Dealing with the death of a family pet is a daunting process, and for other pets in the home, it is no easier. Australians are amongst the biggest pet lovers in the world with an estimated 63% of households having a pet, equaling nearly 33 million pets in the country.
Pets that live together become as bonded to each other as they do their owners. As a result, many pets experience a grief and readjustment period as a reaction to their missing family member. This is not at all unusual as the loss of a human or animal member of any family will inevitably change the group dynamic and structure of everyday life for you and your remaining pets.
For owners and animals alike, grief is an individual process that affects everyone differently, and knowing how to help your furry family member through their time of grief can be difficult, particularly if you are experiencing grief yourself.
Here are some methods to make the adjustment easier on your animal family:
Keep an eye on your surviving pet
Pay special attention to your surviving pet. Monitor your pet and make note of any signs of distress: loss of diet, personality changes and so on. If these signs of distress last longer than a week, make an appointment with a vet to rule out any health problems.
Keep it consistent
Keep their daily routine as consistent as possible. Pets (and some people) do best when they know what to expect from one day to the next, particularly after something as traumatic as a death in the family. Try to keep regular events such as mealtimes, walks, playtime, grooming, bedtime, and other daily activities on a consistent schedule to make the readjustment process as easy as possible.
Lean on each other
Both you and your pet may be feeling vulnerable and in need of a little extra love during this difficult time. After the loss of a pet, many animals become reluctant to be alone or away from human family members. If remaining pets are seeking more attention, try to find the time to give it to them – it may help both of you to get through this tough time together.
It is important to note that not all pets will exhibit grieving behaviours. However, here are some telltale signs that your pet is grieving the loss:
- Searching behaviour, roaming around the home, particularly the deceased pets favourite areas.
- Personality changes, shy pets becoming more outgoing and assertive, or outgoing pets becoming more reserved.
- Taking on behaviours of the pet that died, such as sleeping where the other pet slept, playing with toys that belonged to the pet that died, rubbing where the other pet rubbed, etc.
- Changes in appetite, both eating more than usual or loss of appetite.