My Cat Turned Against Me After His Friend Died. Why?

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I recently had to release my cat, Sassy, from her suffering: she had cancer, and I know it was the right thing to do.  However, my poor little Muffin, who was her really close snuggle buddy, has now turned against me. Yesterday, I took the day off work to be with him so we could grieve together. We spent the day, either wandering around aimlessly or cuddling up together. Today, however, is a different story! I had to go back to work and leave Muffin alone. I got home and he was in Sassy’s favorite place. When Sassy was alive, I used to pick her and Muffin up, one at a time, and cuddle them. But tonight, when I picked Muffin up,  he turned on me and bit me quite viciously on my hand. He will not move from Sassy’s favorite place even to eat, and if I try and pat him, he hisses at me. It is like he blames me. I know from talking to your Mama that the same thing has happened with you, so I am asking you, most esteemed kitties, if you could tell me what you are feeling and how you were helped, as I am feeling really guilty at the moment.

~ Gail


Dahlia and I used to snuggle in the throne, and it felt so empty without her! :-(

Siouxsie: Gail, we are so sorry for your loss. You’re right — we do understand the pain of losing a beloved friend.

Thomas: When my beloved Dahlia died, I was so sad! I lost my best friend and snuggle-buddy, and I never thought my heart would ever heal. Especially because before she died, she just wanted to be alone and she didn’t want to snuggle with me at all. *sniffle*

Bella: I can’t even imagine how sad you must have been, Thomas. Here, let’s play tag — that’ll help you feel better. Tag! You’re it!

Siouxsie: Bella honey, we’ve got to answer Gail’s letter. Please wait to play tag until after we’re finished.

Thomas: Siouxsie’s right, Bella. Don’t you worry, there’ll be time for tag and snuggles in a little while.

Bella: Oh, okay.

Siouxsie: Just like humans, every cat is an individual when it comes to reacting to grief. The way Muffin is reacting is one of the normal ways that cats express their bereavement.

Thomas: Because Muffin and Sassy were very good friends, it’s going to take a while for Muffin to process his grief. The best thing you can do for him is to be supportive and reassuring. After Dahlia died, it really helped me when Mama told me that she was really sad, too, and she loved me very much and that we’d get through this together. And she said that a lot. And we did get through it.

Bella: That’s not to say that he never pines for Dahlia anymore, though.

Siouxsie: Even if Muffin won’t let you pet him, be sure to talk to him gently and lovingly and let him know you understand and you’re hurting too.

Thomas: It’s also very important to make sure Muffin eats. Cats that don’t eat can get very sick. Canned food can be made much more attractive by zapping it in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds to bring out the flavor. If you can’t get him to eat by offering him especially tempting things, ask your vet if you can get an appetite stimulant for him.

Bella: Another thing that helps is Bach Rescue Remedy. This flower essence is designed to help pets cope with physical, emotional or spiritual trauma — and the death of a beloved friend certainly counts as trauma! It can be purchased in most health food stores and in some drugstores as well as online. You can put a drop or two in his water or on his food or, if he’ll let you touch him, put one drop on your finger and stroke it into the fur on the top of his head.

Siouxsie: Feliway diffusers might help your poor stressed-out Muffin feel a bit more relaxed, too.

Thomas: If you can consult with a veterinary homeopath, you might be able to find a remedy that would help Muffin to process his grief, too. Homeopathy is a complex system and there are different types of symptom profiles that benefit from different remedies.

Bella: You can also explain what happened to Sassy. We cats understand a lot more than people give us credit for! We’re sure Muffin knew Sassy was suffering, and maybe he just wants to know that she’s at peace and you haven’t just left her somewhere!

Siouxsie: Be sure to honor your own grief, too, Gail. By allowing yourself to experience all your feelings, you’ll not only help yourself but you’ll help Muffin as well.

Thomas: Please do try not to feel guilty, Gail. We’re sure Muffin doesn’t hate you or blame you. It’s much more likely that he doesn’t understand what happened to his best friend. Be there for him, meet him where he is, and allow him the space to grieve in his own way.

Bella: And, of course, if he refuses to eat or begins looking and acting really sick, consult your veterinarian. He or she may also be able to connect you to pet loss grief support groups.

Siouxsie: In the meantime, the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement has some good resources to help you cope. Mama found the book The Heart That Is Loved Never Forgets  by veterinary homeopath Kaetheryn Walker to be a helpful resource in helping her understand animals’ grieving process, too.

Thomas: Purrs and condolences to you and to Muffin.

  • Lisa

    I went through this with a dog/cat pair. I think just like us, animals need their own time to process, and their own grieving time. Be there for him when hes ready, dont be over touchy, picking him up etc, but give him pats when he comes to you and wants them.

    Keep a favorite toy, and his snacks beside your sitting chair/coach, and when hes ready he will come to you and spend some moments playing and snacking.

    As long as hes eating, drinking and going potty

    Whenever he walks by, or you walk by him, talk to him in passing, he will be fine. Just right now he just wants/needs his own time and space for awhile.

