DEAR JOAN: Recently you mentioned cats and grief in your column and I thought you might be interested in what happened with my cat, Junior, when my other cat, Tully, passed away a few months ago.
The two had been adopted by me at different times and although they coexisted, I never would have called them friends. They mostly ignored each other.
When Tully passed away — peacefully, of old age — I thought that Junior might notice that his roommate was gone, but wouldn’t care much beyond that. Boy, was I wrong.
The next day, Junior climbed up on the kitchen counter and then into my dish cabinet over the sink, and then he crawled in behind my dinner plates, in the corner of the cupboard. He’d never climbed onto the counter before, let alone the cabinets.
I thought he would come down soon, but he stayed there overnight. The next morning he was still there. I removed all the dishes so he’d be more comfortable and he remained in the cabinet, lying down with his face in the corner for five days. He’d come down for meals and then return to the cabinet.
He was definitely grieving and I was shocked. I adopted another cat from ARF a little sooner than I’d planned to, but I hoped it would ease his pain to have a new buddy. King is my new cat and he and Junior do get along very well, so I am glad. But I have had many cats and I’ve never seen another cat grieve like Junior did over Tully’s passing.
I realize that your column was about a cat’s grief for a human, not an animal, and I am in no way comparing the losses.
Linda Westley, Walnut Creek
DEAR LINDA: I’ve had a few letters from readers about their cats and how they experienced grief for humans, other cats and, in one instance, a dog. In my constant quest to better understand cats, I discovered that researchers believe one of the main differences in how cats and dogs interact with humans is in how they view us.
Dogs see us as the head of the family or pack, but they know we are very different from themselves. In brief, they see us as humans, not as dogs. Cats, however, put us on equal footing with themselves. We might not look or act anything like they do, but they consider us just another cat.
So it’s no wonder that cats can grieve for a feline companion — even one they didn’t appear to like much — the same as they would for a human companion.
I’m glad you got another cat, for Junior and yourself. Sometimes bringing another pet into the household after a loss can be healing for everyone.
Help for troubled dog
I had quite a bit of response to my column earlier this week on the St. Bernard-Lab mix who is tearing up a house and garden, and who might be euthanized if his owner can’t get him to change.
I recommended finding a new home for the dog. Some of you suggested hiring a trainer, or getting the dog into a program to become a police or search and rescue dog. I also learned about Contra Costa Humane Society’s Re-Homing Assistance Program, which helps people find new homes for their pets. These are all good suggestions, and much better than the alternative. Thanks for weighing in.
Cat grieves for five days after the death of housemate