Supporting Pets that have Lost a Friend
How to help other pets that have lost a companion is certainly something we need to be aware of after loss of a companion animal. Other pets in the home have lost a friend too and may be confused about why they no longer have their playmate. While we cannot explain this loss to them, we can help them through it.
It is common for the behavior of surviving pets to change following the death of a housemate. Your pet may seem extra needy, distant, or possibly show increased signs of irritation, reduced appetite, or increased vocalization. These are just common examples. They may just seem ‘off’ and not themselves. Here are some things you can do:
Watch your pet.
- It is recommended not to leave surviving pets in an area where they could escape as some pets literally ‘search’ for their friend.
- If you have an inside/outside cat keep them in for a couple of days.
- Keep a close eye on your dog when they are let outside; even if they are normally good about staying in the unfenced yard.
Maintain the daily routine.
- Keep routines as consistent as possible for surviving pets. Be careful not to reinforce new behaviors if a surviving pet is displaying them. Some people attempt to and give surviving pets extra attention at this time, or hand feed them to encourage appetite. The difficulty is you will not always be able to do these things.
- It is normal to want to spend extra time with your surviving companion animal, but do not do it so much that when things return to normal (you go back to work etc.) that you leave your pet confused.
Multiple Pet Households
- If you have a multiple pet household (particularly cats) realize the social structure has changed with the loss of a member.
- There may be increased tension (possibly fighting or vocalization) in the remaining pets. Allow them to reestablish their social structure—which may mean allowing some fights to break out.
- Protect them from harming one another while remembering it is important they reestablish their hierarchy within the group and restructure order for themselves.