Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Guest Blogger Leslie Goodwin, Author of Cat Skills, on Grieving: Part 2

Do Animals Grieve?

Twice, I've witnessed cats grieving the loss of their cat companions. Was I imagining it? Were cats actually grieving?

Since then, I've found hundreds of stories of cats visibly mourning a loss by howling, ceasing to eat, looking for the lost one or by withdrawing.

The ASPCA Companion Animal Mourning Project in 1996 studied grieving in animals. The majority, 67% of animals in the study, exhibited behavioral changes at the loss of an animal companion.   

    Lucy at age 16 with a bad haircut.  Photo© Leslie Goodwin

Grief is complicated when you have to share it. The animal survivors may be distant just when you need a cuddle. You may resent the surviving cat because he's too needy or acting out, not eating, or vocalizing. The survivor may search for the lost one, making your loss feel even sharper.

Opinions vary, but most writers say that showing the body will not necessarily help him to understand. They recommend leaving the house intact for a while, not moving the lost kitty's bed or removing his scent right away to ease the transition.

Cats thrive on routine, so reinforcing regular habits and rituals will help you both recover. 

When are you getting another cat?

Your friends keep asking. It seems like a good idea. In fact, your first reaction may be to ease your pain by immediately replacing the lost one. But the new kitty may suffer by comparison because you haven't had time to let go, to come to the acceptance stage of grief.

And, confronting a new cat soon after a loss may be very stressful for your other buddies. Your other kitties may need medication to get them back to eating normally.  Time is the only cure for your broken hearts.

I tried to wait, to follow this official advice. So, when Runtie and Lucy had used their ninth lives, I went to volunteer at the humane society. I could do foster care and not make a commitment.

When the time comes, how will I ever choose my next two, I wondered, passing cage after cage of the hopeful homeless. Impossible. But one face stood out from the crowd of needy faces; one little waif who was the spitting image of my recently departed, Lucy.

I was just going to say Hello; a short visit as an emotionally detached volunteer, but Maisie climbed to my neck and clung on like a Velcro scarf.  She had clearly chosen me. I was catstruck.

Out of 350 cats available at shelters near me, I met with four and brought two home. They were two perfect opposites who eventually meshed perfectly together. 

I don't think it was luck or intention.  I think a force much greater than us is at work. Our fate is in the hands of the Cat God.

Cats continually teach us an invaluable lesson: Control is an illusion. You don't pick them, they choose you. The next time I went to the shelter, shopping intentionally, desperately seeking a "replacement," none of the cats picked me. I thought I was ready, but the cats knew better. 

           Our fate is not in our hands. A greater force is at work.

I had doubts when Molly chose me. She was a shelter veteran, landing there twice in only eight months. In only two years, she had lived in at least four homes. She was fearful, withdrawn and peed outside the box. I was reminded that all relationships, feline and human, are a work in progress, requiring patience and love to succeed...and in this case, a hefty dose of cat pheromones! Looking back, I wasn’t through grieving when I brought Molly home…but my other cat Millie, needed a buddy.

Molly is about to mark her first anniversary at our house and she is happy at last. She loves to play tag..tagging us and then running away to get us to chase her. The frightened little girl who used to hide under the bed, now demands lap time and cuddles.  With her own tall litterbox, she no longer misses the box.     
At the shelters, they say many adopters overlook the black cats. I used to pass them over too. Now, some of my best friends are black cats.

Adopting a cat is a little like getting married after only one date. You're pledging to love a total stranger; a frightened, needy stranger with a mysterious or dark past; and always carrying emotional baggage.

You have to believe that whoever you find, or whoever finds you, was divinely chosen to be yours. When you make that leap of faith and surrender yourself without expectations, you may be shocked at the intensity of your bond and the healing power of your love. Excerpted from CAT SKILLS: Loving Care for Cats copyright Leslie Goodwin available on Amazon.com http://goo.gl/tqTpxx


pilch92 said...

Cats definitely grieve. I agree that our kitties are divinely chosen for us, you just know when the right one comes along.

Unknown said...

As a lifetime cat caretaker I can defintely say that all of my cats have chosen me. When one moves on to the Bridge, he or she always sends a new cat partner to me when it is time. I have learned also to not seek, but to accept the one who shows up on my doorstep and in my heart. Blessings, Sabina

Cats Herd You said...

We agree that you know when you're ready to share your home with a cat again. Someone who has lived with cats before just knows the feeling when they're ready, and the right cat will be there when the time is right.

