How Do I Cope With The Loss Of My Cat?


Cats are wonderful companions and have many attributes: they are independent, clean, low maintenance, quiet, playful, good with kids, and cuddly. Furthermore, cats can live on average into their mid to late teens, so they can be with us for a long time; allowing us to build strong bonds. 

The many attributes and their longevity makes losing a cat heartbreaking. Therefore it is normal to feel a void in your life and heart when they pass away.

How to cope with the loss of your cat? 

  • Acknowledge your grief
  • Look after yourself
  • Accept what has happened
  • Take time to grieve
  • Celebrate your cats’ life
  • Do something symbolic

Below I describe each step in more depth and provide ideas on what you can do to help with each step. 

I also describe what you can do if you are a senior citizen, or someone wanting to help a senior citizen, or a parent wanting to help a child deal with the loss of a cat.

Acknowledge Your Grief

Photo by Ben White 

Everybody experiences grief differently. There are people that grieve in stages, having feelings such as anger, denial, guilt, depression, and eventually acceptance and resolution. Others, experience grief in wave cycles with very low moments followed by flat or even high moments. 

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

Vicki Harrison

The length of grief also varies from person to person. Some people grieve for weeks, others months and some will grieve for years.

To acknowledge your grief, let yourself cry when you need it, allow yourself to shout when you need it, and talk, talk, talk. 

Talking to those close to you, a professional therapist, or an agency dedicated to listening to those grieving, should help you avoid bottling up your feelings.

This is important because, bottling up the overwhelming feelings that you will experience at one point or another while grieving, may send you into a path of depression, anxiety, drug abuse and/or health problems.

Acknowledging your grief doesn’t make you any less strong, but instead allows you to gain a balance, and that is the end goal. To balance your life again and learn to live on a day to day basis without your beloved cat.

Look After Yourself

Allowing yourself to grieve is paramount in order to eventually accept what is. However; active, healthy grieving requires balance:

  • Balance in the time you spend acknowledging your grief with the time you spend coping with your day-to-day life; 
  • Balance in your alone time with the time you spend with others, and 
  • Balance in your self-care, such as the time you spend sleeping or exercising. 

Focusing too strongly on any single side of these, and you may harm your physical and mental health.

So make sure you sleep, exercise, eat well, maintain a routine, give yourself a break from grieving and seek help when you feel you are not coping.

We have written an article on 12 self-care essentials while grieving the loss of a pet. This article may help you achieve balance on your physical and mental health while dealing with the loss of your cat.

Do Not Let Others Tell You How To Feel

There are people that may have comments such as “but it was just a cat”, “you can get another one”, “you need to move on”. 

These people may make you feel judged and/or embarrassed for showing or expressing you are grieving. 

They do not understand what you are going through, most likely because they have never experienced it themselves.

Keep away from these people. They will only make you feel worse. Instead, surround yourself with people that understand your grief.

Attend grieving meetings, seek friends and/or family members that have gone through it, or at least seek people that are open to the idea that grieving your lost pet is as normal as grieving a human companion.

Do not let people tell you how you should feel. Your grief is your own, and no one should be allowed to tell you: the length grief should last, nor when it is time “to move on” .

Accept What Has Happened

This is easier said than done. You may find yourself trying to figure out what you could have done differently to prevent the death of your cat, or you may find yourself trying to figure out how you could have given him/her an even better life, or what you could have said or not said.

These thoughts are destructive and unhelpful. Accepting your new reality does not mean you love your cat less, or that you have to forget them, it simply means that you are fulfilling the wishes of your companion and best friend, you are “carrying on” with your life until you see them again.

Take Time To Grieve

In a time when life moves very quickly and everyone is so busy, finding time to grieve may not be easy.

However, taking the time to acknowledge your grief, to accept your new reality, to take care of yourself, will help you achieve a balance in life again.

To take time to grief try:

  • Seeing friends or family that understand and are sympathetic to your feelings. Talking about what you are going through will help you deal with your grief.
  • Take some time during the day to sit down with a cup of herbal tea and some music. This is the perfect opportunity to do what you have tried to suppress all day: cry, laugh, shout. There is no right or wrong action here. Simply take the time to acknowledge your grief. Avoid using alcohol, drugs or even caffeine. These will not help you deal with the overwhelming sensation you are feeling at the moment. They may make you feel worse.

There is not a timeline for grieving. Everyone experiences this differently. Some people’s grief may last a few weeks, some a few months some years.

However you need to take the time to grieve the loss of your cat, ensure this is done with balance, but most importantly, ensure it is done.

Celebrate Your Cats Life

Sometimes we can get stuck on the negative side of grief, we may concentrate all our energy in the pain we feel for the loss we experienced. But, our furry friends gave us a wonderful gift. They gave us loads and loads of memories, wonderful times and enjoyment.

Why instead of concentrating on the tumultuous time you are experiencing right now, you concentrate on the wonderful gift they gave you.

