How To Cope With Losing A Cat

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It never gets easier.

It hurts, every time.

No matter how many cats I had to let go, no matter the circumstances.

Loosing a family member always hurts.

And they all, every single one have a special place in our home and hearts.

Forever.

The most recent cat we had to let go was Flecki, our gorgeous grey and white tom who adored children and unfortunately was also very nosy. He just loved walking into neighbours houses and jumping into cars.

That’s how we lost him in February.

We desperately searched for him everywhere but with no success. At one point he was thought to be seen roaming in town, but even with driving around and constantly calling his name we were not able to find him.

And then the terrible news.

A cat with his unusual amazing markings was found just around the corner
of our house, hit by a car.

Flecki had almost made it home.

Even if our cats live into their late teens or even their twenties, it is never long enough. And the price we have to pay sooner or later is the pain of loss which can be devastating. While others may not understand the depth of the pain, for many of us our pet is not “just a cat” but a part of our family.

We form a strong bond with our cat and the feelings we experience when we loose them can be compared to loosing a child but is not recognized by society.

It is important to acknowledge that loosing a cat is difficult and feelings of grief are a natural thing.

There are a few tools which may help you along the way and accompany you in your grieving time, so you get through the process easier and are able to move on in time.

Don’t Ignore Your Pain

For real healing it is necessary to admit to the pain and face the emotions arising. If you bottle up your feelings and try to ignore the grieving pain, it will catch up with you later. An aching heart for your pet is not a weakness but a very natural reaction for a compassionate human.

Don’t try to hide it, but maybe find an outlet, helping you cope. Writing about it, talking to people who can empathize with your situation are only a few ideas. You will know best which approach suits you most but it is a great way to express your feelings.

Don’t Be Afraid Or Ashamed To Grieve

Our cats are not only pets but part of the family. They entertain us, they comfort us, they make us laugh, they keep us warm, they annoy us… yup family member. So don’t let anybody tell you that it is “ridiculous” or “silly” to be heartbroken.

To feel pain is normal, so it is the best to stay away from people who can not understand where you are standing right now. They would not tell you to “just get over it” if it would concern a child or partner.

Allow yourself to give into this emotion of sadness and loss. It is natural, don’t judge yourself.

Take Your Time

Grieving doesn’t happen over night, it can’t be hurried or forced. It is an individual process, it can take days, weeks or even longer, there is no grieving timetable. When we lost our Hexi, in October 2014, we shed tears for weeks.

The active grieving process took months and we still miss her terribly. She was the most loving and friendly cat, and the fact that she was taken from us and had to die a horrific death didn’t make it easier. Even today we still miss her badly.

With our Flecki it took shorter, maybe as we lost quite a few cats over the years. But we still miss him very much. Especially my daughter, as they had a very special and close bond.

So don’t rush yourself, let the natural process take as long as it needs so your heart can heal properly and you will be able to move on in time.

Rituals Can Help The Healing Process

Personally, I am a very sensitive person and my “family” is myeverything. So whenever we lost one of our very dear cats, we always make sure to keep them alive in our memory. With Hexi for instance we put up a little ‘remembrance frame’ on the wall so she will never be forgotten.

I even purchased a small silver pendant which I wore every day for a very long time. Even today in moments when I really miss her, I will wear it. Grieving is an individual experience and our fireplace is decorated with purrfect pictures of cats we have lost over the years.

Reach Out To Others Who Lost Their Pet

While grieving, I was lucky to be introduced by a good friend to a Facebook site which turned out to be a great support for me in that difficult time.

The Ralph Site. This place is all about connecting people who have lost their pets. When I joined the page about Hexi I felt comforted in so many ways and most importantly taken serious in my pain. Surrounding yourself with people who not only understand what you are going through but also offer you the compassion and empathy you need in that time, can do wonders to healing.

The internet is full of wonderful sites like that. Why not give them a try?

Helping Kids To Grieve

With all our own pain it’s important not to forget that our kids are even more vulnerable and sensitive, especially when it concerns their “own” pet. Hexi was a real affectionate cat and was also very close to my daughter. It was very painful for my girl. At that time she had an amazing teacher and (thankfully) also a cat lover which is NOT usual where we live. So the teacher took care of my daughter, talked with her about it and allowed her to grieve that day. After school my daughter returned home with a lovely picture which is still on our kitchen wall.

