Cat Depression and Mourning

It is generally believed that cats are solitary animals, since they seem to adapt very well to household situations as the sole pet or sole cat among pets. However, this is not the case in the wild, where cats are pack animals, much like their larger cousins in the cat family. And when a pack animal is killed, lost or separated from the group in any way, there is a mourning process, not unlike that experienced by humans who lose loved ones.

So it may be useful to keep a close watch on your cat if a playmate or co-owner passes away.  Cats form very strong bonds with both their owners and playmates, so you can count on a period of mourning after a loss. But at first the signs may not be at all apparent that the process is underway, because it usually takes cats several days, perhaps even weeks, to exhibit depressive behavior. In this way cats are not unlike children.

Cats have a very high level of sensitivity to emotion, but at first they will not understand the reasons for the sadness they pick up from the humans around them.One of the principal signs of a cat in mourning is the tendency to search for the missing playmate or person.

The writers Frances and Richard Lockridge, who published the book Cats and People in the 1950’s, reported that their cat became inconsolable after Mr. Lockridge left for World War II service.   The cat spent its days sitting in front of Mr Lockridge’s office and evenings by the front door. For some time the cat had a reduced appetite and did not respond to comfort from others in the house. Many other cat owners have reported similar incidents after a loss, including a cat’s habit of sleeping in the spot where the person or its playmate slept, constantly in a state of either searching or trying to understand the absence of a loved one. This behavior usually lasts from between two weeks to a month. However, instead of moving out of its doldrums, sometimes cats will sink into a deeper depression. The cat’s appetite will drop and its coat will lose its usual sheen of health. More serious complications can occur with older cats, who can very quickly go into a slide in health while engaged in the mourning process.Luckily there are several ways for the concerned cat owner to combat this turn of events. Veterinarians can prescribe medicine to stimulate the cat’s appetite, which in turn may help ease the animal out of its depression. Feline antidepressants are also an option. Many cat owners take the step of adding another cat to the household to help offset the emotional loss of a playmate.

Above all, it is very important to make certain that the cat feels loved and appreciated at all times, especially during this difficult period. This can make the largest investment towards the return of your happy, healthy cat.