Cat Loss and Grief – Coping With the Loss of a Cat

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Our article on dying cats is the most read article on Cat-World. The purpose of that article is to help people recognise the signs that a cat is in the final stages of life.  The volume and content of the comments alone shows just what a difficult and painful experience it is for cat lovers many of whom who fight hard to save their beloved companion, or lose them suddenly and unexpectedly.  The difficulty and pain of having to decide when to say goodbye and dealing with the grief, guilt and loss afterward.

Any pet lover knows how painful it is to lose a pet. The final months, weeks or days can be traumatic and take their toll. Many people will experience the cognitive dissonance of knowing the end is near vs clinging to the hope that something, anything can be done buy more precious time. Compounding the pain of losing a pet is the feeling of isolation  because not everyone understands how important our pets are and the huge hole left after they have gone.

Our cats area part of the family, they provide comfort, companionship and joy. They are somebody to talk to without the fear of judgement who are always there for us, and always love us. For those who are isolated or lonely, they provide a purpose, something to care for, a reason to get out of bed, that connection with another sentient being.

For me, cats represent periods in my life as well as the reasons above. I adopted Eliot after the breakup of a relationship, I needed a companion and she was by my side for nine years, she passed away 8 weeks to the day after my first child was born. Levi came into our lives when the children were little, he passed away when they were teenagers, all they’d ever known was a life with Levi in it.

Stages of loss:

A wide range of emotions will be experienced after the loss of a pet, which is completely normal. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, a Swedish-American psychiatrist describes five stages of loss:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Denial:

For me, denial starts before a terminal diagnosis, deep down I know something is wrong, but deny that it is potentially life-ending it can continue after they have passed.

After they have passed, denial that they are no longer there. Waking on a morning and hoping it was all a bad dream. Looking or calling for them.This state can help shield a person from the reality that they really are gone. You can swing from sheer panic, absolute devastation to denying the reality.

Anger:

I have not personally experienced this, but anger can manifest in many ways. Not coping under stress at work, anger at yourself for not doing more, anger at the veterinarian, a short temper with loved ones. These are all normal feelings as you process the loss.

Anger is pain, it is not always logical, they fought so hard, we fought so hard for them, the sheer unfairness of losing them, the feeling of complete and utter powerlessness. Life is not fair. 

Bargaining:

This is similar to guilt which I describe further down. If only I had noticed earlier, or sought a second opinion maybe there would have been a better outcome.

Depression:

The inconsolable a raw feeling of loss. Tears which do not dry up, a feeling of lethargy, emptiness, finding no joy in things you normally find pleasure in. A sense of having nothing to look forward to.

Acceptance:

You finally move past the shock and the grief and accept that the pet has gone. The trauma of the final months, weeks, days, or the sudden passing are gradually replaced with acceptance and you are able to think of the good life your pet had instead of the pain at the end. You will still feel sad at times, but it is no longer all consuming.

Not everybody will experience all of the above, and there is no timeline on how long each stage will last. For some, it can be quick, others will take longer. I find denial starts before a terminal diagnosis, deep down I know something is wrong, but deny that it is potentially life-ending.

My own emotions:

Shock:

  • What just happened?
  • Why did it happen?
  • Why did I not notice sooner?
  • I can’t believe he is gone.
  • It was so sudden.
  • I thought we had many more years together.
  • We fought so hard.

These feelings are especially common if the death was sudden and unexpected. Grasping to comprehend what happened, one minute we were happy with our cat, the next they’re gone. We feel blindsided, one day everything is normal, and suddenly they’re gone. Our head is spinning.

Guilt:

If you read the comments at the end of our article on dying cats you will see that guilt is common, did you wait too long, did you give up too soon? There is no perfect time to euthanise a pet, they can’t tell us when they’ve had enough, we have to go by symptoms, behaviour and our veterinarian’s recommendation. Know that you did your best for the cat.

Guilt can also occur if the caregiver feels they have contributed to their cat’s death. Maybe not seeking veterinary attention quickly enough, accidentally or intentionally letting the cat outside which resulted in an accident. We all make mistakes, and sometimes they do have serious consequences, but re-living the situation only compounds the pain and it won’t change the outcome. You have to learn to let it go and forgive yourself in order to move on.