When Flecksi died it was especially hard for her, him being HER cat. As before I told her that it is ok to be upset in school and to be sad about it and that no one has the right to tell her how to feel. Luckily, her best friend comforted her the day and once again she drew a picture for Flecksi and we took some time to cry and grieve together.

There are many other ways of coping with loss but then the most important thing is to know that feeling sad, lonely and wanting to hide under a thick blanket for a while is a natural reaction to the loss of a beloved pet. Exhibiting these feelings do NOT make you weak, but a strong person, so don’t feel ashamed.

Take the time to mourn your beloved pet and grieve the loss of your cat. And after a while there is always ONE fantastic healing tool, which I always recommend.

Giving another homeless cat a loving home. It may take a while and only you will know when you feel emotionally open and ready for a new pet. With Hexi it took quite a while to be able to adopt another cat but then Flecksi appeared at our doorstep and we felt we were ready to give another lonely cat a new home.

Especially as my daughter was missing the company of a cat in her bed at night. I personally feel very strong about cats especially in Ireland, where these magnificent creatures are not respected and are mostly considered as vermin.

Spaying/neutering is unfortunately not something most people would consider, especially in the countryside where we live. So I try to make space as much as we can for other love-craving felines.There is truth in the saying: The best remedy for a broken heart is a kitten/cat.

To summarize this painful experience of loosing a beloved cat, I just want to emphasize again that it is a natural thing to feel pain for the loss of your cat. That grieving is a process to be taken seriously, as cat lovers are the most sensitive and compassionate people out there. There is no such thing as “just” a cat, or “just a pet”, they are part of our family and we do not love them less.

Christine Klein
Purrfect Cat Tales

7 thoughts on “How To Cope With Losing A Cat

  1. Robert Fitzsimons

    I cannot believe how your message was so damned accurate. I wish I had access to it a week ago. It would have given me a quicker chance to begin my healing process.

    We just lost our 12 year old tabby cat—” Brittney”… over this past week due to cancer. I had no idea what grieving really meant. There was a brief moment that I wanted to join her in her trip to kitty heaven.

    I had decided we were to move on without another “tabby cat” (our fourth one) but my wife quickly out voted me and so we are beginning our search for another very special soul mate for my family and myself.Thanks for your message.

    Reply
  2. April Denise Ponsford

    Looking up on how to cope with the lose of a cat , I came across your story of Hexi and Flecki, it was so sweet and at the same time so sad. I really hope that you and your family have overcome your lose and perhaps have now opened up your hearts to another furry friend.
    In october 2016, driving back home one evening, a very tiny tricoloured stray kitten crossed right in front of me, I immediately pulled over, picked her up and brouht her home. And right from day one , she was a bundle of fun, we loved her straight away. We had three other cats at the time. Coco , Pipa and Diego, and a daily visit from the neigbours dog Robby. I wasnt sure they would accept another cat in the family. Pipa didnt take too kindly to her but Coco and Diego being neutered toms, just didnt take any notice. We called her Luna and what a loving and affectionate cat she was.
    We have been living in a village near Seville, Spain, for many years now and have a huge garden and a field nearby that my cats have access to, but Luna was always at home, wherever I was, she was. She would sit on her mat in the kitchen for hours just watching me washing up or preparing food, then cuddle up to us on the settee in the evening. She also kept us company. There were a few occasions when my husband and I felt very lonely, especially when our daughter left home, there was a sudden emptiness in the house which affected us both, but having Luna around almost 24h a day, somehow helped ease that ¨empty nest feeling¨. During the lockdown of this year, when we were confined to our homes for two months, without being able to see our daughter or baby granddaughter, was another unpleasent experience that we had to go through. But I looked at Luna and the other cats and the neighbours dog and thanked them for being there and part of us and for keeping us company.
    But this dreadful and fateful day just had to come. It was Sunday, 2nd of August and an extremely hot day, 40c. I gave Luna her breakfast that morning then she went out into the garden, but I didnt see her for the rest of the afternoon, which was very unusual but being such a hot day I just thought she was sleeping somewhere near the house in the shade. Then later that evening she appeared looking very disorientated and distressed and to my horror I saw a wire tied round her neck. It was a ¨rabbit trap¨, how she ecaped from it was a miracle. We hadnt noticed any apparent damage so we kept her calm and comfortable that night hoping she would be her usual self again the following day, but it was quite the opposite.
    She hadnt drunk or eaten anything, she was in exactly the same position we left her in the night before and her breathing was heavy and fast. without hesitating, we took her to the vet. She had a blood test and an x-ray which didnt look too good, there was nothing broken but there was obviously some internal damage. they gave her a cortisone injection and some supplementary food to open up her appetite and said that she seemed distressed more than anything and that her recovery would take time. But we saw no improvment in those next two days, so I took her to another vet for a second opinion but all in vain, as they said and did more or less the same thing. So all I could do was keep her comfortable and feed her through a syringe with her medication and just hope for the best . But she just got worse and worse, I felt helpless and very worried that I was losing her.
    She died six days later. I was completely heartbroken and still am, even though it happened over a month ago. I had hope that she would recover those first few days and I keep asking myself the same question over and over again….Why didnt I do this and I should have done that and why couldnt neither vets save her?
    I miss her so much. We all do. This is all so painful and I cant believe she´s gone. I keep thinking she will appear at any moment through the kitchn door or she will jump up on my bed and wake me up in the morning or she will be waiting for me at the gate when I come home. I see her everywhere.
    She kept us company, she made us smile and we are so happy that she was part of our family. She had a good life with us although it was only a brief four years. She will always be in our hearts.
    I truly hope you get to read my experience or anyone out there who will understand just how I feel at this moment and would appreciate a little reply which would make me feel a tiny bit better.