Hannah and Lucy said...

Cats do grieve when Max died some years ago Emma (who was adopted at the same time) was a while before she was back to "herself" but then she decided she liked to be an only cat and was quite happy. When she died about 3 years later this is when we got adopted together.
Luv Hannah and Lucy xx xx

Unknown said...

Oh cats do grieve. When Kokanee the dog who came before passed. Licorice was devastated. He quit eating and roamed the house looking for her. When we brought home a new puppy, he was a proud papa and when Nellie came to us, he expanded his parental role. He and Nellie became inseparable. And when he finally went over the bridge at 18, Nellie became a totally different cat. She began to howl at night, was nastier to the dogs and shredded the furniture. When we brought home Kozmo, she was happy to have him around. but was (and still is) aloof with him. But when Sam and Bob (the dogs who came after Kokanee) passed, she demonstrated the same behaviors as she did with Licorice.
Nellie's Mom
Nellie's Mom

Anonymous said...

Yes, animals grieve. As for choosing them, I truly believe they choose us.


Nothing will ever deter me from thinking that Abby lead me to Annabelle. I was not ready to adopt and certainly not thinking about it on any plain. But fate and I think Abby's paw, had a different idea in mind. With only 4 months in between losing Abby and finding Annabelle I wasn't really ready, but I felt the push, the tug, the need to save Annabelle and give her the home she deserved like I had done with Abby. She isn't a replacement for my love for Abby, but she is a new love, and she helps on so many levels keep the absence of the heart away.

Cat and DOG Chat With Caren said...

I absolutely LOVE this quote " Control is an illusion. You don't pick them, they choose you. The next time I went to the shelter, shopping intentionally, desperately seeking a "replacement," none of the cats picked me. I thought I was ready, but the cats knew better. "

I couldn't agree more. The day I adopted Cody, I actually was MORE interested in two of his litter mates. One was identical to my Angel Bobo who had passed a mere two weeks before. She was a girl and wanted NOTHING to do with me. Then, I picked up Cody's brother, same thing. Finally I had said "Let me see that gray one who is playing in the back there" (Cody was prancing and playing and at the time gray cats weren't really on my radar, why I have no clue).

Well, that was IT. When I picked him up and held him, he scaled my chest and nestled, then he sat on my lap and REFUSED to budge. THAT was the moment I knew. I had called home and told my husband I had "found a special cat", he thought it was too soon after Bobo had passed, thankfully, I ignored him. Bobo sent me my little cuddler and I couldn't be more blessed!

leslie said...

Isn't it amazing? We should never worry..just let the cats make the call. I almost returned Molly to the shelter because she had such a hard time adjusting to my other cat..and she was so hesitant to trust or open up. Now I know for certain that I brought home the right cat, despite my misgivings at the time. She is an absolute joy..it just took a little time for us both.I"m glad little cody found you. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book!

Anonymous said...

Gweat posty. Sendin' luv and purrayers.

Luv ya'

Dezi and Lexi

BeadedTail said...

I'm convinced my angel cat Panther led us to our current kitties, Angel and Isabella. Angel is named because of the black marks on her head and ears resembling wings - Panther was all black so I know it was her paw that put those marks there. Isabella picked my hubby by falling into his arms. I know the kitties pick us as much as we pick them and there's always another unseen factor from across the Bridge helping too!

Nancy said...

Thank you…many tears...

meowmeowmans said...

Yes, indeed, cats do grieve. And they DO choose us. We've come to realize that when our cats have crossed the Bridge, and we've eventually been chosen by our next kitties. Always.

Fur Everywhere said...

It's so true that cats pick you. I didn't understand this until Carmine came along. I was looking at adopting a totally different cat, but then Carmine insisted that I take HIM home, so I did. Now I understand that things worked out just the way they were supposed to.

I've got another cat, Mango, who's chosen me from a shelter, but right now, I can't swing it financially. So in the meantime, I spend a lot of time with her and try to spoil her as much as I can. I believe Jewel led me to miss Mango, and their stories are a bit similar as are their personalities. I hope that one of these days I'll be able to bring her home with me. I know if it's meant to be, it will happen. :)

And yes, cats definitely grieve, too. It broke my heart to see Carmine walking around looking for Jewel. He handled it so much better than any of us ever thought he would, though. Yes, he was really upset and depressed, but he never stopped eating, which we had all feared he would. It meant that I had to be strong and help him through his grief. It kept me from completely falling apart when Jewel went, and I'm really thankful for that. <3