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Dealing with the Loss of Your Cat

These tips can help you deal with the loss of your family pet.

Dealing with the Loss of Your Cat

Losing a beloved pet is very difficult. Be kind to yourself. Try to plan for something to do for the rest of the day, and try to be with someone who understands your grief. Don't share your feelings with people you don't think will understand. The last thing you need is for someone to say, “It was just a cat.” The cats who share our lives are part of us. Don't allow anyone to belittle your feelings.

Cat Nip

Losing a pet is one of the most stressful events we can experience. Take time to mourn, and take good care of yourself and your family members, including other pets, during this important time.

Ceremonies often help us deal with loss and provide a sense of closure. If it's allowed where you live, you might want to bury your cat's remains or perhaps his collar and a favorite toy for a sense of closure. When we lost our beautiful cat Leo, my husband and I buried him and planted cat mint over the spot. I know people who take comfort in assembling a photo album or scrapbook about their cat. Pictures of him as a kitten, an adolescent, and an adult can evoke happy memories that dull the sharp edges of grief. Many people make a memorial donation to a local shelter. If your cat died of an inherited or infectious disease, you might want to make a donation in his name to feline health research. You will know what feels right to you.

Losing a pet is one of the saddest and most stressful events we experience. Unfortunately, not everyone understands this. Don't let anyone embarrass you or demean your grief. To begin healing, you and other members of your family might need to talk to someone who understands. If you don't know anyone you can confide in comfortably, consider calling a specialized pet loss grief counseling service:

  • California. 530-752-4200 or 1-800-565-1526. Staffed by University of California—Davis veterinary students.
  • Florida. 352-392-4700, then dial 1 and 4080. Staffed by University of Florida veterinary students.
  • Illinois. 630-603-3994. Leave a voicemail; calls will be returned 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (CT). Staffed by Chicago Veterinary Medical Association veterinarians and staffs. 217-244-2273 or 1-877-384-CARE (1-877-394-2273). Leave a voicemail; calls will be returned 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (CT), Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Staffed by University of Illinois veterinary students.
  • Iowa. 1-888-ISU-PLSH (1-888-478-7574). Hosted by the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Maryland and Virginia. 540-231-8038. Staffed by Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Massachusetts. 508-839-7966. Staffed by Tufts University veterinary students.
  • Michigan. 517-432-2696. Staffed by Michigan State University veterinary students.
  • New York. 607-253-3932. Staffed by Cornell University Veterinary Students.
  • Ohio. 614-292-1823. Staffed by Ohio State University veterinary students.
  • Washington. 509-335-5704. Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

These organizations understand what you're going through and can offer helpful suggestions to help you through your grief.

Moving On

It will be hard to imagine ever loving another cat as much as you have loved the one you've lost. Because everyone grieves differently, only you can decide when it's time to move on.

When you're ready, consider looking for a new kitty to love. You can't replace the old one, so don't even try—you'll be disappointed, and you'll rob both cats of their supremely feline individuality. If you love a particular breed or hair or color, then by all means get another cat with those traits. If looking at a face and coat and color similar to those of your old friend will be difficult for you, then consider a cat with a different look. Remember, your new cat can't be your old one, he can only be himself. If you try to make your new cat fit the mold of your old one, you'll miss the wonderful little traits that will make your new cat special.

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