The saddest part of being a cat caretaker is when we have to say goodbye. No matter how long we have our cats around us, it’s never long enough and each and every cat is special and irreplaceable to us.
To some people who don’t love cats like we do, the loss is not very important, they think we make a fuss about very little, they may pretend to be sympathetic but they often make us feel even worse.
I remember that happening to me when losing Bryan, not that long after our much loved mother. Both died of cancer, the difference was that we were able to spare Bryan the pain and distress our mother suffered, he was put gently to sleep. He had been my rock after we lost our mother, my constant companion and shadow, depression hit me again but all our GP said to me was: ‘Well cats don’t live long do they?’
I could have just done with a few words of comfort from him, he made me feel I was dramatizing my loss. My dear sister, Barbara and I, of course have had each other for comfort through the loss of all our much loved people and pets, we are very lucky in that.
I think it’s even harder to come to terms with when we have had a cat PTS, even though it was the kindest thing to do, the guilt is there because we are the one to decide to end their life. We have only had two cats die naturally of old age and Popsy who died suddenly far too young. All our other cats have had to be PTS.
It’s very tempting to say to someone who has just lost a cat: ‘I know how you feel’. And I have been guilty of saying that myself. We do know how they feel but it doesn’t help them because they feel that no one else can feel as bad as they do.
‘She wouldn’t want you to be sad’, ‘She won’t be able to rest in peace while you are grieving’, ‘Why not get another cat?’, ‘She was old wasn’t she?,’ ‘She’s gone to a better place’, ‘It was her time to go’, ‘Be strong’. None of those words help!
‘I’m so sorry for your loss’, ‘Cry if you want to’, ‘It’s very hard losing a much loved cat’, ‘I am here for you if you need me’, ‘You will be in my thoughts and prayers’. Those words may show that we care, but nothing can really help.
It’s impossible to comfort someone bereaved, only time can do that, when the pain subsides and acceptance sets in. We never get over a loss, we just eventually get used to it.
Apart from Barbara and her late husband John helping me in my grief for Bryan, the most comfort I had was from a friend in Wales, I wrote to tell her the sad news, she phoned and told me she was crying with me. It felt like she truly cared.
Sometimes when words can’t be found, a few tears with the person who has lost their cat, or a silent hug, can help. The saying ‘better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’ is very true and we have to know loss and sadness, to be able to appreciate happiness. But it’s very hard.
Personally I sometimes feel my heart can’t hold much more grief and sadness and I have to remind myself to treasure every moment of happiness while I can.