Cats can have complex social interactions. The most common close long- term social bonds between cats are those formed between littermates or between queens and their offspring. That having been said, many unrelated cats who “grew up” in households with older cats may form a close bond with these older cats, especially if significant nurturing, grooming and playing occurred. When the older cat passes away, these housemate cats may indeed miss the other cat and their interactions. Some cats may search or call for the other cat for several days, and may not eat as well or play as much as usual. Usually, these cats will settle down into a normal routine in less than a week. Some cats form similar close bonds to dogs in the household when they are introduced to the dog as a kitten, and will miss them as well. Is this true grief? We cannot say for sure, but these cats’ behavior shows distress.
However, in many multi-cat households, the cats do not form close social bonds with each other and are more loners. They share the household but not affection. These cats will “time share “ favorite locations or spend significant time in different areas of the home. Often one cat is more confident and assertive and the other cat in the household is more quiet and timid. The more timid cat may spend less time with the humans in the household as it tries to avoid the more confident cat. If the more confident and socially assertive cat passes away, the more timid cat may “blossom “ socially and become more confident, interactive, and curious. Similarly, many cats can be intimidated by noisy or active dogs, and appear more content and outgoing in the absence of the dog.
In general, when one pet passes away in the house, plan to give more attention to the remaining cat. You may see that it enjoys being an “only kitty child”! If it seems lonely, or you are away from your home frequently, consider introducing another cat. Just remember that the cats will not like each other initially and that you will need to gradually introduce them. If you plan to introduce a puppy or adult dog, even more planning should occur. More on that in another blog! Dr Sadek