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00492Bonnie Towner recently responded to this simple question “Do dogs and cats mourn the loss of their owner?”

“Yes they do, I have seen dogs that when the owner suddenly passes away, They completely stop eating, will lay by the bed waiting for the return of their master.  It’s a pitiful sight because they shut down, they were loved so much.”

Many veterinarian and animal behaviorists would also agree. “Dogs also feel fear, happiness, sadness, anger, as well as possessiveness. “

Research has found that in households with two dogs who've lived together for a number of years, some owners report that when one dog dies, the other gets depressed. Skeptics might point to a change in daily routine as the cause of depression or, perhaps, because the owner is upset and grieving. But there are many who feel differently.1

  Connie Hopson confirmed her agreement in her statement, “Definitely, when my Boston Harley lost her littermate sister at 10, she went into a deep depression and her Vet put her on meds for a while. Harley is now turning 13 in July!”

Pets may also show signs of loss and mourning in ways that the family may not recognize. Many have a significant degree of attachment to their owner that leads to anxiety and distress when even short-term separation is thrust upon them, let alone bereavement. Sometimes it lasts 2 months, and sometimes it lasts longer, requiring medical or psychological help. Some will eventually get over their loss and form new, bonds whereas others enter a seemingly interminable state. Following the acute loss of a closely bonded owner, dogs can suffer the pangs of separation anxiety or depression just as people do. The extent of the suffering is directly proportional to the strength of the bond with the owner and is a function of the dog's reliance and perceived dependence on that person.1

0001 SusanPattyPadroJellyBeanSusan Patty Padro “My little Jelly Bean grieved for months after her friend Pepper died. She was withdrawn and seemed lost. She normally goes outside to potty and comes right back in. She has always been this way, out to potty and a fast retreat to the back door. After Pepper died, she would often sit in the yard. I think she was waiting for her friend to return.”
 Interviews with astute pet owners indicate most are convinced that dogs (as well as cats) feel deep grief. 2

Case in point:
Lisa Chorneychuk “Absolutely! We had an English bulldog come into rescue who was with his deceased owner for 3 days. He was so depressed and it took a few weeks for him to start feeling hope again. I see this in rescue all the time. Dogs are so sensitive and have feelings...that is why we love them.”

But dogs not only mourn their owner’s death; they also grieve for the passing of their animal friends or offspring. And they seem to display the same signs of grief as humans do: loss of appetite, weight loss, listlessness, timidity, and general loss of interest.

Sondra Hemler “There are multiple stories about dogs staying at the site of an accident, a burial site or on the home. Humans are the only ones who think it is okay to dump your best friend because he/she is old or inconvenient.”

The dog might not be grieving over death itself but over the separation and absence of a friend. Sharing his life with someone, either with a human or animal pal, allowed the dog to rely on that friend and build his life around the friend and their routine. When the pal passes away, the routine is suddenly put to a halt, sending the dog into a great distress and disorientation. What the dog needs now is someone who can fill in the loss.2

 Even well-known trainers like Cesar Milan have spoken out on their belief of dogs in mourning. “Just like with humans, no two dogs are alike and neither are their responses to death and loss. Some may show signs of physical sadness, while others may display symptoms of negative behavior, and some may not show any sign of emotional suffering at all. When one dog in a two-dog household is gravely ill, it may help for the healthier dog to be present during euthanasia, or at least for the animal to see the deceased dog’s body. Similarly, a dog able to lie near the casket of his deceased owner, if it’s a possible scenario, it just may help the dog to understand the process better.” 4

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 Kathleen Marie Sělóover “When my black cat Sergei passed, my Lilliana would cry at night and look for him nonstop .. the crying went on for a week.. it took her a month before she would even let anyone touch her. It was the hardest thing to go through...”



