The Grieving Pet

Pets exhibit behavior that indicates they do grieve as well as humans do when the loss of a loved one occurs. Pets grieve whether the loss is a human companion or another pet in the household.

How can you tell if your pet is grieving? There will be noticeable symptoms such as lethargy and loss of appetite. The pet may display behavioral changes such as anxiety of change in temperament. A very active playful pet may suddenly become quiet and withdrawn. He may refuse to play with his favorite toy or engage in regular activities.

If the loss was another pet, the one that is left may wander around the house searching for the pet that passed away. Pets will behave in much the same way if the loss is a human companion. A dog may sit by the door expecting the person to come home. A cat may sit in the window for the same purpose.

Animals are more intelligent than we often realize. They experience emotions too. What can you do to help a pet through the grieving process? Try to keep the pet's regular routine as normal as possible. Households may tend to become hectic following the loss of a family member, which can be even more disruptive for the grieving pet. Try to provide the pet with as much normalcy as possible considering the circumstances.

If your dog is barking more or whining, distract her. Don't give her treats to distract her or you might unintentionally reinforce the barking. Giving attention during any behavior will help to reinforce it so be sure you are not reinforcing a behavior that you don't like. Give attention at a time when your dog is engaging in behaviors that you do like, such as when she is resting quietly or watching the birds. As the pain of the loss begins to subside, so should the vocalizing as long as it is related to the grieving process.

If the loss is another pet, many pet owners wonder if they should get another pet as soon as possible so the survivor won't be lonely. This is a personal choice for the pet owner but there are a few things to consider before making a decision. The grieving pet may not adapt easily to a new pet in the household. The current pet may resent the newcomer and could even react aggressively toward the new member.

It may be best to allow you and your pet time to grieve and adjust to the loss. Forcing your pet  to get to know a newcomer will only add stress to her already anxiety-ridden emotional state. And be patient. Your pet may miss it's companion as much as you do.

When you and your pet are ready for a new addition to the family it may be best to bring a kitten or puppy home rather than an adult pet. Although this is not true of every animal, some pets will be more accepting of a young companion.

Give your pet time for the emotional wounds to heal. Spend time with your pet. Animals can sense that you are grieving too. Your pet may make attempts to comfort you by climbing into your lap, lying next to you, purring or licking your hands or face. Your pet knows you need him as much as he needs you. Together you can work through the grief process.

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