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Reactions of Other Pets in the Home

If you have other pets in your home, you might find that they appear to be grieving the loss of the one who died. This is not at all unusual as the loss of a human or animal family member will change the structure and dynamics of the family. Also, pets that have lived together can become just as bonded to each other as we become to them.

Therefore, many animals will experience a transitional and readjustment period as a reaction to the missing pet. If your pets are experiencing physical symptoms or behaviors that have you concerned, or if these symptoms last more than a couple of days to a week, a visit to your veterinarian is warranted to rule out illness or disease.

The following are some behaviors of surviving pets that have been reported by people:

  • Searching behavior
  • Increase or decrease in vocalization
  • Changes in the amount of attention the pet wants
  • Taking on behaviors of the pet that died even if this never occurred before, such as
  • Sleeping where the other pet slept
  • Playing with toys that belonged to the pet that died
  • Rubbing or rolling where the other pet rubbed or rolled
  • Other unique activities the deceased pet engaged in
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in mood
  • Personality changes such as quiet or shy pets becoming more outgoing and assertive, or outgoing pets becoming more quiet

What You Can Do to Help Your Pets Through Their Grieving Process.

  • Observe them closely for changes
  • Do not change their basic routine or the structure of their day any more than is absolutely necessary. For example, feeding, grooming, and sleeping time should remain as close as possible to the way it was in the past. Remember, changes in your pet’s routine will only add to confusion.
  • Respect your pet’s desire for “hands on” attention such as holding, cuddling, and petting. Many people report wanting to get closer to remaining pets in the home but find that the pets do not always welcome more attention, especially if it is something they are not used to. Try not to push unwanted attention onto them. However, if remaining pets are seeking more close attention, then try to find the time to give it.
  • Provide more opportunities for exercise and play – this will be good for both of you.
  • Reward calm, relaxed, or other desirable behavior.
  • Try leaving a TV or radio on while you are gone.
  • Understand that animals are very good at picking up on their human’s mood and some of your pet’s reactions could be a result of your stress or anxiety. Many people find it helpful to not cry or show extreme sadness in front of their pets.

Should You Get Another Animal as a Companion for Your Pet?

This is one of those questions for which you are the best person to answer. You know your pets better than anyone else and are most likely the one who knows best if another pet will make your current pet or pets feel better.

Some things you might want to consider when making this decision are:

  • Is your pet very social?
  • Is your pet used to having other animals around?
  • Would another pet help your current pet to get more activity and exercise?
  • If your current pet is now an only pet, how much time will it be spending alone if there is not another animal in the house?
  • Are you and other family members ready to commit to and reinvest in another pet?

Things to Remember

  • Some animals will show no signs of grief after the death of another pet in the house.
  • Even for pets, grief is an individual process that will affect each one in a different way.
  • Your pet’s reaction to the loss should improve as the days/weeks go by. If this does not happen or if anorexia (loss of appetite) occurs, then you should contact your
    Veterinarian because medication or other treatment may be warranted.