Did you know animals grieve not only the loss of humans; they also grieve the loss of other animals! In fact, animal research in the arena of grief is becoming more prevalent when studying animal behavior both in the wild and domestic pets.
This area of expertise is broken down into two types of study:
- Ethology – An Ethologist scientifically studies animal behavior in its natural habitat.
- Behaviorists – Animal Behaviorists specialize in understanding #animal #behavior, including emotional responses scientifically in a controlled environment.
It wasn’t until the late 1960’s that animal grief was recognized and formally validated. We can thank Jane Goodall for bringing this to the forefront. Goodall’s research confirmed that animals in the wild, especially chimpanzees and elephants, were emotional. These animals both in captivity and in the wild were so in tune with their #feelings that they showed the ability to #mourn the loss of one of their own, and even the loss of a human #companion.
Fast forward to the present day, most of us would agree that many animals, both domestic and wild, are social beings. Some are even considered to be intelligent. Animals, including those we consider pets, clearly exhibit #grief based on their behaviors.
Here are just some of the common behaviors that support their signs of grief:
- Searching – If animals were unable to capture the scent of the deceased
(human or animal) they will continue to look and wonder where their companion went.
- Changes in behavior – Withdrawing from activity, increased sleeping, and loss of appetite.
- Vocalization – Oftentimes, animals will call out in distress.
- Ritual – Some animals will circle the #deceased, snuggle, groom, or sit next to them.
Finally, I would like to share a personal experience with my own pets. At any given time, I have multiple pets in the house. Each time a pet has either died naturally or been #euthanized, I keep the pet at home for the day. In the image shown to the left, Ernie, the therapy dog from our funeral home, had passed away. He was placed in a pet casket (oftentimes a basket will be used) and then left in a common area on our kitchen floor. Throughout the day, our cats would come and sniff. One even jumped up and tried to cover him up with their paw. Our other dog went over and sniffed, stayed awhile and then never came back. Over the years when we would experience the #death of a pet, this #ritual was repeated. Each time the other animals in the house come over on their own terms to investigate. There were times when one of the pets would go to the deceased pet’s bed and sleep. Other times one of our dogs has gone to the window and barked incessantly. We even had a cat that, for a while, would go to their litter box, get in it and poop outside of the box. This went on for about a week and then it went away. Of course, we would make sure the box is clean, but this was their way of acting out!
In closing, on behalf of our pets and animals, please give them grace. When a companion pet dies or even a human family member, their routine is forever changed. So is their pecking order in the pack, should there be more than one animal in the home or wild (This also applies to farm animals). Be patient, show stability and continue with a routine. Over time there will be a new normal – I promise!
Be sure to keep an eye out for Episode 13 of my podcast, I Woke Up Dead…Now What?, to learn more about animal grief!