2 reasons why it hurts more when your cat dies compared to a close relative

There are 2 reasons why it is not uncommon for cat owners to feel more distress and emotional hurt when their cat passes over the rainbow bridge than when relatives die including parents or a husband or wife. This is not a universal formula but I think it will be true on many occasions. This is a cross-post as it is a nice and I think revealing topic (click for earlier post).

Missie who I loved. She died in 1994. I have her ashes.
Missie who I loved. She died in 1994. I have her ashes. Image: MikeB
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

But the most hurt that a person feels when somebody close to them dies is when a parent loses their child. It is perhaps the ultimate pain from the loss of a close one. And without being flippant but in fact being deadly serious, I think that there might be a similarity for a parent on the loss of their child to the loss of their beloved cat companion.

Richard Coles.
Richard Coles. Image by MikeB from a picture in the public domain as assessed.

And the idea for this, I must admit, comes from Richard Coles writing for The Sunday Times today. He burst into tears when he had left his elderly, female dog, a dachshund, at his veterinarian to have their teeth cleaned. It meant putting Daisy under general anaesthetic which risked the dog’s life. He was fearful of losing her.

On the way home without Daisy, he turned around thinking that she was still in the car. On seeing she wasn’t there he burst into tears because her absence brought home to him how much she meant to him and how much he will feel her loss.

And the reason as elucidated by Richard Coles is this: cats and dogs live their whole lives through their human caregiver. Their whole life is part of their caregiver’s life. It is as if their life is encapsulated within the owner’s. And the same applies to children until they become emotionally independent. Humans create the environment in which their pet lives.

And when a beloved cat dies a part of that person departs with them. The loss to the cat owner is a loss of part of their life. The same cannot be said about losing a relative. This is not to belittle relatives. Under normal circumstances – there are exceptions – humans have their own lives. They are not wholly dependent upon another person. You can’t fit a human’s life into the life of another human as is the case with a companion animal.

And therefore, when a human passes it isn’t quite so painful. Of course, this is not a strict formula. The other reason why, sometimes, people are hurt more when their pet dies than e.g., when their mother or father dies is because they love their pet more than their father or mother!

And the same can be said about other relatives. This is because there is a deeper bond. It is not uncommon for people to form a deeper bond with an animal than with another human even if that human is a blood relative.

And there are all kinds of reasons for that one of which is that a companion animal’s love for their caregiver is unconditional. The dog looks up to their caregiver as the alpha leader of the pack. That’s an automatically created close bond. The cat looks to their owner as a surrogate mother normally. The provider of security, warmth (both emotional and physical) and food. Once again you won’t get a closer bond than kitten to mother which in effect is the relationship between adult cat and human caregiver.

These are the two reasons why it hurts more when your cat dies then when a relative dies. But the greater of these two is the first: the life of a cat is lived within the life of their human caregiver.

And this is exactly what happened to me when I lost a female cat who I loved dearly when she was four years of age. Still quite young. Her death was my fault. She was run over on a road. I found her and buried her and then cremated her. She is still with me in the form of her ashes. The picture of her is on this page.

I’ve not loved any sentient being as much as I loved her. I still do and I still cry for her.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

5 thoughts on “2 reasons why it hurts more when your cat dies compared to a close relative”

  1. An important article!

    “I think that there might be a similarity for a parent on the loss of their child to the loss of their beloved cat companion”.

    It’s not “there might be”. It’s there is!

    If an employer didn’t give me time off after losing a cherished pet, who I loved as a child, I would take the time off sick, because I would be ill for weeks after. Indeed, in the case of a traumatic loss, some people would need months or even a year off work.

    1. For example, I am still in deep grief for my beloved cat FELIX to who tragically as suffered and died 8 months ago now. In fact, I have moderate PTSD.

        1. Sorry to hear that, Mike. My Mum had our family cats put down without telling me. They weren’t even chronically ill, but we had just lost my Dad to Cancer at 53

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