

Other people suggest that the cat may respond to the sadness that people show when they are in the home of the deceased. They say that a cat senses this sadness and therefore responds to it.


No major research has been doing into mourning cats. But research by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals showed that cats slept more, ate less, and became more vocal after a confrontation with death. In 160 households surveyed, all pets that had lost a companion behaved normally within six months.

How long does mourning last?

You cannot convert behavior into concrete numbers. Just like people, animals differently deal with losses. The period of mourning can, therefore, vary from “not” (the relieved/happy cat) through a few days to a few months. The American animal protection study showed that after six months, even with the most grieving animals, no behavioral changes were visible.

However, pay attention to the behavior of your cat. Just like with people, you cannot force a cat to do something when it is in mourning. Give a cat time to recover.

grieving cat

How can I help my cat through the mourning process?

There are some things you can do to help a grieving cat to deal with grief in the following ways:

  • If your cat demands attention, give it that attention. Your cat does not feel well and needs support and comfort. It is important to spend extra time with your cat. Try to distract your cat’s attention by participating in your cat’s favorite activities, for example, by playing a game. Sit on the couch and spend some time together. Buy tasty treats, toys, or favorite food for your cat. You can see this as a special boost.
  • Be more affectionate to your cat. It is better to make a point of petting your cat more often. Make eye contact and talk by dialoguing routine household activities, ”okay whiskers, let’s do the dishes”. With this, you involve your cat in the activities and your routine.
  • Watch your cat behavior closely. If your cat is avoiding places that maybe smell like the person or cat that is deceased, remove any items, or clean those places. On the other side, if your cat is feeling comfortable in those places, there is no hurry to clean up those items.
  • If your cat enjoys the company, you can invite friends over who will interact and play with your cat. A little human variety can pique your cat’s interest. Also, when your cat becomes stressed or bored, it will safely retreat to another area of the house.
  • When you are gone, your cat must have fun. Provide entertainment while you are away. Let the favorite toys in the house and hide, for example, sweets in special cat toys or hide treats in favored household locations. This things keeps your cat busy while you are away.
  • Reinforce good behavior and ignore inappropriate behavior. Some mournful cats meow or vocalize without provocation. It is hard to do but try to ignore this behavior. Don’t give your cat a treat to calm down; this only reinforces the response that you want to change. When your cat is quiet, you can reward it. The reward does not have to be food; a hug is also good. You can also try to break the crying cycle by distracting your cat. Instead of approaching it, which can be seen by your cat as a positive reinforcement of the unwanted behavior, try to call your cat to you. If your cat follows the order and comes to you, praise your cat and start with a distraction such as playing time.
  • You can consider medical therapy. If your cat has prolonged difficulty after losing an animal, human or companion, you can ask your veterinarian about the use of a behavior modification drug. Several medications can serve as an adjunct therapy. It may enhance your efforts at resolving behavior issues associated with mourning. Maybe your veterinarian wants to do blood and urine tests before prescribing medication to rule out systemic problems that could affect behavior. Such as diabetes, thyroid problems, or electrolyte imbalances, to name a few.

Related questions

Is it okay to buy a new pet?

Think carefully about replacing a lost pet. If you want a new pet because of the sadness of losing a dog or cat, don’t rush to find a replacement. Your cat (and you) should get the chance to getting used to a new situation. Perhaps your cat now prefers to be alone. Then a new cat is not a good option! Think about it and talk with other people about it. The introduction of a new pet may add more stress to an already stressful situation.

If your cat feels alone, misses a buddy; you can sometimes forcing to take faster a new cat, purely to ensure the well-being of your cat.

Is it right to let the cat say goodbye?

If you have to put your cat to sleep, that is a sorrowful moment. The popular trend is that you have to let the remaining cat say goodbye to make the grieving process more accessible.

The truth is that nothing can be said about it: there has been no research into it. Some cats don’t respond, and other cats want to say goodbye. However, there are also cats that have panic when they see a dead cat.

You shouldn’t feel guilty if for some reason you can’t let your cat say goodbye to the other. Sometimes it’s just not possible, and that’s okay. Make a choice that makes you feel okay.

What should I do when a grieving cat is mourning the loss of a human?

If your grieving cat is sad with the loss of a human, be consistent with your attention and in the rest of the household. If you are going to take care of a grieving cat that mourns a person, give the cat a stable, peaceful environment and enough time to adjust the new life. In both cases, patience, love, attention, and time will help your cat to become a happy cat again.

By Marleen

Marleen van der Leest is a truly madly deeply cat lover and founder of That Is for My Cat. She wants to share her knowledge about cats with other people who like to know more about cats.

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