    He still loves his mama

  • Anita

    Many years ago when my Little Bit was very young he had a best friend named Scooby. He and Scooby played and snuggled even though their personalities were very different. Then Scooby quit eating and after 9 days of force feeding (baby food from my finger), Scooby was diagnosed with leukemia and had to be put to sleep. Shortly after that Little Bit quit eating. I took him to two vets (one an emergency clinic). They did all kind of tests but found nothing wrong with him. (One vet asked if something had happened emotionally to him.) He NEVER contracted the FIV virus even they ate together and bathed each other constantly. Bitsy would sit in the bathroom on the cool linoleum with his head bowed sadly. I feared his stomach was bothering him so I began giving him mylanta in a dropper and lots of tender loving care. After a while he started eating again and grew into an 18 pound sweetheart.

    Little Bit is now 16 and I can see that he is in renal failure but he still eats and wants loved. I always tell him that one day soon he will see Scooby again. I’m so glad he overcame his grief and lived a long life and I hope your baby will, too.

  • Gabi

    I have had cats for 20-22 years when Bud died Maggie was not eating,and she would walk all over
    the house looking for bud, as I get my cats from shelters and there health is never gauranteed, I got
    a beautiful tiger cat to replace Bud, but Maggie never warm up to her I had Maddie for two years
    when she started to show sign of a Feline laukemia virus I was crushed. This time when Maddie
    died I couldn’t leave her at the vet while she was sitll warm and I just couldn;t put her ground
    so I took her home in a box the vet gave and left her in the middle of the living room so Maggie
    would know she was gone(she knew and she also knew that she was ill and it was the reason
    she would not warm up to her the vet said they can smell it in the urine.) I keep her for three
    days until her body was cold and then took her back to the vet and had her cremated(this was
    suggested by my vet) Maggie was fine, Then I found a beautifull black and white kitten on the
    Humane Society web site she was so cute I had to have her I remember the day I picked her
    up you could hear screaming to get out at the front door she has beautiful marking like a zebra
    and I named her Margo. Maggie hissed at her every time Margo tried to play, but when
    Margo would go hide Maggie would go crying all over the house looking for her, Maggie
    still swats at her and hisses but you better not touch her. They love each other and I don’t
    think Maggie would have recovered so fast if I would have not shown her Maddie after she
    died. Sometime you can’t figure out human being and some time you can’t figure out animals
    you just have to love them. Thanks! Gabi

  • Aimee

    It’s never easy. I lost my Psyche to cancer she wasn’t quite 6 years old. Karma, my 17 year old at the time grieved horribly for her. Searched high and low. I wasn’t able to bring her home so he could say goodbye. When my Karma passed this past Nov, I was lucky enough to have the day off so my vet allowed me to bring him home so my babies could say good bye. Two of my babies are shelter cats and I could only imagine how they felt when I took their big brother away and wasn’t bringing him home. My vet was very kind and understanding, we grieved together at the vets along with the vet tech who knew us too. My other 4 cats were able to say good bye and it was a much easier transition than Karma had when Psyche was put down.
    There is no easy answer. It hurts us and our furry children. Do your best, let your baby know you love them and that you miss their friend just as much as they do. You’ll come through it together. When the time is right to bring a new member of the family home, you’ll know. ::Hugs:: My sincere condolences on the loss of your precious baby. Sending you much love and prayers for you and Muffin.

  • Gail

    Thank you all for your replies, especially most esteemed Kitties and their Fabulous Mama. I know a week has now passed, but when I read all your messages, I just kept crying and was too emotional to answer rationally. I had spoken to Muffin, prior to Sassy being put down, but in whispers, as I didnt know want Sassy to know. I now believe this is where I made the mistake. Sassy knew she wasnt long on this earth, she knew she was sick, which was why, she altered her personality to Muffin, though not to me. I now wonder if Muffin, almost taking over Sassy’s Personality, was to help me accept. I guess I will never know. As I said he bit me, quite severly, and I ended up with quite a bad infection in my hand, to the extent that they almost put me in hospital as the antibiotics werent working.. I never realised cats could do this?
    Anyway, I ended up having to have 4 days of work and I believe this helped both of us. I received your reply when I was off and had a long talk to Muffin, though he was less than agreeable. I already had some Rescue Remedy, because of the earthquakes we have had in Christchurch, New Zealand, so I did give him a few drops.
    I was getting concerned, but found out it wasnt unusual for a cat that was very close to another cat, to adopt their behaviour – he would only eat what she ate ( a good thing, as he was eating) and he would only sleep where she slept… a week later, I let Muffin sleep and eat where he feels happiest and I am finding that he has become more accepting of me and now talks to me…yes, he does talk… he always did…he has an amazing way of meowing to me, that you feel you hear words!!!!
    We both received a sympathy card from the vet.. and I mean both.. it was physically addressed on the outside of the envelope to Gail and Muffin Deavoll. This was such an amazing feeling, it is hard to explain. Yes, I did show it Muffin and show him the card.
    I have never had this happen before, that is has really opened my eyes. People at work think I am strange, but I know I am not….Muffin, knew – why he bit me so hard, I dont know, but perhaps it was to make take time out to reflect on Sassy’s passing.
    So thanks to you all… We both are slowly coming to accepting what has happened and remembering the good times.. We seem to be both coming right together.