Question: A few weeks ago my 13-year-old Siamese Dusty passed away. His litter-mate, Marie, has been lethargic ever since. She cries often and doesn’t eat. How can I help her through the grieving process?
Answer: Several days after Main Dog passed away a year ago, Accessory Dog was still running to her food dish as soon as she heard the kibble hit. But pretty soon she took a leisurely stroll, realizing her competition wasn’t coming back. She also relieved herself on Main Dog’s bed, but we weren’t sure if that was an expression of grief or more like a victory lap.
We are sympathetic to your loss, and we know how it changes the household dynamic. Your surviving feline likely is stressed by the change, which may well be causing the change in behavior, said Valley cat behaviorist Jane Ehrlich (cattitudebehavior.com).
And although you’d never say, “Hey, your loved one just died, it’s time to go to Disneyland,” your feline may well benefit from entertainment.
Ehrlich said studies have shown a large dose of play can decrease feline depression. A few games of “bat the feather” can be more beneficial than a weekly appointment with the cat psychologist.
Your prescription includes several daily sessions of “chase the wind-up mouse,” “snatch the catnip,” and “attack whatever that thing is moving under the blanket.”
Cats love activities they would do in the wild, if the wild were not such a dangerous place (after all, the feline “call of the wild” is the whirr of an electric can opener).
Provide your cat the opportunity to stalk and pounce, Ehrlich said. Dangling toys are particularly effective. She suggested such pole toys as Da Bird feather toys and Neko Flies (rod with interchangeable toys). They are available online and in pet-supply stores.
We’ve thought about adopting another dog, promoting Accessory Dog to Main Dog. But we’re not sure Accessory Dog is interested, especially since the new title does not come with a raise in kibble.