Relief:

Not relief that the cat has passed away, but relief that the suffering has ended. Some cats can live with a terminal illness for months. It hard to watch a pet you love so dearly face a terminal disease. It is a difficult fight, with lots of ups and downs.

Loneliness:

Missing the companionship and the special bond you had with your cat. Coming home to an empty house, not being woken up at 6am for breakfast or having them wind around your legs as you make your morning coffee. Missing conversations you would share with your cat.

The loneliness can be compounded by a feeling of isolation when friends or family don’t understand the deep grief you are experiencing. It is not uncommon for people to avoid a person who is bereaved because they don’t know what to say or can’t relate.

Grief changes:

Upon reflection, the grief I have felt for each cat I have lost has been different depending on my relationship with that particular cat as well as how and when they died. Despite the fact Eliot was one of my closest cats, and 15 years on, I still tear up if I think of her, her passing came as a relief. It was hard to watch the cancer eat away at her. I also had a newborn baby, so I could see the circle of life, one life had just started and another life was ending. I was so happy that Eliot was able to meet my daughter.

cat and baby
Eliot and my newborn daughter, Holly

Suni died suddenly, before his time.  It was painful and raw and took me a long time to get over the guilt of losing him.

Levi was very hard because it hit the whole family and was also sudden. We all grieved together and I still remember the four of us huddled around his grave sobbing.

For others it was sad, but expected. Mitzy and Misha were both 16 when they passed. I missed them, especially Mitzy but also realised that they had become old and unwell.

Physical symptoms of grief:

Grief is not just an emotion, it is a form of stress which can affect us physically too.

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

How long does the grief last?

There is no timeline on grief, it lasts as long as it lasts. My own personal experience has been that immediately after the loss of a cat the grief is all consuming, and the loss and sorrow are with me at all times. But slowly, life returns to normal. Every time I think of those pets I feel a pang of sadness, but it is not with me all the time like it is in the early days.

Grief is unique and we all take a different amount of time. Don’t rush yourself, don’t place additional weight on your shoulders by feeling guilty for grieving, but if you really are struggling to cope after an extended period of time, please consider finding a trained pet-grief counsellor who can help you process your feelings.

What can you do to feel better?

Please remember that it takes time, don’t rush yourself and don’t push feelings down. There is no time limit on grief. Find people to talk to, either pet lovers or a grief councellor.

I have found solace on Internet forums or more recently, cat Facebook groups. Cat-World has a Facebook group and you are always welcome to join, or post a comment at the end of this article.

Surround yourself with people who love you and understand how you are feeling. Compassionate friends or family members and especially pet lovers who understand and empathise. It can help to have an understanding ear. 

Schedule exercise. While supporting a friend in an extremely difficult situation, I found walking or running with her gave her an outlet in which to just talk, there was no direct eye contact, no pressure, we just walked, jogged and talked, which seemed less invasive than face to face contact over a coffee. Sometimes we would say nothing at all, but she knew she wasn’t alone, there was somebody by her side. 

What not to say to somebody who has lost a pet:

Somebody who has lost a pet is grieving but people are often dismissed. Not everybody understands the depth of a bond people have with their pets.  A cat isn’t a toaster, you can’t just go out and replace it with a new one. Every cat has his or her own personality and a unique bond with their human companions.

  • Why are you so upset, it is just a cat?
  • You will get over it.
  • You can get another cat.
  • He is in a better place now.
  • I never liked cats anyway.
  • It was probably for the best.
  • You still have other cats.
  • These things happen for a reason.
  • I know how you feel, I lost my favourite purse, bracelet, jacket last week.

One member of our Facebook group said it the best.

They are someone’s fur baby. Someone’s companion. Another fur child’s sibling. A human child’s world when that’s all they have ever known. They are a family member and the keepers of secrets. They are healers and our most treasured friends. They are never ‘just a cat’.

What to say or do to somebody who has lost a pet:

Not everybody can understand the deep grief of losing a pet, but that should not exclude them from showing empathy. Now is not the time to give your opinion on cats, just be supportive, it’s not hard!

What to say:

  • I am so sorry for your loss.
  • My thoughts are with you at this time of loss.
  • I am so sorry for your loss, Fluffy was a beautiful cat.
  • I’m here if you need to talk.
  • That is so sad to hear, I know how much you and Fluffy loved each other.

