Get Molesey Vets’ guide on helping pets cope with human breakups

December 21, 2022

Sadly, in legal slang, January is known as ‘divorce month’; a spike in relationships ending after Christmas, every year. With the festive season comes a lot of pressure and even if the relationship was beyond repair beforehand, many simply don’t have the time to action anything until the New Year.

To help you navigate this time for your pet, the team at Molesey Vets have put together a guide on pet grief.

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But what impact does this have on our pets and how do they deal with the change in their home situation; do they experience grief and if so, how? Importantly, how can you support your pet if your home situation changes significantly?

In this article, we will talk about how to manage the changes for your pet and how to support them, but remember any symptoms shown could be related to illness so it’s always best to bring them in for a check up should these persist.

Do pets experience grief?

Pets absolutely experience grief and have difficulty adapting to change, such as a relationship break up, in their family. A pet has no ability to understand the reason for change in their life and cannot process the concept of an end of a relationship. So, as well as sadness and grief for the change itself, dogs and cats can often be confused and feel anxious.

What does grief look like in dogs and cats?

According to Vet Darren, many of the signs we are looking for in our pets to really determine if they are emotionally struggling are the same as how we would act as humans. These can include:


  • Lower than normal activity levels
  • Loss of interest in things they once enjoyed
  • Change in eating habits and appetite (eating more or less than normal) or even becoming aggressive around food
  • General increase in aggressive behaviour
  • Increased sleep
  • Excessive licking mainly of their paws
  • Less socialisation with other dogs
  • Sporadic howling or barking
  • Flattening of the ears
  • Hyperactivity
  • Regression in long term behaviour such as house training


Cats are better at hiding their emotions than dogs but there are still signs of an unhappy feline, including:

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Little or no interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Poor / reduced grooming
  • Overgrooming especially of the paws
  • Low pitched and ‘mournful’ yowls
  • Reduced appetite
  • Aggressive behaviour; especially if there is more than one cat in the home they can become aggressive to each other
  • Spraying
  • Scratching furniture, walls and carpets

How can you help them?

There are many things you can do to support your pet and manage change for them. At the heart of it, the goal is to keep things as normal and consistent as possible. Don’t argue in front of them.

Raised voices and tense environments are easily identified by your pets. So, keep calm and avoid arguments at home at all if possible.

Keep their routine

Like children, pets need routine and most likely live their life around their routine with you. Try as much as possible to keep their days running like normal. This includes keeping the same feeding times and walks and make sure to keep devoting quality time to them including play. We know this might be challenging sometimes, but it’s really worth the effort to keep your pets happy and healthy.

If you have any concerns about your pet, get in touch with our East Molesey team on 0208 979 1384.

Keep the move simple

If you are moving house due to the change in circumstances, this can be a lot of change for your pet in a short amount of time. They have had a change in who they live with as well as where they live. Try to avoid moving your pet’s home until you absolutely need to; so try to not displace them before you make your final move.

This rapid change in environment is a big stressor for pets, especially cats so try to reduce this where possible.

Post-move bedding in

Once settled, make sure you make your pet feel as at home as possible. This could be keeping their familiar toys and blankets as well as setting up their bed and resting areas in a similar position to their previous environment

Try calming products

If your pet is showing signs of distress that are not caused by illness and is not managing the change well, there are a number of products available that can help. From diffusers to collars to supplements, we would be happy to advise you of the right choice for your pet.

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Separation anxiety, behaviour and your changed role

After the change in their environment, you will become, more so than before, the most consistent part of your cat or dog’s life. Your pet might experience grief from not being around their two humans anymore, they might miss their old home and more than likely it will be you who they turn to for comfort. Signs of separation anxiety can include whining, destructive behaviour, and clinginess.

Whilst of course it’s important to support them throughout this change, it’s also key to notice any persistent symptoms that could be linked to illness as well try to understand where the boundary needs to be. Dogs especially still need rules and routine so providing that same structure as before will be more effective than not.

Of course, there is nothing pleasant when a relationship ends. But by managing your pet’s wellbeing you can be sure that both you and they get through the transition more easily.

Do you have any top tips for managing dogs or cats throughout a breakup? Let us know over in the Facebook comments.

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