Adopting a Grieving Cat - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-05-2013, 11:13 AM Thread Starter
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Adopting a Grieving Cat

As a favor to a friend that runs a shelter, I recently took in a cat on a fostering basis with potential adoption afterwards because she needs to be spayed. My friend felt she did not have the extra time to devote to caring for her during the post spay rehab. The arrangement was for me to get her settled in here for a couple weeks, get her spayed then see if adoption is right for her and for us. Almost two weeks later I am convinced she is grieving the loss of her human. She has been at the shelter and up for adoption since last February and has bonded with my friend. She is normally a very interactive, loving and outgoing cat (I'm told) but here she seems to be depressed and sleeps constantly, rarely leaving her corner in the laundry room. She is very fearful of my resident cats who show no aggression towards her. I'm convinced she is grieving and it got me to thinking about this subject.

I pulled this article from the internet and am posing this question to my fellow cat lovers: Have you found that adoption from home based shelters that have loving human caregivers and bonded relationships is harder on the cat than adopting from a city shelter where the cat has been locked up in cages? Twice I've adoped from loving home based shelters, and twice it's been a diffficult process for the cat because of what I think is grieving. Thoughts?


Sometimes a change in routine is unavoidable when a human companion dies and the cat has to be rehomed. Shelters and adopters of such cats must be prepared for the behavioural changes detailed previously - these will often be more severe than if the cat was able to grieve in familiar surroundings. In addition to bereavement, the cat is facing the additional stress of a change of home, a change of human companions and unfamiliar surroundings and scents. Don't expect such a cat to be playful and companionable immediately you adopt it. Be tolerant of toileting accidents and if it want to spend time alone, allow it to do so, but keep a watchful eye on its eating habits and physical appearance (e.g. self-neglect, weight loss).
Once it has accepted you as the new caregiver, it may become clingy - having lost one human in its life, it may not want to let you out of its sight. If you are away from home during part of the day, you could leave a recently worn tee-shirt in the cat's bed as a comforter. Alternatively, it may remain aloof to begin with as though afraid to build up a new relationship so soon. Don't press attention on an unwilling cat, but spend time in the same room and talk to it (stroking it if possible) so that it knows you are a permanent fixture in its life. Encourage it to interact with you. The settling-in process may take longer and be slower, so be patient.

Cat owners' prayer: "Lord help me be the person my cat thinks I am"

Last edited by Marcia; 01-05-2013 at 11:14 AM. Reason: omitted word
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-05-2013, 11:29 AM
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Interesting information, Marcia, Thanks!
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-05-2013, 02:40 PM
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I am a home-based foster. To me, sending a cat directly from my place to it's new home is easier on it than sending it back to a cage at the shelter. It's also sometimes necessary for cats who aren't doing well in a shelter environment to be fostered and loved on individually for them to feel safe and begin to trust.

However, gaining the trust of a cat and then sending in on to it's forever home can be hard on them too. Two weeks doesn't seem like a very long adjustment period though. Perhaps she's still just settling in, rather than grieving for her foster home. Would it be possible for the foster home to come and visit her? It might cheer her up if it is grief that she's feeling, or it might help her to relax if she's still just settling in.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-05-2013, 08:29 PM Thread Starter
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We talked about visiting, but my friend thinks it might upset the kitty too much. I agree, 2 weeks isn't long, but she just seems so sad whereas my other cats (I've had lots over the years) have at least been a bit inquisitive and at least explored. This kitty comes out, takes one look at us or another cat and retreats to her safe corner. I've never come across a cat like this. I'm going to have her here at least another week so we'll see (she is getting spayed on Monday). Going back "home" may be the right answer, otherwise, maybe you are right and I'm just not giving her enough time. I try to spend alot of time with her, but I hate to wake her up just to talk to her.

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-06-2013, 02:27 PM Thread Starter
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Update: the shelter owner and I have decided that the best thing for kitty is to go back home to her. I'm very happy with the decision as is she. We've called off the spaying for the time being and she is now happily back home. My friend did some things to destress her life and now feels it is a good decision to have her baby come back. Needless to say we are ALL very happy now.

Cat owners' prayer: "Lord help me be the person my cat thinks I am"
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 01-06-2013, 04:42 PM
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Hope it works out great for the kitty! Let us know how she is doing back at her home!

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