This excerpt is from Chapter 11 of:
When Your Pet Dies, Dealing with Your Grief and Helping Your Children Cope
By: Christine Adame

Other Pets May Suffer Over The Loss

If you have other pets, they can be profoundly affected by the loss of an animal they have known for years."Our surviving cat Alexis grieved visibly for about nine months after his death," said David. "She would pace and cry, especially at night. She didn't seem to enjoy life and became extremely dependent on us—very watchful and protective when before she was very aloof."

He continues, "Then we got another cat and she gradually went back to her old self. Now, almost two years later, she seems to be happy again."

Claudia reported that after her cat Chessie died, her other two cats stopped playing and clearly grieved for several months. In another case, a pet owner's cat became so ill that she had to be hospitalized and intravenously fed and medicated.

Donna said that after her cat Fluffy died, her two other cats would not lie down in the deceased pet's basket.

Mark said that when his beagle Toby died, his other dogs sniffed the body and watched as he held the dog before burial. They were fairly subdued while we buried him, and didn't eat that day, but were okay after that," he says.

Your other pets may cry out and search for the other animal. In one case, a poodle, the daughter of the mother dog that died, howled all night after her death.

In another case, an older ferret who had essentially "mothered" a younger one, was very despondent after its death. She searched the house for the missing ferret until she fell down in exhaustion. For days afterward, the animal frantically searched the apartment. Afterward she checked once or twice and finally gave up.

Other behaviors may also be exhibited. The pet may ignore you or act like it doesn't like you anymore.

The pet may even behave in a hostile or aggressive manner when it had always been friendly in the past. In one case, a woman said her cat hissed at her after a much-loved ferret was euthanized. These are all symptoms of grieving.

Kathy, whose cat Huntress died after eighteen years with her, said that her other two cats were affected when the cat became very ill. They spent a lot of time with her in the last few weeks she was with us. After she died, they stayed very close to me and seemed to want more attention and cuddling than usual.

What To Do

Your other pets will probably need some extra tender loving care for awhile. On the other hand, if an animal clearly indicates that it wants to be left alone, don't press yourself upon it.

You may also wish to leave the television or radio on when you go out, to provide some comfort.

If your other pets seem to become ill or refuse to eat, take them to the veterinarian. It may also help to "explain" to them what happened. They won't understand the words, but the tone of your voice may convey some comfort. But don't give your pets too much attention you don't want to reward them inadvertently with food or attention or both for acting depressed or unhappy.

Try to keep your other pets to their regular routine. This helps caretakers and animals.

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College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Contact information: griefhelp@cvm.uiuc.edu
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