Frank from Cleveland: My friend is brooding far too long over the death of her cat. She should get over it! It’s been over 6 weeks. What can I do to make her snap out of it?

It’s always sad to learn of the passing of one of my own kind. But sadder still is what may be your lack of compassion. Humans each have their own timetable for grieving and coming to grips with the loss of a pet or animal “companion” as I prefer to refer to domesticated animals. In many cultures animal companions are treated with the warmth and care of a full fledged member of the family. So the loss may, in fact, cut quite deep. If the sense of loss is so great as to extend for months, and interferes with three of the following: sleep, work, normal activities, personal relationships, appetite and outlook, then your friend may want to check with his or her veterinary center for some guidance or even chat groups or support sessions that deal with bereavement. You can try the Tufts University Pet Loss Support Hotline staffed by sensitive and knowledgeable veterinary students: PetLossBrochure.pdf

My human companion (who probably thinks of herself as my “owner”!) once lost a beloved predecessor cat to cancer. Her sorrow was so great and her decision-making abilities so compromised that she went out to a pet store within a few weeks of her kitty’s death and purchased another cat that looked exactly like the one that died. Way to soon, it was. And more than a little creepy. But without that compulsive replacement response, where would I be? Who knows – perhaps still in the pet store! The long and the short of it is that you humans can become very attached to your animal companions. In the event of a loss, your best reaction – as her friend — is to lend a comforting shoulder to cry on and an understanding ear. Even if you, personally, don’t really understand the intensity of the loss. Hopefully your friend will go on to give a loving home to another furry creature when the time is right. I find that is a reliable but under-rated resource.

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