Why not put together a scrapbook with pictures of your furry friend with you and your family. This may help you reminisce about the great times you all had together, or try a journal with all the mischief they cause. This may make you laugh.

Whatever you choose; it is about celebrating the time they had with you, and the great life you gave them.

Do Something Symbolic

Giving back in memory of your cat to an animal shelter or other organization, lighting a special candle or adding a photo and story of your pet to a virtual cemetery is a way to memorialize your beloved cat, and to help healing.

Grieving and accepting the loss of your cat can be overwhelming, stressful and very emotional. 

Therefore to cope with the loss of your cat ensure you acknowledge your grief, take care of yourself and take time to grieve.

If you feel you need to talk, but those around you do not understand your grief. Contact the agencies dedicated to helping people going through grief.

If you are in a country that is not the UK, USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, and do not have the energy to search for the helpline, drop me a line below and I will try and find this for you.

How To Cope With The Death Of My Cat As A Senior Person

As we get older we experience the loss of family members, such as parents and spouses, close friends, and/or siblings to death. In addition, in general, children would have moved out of the home. 

These changes leave us alone with our pets being our only companions, this aids to solidify an even deeper bond with our pets.

With so much lost and without the routine of a job, or the opportunity to socialize in a workplace, a senior citizen may feel more isolated and despair for the loss of a cat putting them at higher risk of falling into depression or anxiety.

To avoid entering a path of depression or anxiety try:

  • To continue your social life – Face to face interaction will help you stay positive. Go for walks daily. This will keep you active, which in turn will boost your vitality and increase your energy level, coupled with allowing you to meet new people. Or take a neighbour or a friend out for a coffee or lunch, or join a social club. Any of these activities will allow you to meet new people and will keep you busy.
  • Find a new meaning to life – If caring for your pet previously occupied your time and gave you a sense of fulfillment, why not try to give that love to another animal in need by volunteering at a pet shelter. 

Avoid getting a new pet straight away to fill the void left by your departed companion. This will not help and may make you feel resentful to the new pet. The bond and relationship you have with a pet cannot be duplicated. They are all different, so do not fall into the trap of thinking that if you get a new pet things will go back to how they were.

If you are a family member or a friend of a senior citizen dealing with the loss of their cat, then provide a listening ear, be patient and available to talk, and lend a helping hand with the cremation and burial of the cat and afterwards until the senior is back on his/her feet.

Grieving and accepting the loss of your cat can be overwhelming, stressful and very emotional. 

Therefore to cope with the loss of your cat ensure you acknowledge your grief, take care of yourself and take time to grieve.

If you feel you need to talk, but those around you do not understand your grief. Contact the agencies dedicated to helping people going through grief.

If you are in a country that is not the UK, USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, and do not have the energy to search for the helpline, drop me a line below and I will try and find this for you.

Helping Children Cope with The Death Of A Cat

Photo by Jordan Whitt

Children are more resilient than we give them credit for. Many parents try and protect their kids by not talking about death. So when the child asks for their cat, we may tell them that the cat “went to sleep”, or that it “ran away”.

The problem is that these words can leave the child confused or scared. In turn, these feelings can lead to anger.

For example, if the cat “went to sleep” the child may feel scared to go to sleep in case he/she doesn’t wake up themselves, or scared that you go to sleep in case you do not wake up again. If the excuse is that the cat “ran away”, the child may find themselves looking for the lost cat, or wondering what they did wrong for their beloved cat to run away.

It is worth remembering that for some children, having that cat by their side is all they know. Thus not letting them grieve, or saying goodbye won’t allow the child to move forward.

As a parent, I made the mistake to tell my daughter that Pancho “went to sleep”. She was only 2 years old when he died. I thought I was protecting her from the cruelty of death. However, 1.5 years after his death, and she stills looks for him. Or grabs a ball and calls him to give him the ball. 

Since researching for this article I now understand where I went wrong, and why in her mind he is still around. I wasn’t honest with her. I didn’t let her say goodbye. 

I can not change what I have done, and in the last couple of weeks I have told her that he is dead. Even at her young age, she has taken it well and has stopped looking for him. I am unsure how much she understands, I have never gone into depth of what happened to him with her, but by telling her that he is dead and will never come back has eased her urge for looking for him.  

As a parent and after seeing what I have seen with my daughter, even at her young age, I now believe that honesty is the best policy.

Some believe that allowing the child to see the pet be euthanized will allow them to have closure. This is a personal decision and only you will know how they will react to this.

I do not believe children need to see their pet dying or dead to have closure, instead allow them to be part of the memorial you create for your pet, allow them to see your grief so they see that grieving is a normal stage of pet loss and learn how to deal with it themselves, and allow them to talk about it. Remember, be honest, they can cope with that.

Conclusion

Grieving and accepting the loss of your cat can be overwhelming, stressful and very emotional. 

Therefore to cope with the loss of your cat ensure you acknowledge your grief, take care of yourself and take time to grieve.

Take as long as you need and do not let anyone tell you when its time to “move on”.

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