Do Pets Grieve?

Animals can form very firm attachments with each other. Even pets that outwardly seem to barely get along will exhibit intense stress reactions when separated. In fact, grieving pets can show many symptoms identical to those experienced by a grieving pet owner. The surviving pet(s) may become restless, anxious and depressed. There may also be much sighing, along with sleep and eating disturbances. Often, grieving pets will search for their dead companions and crave more attention from their human companions.

You can help your grieving pet by considering the following recommendations:

  • Keep the surviving pet(s) routines as normal as possible.
  • Try not to unintentionally reinforce behavior changes.
    • If the pet's appetite is picky, don't keep changing the food. It can create a more finicky pet.
    • Be careful to not overdo the attention given to the pet(s) as it can lead to separation anxiety.
  • Allow the surviving animals to work out the new dominance hierarchy themselves. There may be scuffles and fights as the animals work out the new pecking order (dogs mostly).
  • Do not get a new pet to help the grieving pet(s) unless the owner is ready.
    • The owner needs to be emotionally ready for a new pet.
    • A grieving owner generally will not have energy for a new pet.

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