I had to euthanise a cat and his brother is meowing all the time. Advice Please

Visitors would like more cat behavior information. This a behavior question from the Catster site. At time of this post there are no answers. This person kept two cats who were brothers for their entire lives. When they reached 17 years of age the owner had to put one of them to sleep. The other has meowed incessantly ever since and has diarrhea. The owners are being driven mad with it. What can she do and what is going on?

ANSWER. This is my answer based more or less on gut feel without reference to books. Comments welcome.

The brothers were very close. They were both old at the time of the death of one of them. There is no doubt in my mind that the surviving cat has suffered a knock back. He is bereft at the loss of his brother and confused. He is probably suffering from a type of separation anxiety, a well documented health problem.

He is calling out. This is probably a call to his lost brother and as a sign as general distress.

His age (17 years) may also be compounding the problem. There may be a certain amount of confusion at the loss of his brother. It may have brought on some dementia or he may have already been suffering from a mild form of dementia.

Dementia would compound the confusion he is feeling at the loss of his brother. This is why he is crying out. Cats with dementia tend to call out at nighttime. They are probably looking for company and guidance.

We should be in no doubt that cats can form close relationships. There is ample evidence of it. As cats also have emotions the loss of a close friend can cause distress and confusion.

This has lead to constant calling out. This old cat also has diarrhea. This may be due to a change in diet.

Cats can experience “emotional diarrhea” when excited or stressed. This is similar to humans.

I would say the diarrhea backs up the diagnosis that the surviving brother is suffering emotionally due to the loss of his brother with whom he has lived all his life.

Does anyone have anything to add to my answer or to correct perhaps?

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I had to euthanise a cat and his brother is meowing all the time. Advice Please — 18 Comments

  1. Laura has this problem when she takes a cat with her to visit family. The cat meows and searches the first night. Anytime we’ve had to euthanize a cat or had a cat die we’ve always shown the other cats the body. They seem to know what death looks like. The one time we didn’t do this was back in 1993 when Spot died. Tramp went around everywhere for weeks looking for his cat buddy. We just had to wait it out and pay Tramp more attention.

    Keep an eye on your cat to make sure its eating. If not you may have to get a syringe and force feed KMC kitten milk. Its a big pricier but has all the vitamins needed.

    • Are you saying that it would have calmed the cat or settled him down if he had seen the dead body of his brother? I have never heard about this before now. I am not sure it would work all the time.

      • Hi Michael,

        Since Elephants seem to know what death is, maybe a cat would as well. You’ve probably heard and seen that they have funerals for deceased members of their group.

        I was surprised to read what Elisa wrote as well, but it seems like a fair possibility. It would be hard to bring home the dead body, but worth it if it would help the surviving cats.

        =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

        • Yes, I thought that. It would be difficult to bring home the dead body. I think what I would do is make arrangements for cremation. Have the vet do the euthanasia, take him home or do it at home, show his brother and then drive on to the crematorium. I always have individual cremations and bring the ashes home for me to keep. I am still not sure showing his brother the dead body would make things better but Dorothy in another comment makes a convincing case for it. However, take the point you make, Liz.

  2. Hi Michael,

    Sad situation and I’ve seen it before.

    Elisa brought up a good suggestion for future situations – closure for the surviving cats.

    I’d say you sized it up well and I’d have to agree – the surviving brother badly misses his sibling of many years.

    He mourns the loss or thinks his brother is lost somewhere near by so he goes looking for him. He loved his brother. The brother may have been his best friend or only cat friend.

    Without knowing whether or not there has been a change in diet or any medical issues that manifested around the time of death, it’s likely that you’re right that the diarrhea is caused by anxiety.

    I would take the cat to the vet to check for health issues.

    I’d pour over some cat behavior books or senior pet books to see what I could find.

    I’d do the same with cat behavior blogs and once I found a good one, I’d email the webmaster about the situation.

    Getting a companion cat could either be a good solution or it could upset the old cat quite a bit. It’s a risky gamble. Perhaps the cat behaviorist would have some advice on that one.

    I wouldn’t force an end to the anxiety or yowling. That’s mourning and it needs to happen. I might do my best to be companionable to the old cat for a couple of months before I started trying this and that so that he can go through a fair amount of mourning.

    If we were 90 years old and just lost our spouse who was our best friend, we might want a little help and friendliness but not too much. We’d feel the strong need to mourn. If someone started tinkering with us we’d get even more upset.

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

    • I don’t think bringing the dead body would help. If an animal must be euthanized and they have companion animals they are close with, it is always preferable to find a vet or tech who will come to the house to do the deed.

