Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: do kitties grieve?

Left: Peace Cat (black and white) and the late Grand Old Man, were always together.


Since the death of my beloved Grand Old Man, my youngest cat, Peace Cat, is alone.

He started out with us over six years ago in a household of three cats, and now he is the only one left.

Peace Cat loved to sleep next to Grand Old Man and fight with him. He also pestered him terribly and chased him everywhere. I used to adopt an "old man voice" and complain, imagining how he must feel, as Grand Old Man just looked so TIRED and weary of any more fun feline-games. Peace Cat, contrary to his name, loved to jump on him and bite his ears. Grand Old Man would loudly growl and whine, as if he just couldn't even muster up the energy to swat back at him. (The noise was meant to signal ME, to break it up.)

When Grand Old Man was sick, he huddled under an end-table. I found him when I was calling for him and he was too sick to respond; Peace Cat (just like the fabled TV canine, Lassie) went under the table, as if pointing to him. He licked his ears earnestly, as if to say (simultaneously): HERE HE IS!... and "I'm sorry for all those times I bit your ears!"

Peace Cat seems sad now. Am I projecting? Do cats grieve?

I ask because he did indeed seem to love Grand Old Man, and followed him everywhere.

Yesterday, I discovered Peace Cat near the window in the spare room, where Grand Old Man used to sleep during the day. There are still wads of gray hair in the window, that I can't bear to clean up yet.

I saw Peace Cat poking on the closed curtain. Poke, poke. I realized: OMG! It's one of the feline-games! He used to poke on the curtain while Grand Old Man slept. Eventually, Grand Old Man would poke BACK (cats simply can't contain themselves for very long in such circumstances, regardless of their age) and the feline curtain-game would be ON. That's how my curtain got all torn up, too.

And Peace Cat was poking the curtain, possibly hoping his old friend would reappear, and poke back through the curtain. Or just pretending and playing anyway?

Can kitties have hope and memories?

He waits for the answering swat through the curtain, that never comes. He looks as sad as I am. Is that possible?

(I miss him, too, PC. I miss him, too.)


annie said...

since i believe that cats are incredibly smart and even perceptive, i would say yes.

Daisy said...

I am certain that Peace Cat is missing his Grand Old Man, and I'll bet they are having secret communication! Maybe Peace Cat would like a new friend? Even though you can never replace Grand Old Man, maybe rescuing a cat can make your heart feel full.

corey said...

I'm so sorry for your loss and peace cat's.

LarryE said...

For what it's worth, based on what I understand from ethnologists, yes, cats can grieve. Not in the directly conscious way we do, but they do experience a sense of loss.

white rabbit said...

We had two cats, brother and sister from the same litter and aged about 13. In March the male cat seemed a little unwell but nothing alarming or unusual. Then he died on the kitchen floor and was buried in the back garden within the hour.

How did his sister react? Well after a little while she seemed to have some sense that her brother was absent and set about looking for him. In particular, she hung about the cellar door (he was fond of going down to the cellar). After a day or two, she seemed to abandon her searches and carry on as usual.

My conclusion? Cats do not have memory as we have memory, any more than they can compose music or parse irregular Latin verbs - okay they can but they keep quiet about it ;) - but they plainly have some sort of recollection/association as shown for example by cats who find their way home from a very long way away. Oh yes - and sure they have emotions too.

That's my best shot on the subject....

achoiceofweapons said...

Inshallah, Help on the way Daisy,
Well, I believe cats do experience sadness just like they experience love and joy and irritation. My Cat Morning Katt sleeps next to me once my wife gets out of the bed and comes and rubs her face in my goattee. She's a joy and I'm sorry for Grand Old Man but he sounds like he had a great time!
And Peace Cat, well he lost his big playmate.
Strange Trip!

Drakyn said...

Yes they do grieve.
My aunt and I stripped wallpaper for a woman whose cat died the previous year and his sister had barely left the woman's room since then. Ever since he died the poor kitty only crept out from under the bed to eat and use the litterbox.
Our pets have also grieved, though not to that extent, for our pets who have left us.

Aishwarya said...

This is heartbreaking. (((((((((Daisy and PC))))))))))

And I know cats and dogs grieve for their humans, so it makes sense that they would grieve for each other as well.

JoJo said...

Awwww......poor kitty....he misses his buddy. I'm sure that animals grieve. I'm positive of it.

Rosa said...

That's so sad, Peace Cat poking the curtains, looking for Grand Old Man. You've got to get him a buddy, maybe he won't be so lonely.

Lisa Harney said...

I've seen mother cats grieve for their kittens (and it can really be heartbreaking when they do), as well as when one of a pair of kittens raised together dies, there's definitely a sense.

I've seen one cat clearly looking for her dead kitten, who refused to accept that the dead kitten we showed her was really the kitten. She looked all over the place - under beds, in cupboards, everywhere, determined to believe that her kitten wasn't dead, she just maybe wandered off.

I've read stories about cats who, after seeing their owner die, seem to be traumatized by it for years afterward.