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Published December 17, 2010, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Help feline mourn

Dear Dr. Fox: We have had two indoor brother/sister cats for more than 16 years. Recently, the male had to be put down. The female has been grieving ever since. She howls at all hours of the day and night. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this situation?

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: We have had two indoor brother/sister cats for more than 16 years. Recently, the male had to be put down. The female has been grieving ever since. She howls at all hours of the day and night. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this situation? – A.S., Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Dear A.S.: Helping animals that are grieving the loss of a companion can be challenging, especially when they are constantly searching and calling out.

Some animals can be helped to overcome the sense of loss by allowing them to see the body of the deceased. Both dogs and cats seem to have some concept of death, as I have documented at my website (www.twobitdog.com/DrFox/).

Not seeing the body may lead to searching behavior, as though the deceased animal was lost or hiding somewhere in the house.

Your veterinarian can prescribe medication to help alleviate your cat’s anxiety. Catnip herb as a tea, or mixing dry herb in her food, may help because it has some calming Valium-like properties. Possibly for genetic reasons, some cats have no reaction to catnip. Our two cats enjoy nibbling dried catnip once a week or so, but if I set it out on a daily basis, they soon lose interest.

Give your cat treats, lots of petting and grooming, and try enticing her to play or do anything to help remotivate her and get her out of her sense of loss and mournful depression. I have received several letters from readers who have adopted an older cat as a replacement for one that died and who found that this gave the surviving cat a new lease on life. But there is no guarantee that this will help your cat, especially because she is getting on in years and may be also showing signs of dementia, compounded by arthritis – common afflictions in older cats. Your veterinarian can best determine any physical problems.


Dear Dr. Fox: How good are chicken livers for my toy poodles and how much is too much? What brand dog foods do you recommend? I include canned vegetables for my dogs. – C.B.B., Bethesda, Md.

Dear C.B.B.: A daily teaspoonful of lightly cooked chicken liver (unseasoned) after your dogs have eaten their regular meals would be a safe and nutritious treat. But because of the high fat content in most chicken livers and the chemical residues in livers from spent laying hens, a little calf liver might be preferable treat.

There are several freeze-dried, organic-meat, liver and wild-salmon treats available, such as Stella & Chewy’s, that your dogs will enjoy. Also, the varieties of good-quality basic foods for both dogs and cats are increasing in many grocery stores. But because of limited shelf space and more informed shoppers, you may find a better selection at a local health-food store or Whole Foods, which should carry a selection that includes PetGuard, Evo, Organix, Evanger’s and Wellness.


Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox/.

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