How to Care for a Pet When Their Owner Dies

By on February 4, 2022

Pets can’t talk about their feelings but they undoubtedly feel grief. However, it can be challenging to decipher how to best cope with their physical and emotional feelings of loss. If you know someone who had a dog or cat and has recently passed away, read on for how to care for a pet when its owner dies.

 Do pets feel grief?

Pets can be acutely aware that packing a suitcase leads to the eventual absence of their owners. This feeling of loss is then elevated when their owners never return. Dogs and cats can certainly show signs of grief, though often to varying degrees. Below are some of the symptoms of a grieving pet:

  • Lethargy or listlessness
  • Loss of energy
  • Moping behavior
  • Reduced appetite or refusing to eat altogether
  • Weight loss
  • An apathy to playing walks or other activities they used to enjoy
  • Restless sleep
  • Howling, barking, or whimpering 
  • Excessive panting 
  • Pacing
  • Shivering
  • Excessive licking or nipping 
  • Digging or trying to escape
  • Chewing or destroying furniture 
  • Scratching at doors
  • Nesting in their owner’s clothing or blankets


It is not always feasible to keep a pet within their home after the loss of an owner. This is why it is important to round up a few comforting items and bring with them to their new house, such as:

fall scents for your home
  • Dog bed
  • Favorite blanket
  • Toys
  • Pet food from this site
  • Food and water bowls
  • Leash
  • Kennel (if they use one)

You may also want to put in a towel or shirt that their owner wore to assist with the transition to their new home. Making a pet feel secure is also about lavishing them with love and attention. Try to ensure they aren’t left alone for the first few weeks, and add a few special treats to their day.


It may take a few weeks or even longer for a pet to acclimatize to its new home, family, and surroundings. Be patient with the animal as it overcomes these obstacles. However, if the pet continues to exhibit signs of extreme anxiety, it is worthwhile to seek the advice of a veterinarian. 


Dogs and cats are creatures of habit. If you were aware of a pet’s routine before its owner died, try to stick to it as closely as possible. For example, feeding at the same time and with the same type of pet food, going for walks, and letting them out in the morning and evening as before will limit their anxiety and help to alleviate their feelings of stress.

You likely already have a will that dictates where your assets will go and who will take guardianship of your children. We would encourage every pet owner to make a provision in their will dictating who will take ownership of their pet and allocating the necessary resources.

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How to Care for a Pet When Their Owner Dies