Skip to Main Content

The Mourning News: Animals Grieve

Written by PETA | April 27, 2010

There’s a lot of buzz about two new studies that reveal that chimpanzees mourn the deaths of loved ones pretty much as humans do. Scientists in Scotland found chimpanzees tending to an ailing elder during her final days—and after she died, her daughter spent the night next to her body. In the days that followed, the mood was somber among the deceased chimpanzee’s friends and family. In the second study, scientists in Guinea observed two mothers who couldn’t bear to part with their dead babies.

The buzz from the chimpanzee studies is getting a boost from a viral video in which a squirrel defends his deceased friend’s body against a group of crows. Both news items have people describing how they’ve witnessed animals in mourning, and they have made people realize that humans aren’t the only animals who grieve following the loss of a loved one. Of course, this behavior isn’t limited to squirrels and chimpanzees. Elephants have been known to hold vigils over their stillborn children. And cows on dairy farms and their calves cry out for days when they are separated.

One of my most indelible childhood memories is of watching our sweet mutt, Ching, as he uncharacteristically snarled and snapped at anyone who tried to come near the lifeless body of his constant companion, Jessa. He stayed with her for hours. What about you? Have you ever seen an animal grieve the loss of a friend or family member?



Written by Karin Bennett

Commenting is closed.
  • Chris says:

    Although I was around with dogs, i’ve never observed animals mourning first hand. However it is only perfectly logical for animals with higher intelligence, such as apes, whales, dolphins, crows, elephants and pigs to express mourning and feelings. Now about lower intelligence animals I don’t know. I know this however! Emotions stem from the brain thus a higher intelligence should be generally an indication of emotion. Mourning is one of the most controversial emotions, because it is a negative emotion that does not directly impact a being but the suffering for another being after it died. Generally I would dare say that most animals should not experience mourning however I can’t swear on it. Dogs for example express emotions like happiness and sadness but they occur after an event. For example the dog is happy for seeing you or sad because you scold at him but I did not observe long happiness and anticipation because you promised him something, For example if i tell him I will take you to the forest today he will be instantly happy for a few seconds but will subside and will have no anticipation for the event afterwards (of course i will take him and he will be happy). Emotions are a very complex case but the dogma saying that animals have no emotions at all is totally wrong. (that’s what the theologists and the church say, that animals have no soul thus no emotions bla bla bla) Each dog I’ve met has its own personality and mood and unique. If that is true for dogs then it should be true for most animals (dogs are smart but there are many more animals much smarter). If you think about it humans are also animals. We have vital organs, we are driven by the same insticts (hunger, fear, mating etc). However before any wiseguy says that animals may have more intelligence than humans it’s bollocks. Humans are on top of the food chain because of that intelligence. Now if we use our intelligence constructively or not this is a complete different issue. That said, Earth may host entities that are unknown to us of higher intelligence.

  • Caroline Kropka says:

    I once had two rats Lily and Rose. They were from the same litter and were very close. When Rose died Lily curled up protectively beside her. Lily moped for days and soon she died too. But Rose only died because of a cancer sort of thing. I like to believe Lily died of depression.

  • Brittany says:

    Lulu Actually we were going to get her spayed but she got pregnant before we could take her. Plus my boyfriend’s family is barely making ends meet so it will take a while to get the money for it again. .” If you want to pay for it be my guest. Also since it’s my boyfriend’s cat and he lives with his parents I have absolutely no say in letting the cat live permanently inside. It doesn’t help that his mother is extremely allergic to animal dander and already has two rescued cats not from shelters she legitimately SAVED these two cats personally living in the house which causes her to be quite miserable allergy wise. The cats can enter the basement through a kitty door and always have food and water available and a nice bed by the wood stove so it’s not like we ignore their existence. I’m not stupid nor lacking in compassion. I know and want to do these things to help the cat. But I personally can not. So I do what I can in the meantime. Again if you would like to donate the money to get her spayed I would be eternally grateful and do so immediately. But it doesn’t work that way which I understand giving a total stranger money over the internet is never a good idea. But please do not think that I am ignorant of these facts. I am sorry if this seemed to come out of nowhere but I’m frankly tired of people telling me that I’m not really helping these animals unless I get them fixed. So I should just let them die? Let them continue to be completely neglected and physically abused by their owners who hate them? Ignore their mews for love and attention just because I can’t afford to get them spayed or neutered? If I had the money I would do it in a heart beat. Truly I would. The fact that I can’t help I’m currently getting my own cats fixed breaks my heart more than you could know.

  • Audrey Caprio says:

    Several years back I was at a friend’s house and got a frantic call from my daughter who said a bird was flapping about in our inground pool. I told her to get the skimmer and get him out. I immediately went home. The bird was a fledgling crow and while we were wrapping him in a towel to dry him off there were about 8 or 9 crows in the air screaming loudly. I called a wildlife rehabilitator who told me that as night was approaching the best thing to do was put the bird in a box in the bathroom shut the lights and let him totally dry overnight so as not to leave him vulnerable to predators. She informed me the crows screaming in the air were his extended family and that older offspring will often help with younger siblings. He did settle in and the next morning my daughter and I released him in a safe place but in my backyard in the same area as instructed. As we did so we noted his family were right there in the trees and began flying around low and calling to him. We watched him flutter a bit and then take off to a low branch in a tree with his family around him. They were looking out for him and assuredly would have mourned his death…..I was so very thankful that my daughter I were able to save him and do the right thing.

