It never gets easier.
It hurts every time.
No matter how many cats I had to let go of, no matter the circumstances.
Losing a family member always hurts.
And they all, every single one, have a special place in our homes and hearts.
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 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 overnight; 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 my everything. So whenever we lose one of our very dear cats, we always 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. 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.
Purrfect Cat Tales