Cat Grieving

Question submitted by:  Chris and Mary

LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME, WE HAD 7 CATS.  HOWEVER, WE LOST THREE IN CLOSE SUCCESSION LAST FALL AND THEN, ALMOST TWO WEEKS AGO, WE LOST OUR 15.5 YEAR OLD FEMALE.  OUR 10 YEAR OLD CAT NOW CRIES THROUGHOUT THE NIGHT - SOMETHING SHE NEVER DID BEFORE.  WHAT SHOULD WE DO?  WE BROUGHT HER IN AS A FERAL KITTEN- SHE'S ALWAYS BEEN A LITTLE FEARFUL.  WE CALL TO HER AND WE LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN FOR HER, BUT SHE CRIES.  HOW CAN WE HELP HER?


I am sorry to hear your cat seems to be having a difficult time since losing her housemates. She may be searching for her housemates or simply looking for reassurance or attention. Older cats can also exhibit behavior changes such as night time vocalization as a result of cognitive dysfunction which is a bit like Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

Some things that may help are trying to keep her daily routine as consistent as possible, setting aside time in the evening to do some calming activities with her such as brushing her or petting her, and keeping her active and engaged in play throughout the day so she is more tired at night. Try not to talk to her or give attention while she is crying, but rather respond or give affection when she is quiet so as not to unintentionally reinforce the undesirable behavior.

Pheromone products such as Feliway may have a calming effect on cats during times of stress. If she still seems restless at night, sometimes using a calming supplement like Zylkene or Rescue Remedy for a few weeks, or a mild sedative or anti-anxiety medication at bedtime for a few days may help to “reset” her internal clock and help her sleep through the night again.

Submitted by:  Dr. Sabrina Walters

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