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Do pets grieve for their human or animal companion? 

Have you ever wondered what happens to a pet when they lose their human or animal companion? Do pets grieve?

Like humans, pets too show signs that could be interpreted as grief.

When an owner or fellow housemate passes away, pets may experience:

Loss of appetite

Change in sleep patterns

Crying or searching

A need for extra attention

A generally sad demeanor

But you should also note that you may not witness any of these changes.

Many anecdotes suggest that animals feel like humans call ‘grief’, including an understanding that the deceased is not coming back, but there is little scientific evidence to back this up. What we know is that many species are affected by the loss and experience of sadness and loneliness.

Should I get another pet to keep them company?

When a pet passes away it can be tempting to get another quickly, not only for your own benefit, but your surviving pet will have another companion, but do not rush into this.

You should wait a while before introducing another pet to your cat.

Remember, each pet is an individual and different species bond with each other in different ways.

Dogs are sociable animals who live in family groups, so your surviving dog is likely to adapt well to a new canine if the pair are a good match.

Cats have a very different social structure to dogs and by their nature do not always bond with other cats, even if they have lived alongside them peacefully for many years. Give your surviving cat time to adapt to life without their companion and avoid getting a new cat or kitten straight away.

If, after a few months, you think your cat would be happy with a new friend, get in touch with your local rehoming center.

Rabbits are extremely sociable animals and may react badly to the death of a companion. The best thing to do is find your bunny a new partner quickly.

Introductions should be carried out slowly.

Only get a new pet if you feel it is the right thing for you, your family, and your pets.

How to help your pet

Keep your surviving pet’s routine the same as you can. Pets thrive on routine, so any event that disrupts this can be upsetting.

Make sure they are eating, drinking and toileting pro-perly. Pheromones may help calm dogs and cats that are stressed. Ask your vet about these.

Give your pet lots of love and attention, and take the time to focus on your bond with your pet.

Human or animal, loss affects us all, but we cope best when we care for each other.

Information kindly supplied by UK’s Blue Cross animal charity which has a pet bereavement service.