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Can Cats Sense When Another Cat Dies? Feline Behaviour Explained

Cassidy Sutton

By Cassidy Sutton

laying cat sick

The passing of a beloved pet is never easy. Nothing anyone can say can make the pain go away. It’s especially difficult when you notice other surviving pets grieving the loss of their friend.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that cats understand the distress and anxiety that inevitably accompanies grief, and it is also possible for cats to mourn. How they respond to the passing really depends on the cat. Some cats feel more deeply than others. In this post, we explore cat grief and what you can do to help your kitty through this difficult time.

What Do Cats Do When They Sense Death?

When it comes to cats, body language is usually a strong indicator of how your cat feels. But grief is found more in your cat’s behaviors.

A grieving cat will often appear depressed and withdrawn. Their favorite toys no longer interest them. Playtime is a challenge. They may also search the house for their missing friend and meow out of sadness. Other times, a grieving kitty may not want to eat, even if her favorite foods are offered.

Separation anxiety is another sign of depression and grief. Your cat may not want to leave your side and is stressed when you leave the house. It makes sense since they’ve already lost someone they care about.

Stressed and depressed cats may also urinate or defecate outside the litter box to tell you that something is wrong. Sometimes this can turn into a medical problem, such as a UTI, so monitor your kitty closely and take them to the vet if needed.

Not all cats will feel this strongly about another pet passing. In fact, some cats show no emotion at all. Sadness is only a spectrum. But keep your eyes peeled so if your cat does start feeling the effects of death, you can help them mourn.

a sick or sad looking cat lying on a blanket
Image Credit: Julia Cherk, Shutterstock

How Can I Help My Cat Mourn?

The good news is that cats are good at moving forward—much better than humans.

Love and attention is the best thing you can do for your grieving kitty. Open a window and take them for a walk to help them experience typical cat activities that once brought them joy. Don’t force them to play if they don’t want to. Be gentle with them and offer them lots of cuddles and kisses.

It’s also important to stick to your cat’s routines. They’ve already lost a constant in their life. Your cat needs structure to help them through the mourning process.

If the depression is bad enough, talk to your veterinarian about antidepressants and herbal supplements. These medicines can help your kitty feel better while working through the sadness.

How Do I Let My Cat Know When Another Cat Dies?

Sometimes, allowing your surviving cat to see the body is a good way to say goodbye. Your cat will know for certain that their friend is gone and isn’t coming back. Whether it’s a good idea or not is up to you, but it’s usually better than your cat searching aimlessly for their friend.

However, sometimes we don’t have that option, and that’s okay. Your cat will come to understand when they stop seeing their friend around the house.

What Emotions Can Cats Sense?

We used to think that animals didn’t have emotions, but it turns out that’s untrue. All animals, including cats, feel very basic, primary emotions such as:

  • Joy
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Surprise
  • Sadness

Primary emotions are felt at the core and can make cats react without being overanalyzed. In other words, your cat can feel just as deeply mournful as you, and they will feel it just as quickly without giving it much thought.

On the other hand, secondary emotions are reactions to those primary feelings, like shame and guilt. It’s unclear if cats can feel secondary emotions. Some cats seem to shrug off sadness just as quickly as it came. Other cats could feel heartache for a much longer time and let it affect their well-being.

sad white cat
Image Credit: JumpStory


All animals, including cats, can sense when another cat passes away. It’s a difficult time to be a pet owner because cats can’t tell us how they feel. We can only guess how to make them feel better.

Thankfully, cats are resilient and usually pull through. But if you’re worried about your cat’s mental state, talk to your veterinarian about medicinal options to help your kitty mourn.

Featured Image Credit: Sisacorn, Shutterstock

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