What to do:

  • Send them a sympathy card, my veterinarian always sends a hand-written sympathy card when we lose a pet and I always appreciate it.
  • Send some flowers, if they have other cats, make sure you send flowers safe for cats.
  • Make a donation to an animal charity in the cat’s name.
  • Be a shoulder to cry on, and an ear to listen. Let them talk about their loss, and their pet.
  • One cat lover was sent a packet of wildflower seeds to scatter over her cat’s memorial site. You can also buy a plant to place at the memorial/grave of the cat.

When is the right time to get another pet?

There are no rules, some people get a pet right away, others can’t face the thought of a new pet.  Our most recent loss of Levi in March 2018 was sudden and it was traumatic. I said to my teenage children I didn’t want to get a cat immediately after we had lost such a huge part of our family, the right cat would happen at the right time.

Two weeks after we lost Levi, two Tonkinese cats were put up for adoption at the RSPCA. The next day we drove 2 hours to meet them and adopted them on the spot. That was the first day any of us had felt happy since the loss of Levi. We laughed and joked the whole way home.  They are completely different in personality to Levi which I am glad about, I didn’t want a Levi clone.

You will find a cat when you are ready to find a cat, which may be in one day or in 20 years.

Where to get help: 

For many, counselling or a grief loss group can help a pet lover to deal with the loss of a pet. You are not alone. In Australia, the following resources can be of help.

My final thoughts:

Levi
Levi

Before I took the plunge and adopted Eliot in 1994, I thought long and hard about it. I had lost two cats in my early teens and it was very very painful. I knew bringing a pet into my life would eventually cause me pain, was I prepared to accept that in 10-15 years I would have to face their death? I decided it was worth it. Adopting Eliot was the best decision I could have made. I was quite lonely at the time, I had no family in Australia and she became my source of comfort, companionship and love for many years. It was lovely to come home and be welcomed by a loving companion, she turned my sad apartment into a warm home. Eliot passed away exactly 8 weeks after my first child was born. It hurts so much when they leave us, but my life would not be the same having not lived with them. I have no regrets whatsoever.

Losing Levi was particularly hard, he never played favourites with his humans, he loved us all equally, so all four of us really felt his death.

I remind myself that we had eleven wonderful years with Levi, he had a good and happy life, he was loved not only by us, but almost everybody who met him fell for his charms. His death should not overshadow his life, nor for those final few days to define who he was.  I choose to remember all the happy times we had.

  • How he loved soft blankets to knead on.
  • Having to remind friends to hang up their handbag or Levi would go through it.
  • How good he was with the children who would carry him around as a baby
  • The day friends returned to our home shortly having left because they’d got half way up the road and found Levi had snuck into their van as they were putting their children in their car seats.
  • How we would open a cupboard door only to find Levi sitting there staring back at us.

Those are the memories I want to keep, not the sadness of his final days.

Calvin and Norman
The day we brought Calvin and Norman home

The subsequent adoption of our Tonkinese boys, Calvin and Norman did not replace Levi, no cat could ever do that, but their arrival did bring joy back into our house.

In memory of Eliot, Podge, Suni, Misha, Nicholas, Mitzy, Annie, Loki, Levi and all the other pets who have left us.

2018 world pet memorial is 12th June.

The Last Battle

 If it should be that I grow frail and weak,
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
then you must do what must be done
For this, the last battle, can’t be won.

You will be sad, I understand,
Don’t let the grief then stay your hand,
For this day more than all the rest
Your love and friendship stand the test.

We’ve had so many happy years,
What is to come can hold no fears.
You’d not want me to suffer so;
When the time comes, please let me go.

Take me where my needs they’ll tend
And stay with me, if you can, to the end.
Hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time, you will see,
It is a kindness you do for me.
Although my tail its last was waved,
From pain and suffering I’ve been saved.

Don’t grieve that it should be you,
Who must decide this thing to do,
We’ve been so close, we two, these years;
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.

Smile, for we walked together for a little while.

