Coping with the loss of a pet is a difficult and complex process for every member of the family, for that’s exactly what a pet is: a member of the family. With that in mind, it is natural for other pets in the household to respond to, and even mourn, the loss of a companion pet.
Animals are very observant, and notice every little change in a household, so they will of course notice the absence of another pet. It is very common for pets in a household to be bonded to one another. However, even a pet who hasn’t been part of a bonded pair may still react to such a significant absence and shift in the dynamic of the household.
As your family navigates through this period of grief and change, we have compiled the seven key behaviors to look out for with your surviving pets, and how to better ease the transition.
- A pet might show they are grieving the loss of another pet by whimpering, refusing to eat or drink, or being lethargic. While these are generally normal behaviors after the passing of a companion pet, they should still be monitored, and if they persist, should be checked out by a vet in case they are indications of a physical illness or health issue.
- Another pet might not exhibit any physical signs of grief or loss; like each pet is different, so are their responses. Some pets might also mask or internalize any pain.
- Pets are also very intuitive and easily pick up on their owners’ emotions, so they can even become distressed as a reaction to your own grief and changes in demeanor.
- Your pet’s personality may appear to change. While some might become withdrawn, others may become more confident, loud, or attention-seeking. Especially if the pet that has passed was previously the more dominant animal in the house.
- Stick to your pet’s regular routine- if, and as much, as you’re able to. We realize this is a difficult time for all members of the family, but sticking to your pet’s daily routine will be immensely helpful for them during this transitional period. Like clockwork, pets know when it is time to be fed, or when to expect a walk. Maintaining this schedule as expected, will reassure and comfort them, whereas deviating from it will only cause further confusion and distress.
- Give your pet some extra TLC! Extra playtime, exercise, or pet and cuddle sessions will help soothe the anxiety, sorrow, or boredom they might be feeling from the absence of their companion.
- Dogs in particular will also greatly benefit from learning a new skill. This will help to stimulate them and give them renewed confidence, plus the extra bonding time with you will help your dog feel loved and secure in this new household/ pack dynamic.
It is also helpful to remember that you and your surviving pets are ultimately grieving the same loss, and that takes time to process, mourn, and adjust to. Many of the tips on this list, like sticking to your regular household routine, or making time for extra walks, games of fetch, or even snuggles, will not only help to lift your pet’s spirits, but your own as well.
Pets live on forever in our hearts and can never be forgotten, but as you navigate through this emotional period, you and your surviving pets will best find comfort and happiness in each other.