There is a dichotomy between the way employers deal with bereavement concerning the passing of a relative and the passing of a cat despite the fact that for many people the death of a beloved cat companion is more painful than that of their parents or a sibling. There is often a disconnect between an employer’s attitude towards time off for bereavement over the death of a pet and the fact that they should be aware of the strong bond formed between human and animal companion especially in this more enlightened age. This difference in attitude is also reflected in the law in the UK. In the USA there are no federal laws concerning time off for bereavement on the passing of dependents.
It would seem that the law or attitudes amongst employers has not caught up with the simple fact that, for many people, the bond with their cat companion is stronger and more profound than their relationship with human family members and relatives. This certainly applies to me and I am sure that it applies to other people. And why not? When you think about it, it is perfectly normal and to be expected. Employers for some inexplicable reason don’t get it or they wish to ignore it but they do so at a risk to employee morale and satisfaction.
I’m still grieving the loss of a cat, Missie, who died in an accident in 1994. I can still cry over her death, 22 years later. Yet, when I cried at my mother’s passing I cried for myself and what I perceived as a lack of proper parenting which affected me. The passing of my father and mother, and indeed my sister quite recently, were nowhere near as painful, and the grieving nowhere as long-lasting, as the passing of any of my cats.
And yet if you were to ask your employer for a short spell of time off to deal with bereavement on the passing of your cat companion they would probably laugh at you. I would doubt that they would allow you any time off. I would doubt that you’d even ask them.
As for the law, in the UK employees have rights in this regard; they are allowed to take time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependent. Most employees have a statutory right to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off under the Employment Rights Act to allow them to deal with unexpected matters including emergencies involving a dependent. A dependent could be your husband, wife or civil partner, a child or a parent and indeed anybody else who lives in the same household but not a cat or dog.
The domestic cat is dependent upon his/her human caretaker. Our world is their world. There could not be a greater form of dependency in the family home. The bond is often more enduring, the relationship more profound and often longer lasting and more stable than between humans in a marriage or civil partnership.
This is why on the passing of a cat companion the devoted caretaker feels more emotional anguish and needs a longer period of grieving and bereavement than on the passing of a close relative. Obviously, this is not always the case but I sense very strongly that it often is. This should be recognised by the authorities and by employers.
A valued visitor to this website told me that if she was not allowed compassionate leave to deal with the passing of her beloved cat by her employer she would leave her employment. She feels that strongly about it. No doubt some employers will give time off under these circumstances but they will do so voluntarily and without an obligation under the law and I am sure that most employers, especially large companies, would not deal with pet bereavement sympathetically.
How strongly do feel about this aberration in both the law and the attitude of employers towards employees and their cats?