Getting a new cat

My cat just died about 4 days ago, and I have another who was rather close to him. How long should I allow the cat to grieve and heal before looking at getting a new cat?


RESPONSE:

Although cats have a reputation for being solitary and oftentimes aloof, they are actually social animals that form deep attachments to both people and other animals. How deeply they grieve is speculation because they can’t tell us. But they can tell us by their actions.

The time frame for getting your existing cat another companion really boils down to how your cat is reacting to the current loss. Is your cat eating properly? Is your cat over grooming? Is your cat withdrawn and staring into space? Is your cat sleeping more? Is your cat howling, vocally expressing emotional pain or is the opposite…being withdrawn and silent? Strangely enough, some cats even exhibit relief that they are now “king of the castle”.

Therefore, it really depends upon how your cat is handling its grief. When the ASPCA conducted a survey some years back about grieving cats they found the time frame for grief recovery varied from 1 month to 6 months. (See Grieving Cat)

My personal experience, (with my cat Diablo when he lost his sister to cancer) was that after several weeks of sleepless nights and pacing the house while crying out…he returned to normal. At this point we brought an older cat into the house that had a similar personality to his sister and they got along okay. Tart outlived him and didn’t grieve much, perhaps because she was older when they became friends. This led me to believe that the closer the bond, the longer the recovery period.

Also, cats don’t have the same concept of time that we do. Daylight hours and dark hours blend into just that…light and dark. They don’t know that a week has passed but they do know that there have been cycles of changing light and in that cycle they eat, socialize, and sleep. (See Cat Internal Clock,)

At this time I would suggest giving extra attention and reassurance. If your cat is allowed outside for brief periods, then keep it indoors so it doesn’t get lost looking for its companion. Perhaps get a new toy and play a bit to distract your cat from its loss. Once you’ve seen that your cat is returning to normal is when you can consider adding a new cat to your household. You don’t want to do it too soon because it will just add additional stress to your feline. You want your cat to see the newcomer as a new buddy and not as an intruder.

In extreme cases, severely affected cats may need anti-anxiety medications. So, if the mourning period lasts over a few months, it’s time to consider calling your veterinarian and discussing anti-depressant medications.

Hopefully, this won’t be the case for you. In this difficult time, remember to talk to friends about your own grief. It will help. Best wishes to you both.

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