Do cats mourn?

Cat owners would assert that their pets have emotions…that their pets love them and miss them when they are away. It is not uncommon for pet parents to attribute human-like behaviors to the pet and one of these emotions is grief. It was not scientifically proven that cats can grieve. However, the behavioral change cats manifest at the death of another cat or at the death of the owner are signs that cats really do mourn.

Do cats really mourn the passing of another cat or the death of the human companion? Cats cannot speak thus it would be up to us to know what goes on in the cat’s mind by interpreting the behavior. For a cat to feel grief and to mourn the loss of a companion, it has to be accustomed to the presence and the affection of the one that has gone away. Although cats tend not to be too demonstrative of their feelings, there is no doubt that these animals can form strong attachment with their feline or human companions. Cats were once considered as solitary animals. Cats may tend to hunt and live alone in the wild but cats that were domesticated have learned to be sociable. Stray cats are seen congregating in back alleys. It is therefore highly possible for a cat that has gotten used to the company of other cats or to the loving attention of the owners to mourn at the absence of the familiar playmate or human.

Cats may display grief at the absence of someone familiar. A cat may show signs of grief at the death of the owner but these animals would not really comprehend the situation. Cats would not understand that death is a fact of life…that the owner or the feline companion will never come back. What the cats would understand is the fact the familiar someone is no longer around…that the other cat it used to play with is gone. The cat would look for the familiar hands that pets and gives belly rubs…for the familiar scent that it smells when it is being cuddled.

The death of the owner or another pet would have life changing effects on the surviving cat. The disruption of the family structure would result to behavioral changes. Grief would make humans lose focus and lose interest on what is going on in his/her environment. The same thing is true with cats. Cats are not very sociable animals but the loss of an owner or a playmate will make the cat even more reclusive. Cats that mourn may either become aggressive or too submissive. The later though is more common. Depression is another sign that the cat is mourning. Grieving cats would be indifferent to other animals and to the attention given by the other family members. The cat would have no interest in doing its usual activities. Grief and anxiety would cause the secretion of stress hormones so that the cat would suffer from hair and stomach upsets. Grief may cause the pet to forget is toilet training. What would be most noticeable is the change in the cat’s eating pattern. Cats that mourn would lose interest in food. While some cat would have significant decrease in the amount of food intake others will altogether refuse to eat.

Cats would mourn without really understanding that the other cat or the owner had died. Animal behaviorists have supported the idea of allowing the cat to see the body of the other cat or the owner that had passed away. Cats are mysterious animals with senses that are way superior to what humans have. Although it will take a while before the cat would forget the one that has passed away, the smell of death is believed to make the cat put a closure to its mourning.

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