  • Madeleine Lapointe-Millar says:

    The most terrible “gift’ that humans have is the unbelievably powerful ability to rationalize and deny. The majority of people reading these stories will parrot the old flawed theory of ‘anthropomorphism’ or inacurrately embuing “animals” with “human” feelings…Where do these ‘people’ think ‘our’ feelings came from? But then they probalby don’t believe in evolution either. ps Jane Goddall documented mourning in chimps decades ago when the first one she followed Flo died and her 1 year old son Flint stayed at her side and grieved noisily in spite of older siblings trying to get him to eat and to leave his mother. He died at her side…

  • Menkit says:

    This is a sad story about a rooster. I rented on a ranch in California where the owner let the chickens breed willy nilly. There were like 14 roosters and 2 hens. The competition was fierce and from time to time I saw my landlord drive by with a dead rooster and throw it in the bin. On investigation I saw its eyes had been pecked out. The groundsman had been secretly killing the chicken to eat and he killed a hen but left her 2 month old chick Shali which I raised in my house till she was big enough to go down to the barn with the boys. Shali was the favourite and her guards Fred and Rashtar would not allow other roosters near her. One was besotted by her I called him Trevor. One terrible night the groundsman went on a killing spree and killed Fred and Rashtar leaving Trevor finally free to pursue the love of his life. He was in heaven at last! Two days later the groundsman took her too. The look on Trevor’s face was inconsolable. He just stood there and could not be enticed to eat a thing. I had the remaining roosters all relocated to homes elsewhere and Trevor went too but his heart was shattered mine too. Poor Shali! I’m so sorry I couldn’t help you!

  • Sher K says:

    I recently lost my ferret Roo well just after new year. She was one of my 3 rescues I had. Roo and her brother Zool were from the same litter. They had been together for 8 years. He just hasn’t been the same since she left. He still looks for her and I even showed him her body before her cremation. I had to move him in with my other ferrets to keep him company. They never all lived together because Roo had mobility problems from not having her nails clipped when she lived with her previous owner.

  • Krystle McNelly says:

    Any of us with animals that we care aboutwill NOT find this “NEWS”. Animals HAVE FEELINGS. Some show more feelings for their young than “Humans”!

  • Emu says:

    Hey Tricia…just F.Y.I. dogs like to bury stuff to save for later.

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    My neighbor’s cat gave birth to three kittens in my dog Buck’s doghouse in the backyard. When the neighbor’s wife came looking for the cat we found Buck guarding the front of his house in full guard dog position not letting anyone near. The mother and the kittens were very healthy and did not die in fact we still have the last one Ollie who is 2 years old now. He and Buck are devoted to each other. However when we removed him and his family from the dog house Buck went into mourning. He stopped eating playing or doing the things he usually does and moped around the dog house. The neighbor let the cats run wild all over the neighborhood and they took up residence on the front porch this time and Buck recovered from his depression. Ollie hid on the day we were trying to catch the kittens to rehome them and that is why he still lives here being cared for by my husband me and Buck.

  • Joanne says:

    Thirteen years ago my oldest son passed awayWe had 2 dogs that were very close with himfirst the bigger dog stopped eating3 weeks later the little dog would not eatshe died a couple days later.

  • Anniehoo says:

    This is a true story about a dog and her cat. Aggie was a cocker spaniel very sweet very loyal who spent her every waking moment helping her dad on the farm or riding in the truck with her mom. Tigger was a tabby manx spayed who also scouted the farm always following her “Dad” and never far from Aggie. In the last few years of Aggie’s life as she lost her hearing and then her sight she still liked to wander the front yard and lay in the sunshine…Tigger assumed the responsibility of keeping Aggie from harm. If she began to walk toward the road Tigger would gently guide her back to safety. The two were never apart for about 23 years. When Aggie finally passed away Tigger lay in the spot she died every day for several weeks until she too died. Her constant companion was gone and nothing could console her. Tigger was only 7 years old half Aggie’s age and should have lived much longer. But as they had been friends since her kittenhood and constant companions for so long she literally seemed not to want to live without her. Just one of countless stories I could relate of animal emotion displays. For those who look it is obvious that animals both think AND feel.

  • Tricia says:

    My husband witnessed our dog gently pick up a dead squirrel out in our back yard walk over to my garden dug a hole and gently put the tiny animal in it and covered it back over with dirt! The garden is where our other animals are buried. I was amazed! I think that our German Shepherd definitely thinks like a human….without a doubt!

  • Rachel says:

    Doing a catch and release of a feral cat colony I was able to Catch the kittens the night before to take them to the vet to be fixed. The mother stayed outside of the window all night crying to them. It broke my heart but it was for the greater good. When I released the kittens after they healed it was a wonderful reunion.

