There is no doubt that animals are capable of forming strong bonds with the people and pets in their lives. It is therefore understandable for us to wonder if they are capable of comprehending loss. A common question asked by pet owners is whether or not their pets grieve the death of another pet?
The answer is that while we do not truly know how they are feeling, most pets exhibit signs of stress after the loss of a housemate. Incidentally many of these behaviors are similar to the ones exhibited by children experiencing sadness and grief.
While we cannot say that pets understand the concept and permanence of death, their stress response suggests that they do acknowledge and feel the absence of their companion’s presence.
A study conducted by the New Zealand Companion Animal Counsel surveyed the owners of 159 dogs and 152 cats. This study found that both dogs and cats exhibited stress behaviors following the death of a housemate.
So how can we help our beloved pets move forward?
Watching your furry family member go through signs of grief is not easy. However, there are a few things that we can do to help them through this process.
If your pet has stopped eating, is having vomiting or diarrhea, or is otherwise acting lethargic, please contact your Veterinarian.
Grief is a complex process that takes time. Every pet will process grief differently and, like humans, will experience stress in their own way. Give your pets the time they need and don’t be afraid to lean on each other.