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Many people think that cats are aloof and believe that they do not care about their owners or miss household humans if they die. This is not the case. These animals form bonds with their owners, and when a human in the home dies, they will mourn his or her passing.
At first, it may take a few days for the cat to realize someone is missing. It probably knows something is wrong, since animals tend to pick up on high emotions, but it will not immediately realize the person isn't coming back. Once the pet begins missing the person, it will usually begin looking for him or her.
The animal will look in the places where it is accustomed to seeing that person, such as a favorite chair or a bedroom. Often, it will meow in these places, seemingly calling for the person. It will often anxiously approach other family members, meowing, going to the deceased’s room or place, attempting to understand where the person has gone.
The cat may begin sleeping where the person slept, and will often look all around that favored place, as if to see whether the person has returned to it. This kind of “searching” behavior can be expected to last from two weeks to a month. Even after this time, the pet may wander around, seeming to know that something still isn’t quite right. Most recover their spirits after a time, but some become depressed.
Depression is a sign of feline mourning. Depressed cats are listless, perhaps with poor appetite and a dull coat. They may seem to lose interest in things that were once exciting — just as humans do. Older animals may even show signs of confusion or dementia when a human companion dies. As with humans, this radical life change seems to throw cats into a tailspin and they are not always able to cope with the loss.
If the animal seems genuinely ill, the owner may need to take it to the veterinarian to rule out any disease. The vet can also prescribe medication to help stimulate the animal’s appetite, which may help encourage a recovery from the depression. Owners should also pay extra attention to their pets, making sure they have plenty of physical activity, and perhaps should also consider another animal companion if the cat is not elderly and has accepted other pets.
Cats like their routines, and an owner can help reduce the mourning period by trying to keep to the same routine. The owner should wait a few months before making any drastic changes, such as remodeling the home, or even doing much interior decorating. These animals typically hate upheaval of this kind, and keeping it to a minimum will help it recover more quickly.
Animals mourn, just as humans do. They do not have the advantage of being able to understand the death or absence, however; they simply know that someone they had bonded with is no longer in the home. This confusion undoubtedly adds to their depression. Fortunately, a loving owner can make all the difference by giving the animal extra love, attention, and activity.