    Reply
    1. Cara Hindes

      Hi April,
      You describe exactly how I feel at this moment. Yesterday, March 18 2021, I held my precious Ladi in my arms as the vet put her to sleep for the last time. I know it was the right thing to do, she had skin cancer. It started on her nose, which we cut out in June but too late – the wound slowly festered and by September it was clear tumors were growing again. When she could no longer eat unassisted it was obvious it was time. I’m glad she’s no longer in pain but as I felt the life leave her too thin body, it’s like I was plunging a knife into my own heart and cutting out a piece which will always be buried with her. I know the pain will lessen over time… and that thought makes it hurt worse. I don’t want to forget all the little sounds she would make to get my attention, how she would purr beside me as I played the piano, or sit stubbornly on my palette just when I wanted to paint. I don’t want only fading memories, I just want her back… but today I started a group album with my family where we’re compiling every photo and video of her we can find. It’s not enough, but somehow doing it helped to ease the burning grief – at least she will still ‘exist’ somewhere outside of our hearts once our memories begin to fade.
      She was with us for 13 years, but she had my whole heart from day 1 anyway, so I don’t think the length of time matters – it’s never enough. The worst part is, in my story I am the daughter who left home. I could still see her regularly since I got married 5 years ago, but with the lockdown this cancer couldn’t have happened at a worse time. I keep thinking if I could have been there, maybe I would have noticed the problem sooner and maybe she would still be here. I’m sure I will be visiting my parents house in years to come and somehow expecting to find her there, still sleeping in my childhood room, or waiting on the stairs to be taken on a walk around the garden.
      While nothing can make it better, I’m glad I came across your story – reading it made me feel less alone. I hope writing this can help you, and anyone else who is in the same place, to experience a similar sense of connection. I think the pain is a tribute to how much they meant to us, and I for one know I could never be sorry to have known her. I will take the lessons she taught me and maybe one day those lessons can save a life.
      In Afrikaans we would say “sterkte” (strength) for what you are going through. My thoughts are with you.

      Reply
      1. April

        Hello Cara,
        I have just read your story of the loss of your little cat “Ladi”. I am so sorry to hear this. I can not imagine just how difficult and distressing it must have been to make the decision to put her to sleep, but if she was suffering, it was probably for the best.
        It is hard to come to terms with the fact that our beloved pets are no longer with us. There is not one day that goes by that I don’t think of my sweet little “Luna”. So young and so healthy and yet she suffered such a deplorable death. A big chunk of my heart went with her the day she died.
        There is nothing I can say to make you feel better, except try to keep yourself occupied as much as possible and continue with your group album. As you say, it won’t bring her back but it will make you feel that she is still present and part of your life. I’m sure “Ladi” had a good life with you and your family before she became ill and I sense that there was a strong bond between you both, so there will always be good, intense memories, not fading ones.
        Thank you Cara for sharing your story and your thoughts. It’s not easy telling people our feelings when it concerns our pets, because the majority just wouldn’t understand. That’s why I chose to write my story knowing that there are people out there, like yourself, that do understand and find it a little comforting sharing their experiences and feelings.
        My thoughts are with you, too.
        Take care…

