College of Veterinary Medicine
Pet Memorial Program

Supporting Pets that have Lost a Friend


We get many calls and emails with questions about how to help other pets that have lost a companion. This is certainly something owners need to be aware of when they have lost a companion animal. Your other pets have lost a friend too and may be confused as to why they no longer have their playmate. Sadly we cannot explain this loss to them but we can help them through it.

It is common for the surviving pets behavior to change following the death of a housemate. Your pet may seem extra needy, distant, or possibly show increased signs of irritation, reduced appetite, or increased vocalization. These are just common examples. They may just seem ‘off’ and not themselves.

Watch your pet

It is recommended not to leave them in an area where they could escape; as some pets literally ‘search’ for their friend. If you have an inside/outside cat keep them in for a couple of days. Keep a close eye on your dog when they are let outside; even if they are normally good about staying in the unfenced yard.  

Develop or do not change from the daily routine

Be careful not to reinforce the new behaviors they are displaying. Some people attempt to and give an animal extra attention at this time, or hand feed them to encourage appetite. The difficulty with this is you will not always be able to do these things—it is best to keep routines much the same for them.    

It is normal to want to spend extra time with your surviving companion animal, but do not do it so much that when things return to normal (you go back to work etc.) that you leave your pet confused.

Multiple Pet Households

If you have a multiple animal household (particularly cats) realize the social structure has changed with the loss of a member. There may be increased tension (possibly fighting or vocalization) in the remaining animals. Allow them to re-establish their social structure—which may mean allowing some fights to break out. Of course, it is up to you to protect them from harming one another but it is important they re-establish their hierarchy within the group in an effort for them to adjust and reclaim order for themselves.  

Getting a new pet (Should I Get A New Pet?)

When getting a new pet especially if the deceased and another pet were very close, do not expect your existing pet to automatically accept the new pet. Pets are like people, they have different personalities and no matter how much like your old pet a new pet is—it is not going to be the same for either you or your current pet.

Be patient when introducing a new pet. It may take your existing pet a while to get used to the new addition.

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