  • deniseguimarais says:

    I had a hamster once and then we introduced a family 2 different species she was a real bitch to him she bit him but he still liked her she escaped her cage and got lost he stopped eating drinking and his peewee was always out and he just moped. He was a zombie wouldn’t even blink. It was wrong of us but we left him in a park with food and water. I went back to where I left him and wasn’t there but animals do mourn…..poor little guy really loved her. I swear.

  • bop says:

    My mom saw a squirrel dead on the road once and a baby squirrel next to it. The baby wouldn’t leave the mom’s side and a man stopped to take the baby squirrel eventually sp it wouldn’t get hit by a car too.. Its so sad.

  • Daniela says:

    One of my dogs recently died it’s was so hard for everyone but I think this is more hard for my other dog. Now she isn’t the same she doesn’t want to play you can see the sadness in her face it is so broken heart I never thought that something like that could affect her

  • ocean17 says:

    animals definitely display emotions and mourn their losses there are many examples of this.

  • Julie says:

    About this time of year the Canadian geese come back to my area and prepare for families. As I was driving to work oneday down a fairly busy road I noticed a goose standing near the road and then also on the road must have been its mate dead from being hit by a car. Of course I was in tears for the loss of the one bird but even more for the lone goose who had lost its life partner. If people would just slow down and pay more attention this would be avoided.

  • Tucker says:

    The humans that think Animals don’t have feelings or don’t grieve are humans that plain ass don’t care and obviosly are the ones that DON’T have feelings AND DON’T CARE!!!!!!! ANIMALS ARE SMARTER AND BETTER THAN SOME HUMANS I KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • madison says:

    thats really sad

  • Liz says:

    We all know well the smart ones anyway that animals feel and have emotions and how about the fact that 25 people walked past a homeless dying man who had been stabbed in NYC recently after helping a woman in a confrentation with a man only to die alone on the sidewalk? Not too proud to be a human way too often these daysespecially when you hear the constant ignorance of animal abusers lately it only starts there.

  • Angusluvslucy says:

    Just an hour ago my 19 year old daughter came home from an errand distraught and sobbing. I thought she had been attacked! I finally got her calmed down enough to tell me what happened. She witnessed a crow attacking and killing a small bird while the other small birds flew at the crow and pecked at it to try to save their friends life. My daughters heart was broken because of the brutality and she was so touched by the little birds rallying to save their friend with no regard to how big and mean their enemy was. She was nothing she could do because she was in her car in busy traffic. It’s hard to grasp the circle of life when the animals react like humans.

  • Ellie says:

    My 1819 year old mutt of a dog the best dog there EVER had to be put down this month and our cat who has known him for the last 4 years mourned him. She was never very affectionate to him preferred eating his food if anything. When he seriously ill and had a seizure she lay down beside him and thoroughly started grooming him all over his head and face. Then when we brought him to the vets and returned without him she went very quiet that evening usually she’s an extremely vocal and hungry cat!! and spent the next several days yowling around the house and calling for him. She also became aggressive and kept spitting at me and hid everywhere. After about a week she settled down and she’s back to normal now Still…I truly felt her pain on this occasion

  • lulu says:

    Brittanyactually there are a couple of other ways to help the remaining cat. Spay her and bring her inside. Today. Please.

  • Catherine says:

    I was in uni doing photography and I had to take pictures on a farm. I was walking around the farm with the farmer and in one of the sheds were cows that were making a horrible noise they were crying really loudly. I asked the farmer why they were making such a loud harrowing noise and he told me that they had just ad their babies taken off them. “They’ll stop in a few days..” he said.

  • Aneliese says:

    It annoys me beyond belief how people don’t think animals are capable of emotions or thinking. How stupid can humans be?

  • Erin says:

    I was walking around my neighborhood one afternoon and came upon a touching scene. A dead bird lay on the ground and hisher bird companion was looking at the body and hopping around it. The bird obviously mourned the loss of hisher friend.

  • TinyAndMe says:

    Years ago our two Yorkie bitches were expecting and both gave birth to one pup. Sadly Florences pup died shortly after birth but Lulu’s lived. Lulu and her pup were upstairs and Florence stayed downstairs crying for her dead pup. It was heartbreaking to witness. Not only do animals mourn but they also have amazing compassion Lulu spent the following days feeding her pup and then running downstairs to comfort her sister. Animals experience every emotion we do its just that we are not always around to witness it or recognise it.

  • Brittany says:

    One of my boyfriend’s cats recently had two kittens. Since they are outdoor cats we had built them a cat house on the deck to shelter them from the elements and so of course the mother cat wisely chose to have her kittens there. Sadly the kittens weren’t strong enough and they soon passed. The mother cat for days went around crying and looking everywhere for her kittens. She still stands guard outside of the cat house where her kittens passed day and night in the rain and the wind. It’s quite heartbreaking to watch her… All we can do now for her is give her lots of extra love and attention.