        Reply
        1. Lloyd Hlavac

          April and Cara, if you see this, yes there are others such as me who know exactly the pain you are going through, as I am going through it myself right now after the loss of my sweet cat Abby on July 23, 2021. I had to have her euthanized after she suffered a blood clot that paralyzed her back legs. 24 hours of vet care didn’t help her, so it was the only choice left. And of course I was with her to the very end, and brought her home, her forever home, for burial in my backyard. I cried like a baby, and still tear up daily nearly 4 weeks later. She was a beautiful swirl patterned tabby, a stray who showed up at my house over 9 years ago, and jumped right up into my lap the first night we met as I sat in my van in my driveway when I got home from work. I’ve had 3 cats in the past, and had been without a cat for 16 years, and didn’t want another because of this sort of pain, grief and heartache I am feeling now, so I tried to ignore Abby. She ended up at a neighbor couple’s house, where they fed her and gave her a place to sleep outside in their carport. But they already had an indoor cat, and didn’t want another, so hoped they could find someone to adopt her. This went on for months, and during that time Abby would come visit me at my house most days for some love and attention, and play a little bit, even though I didn’t feed her. But then 2 more strays showed up at the neighbor’s house, and Abby didn’t like it, so stayed away from them. Just before Thanksgiving here in the US (late Nov) 2012, I noticed a spot in the mulch behind some bushes, up against the front of my house, that looked like an animal had been sleeping there. I checked later that night, and sure enough it was Abby who was sleeping there! Well that did it. My heart melted at that sight, and within days Abby was living full time at my house, her new forever home. She stayed a mostly outside cat the entire time she was here, but she seemed to prefer it that way, and never really roamed once she was here. A vet estimated at the time Abby first showed up that she was 2 or 3 years old. She looked well fed, and had already been spade, so I always wondered if someone just dumped her. Over the years she had many health issues (hyperthyroid, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure, arthritis in her spine, and some others), and eventually needed daily medications, but we managed together. I always expected her to gradually fade in time from her health issues, but on July 19th 2021 she had a checkup at her vet, and the only thing really amiss was that her blood pressure was still pretty high (she was on meds for that), so Abby’s vet had me increase the dosage. Other than that, Abby seemed in pretty good shape, and we even made an appointment for 3 weeks later to recheck her BP. But then the morning of July 22 2021 I got up to see Abby lying down in my backyard, about 10 feet from the door, instead of at the door meowing to come in for her breakfast. I thought this was odd, so I went out to check on her, and when I did she looked up at me, meowed her regular meow, and then attempted to pull herself along the ground using just her front paws, dragging her back end and legs behind her. I knew immediately what it was, a saddle thrombosis, a blood clot that lodges in the fork of an artery that goes down both back legs, as I had heard of this before happening to cats. In fact an internet friend had it happen to one of her cats just a few years ago and had to have her cat immediately euthanized, as it was in pain, something that Abby thankfully never seemed to feel. Cats almost never recover from it, so I instantly cried out “No, no, no!” as I knew right then is was the beginning of the end for Abby. I got her to the vet as fast as I could, but despite doing all they could for 24 hours, as I said, it didn’t help. I was never expecting it to end this way, so soon, too soon, so suddenly. And like you, I feel like a part of me died with her. She was such a sweetheart. She also came into my life at a time I was stressed out from helping to care for my elderly mom who was suffering from dementia. I don’t know where Abby came from, but it’s like she showed up knowing I needed a cat, even though I didn’t want one, and I will be forever grateful that she did. In her memory I am wearing her last collar and name tag, a little purple heart, around my wrist like a bracelet. I told her the day she moved here forever, that some day she would break my heart, and that day finally arrived, but she will also be forever in my heart, my sweetie, my buddy, my good girl, Abby. Someone I know posted a link to this site in a group I post in, and I am glad they did. Yes, I know how you feel, because that is how I feel.

          Reply
  3. Roger

    Thank you much for sharing as we lost our beloved Murphy today, your stories truly help us grieve for our old friend.

    Reply

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