      Just last week a dear friend had to euthanize her elderly dog who was dying of liver disease. I convinced her to bring in a vet who comes to your home, then carries the animal to the crematorium after the deed is done. This dog had a companion dog at home who would have been devastated had the elderly dog been taken out of the house and never come home. The experience though sad convinced me again that animals understand death better than we humans. When the vet came, we all layed on the floor with the elderly dog in his favorite spot. Even the vet got on the floor. The young dependent dog left the room once the strong tranquilizer started taking effect on the old dog. She nuzzled him, then left the room. When the old dog was dead, my friend tried to get the young dog to come in and say goodbye, but the young dog wouldn’t even take a sniff. She seemed satisfied and has been a happy yet different dog ever since, I’m convinced that saying goodbye happened before the actual death. The body without the spirit was just a carcass.

      It might sound over the top or “woo-woo” but I believe it. Animals understand. They still mourn but they don’t suffer not knowing what happened.

      • Fantastic comment. I sense you are correct. I also have a strong feeling that animals comprehend and feel much more than we give credit for. We need to be sensitive to the acute senses and particular intelligence of our companion animals.

    • Good comment. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I agree that loss should be mourned. He should be allowed to cry. The cat’s owner should accept it. Although is is hard. I would doubt that the introduction of another cat would help as the remaining cat is old. He is probably set in his ways. Any new cat would have to be selected with care and the remaining brother would have to be involved in selection. There is no a lot one can do except to let time heal.

  3. Michael you are right in that bringing another cat into the bereaved cat’s home isn’t likely to work. You can’t replace a cat with another cat just like you can’t replace a person with another person.
    Cats need time to grieve, just like we do and that poor old cat is grieving physically and mentally for his brother and needs a lot of love and attention. You say his constant meowing is driving his owners mad, I hope they aren’t being impatient with him, because if so that will be making him worse.
    Also I don’t think seeing the body helps all animals, it can really spook them, again just like some people can’t bring themselves to visit a loved one in a Chapel of Rest.
    It’s a very difficult situation, I wouldn’t be surprised if that poor old cat chooses to join his dead brother, life is very sad at times for all of us living beings.

  4. I had to have my 11 yr old cat put down due to kidney failure..I also had 2 other cats one was 9 and the other 6 when he passed…they clung to each other for days so I didn’t experience this issue however, I have a cat now 11 with severe thyroid disease and if he has to be put down (wwe hope not they r like our children) I have been contemplating adding a Kitten into the home so the brother left behind will already have established a relationship with the kitten prior to his borthers death if that happens, if not we have 3 again !! I have talked extensively with my vet about this and it is a risky move since both cats r set in theior ways and older now 11 and 9 but she believes a kitten is better because the other 2 can teach it how they want it to behave. An older cat she felt would be “set in their ways” and there could be issues….its a thought

    • I agree the idea is a nice one but a bit fraught with potential problems because introducing a new cat can cause disruption. However, as you say, a kitten is more likely to cause less of a problem probably because a kitten is less of a threat and has no territorial issues. Although it is not workable, I think in a ideal world the existing cats should have some say over the kitten you choose. Cats have preferences. They might take to one kitten but not another. That needs to be tested before adoption but how one does that I am not sure. Good luck and thanks for the idea.

      Update: just seen your 2nd comment so testing relationships with a new kitten seems to be workable. Great.

  5. I also want to add that I strongly agree animals grieve much as humans do..perhaps attempting a rescue kitten to see how your cat does..our rescues in our area will take back the cat/kitten if it doesn”t work out so you have nothing to lose, but allow the cat time to grieve don”t remove all the other cats items like bedding etc. leave hi/her scent for the other cat and give lots of reassurance and love..

  6. It would only work if the cat were euthanized or died at home. I don’t know how spot on this is, but our cats seem to understand death. The night Dreyfuss died we covered his body laid out on a sheet in the hallway. Lucky lay by him all night as did Mandy. Cats are smarter about death than many give them credit for.

    Back in the 80’s when we were helping deliver all the feral kittens we would show the mother any who died so she wouldn’t search for them. It was quite an experience trapping the cat a day or 2 before the birth and bringing her inside.

    • I agree that cats do understand it and feel the loss of a cat friend or relative. There are thousands of stories from cat owners who have first hand experience of this with their cats.

  7. I put Red on the floor for the 2 kittens and Lilly to see. Lilly gave him one sniff and that was it – she knew. Both she and I sat in silence on the couch for weeks – we were both grieving and it was very sad. When I got home from work I just sat with Lilly on the couch. She was in the same exact mood as me. No appetite nor motivation nor energy and just very sad. I cried alot. The kittens only knew Red for a couple weeks so they were a little confused by me and Lilly being so down.
    I know Lilly mourned – she loved Red so much. It was the saddest time in my life I think. She sniffed him once and knew and sat nearby as I lay him on the floor and brushed him so he looked nice before I took him to bury him.

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