Recognizing Grief in Pets Who Have Lost Their Companions

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Pets, especially dogs, respond to loss much like toddlers. They may not fully grasp the concept of death, but they can feel and recognize the sense of loss. So, how do we know they are grieving? According to research from the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), over 60% of pets experience four or more behavioral changes after losing their companions.

1. Decreased Appetite

Profound loss can affect the eating habits of pets, especially if the departed one was the “leader” who usually initiated mealtime.

2. Vocal Changes

Pay attention to the decrease or increase in your pet’s vocalizations when they are grieving. Some pets, like dogs and cats, may bark or meow more frequently than usual.

3. Changes in Habits

Around 30% of dogs and 20% of cats may appear to sleep more often, while others may wander more, hide, or exhibit sulking behavior.

4. Personality Changes

60% of pets, especially dogs and cats, may seek more closeness with their owners. Others may prefer solitude, show a decreased interest in play, or become more destructive.

5. Changes in Self-Grooming or Potty Habits

The habit of self-cleaning may decrease, or they may not do it at all. Additionally, some pets may urinate or defecate in inappropriate places.

6. Seeking Behavior

 Approximately 60% of pets will actively seek and return to specific places where they used to engage in activities with their departed companions.