Do animals grieve?

Twelve year old Topi came to us this fall after her guardian died. But her love continues on.

The depths of elephants’ grieving is well documented. Sometimes, they stand silently at the side of the deceased, gently stroking their body as if in remembrance. Other times, they’ll carefully bury them. Mothers of stillborn elephants can act depressed for days, trailing behind their families. Once, a researcher played a recording from a hidden speaker of an elephant who died. The elephant’s daughter went wild calling for him for days afterward. The researcher never did that again.

Topi the catTwelve year old Topi came to us this fall after her guardian died. Family members tried to care for the little cat, but couldn’t devote the time to her anymore. After all, they were grieving, too. Topi was vomiting blood and no longer using her litterbox. And she was so very, very quiet.

HSHV’s veterinarians discovered Topi also had a heart murmur. Though sometimes cats have this condition at birth, we couldn’t help but think Topi was suffering from a broken heart.

Over the past few months, Topi has received a multitude of medications and still more tender loving care. Staff and volunteer “cat comforters” have taken their job with the utmost seriousness. Topi isn’t the kind of cat who asks for attention, but she gratefully receives it.

And while she still remains quiet, Topi has started using her litterbox again and has gained weight—over two pounds, in fact! And now, she is looking for another family to love her.

While we’ll probably never know the depths of Topi’s grief, we’re certain she knows there are people who understand. The volunteers who’ve comforted her. The veterinarians who’ve helped her. And all the HSHV supporters who’ve stood by the side of this little old cat, funding her treatment, and telling her that she matters, and that wefellow sentient beings—care.


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All images and photographs are courtesy of HSHV staff and Jeffrey E. Roush of Two Cat Studios.