Cats can bring us great joy and they can be part of our lives for many years. In some cases, cats can be part of our family for over 20 years. And just like people, they will become cherished members of our family. They wake us when they want food or attention and they are waiting on us when we return from work. But what happens when they reach the end of their life and they become pet angels?
How do you cope with the loss of a beloved pet? Understanding the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance is a good start. Find a way to thank and honor your cat for the joy they brought to your life. Over time the pain will lessen. If you feel like you just cannot get past the loss, a grief counselor can help.
Getting past the death of your cat can be very emotional, Thinking about it the way you would the loss of a human has always helped me. A loved one would want you to grieve for them and honor their memory, but they would also want you to get on with your life. Even though cats are most likely not capable of thinking like that, would the pet that snuggled with you for years want you to be sad and in despair for months? You KNOW that pet angel would want the best for you.
Keep reading to get tips for working through the loss and check out some great ways to honor your pet and keep their memory alive.
My Cat Died and I Can’t Stop Crying
There is no timeline for the grieving process and it is different for all of us. There is a difference between crying for a few days and still crying uncontrollably a few months later. If you cannot stop crying and this has gone on for a long time, it might be time to consider grief counseling. Even a call to one of these pet loss support organizations can help.
Why Does Losing a Cat Hurt So Much?
The death of a cat often causes the same amount of pain as losing a family member or a close friend. Let’s face it…pets are often as close to us as anyone that lives in our home. We become attached to them and there have been times that I put the health of my cats before my own. The loss of a pet can be very traumatic and takes time for the emotional pain to heal.
My Cat Died and I Don’t Want to Live
Hopefully, you will not feel this way for a long period of time. You know that is not what your pet would have wanted for you. If this feeling persists, please contact a grief counselor or a pet loss support organization.
My Cat Died and I Feel Guilty
Having to make the difficult decision to euthanize our pet can be very traumatic and can fill us with guilt. The question, “Did I do the right thing?” may nag at you for weeks to come. You may have seen the signs that your cat was dying. If you made this decision to euthanize with your vet and family and it was made in the best interest of your cat, it was most likely the correct decision. If your cat has no quality of life, is it okay to continue his life if he is in pain? Euthanasia guilt is real even if it decision was made out of love.
It is natural for us to think there is more we could have done to prolong our cat’s life, but in most cases, this is not true. Realizing that it is not your fault will allow you to begin the grieving process for your cat. Pet loss support groups can also help counsel you through these feelings of guilt if they persist.
Things You Can Do to Honor Your Cat’s Memory
- Build a Memorial Garden – Memorial gardens can come in a variety of forms. They can be a space you have created outside. And depending on where you live your cat could be buried there. In my case, the ashes are buried in the yard and the garden itself is in a container with a painted rock for each of my pet angels.
- Create a Memory Book – Memory books are a great way to commemorate anything, including the life of your cat. I love simple scrapbook type pages, but you could just as easily create a digital photo album with some of your favorite pictures of your cat.
- Give Back – There are always shelters and rescues that can use help. Volunteer at a cat rescue and give back to a cat that was not as fortunate as yours to have a forever home.
- Rescue a Cat that Needs a Loving Home – If you are a true cat lover, the time will most likely come when you will decide to bring another cat into your home. I have adopted my fair share of stray cats and they have made great decade long companions. Shelters and rescues are the perfect place to find a new “best friend”.
- Move Forward – Our cats are there for us unconditionally and they would not want us to be “stuck” as a result of their loss. Celebrate their life and move forward with your life.
How to Tell Kids About the Death of a Pet
Be truthful, but be respectful. Depending on the age of the child, they may not fully understand death. It is important for a child to understand that nothing they did caused the death of their cat. Let your child know that your cat is happy and free of pain.
Make sure that your child understands the difference between a “sleeping” cat and a cat that was “put to sleep”. Discussing the loss as a family can be helpful to your child. They can ask questions about the loss.
Keep in mind that we all grieve differently. Allow everyone to grieve at their own pace.
Will My Other Pets Grieve for the Loss?
Cat’s know when things in their home change. If they live several years with a companion, they will know that their “buddy” is gone. Having had more than one cat in my household on several occasions, cats know when that cat is gone. If the cat was taken to the vet and put to sleep, other cats may look for him throughout the house.
I have noticed that the remaining cats are kind of quiet for the next several days as they get used to the home with one less cat in it. Other pets in the home will feel the loss of their house mate. Your remaining pets may require more attention than usual. On the other hand, they may want more quiet time for a few days.
Since Mary passed away unexpectedly in our home, Boy and Pixie were there when it happened. And to add to the situation, Boy and Pixie were Mary’s children. These 3 cats spent 13 years together.
I think the first reaction I noticed from Boy and Mary was excitement and anger. Their “excitement” could be equated with denial. They were kind of running around in the area where Mary was lying sort of in disbelief. It seemed like they were trying to make sense of why she was not getting up.
I had just put 3 bowls of food down and normally all 3 of them were on it and eating very quickly. This night, Boy and Pixie did not care about eating. All they knew was something was different and they did not like it. They just kept looking at their lifeless “mom”.
Boy especially, was very angry for a few days. His mom was his best friend and they were inseparable. Her not being there was a big shock to him. Normally, Boy went out of his way to get attention. For a few days following Mary’s passing, Boy did not allow anyone to touch him.
For several days, both Mary and Pixie were quiet. I suspect this was the depression stage of grief. They spent a lot of time looking for Mary. There was a lot less activity than normal. Within a week, things slowly began to return to normal. Even a year later, it seemed like Boy and Pixie could still smell Mary’s scent in certain places.
When Should I Get a New Pet?
There is not necessarily a “right” time to get another pet. I think it is important to get through the grieving process for the lost pet. There is no sense of urgency to get another pet. I have found when the time is right, a new pet finds me.
Some say you should avoid getting a pet that looks exactly the same as the lost pet. I am not sure if this is true or not, but it is important to realize that no 2 pets will have the same personality even if they look exactly alike.
A new pet is a great way to give another animal a forever home. The choice to get a new pet should be made, when you are ready to move forward and build a relationship with another cat. Most of my cats were strays that needed a home. There are thousands of shelters and rescues out there looking for loving cat parents.
Grieving the loss of a pet is not easy or pleasant, but it is necessary for you to move on. Understanding the five steps of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance will help you get through the grieving process.
No two people grieve alike. And there really is no right or wrong way to get over the death of your cat. There are support groups that can help with getting over the loss of your cat. Celebrate your cat’s life and over time the pain of the loss will lessen.