Losing a Cat is a Bereavement

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.

Cat death and bereavement

Poster by Ruth aka Kattaddorra

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.

Ruth aka Kattaddorra

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Comments

Losing a Cat is a Bereavement — 33 Comments

  1. A brilliant poster and article, R.
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried here at POC over the losses I’ve read.
    I don’t think other peop[le are intentionally unkind when they say those things that don’t help a bit. They just don’t get it.
    Of all the wrong things to say, I think “I know how you feel” is the better of the bad.
    I say this because of how I wept reading Marc’s memorial of Red. I felt as if I had lost Red too.
    But, maybe, it’s just POCers that really say, “I know how you feel”.

    • Yes it’s true Dee that at PoC we can honestly say ‘I know how you feel’
      I cry for others who have lost their cats too, Marc’s Red and Michael’s Binnie and Kylee’s Cassy all really touched me.
      and I cry at the sad stories I read about cats I don’t even know.
      I forgot to mention that there is no time limit for grieving either, some people can come to terms with it quickly but some take a long time, it was a whole year before I could accept my little Bryan had gone.
      I still feel sad at times thinking about all our cats we have had and lost, but the first raw grief and pain do fade a bit eventually.
      Also it helps some people to take in another cat straight away, where others can’t bear the thought of that until a long while later.

  2. Brilliant poster because it shows the right way for someone else to deal with a person’s loss and the wrong way. It’s quite hard to work that out and I think you’ve done a very good job in doing it right.

    I believe that all the other person can do is is to make it known that they are there to help and provide some comfort should the person doing the mourning request it. It’s about support at the instigation of the grieving person rather than getting advice about how to deal with it.

    In my experience, the months leading up to a cat’s death (if it is a terminal illness), the cat’s death and the months and years afterwards are the most emotional times in our relationship with our cat. It all has to be dealt with by the individual person in his or her own time and time does heal but it can be a hell of a long time. Time simply papers over the pain and puts the experience into a box but it does not remove the experience from our memory.

  3. Really good Ruth, you said it exactly. It is excruciating losing a cat, it’s every bit as painful as losing a human member of the family and in some ways it’s harder because people who are bereaved of a human are given a lot of help and comfort and everyone knows that grief takes a long time and comes in all forms. But loss of a pet, a cat or a dog or any other beloved animal is sometimes just not understood, anyone who hasn’t been through it can’t begin to imagine the pain and despair and self doubt that we’ve all gone through after a cat has died or had to be PTS. How well I remember the first nights of loss, one less supper to put out, one less beloved face to kiss goodnight, no warm body at the bottom of the bed. The awfulness of drawing the curtains for the night when one of the members of the family is gone, feeling as though we are closing them out. The sadness of shopping for food but not for the particular thing that the deceased cat loved. It goes on for a long time, there really is no comfort and the only healer is time which dulls the sharp pain of loss to a dull ache of resignation. The awfulest thing said to me after the loss of a cat was “Will you replace it?” it was a work colleague many years ago, I can remember being shocked and angry at her callousness and being quite sharp with her.

  4. Thanks so much for this article it helps with the passing of cassy. I know its only been a short period of time, but it so hard. Just wanted to show a pic of cassy when she was little about 3 months old.

    • ruth can believe that dr said that. Its so hard dealing with a loss as u think u are over it or are coping well. Then just seeing a comment on a pictures or remembering stuff and ur a mess again. Cassy only been gone two months and i miss her terribly dont know how im gonna cope 2 years from now. She was one of a kind. Im so thankful for the friendship of people are here.

      • Grief is like the sea, it comes in waves and you feel you can’t bear it, then it recedes a bit, but it’s always there in the background, although bearable. But even years later a little thing can remind you and it hits you again.

        • That’s it exactly Ruth, grief IS like the sea, sometimes it swells over you and overwhelms you, sometimes you can bear to put your toes in the shallows and remember and smile, so well put!

  5. ive found it hard to replace cassy just dont think im ready for it just yet. Id like to but with current situiton i want to be at a stable situiton.

    • You can’t replace her Kylee, Cassy was unique. You can only, when the time is right, give another unique cat a home in her honour.

  6. Some comments on this link on facebook which show how insensitive some people can be:

    “It’s just a stupid cat, get over it”. Even though she apologized, her words will never be forgotten.
    “You’re crying over a cat?” Non-pet people do not realise, it is just as difficult to lose a cat friend as it is to lose a human friend. Sometimes I grieve more for a cat. Cats give unconditional love; humans, not so much.

  7. PoC really helped me when I lost Red – and so did having Lilly around. So does having Molly. But it’s still very hard.

    • Yea thats for sure. Poc has been majaroly wonderful to helping me move forward and the friends ive met here i can can call friends 🙂 They other animals have helped as well i guess it just takes time.

  8. Another comment:
    ‘For Gods sake, children are dying every day and yet you cry over an animal’
    What a very cruel thing to say!

    • Yes, cruel, a life is a life and of course we feel our own loss more keenly than when we hear about sad things happening in the world, there isn’t a limit on sadness or compassion, however much we need there is always more there.

      • Yes Dee lol People don’t like to have a dose of home truth but tough, because if they deserve it they get it! 😉

  9. I just came across this lovely poem that someone sent to me when Felix died in 1997, it made me cry then and it still does now, there are so many memories of precious cats…

    I shall walk in the sun above, whose golden light you loved
    I shall sleep alone and, stirring touch an empty place
    I shall write uninterrupted
    Would that your gentle paw could stir my moving pen once again
    I shall see beauty, but none to match your living grace
    I shall hear music but none so sweet as the droning song with which you loved me
    I shall fill my days but I shall not, can not, forget
    Sleep soft dear friend, for while I live you shall not die.

    Anon.

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