Humans, Animals Grieve Loss of a Pet Together, Lap of Love Pet Loss Coach Says
Any pet owner can tell you how difficult it can be to experience the loss of a pet or companion animal, and that same loss can affect furry family members as well.
Lap of Love Certified Pet Loss Coach Kelly Cormier explains that a pet’s grief will be unique and individual. “There is no right or wrong way to grieve,” she says. “One might notice their grieving pet wandering around the house, seemingly looking for their friend. They may seek out places they’ve never explored before. We might see changes in appetite and sleeping habits and even changes in the amount of attention they want (or don’t want). The loss of a member of the pack will take time to get used to, just as it does for people.”
While some pets are considered bonded, this does not always affect how they grieve. “Sometimes cats, who didn’t seem overly connected to each other in life, grieve very outwardly when their housemate dies,” says Cormier. “And those who were always close to the pet that passed, seem to go on with little grief. We shouldn’t judge our other pet if this is the case. It just means they have adjusted more easily. Pets often have an innate understanding of death, and some may be healthier grievers than others.”
To help our grieving pets, Cormier explains that it’s crucial to stick to a routine, and include extra enrichment, play, and comfort into their day.
“Both your worlds have changed and spending time together can be healing for everyone,” she says. “With that said, recognize that a pet that was not particularly social before a loss may not appreciate being suddenly included in social situations. Observe their behavior and take cues from them. If you think that a pet’s grief is prolonged and affecting their quality of life, a visit with your veterinarian may be warranted. There are a variety of options available, medically, and holistically, that can help your pet through this time.”
If the loss of a loved one is anticipated, we can give ourselves and our other pets the gift of being present. Cormier explains that pets are very in tune with their pack, and if someone is ill, or a loss is imminent, they may sense it and be prepared in their own way.
“If a planned goodbye is possible, allowing your other pet to be present at the time of goodbye, or allowing them a chance to see their friend’s body, is something many people find helps the remaining pet process the loss,” she says.
Once you’ve both processed a loss, it’s not uncommon to consider adopting another companion. Cormier recommends giving yourself and your pet plenty of time to heal before proceeding. “When you’re able to imagine another pet in your home, and that thought brings you comfort, it may be time to start looking,” she says. “When it’s time, the thought of learning another pet’s personality, and cultivating a new relationship will sound exciting, but remember to keep the needs of your remaining pet in mind, especially if they are not particularly social.”
Many shelters and rescues schedule meet-and-greets for you, your pet, and a potential new buddy to ensure your growing family continues to thrive.