 003 KathleenMarieSlover
Both cats and dogs can suffer loss of appetite, disturbed sleep or a change in sleeping habits. They can appear lethargic, listless or withdrawn. Cats may groom excessively. Some animals become overly clingy, not wishing to be separated from their owners, while others may distance themselves from family members.3

Linda Christine Huggins “About 004 LindaChristineHugginsWaffles2000, we adopted two kittens, different circumstances, both about 7 weeks old. Waffles was a bluish gray, and Meg (a feral stray) a tabby. At the very first they were a bonded pair and appeared to think with the same brain. They would run at each other and at the same time leap into the air and "high-five" each other. They would take turns playing follow the leader, tag, and other cat games. They slept in each other's arms. When you saw one, the other was right behind. At age 12, we noticed that Waffles was losing weight. The vet confirmed kidney failure. The last week, Meg sat with her bathing her. The moment Waffles died, Meg howled a long cry that I have never heard a cat make before. Then she hissed at Waffles and at us.

005 LindaChristineHugginsMeg

Meg, not letting us console her.

She ran to the living room and sat in front of the window. We buried Waffles and I think Meg was waiting for her to come back inside.

She sat there for two weeks, hissing at us if we went toward her. I thought we would lose her too.




006 LindaChristineHuggins





Meg was waiting for Waffles to come back inside.

Consider aromatherapy or homeopathy for your pet. Although there is no cure for grief, some essential oils or homeopathic remedies can improve your pet’s emotional wellbeing. Always seek qualified advice on which oils or remedies are safe to use.

Dogs and cats may eventually adjust to the loss of their companion. They may even be happier on their own, instead of having to compete with a new pet. If you eventually decide to get another pet, try to choose an animal that will best fit in with your remaining pet. A new pet should be a joy when the time is right.5
007 3PatriziaDMilano Mimi



Day one. 10 1/2 pounds



 008 PatriziaDMilanoMissPatsy




Miss Patsy First day of rescue


Patrizia D'Milano “I have fostered a few dogs that have been dumped after an owner died and you can feel their pain. My former forever foster, Miss Patsy, she lived with us for one year and one month....she was 15 1/2



And my recent foster, Mimi, lost their owners and became abandoned. In my care, they thrived back physically and I made them know that they would never be abandoned again.

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  My little queen of treats, two months later  

 010 PatriziaDMilanoMimi



Mimi Loved and content.







   011 PatriziaDMilano  012 PatriziaDMilano


That animals understand death and grieve for their losses is no longer the question. 6
Animals can form very firm attachments with each other. Even pets that outwardly seem to barely get along will exhibit intense stress reactions when separated. In fact, grieving pets can show many symptoms identical to those experienced by a grieving pet owner. The surviving pet(s) may become restless, anxious and depressed. There may also be much sighing, along with sleep and eating disturbances. Often, grieving pets will search for their dead companions and crave more attention from their human companions.

Jeanette Bauder “Yes they do. When my mom died, her dog came to live with me. She laid in my mom’s favorite chair and simply lost her will to live. I loved her so much but my love wasn't enough.”

You can help your grieving pet by considering the following recommendations:
Keep the surviving pet(s) routines as normal as possible.
Try not to unintentionally reinforce behavior changes.
If the pet's appetite is picky, don't keep changing the food. It can create a more finicky pet.
Be careful to not overdo the attention given to the pet(s) as it can lead to separation anxiety.7

A study from the ASPCA found that two-thirds of dogs show recognizable signs of grieving, such as a decrease in appetite, clinginess, and lethargy. 8

Mary Smith-Baca “Oh yeah. My mom's dogs were seriously confused. Her male laid on his bed pillow, at the foot of her bed. It took a lot of coaxing to get him to come out.”


Some dogs whine and bark more or sleep in unusual places—this type of attention-seeking behavior may happen because the dog has pent-up "play energy" that he's not able to release with a friend. "The good news is that in most cases, these changes resolve in a couple of weeks," says Stephen Zawistowski, PhD, an author on the ASPCA study. 8

It was also suggested by several to let the pet see and smell their deceased owner. More and more hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospice centers and funeral homes are recognizing the importance of allowing a pet to see their deceased owner. While it does not take away their grief, it will confirm for them what has happened with the person so that the pet will not continue to look for them.

SPECIAL THANKS to our readers, friends and supporters who shared their comments and photos with us...
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