When is it appropriate to add another cat to the family after a beloved feline passes away?

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, provides suggestions for humans and cats who are dealing with grief.

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Q: My cat just died, and his sister is lonely. We lost two cats this year. My question is when should we get another cat? Should we give her time to grieve?
 
A: It is not uncommon for cats to grieve for a lost human or cat companion. Grief can be manifested in a variety of ways. Some cats howl and cry. Others sit near the door, waiting for their loved one to return. Grieving cats can become needy. Some mope, and others become depressed. Not eating is sometimes a manifestation of grief that needs to be taken seriously. It is vital that cats continue to eat and drink on a regular basis. If your cat stops eating after the death of a beloved companion, please seek the help of a veterinarian.

Bringing in a new cat while your resident cat is still grieving for her brother will not bring her out of her grief. Most likely the new, furry addition will stress her out more.

Introducing cats to each other is usually a stress-filled experience under normal circumstances. Wait a while, until both of you have adjusted to the loss.

Instead of finding another companion so soon after her brother’s death, put her on a schedule — feeding and playing with her at the same times every day. If she likes to be groomed, schedule regular grooming and petting sessions with her. Give her lots of affection and love whenever possible. Enhancing her environment with tall cat trees and puzzle boxes will help also. Put her dry food or treats into treat balls. Treat balls can be easily made from various types of hard plastic balls, including lattice balls. There are treat balls available commercially that can be used as well. Treat balls should keep her busy, rolling the ball around until the food drops out.

It is very important to monitor cats in their grief. When a cat manifests extreme grief for a prolonged period of time or stops eating, it’s time to take your cat to the veterinarian. It may be necessary to put your kitty on a short course of medication. If the vet prescribes medication, combine it with a consistent schedule, love, environmental enrichment and attention.

I recorded some sound bytes for CatChannel that focused on grief and how to help cats and their human companions through the painful grieving process. Click here to listen to the sound bytes.

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