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My Pet World: Pets do grieve when they lose a human or animal companion

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

My seven-year-old cat is over-grooming to the point of causing bald spots. He did this as a kitten, and then it stopped, so I thought it might be stress related. I see nothing different in his life, though, so I'm at a loss for why he has started to do this again.

The only thing I can think of is that I lost my husband 18 months ago, and I am experiencing a lot of stress in dealing with everything on my own. Could he be feeling my anxiety, and if so, how do I help him?

— Joan, Glen Cove, New York

Dear Joan,

I am sorry for your loss. Losing a loved one is never easy for people or pets. Over-grooming is a symptom of stress; so yes, in addition to your cat’s grief over the loss of your husband, he may be feeling your anxiety and grief too.


There are several things you can do. First, get a pheromone collar, plug-in, wipes, or spray; the latter two you can use on him and you as well. Spray the pheromones wherever he plays or sleeps – even on your lap, so that he will feel a calmer energy coming from you. Overall, pheromones can sooth him and make him help him feel more secure.

Second, you can take him to the vet to discuss putting him on some anti-anxiety medication, which should help with the over-grooming. After he’s kicked that habit, the pheromones can be used as maintenance care to keep him from over-grooming again.

Finally, don’t forget the two of you have each other to get through this tough time. So, spend lots of time together. Petting him gently will calm you both.

Dear Cathy,


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