Surviving Cat
June 26, 2006 8:34 PM   Subscribe

How do you help a cat survive another cat's death?

My partner buried her 21 year old cat, Pixel, today. We are very concerned about Kali Ko, her 16 year old "kitten". Kali has always been a nervous cat, and Pixel has been in her life since she came to live with my partner when she was a few months old. Pixel was very much the alpha cat.

Is there any way we can help Kali? I don't think getting another cat is an option, at her age. The last time we tried to introduce her to another cat, it did not go well at all (and Quark was a very laid back cat).

We hurt, and she hurts. We'll be fine, but we aren't sure Kali will be.
posted by QIbHom to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Awww, I don't have a solution other than to get another cat...but I am very sorry for you and Kali over the loss of Pixel. :)
posted by bim at 8:36 PM on June 26, 2006

Best answer: I'm sorry for your loss, and given what you say, introducing another cat is probably a bad idea (though you never know, it may work this time if you tried it. Cats have a way of surprising you every time you think you've got them figured out.)

If I were in your situation I'd just make sure that Kali got extra love and attention, in the same way I'd care for a friend or family member who was mourning. It's awful, and it hurts, but I don't know that there's much else you can do. One thing I've noticed in my experience with cats is that they're very much creatures of habit and comfort. I know every cat is different, but all the ones I encountered or owned were this way to some extent or another. Take note of her preferred comforts (after all the time you've had her, I'm sure you know them all) and make sure she gets as much of them as possible. If she's nervous by nature, reinforcing other bits of routine that are comforting will probably help somewhat to compensate with the loss of a much larger part of her routine (Pixel).
posted by Kosh at 8:51 PM on June 26, 2006

Best answer: I'm sorry for your loss. Cats form strong bonds with each other, and it's especially heartbreaking when the alpha goes first.

The most important thing to worry about right now is whether Kali is eating well - she's an old girl herself, and she needs to stay in good health. If you find that, after the first week, she hasn't returned to her old eating habits, go to the grocery store and buy some Fancy Feast. It's not the healthiest food out there, by any stretch, but I've found it helpful when cats won't eat.

If you have a heating pad, you might want to haul it out, cover it with an inviting fabric, and leave it on for a few hours a day. Now that Kali doesn't have another cat to curl up near, the warmth might be comforting. Leaving it on for more than two or three hours in a 24 hour cycle can be dangerous, because it could decrease Kali's normal ability to regulate her own temperature.

Over the next three months, keep a careful eye on Kali to make sure that she doesn't exhibit any signs of "going downhill." More and more, we're beginning to understand that animals' health, like our own, depends on their emotional health. If she seems depressed, she probably is.

But mostly, keep on loving her and being a good kitty mom. That's all we can really do.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:34 PM on June 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you all for your good wishes.

Kosh, you are right - we'll make sure she has all her comforts and as much of her routine as possible. We've been offering laps and petting since we brought Pixel's body back from the vet, but she's keeps standing off and watching us. She went for a nap, and all was normal. She woke up an only cat, from her perspective. Pixel was aged, but not frail. We'll try to keep the routine up.

freshwater_pr0n, we'll keep her usual assortment of kibble (she's a crunchies kitty) out, and offer wet food twice a day, as she's accustomed to. We've even got the Fancy Feast on hand. We've also got those wonderful heating pads that turn on when a cat lies on them (Pixel was arthritic). I'll make sure we keep both of them out, even though she has ignored them in the summer.

We'll watch her closely. We almost lost Pixel a few times to depression (it was very rough on him when he realized he could no longer beat up every cat in the neighbourhood), and know the signs. Perhaps that is why we fear for her so much - she always depended on Pixel to be the strong, stubborn one.
posted by QIbHom at 10:26 PM on June 26, 2006

We lost a cat this year who was 15 (almost 16). His brother survived him and we were very worried that he might become depressed and not make it. But we've been lucky. And all the advice here is good advice. We continue to give the surviving cat a lot of extra love and attention. And we've been fortunate that he's taken it better than we expected.

Making sure they eat is the most important thing. A cat's health can deteriorate quickly without food. And, like people, they sometimes skip meals when they're sad. So really tasty food and lots of attention are good medicine.

Best of luck to you and your cat.
posted by wheat at 5:23 AM on June 27, 2006

Sorry about that. Adjusting to the loss of our loved ones is something that our pets have to do, too, sometimes. I hope the old girl makes it through the transition.
posted by JamesMessick at 2:39 PM on June 27, 2006

you've already got some great answers here, but I thought I'd add something:

I would recommend purchasing some Feliway, a product made to emulate the scent of cat's facial marking pheremones (you won't smell it yourself, don't worry). It is meant to calm cats down when they're under duress, and it seems to have helped with my little guys during/after my recent move. It's not a miracle working thing, or anything, but they seemed to handle the stress of a new place pretty well, and they're both kind of skittish.
posted by twiggy at 6:37 PM on June 27, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, Feliway. We'll give that a shot. Kali is settling down a little, but she's still stressed.
posted by QIbHom at 11:24 AM on June 28, 2006

Response by poster: Kali seems to be coping. She still won't let us pet her as much as usual, but she sprayed the entire back yard and is eating. She's asking for more catnip than usual, but that may be due to the poor quality of catnip this time of year.

Thank you all. You've helped.
posted by QIbHom at 12:47 PM on June 30, 2006

Response by poster: Another update. Kali Ko is doing very well, and has gleefully made the transition to being an only cat. The realisations that she got to choose the wet food flavour, that she can get petted whenever she wants and that she can sleep on the bed seem to have made up for the stress of loosing Pixel. In fact, she's calmer than we've ever seen her.

Thanks again for your suggestions, condolences and help.
posted by QIbHom at 1:38 PM on October 22, 2006

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