When Your Cat Dies

It's unfortunate, but pets have a much shorter life span than humans. Learning to deal with the grief of their loss can be insurmountable for some people, and others bounce back quickly, often bringing a new pet into the home quickly.

True animal lovers usually keep pets their entire lives and may keep many through the years. For some, one at a time is enough, and for others, housing multiple pets is most satisfying.

Occasionally someone "needs more time" between pets, and others never take the plunge again. The heartache can be too much for some, and for others, that kind of heartache can best be healed by caring for another pet right away.

I'm in the latter category, finding a new cat as quickly as possible when one dies. I have found that my sorrow heals faster when I immerse myself in the care of another needy soul that otherwise might die, despite being young and healthy.

I guess it's the rescuer in me. I can't stand the idea that another cat could die simply because she's an "extra mouth to feed" at a shelter or pound and will have to relinquish her life for no good reason.

A good book on the subject, Recover From the Grief of Pet Loss, can help a lot of us to understand the dynamics of our loss and to move on.

Whenever someone calls me at the shelter, looking to "replace" a lost pet, I always recommend they first find closure with the one they've just lost. This may be especially important to the children in your home. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Remember. Kitty was a valued member of the household, and it's not "silly" to mourn for a while. Spend some time talking about the fun you had with the cat. Look at pictures of him if you have them, perhaps assembling a scrap book. Hang a "portrait" on a wall, even if the kids have to draw one.

  • Hold a memorial service or a funeral. This can be a simple get together with family members or a few friends, gathering in the yard or the kitchen, and sharing a refreshment as you remember the good times. Or, you can go all out with a structured event, complete with singing hymns and delivering eulogies, with music in the background.

  • Burial can take many forms, from an actual grave in the back yard, to being cremated, or to letting your vet dispose of the body.

    Another form of "burial" is the virtual kind. Send your cat to the Virtual Pet Cemetery on the Internet. For a small fee, your cat will live on forever in cyberspace, with an epitaph and a photo, on this wonderful web site. I have two cats there myself, and it's kind of calming to go look at them now and then.

Now that I have come to terms with the certainty of death, I feel I am better equipped to deal with each cat's departure and then quickly integrate another cat into my home. They always seem grateful, and that's reward enough.

If you'd like to read my story about my Miss Kitty, who died on Christmas morning, 2005, I put it HERE.

NOTE: All my links open in new windows so you never lose your place while you are here. Just close the new window when you are finished and you will find yourself back where you were when you clicked on the link.

Copyright 2013 - RJ Peters 
Dr. R.J. Peters, a retired physician, established an animal rescue shelter in 2002 and has worked with hundreds of dogs and cats and shares much of what she's learned, at The Problem Cat.