Having a cat for a pet is like welcoming an extra member to the family. They provide you with constant companionship, love, humor, and emotional support. It's understandable to think of your cat as an extension to you. When they die, you feel the loss just as equally, sometimes even more so, than when you lose a human loved one.
When your cat dies, you'll likely experience grief in the same way you would when someone you know dies.
There are similar stages of grief that you'll go through — shock, anger, denial, guilt, depression, and resolution. In suffering the loss of a cat, you'll likely go through many, if not all, of these stages of grief. It's possible that you may skip a step here and there, but overall, the grieving process will go through the stages until it resolves.
Sometimes the grief process is quick, and others it takes years to resolve, if at all. It's completely normal to feel bereaved over the loss of your cat for the rest of your life.
1. Give Yourself Time
Following the death of your cat, one of the first things that you may experience is shock. You may find it hard to believe that after years of constant companionship, your cat is no longer with you. You may not recognize that your cat is gone because your mind is still trying to process the loss.
It's not unusual to feel as if it can't be true that your cat is gone. It may take you several hours or even days to come to grips with this reality. You may find yourself still wanting to feed your cat, change out the litter, and all the other things you're used to doing. It's okay to go through these routines if it brings you comfort.
2. Allow Yourself to Grieve
You don't need to be stoic during this time. It's completely understandable that you're feeling a profound sense loss and may want to cry it out. Don't expect that you'll be feeling back to normal within a few short days.
The grieving process usually doesn't work this way or this quickly. You should expect to go through the stages of grief in much the same way you would when a human loved one dies. Give yourself adequate time to fully process your grief.
3. Talk About It
A lot of people may not understand what it feels like to lose a beloved pet. They may not get it when you tell them that you're experiencing pain and suffering in much the same way you would when someone close to you dies. Not many have even heard of offering sympathy for your pet.
It's encouraged to talk about what you’re going through even though those around you might not completely understand. You can choose to either try and explain it to them, or you can move on and find someone to talk to that has experienced loss at a similar level. Seek out a grief support group of other people who have lost a pet so that you can help each other through the grief process.
4. Take Care of Yourself
In the midst of all this suffering, you may forget to focus on yourself. It's important to your healing that you continue to take care of yourself first. It's easy to fall into depression if you allow your grief to consume every aspect of your life.
Easy ways to keep that in check are to ensure that you are continuing your daily routines. Some of the things to look out for is when you start ignoring your personal hygiene and when you forget to eat or sleep. The following list should help you get the focus back on yourself:
- Get adequate rest
- Stick with your nightly sleep schedule
- Wake up and get out of bed following your usual routine
- Keep up with your personal hygiene — showering, dressing, brushing teeth, combing hair.
- Feed yourself nutritious meals at least twice a day
- Get some fresh air
- Exercise daily
5. Remember your Cat Through Eulogy
Writing some loving words about your cat's life, traits, and personality is a wonderful way of honoring your pet. You may choose to share this eulogy with your family or within your social circle. Other ways to share your thoughts are to post the eulogy for a cat online on social media, a blog, or in your local newspaper.
It's perfectly acceptable to want to let others know about your cat and what they meant to you. Don't feel discouraged by people who may not understand the bond you had with your cat. Ignore them and continue to do the things that get you closer to healing.
6. Create a Memorial
You can memorialize the life of your cat by making a scrapbook of photos and special mementos you've kept through the years. You can turn this into a "coffee table" book to encourage conversation when visitors drop in.
You can also plant a pet memorial garden in your cat's honor, or put together a small rock garden in your backyard as your personal meditation space.
7. Seek Support
Sometimes you may find yourself overwhelmed with grief and sadness. You may start to feel despondent and that life is not worth living without your cat. If talking with your support group isn't enough, consider seeking professional help.
There are grief counselors trained to help those suffering with the loss of a pet. Check providers in your area by asking your support group members for referrals, or through online searches.
8. Talk to Your Cat
Continuing the bond with your cat is as simple as talking to it as if it was standing next to you. It's not unusual for people who have lost a pet to continue to feel their presence around them. You can continue to have these conversations with your cat for as long as it provides you with comfort.
It's also very normal to continue feeding schedules until you're ready to move forward with a new routine. It'll take some time to adjust to life without your cat. It's okay to take your time until whenever you're ready to start letting go.
Some of the best therapy when you are grieving the loss of your pet is to volunteer your time at a local animal shelter. Being around other animals who are in desperate need of your help does wonders in boosting your mood.
You don't need to look at these animals as future pet potential. Simply go in with the intention of making their life a little bit better.
10. Get a Part-Time Job
If your time allows for it, consider working in the evenings or weekends for a few months. This is a way to fill up your time while you heal. The more you stay at home thinking of your cat, the easier it gets to fall into depression.
Allow yourself to fill the void that your cat's death has left by occupying your time with things you wouldn't ordinarily do.
11. Adopt a Pet
When you feel ready, consider taking in a new pet when the time is right. This isn't meant to replace the one you lost, and you shouldn’t expect a new pet to make everything better. There are many furry friends out there in need of a good home, and perhaps you’re also in need of a companion to give you some unconditional love.
Caring for a new pet should be done with a selfless intent. If you are not yet ready for it, it’s okay to wait until you are. There are plenty of cats in shelters waiting for you on standby.
12. Start a Hobby
Perhaps getting a new pet is not what you had in mind. Consider trying new things that you haven’t tried. Maybe the restraints that come with having a pet at home kept you from doing many of the things you wish you had the freedom to do before. You may try short overnight trips to explore your local area, taking a cruise, or joining your friends on their next group travel adventure.
However you decide to use your time, you can do it with loving thoughts of your cat in mind. Look at it as a way of honoring your cat and the time you devoted to their care and comfort. Now it’s your turn to give yourself that same loving care.
The Loss of Your Cat
Losing your cat can be devastating and emotionally draining. You may have to try several or all the things above to see what works best for you in your journey to healing.
Don't feel discouraged if one thing doesn't work for you. Keep trying out different ways of coping with your grief until you find one that resonates with you. It will take time for you to feel back like your old self and fall into your new normal.