Can cats help with grief?

ABSOLUTELY they can!

One of the many great magical powers that cats possess is a strong and understanding bond with their human family. They are masters of reading our moods and emotions.

This goes largely unnoticed by us whilst we’re navigating the humdrum of everyday life. Our cats fit perfectly within our routines and are always sure to turn up for a headbutt or nose boop throughout the day. 

But when it all goes to shit, and your world drops out of comprehension there’s always a little someone who knows just what to do.

Can cats help with grief?

Just because cats are animals it by no means, means (two means, sorry) that they don’t experience their own emotions. Albeit maybe not as complex as our own, but they certainly go through it. 

Sadly, we lost our cat Geoff in 2020. He’d had kidney problems throughout his life which we treated with medication, diet and lifestyle plus frequent Vet visits (I’m really good at collecting cat urine but that’s a post for another day). We actually lost him because of a blood clot on his heart in the end 😿 

Cats show grief for a lost sibling.

Una is his sister. And after he died, Una for a long while would call out for him. She’d spend far longer than usual upstairs sleeping, perhaps expecting him to join her if she stayed there long enough, just like old times.

It was heartbreaking to witness.

Cats can grieve.

Cats know, they just know. 

Have you ever been in one of your moods (come on, admit it) banging things around and muttering how shite things are. Your cat will generally do one of two things;

  • Sit and watch 
  • Hide and listen

Both options enable them to see when you’ve finished with your hissy fit but also let them gauge what you might need. In the moment of course you need space, but oftentimes your cat will appear shortly afterwards and beam in some of their calming energy.

They’ll either be all over you, trying to sit on your knee, maybe wash your hair (honestly this isn’t always a good thing 🤪) and giving headbutts. Or they’ll simply sit next to or near you. Quietly letting you know they’re there for you when needed.

Comforting cat.

When my Mum died earlier this year it was a big shock. It still is. 

I lost myself for a while and went on auto pilot. Carrying on with what had turned into utterly joyless, pointless and actually just plain get on my nerves type things. Life.

But Una was there. No longer staying downstairs after I went to bed, she insisted on sleeping in our bed. RIGHT. IN. MY. FACE. 

She’d hang around after breakfast, even with my two whirlwind kids and an always running late husband creating havoc every morning. She’d  come up to me every once in a while or I’d catch her looking at me and she’d send me some eye kisses.

Do cats know when you're grieving.

Whenever I needed to take time out to reel about in my grief Una would be by my side. Many a time I’d be in my bed either crying it out or sleeping it off and she’d stay with me. Even forfeiting mealtimes which let me tell you, is a big thing!

The thing is, while there’s many jokes about just how judgemental cats are, when it comes to looking after us they come and go with a clean slate.

stroking a ginger cat to help during bereavement.

They don’t ask ‘how are you getting on?’ Or try and tell us stories about the person we’ve lost, or even come with any of the awkwardness of having to explain what happened. 

Cats are just there. 

Giving us comfort by their presence alone. Providing relief from overload by simply letting us stroke their soft fur. Making it just that bit lighter by grounding us but not so much that we can’t let out our emotions.

How to cope with grief, your pet can help

For me, I feel like my relationship with my cat has deepened so much over the last few months. I’m hoping vice-versa too, or maybe she’s always felt like that, I don’t know.

So yes, your cat/s can certainly help you traverse your grief. There’s no easy and quick fix, trust me. But there’s no better comfort than a comforting purr when you’re going through those darker days.

And if you’re trying to process the loss of a loved one right now, please take care, do what you need to, ask for help if you need it. 

There are a few websites that helped me through at the start so take a look if you need to;

My heart goes out to you. X

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