Cats have a stoic and tough public image, but that doesn't mean that the furry creatures aren't at all vulnerable to the grieving process. The bond between feline littermates is often an intensely strong one. Depression is indeed a possibility for cats that experience the major stress of the death of a sibling.
Cats do well on familiarity and routine, and not many things are more familiar than the constant presence of a littermate. From rough playing as bouncy and wide-eyed kittens to adjusting to new homes, sibling cats tend to go through a lot of big events together. For a cat who has been with a sibling since birth, the sudden absence that death brings may be extremely hard to manage. If a cat just doesn't seem like himself following the passing of a sibling, depression may be at fault.
Signs of Grief
Grief is a natural process for human beings and felines alike. If a cat suddenly loses a beloved lifelong companion, you may observe a lot of indications of the mourning process, according to the Humane Society of North Texas. These indications include changes in appetite, blankly staring off into space, unusually withdrawn and antisocial behavior, lack of energy, fruitless attempts to track down the absent sibling, increased meowing and yowling, and excessive sleeping.
Cats can experience depression just like human beings, whether due to the abrupt loss of a companion, a move to a different home or any other major life changes or tensions. According to CatChannel.com, key symptoms of cat depression include reduced appetite, vocalization changes and decreased activity levels. These symptoms are also common signs of grieving, so if you observe any of them in your poor pet, it likely means that he's grief-stricken -- and feeling seriously depressed as a result of it.
A cat may seem depressed and not like his usual self for quite a while after the passing of a sibling. It's impossible to anticipate when a cat will recover from such a major loss; it could take anywhere from several weeks to months and months, according to veterinarian Arnold Plotnick of the website Manhattan Cats. Comfort your kitty in every way possible: Spend the extra five minutes every night petting his back on the couch. Throw his favorite catnip mouse around for him to chase -- every night. Be patient. In some cases, the appropriate solution may just be to allow your cat some time and extra space. Thanks to your time, understanding and TLC, your grieving cat may be able to get through the situation with flying colors. Abstain from bringing a new cat into your home. A new cat cannot "replace" the lost sibling. A new cat will bring an added element of uncertainty and unfamiliarity may do nothing but cause your mourning pet to feel even more nervous, threatened, lost and depressed -- the last thing you need.
To be on the safe side, take your sad cat to the veterinarian for a checkup. In some cases, a cat's depressive mood may point to a health issue, in which case it's crucial to handle it immediately. If the depression isn't a result of an ailment and is especially excessive or long-lasting, your vet may discuss using temporary anxiety-relieving medications for your pet. Never ever offer your cat any type of medication without the approval of your veterinarian.
- Feline Advisory Bureau: Do Cats Grieve?
- Messy Beast: When Cats Grieve
- Humane Society of North Texas: Multi-Cat Households - The Pros and Cons
- Cat Channel: Help for Grieving Cats
- Cat Channel: Cat Depression Checklist
- Manhattan Cats: Do Cats Grieve for Other Cats?
- University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Veterinary Medicine: Other Pets May Suffer Over the Loss
- ASPCA: End-of-life Care FAQ
- Messy Beast Portal: When Cats Grieve
- Michael Blann/Lifesize/Getty Images