 Author Unknown

23 COMMENTS

  1. My Poli is gone. She was 15 and we all had an unspoken fear… A few weeks ago her appetite decreased. We started doing medical investigations, her appetite got lower. Last week my mom took her to the vet everyday for intravenous fluids. She was not getting better and test results indicated pancreatitis and a need for a biopsy.. My mom just returned from the vet and called to say Poli looked so weak. I told her I would come visit the next day, as I knew we were running out of time. At 8 am I got a phone call: she was barely conscious. I jumped into a cab and got there in time. We only had another half an hour, maybe. The vet wouldn’t open for another hour or so, so it was just us. We held her, talked to her, heard her sighing with pain, watched her slowly twitch with pain and told her how I wished it wouldn’t hurt.. She was so humane during these last moments. My hand was caressing her, I felt every twitch and it broke my heart.. At some point I couldn’t feel the heartbeat anymore… I have never seen life slowly withdraw from a being until she is completely gone. She had been in our family for 15 years, a little less than half of my life. We try to take comfort thinking she was lucky she never needed serious medical attention all her life, she did not have to go through a long illness and that we could be there with her at the end. It’s still heartbreaking. My mom is thinking of things she did or did not do. I regret leaving all the trips to the vet for my mom to do alone during the past weeks. I thought I was busy at work but, to be honest, I think I knew what was happening and I could not make myself face it. I found your words comforting and it feels good to let it out. Thank you.

    • Oh Mihaela, I am so sorry for your loss. The way you describe your last half hour with Poli are so familiar to me. It is gut wrenching but a part of what we have to do.

      I really am sorry, thank you for your post. Take care of yourself. RIP sweet Poli.

      • I’ve just lost my baby boy Morpheus. He just stopped eating and within a week I have had to see him rapidly decline and despite my best efforts to get him seen by vets he was diagnosed with Cancer. I had to put him to sleep so he wouldn’t suffer anymore but I’m absolutely heartbroken especially as his little sister Macy is now missing her brother. It’s been devastating, he was 13 and a half years old and such wonderful years, I had to lose him because he was in so much pain but I’m broken and honestly don’t know how I’m going to get through this 🙁

  2. My husband had major surgery on Monday so I spent most of my time at the hospital caring for him. I came home Wednesday night to what I thought was a very angry Ditto, my 16 year old cat who had a clean checkup only two weeks prior. Ditto was loud and vocal like I have never seen him. I remember both days prior, him not coming for meals when I called but that has always been my husband’s task so we didn’t get suckered into over feeding the cats. I thought Ditto was just showing his anger as he sometimes would do. I gave him food and offered to let him out but he declined both. Instead, he went to my office and laid down in a dark corner on top of my shoes, making sure he’d know if I left again I thought. When I went to bed, I picked him up and took him with me. His pillow is always above mine and he sleeps with his face buried in my open hand. I dozed off briefly but woke when I felt him move. He went in and ate his food but when he returned to the bedroom, he stood at the foot of my bed vomiting. I got up to clean it up only to find him just sitting there with a glazed look on his face covered in his own vomit. I knew immediately something was wrong. I picked him up and sat him on the bed to take a closer look and he just fell over. Eyes fixed, panting, rapid shallow breaths and I knew my boy was in distress. At 1 am I’m panicked to find an emergency vet. I scooped him up and drove as best I could to the nearest local MedVet. They snatched him from me and took him back to examine him. I heard him meowing loudly in pain the whole time. Upon returning they told me his temperature had dropped to 97 degrees and they had him in an incubator trying to warm him. He was extremely dehydrated and was obviously in pain. They drew blood to check his liver and kidneys and found both to be moderately high. They offered me options for further tests and treatment but wanted to keep him for 2 days to monitor him but their clinic vet would not arrive until 9 and I knew my own vet would be open by then. I could still hear Ditto screaming for me. I asked them if they could make him comfortable enough for me to just take him home until my own vet opened so he would be comfortable with me rather than in a cage. They gave him fluids and a couple shots for anti nausea. The last shot was more than he could bear. He screamed out in pain and tried to bite the vet tech. I scooped him up and calmed him, his breathing was shallow. I thanked them and took him home wrapped in a towel to keep him warm. I sat in the chair for the next 5 hours watching my baby boy struggle to get comfortable before he finally laid still. His one eye wide open and fixed, his mouth open and panting, his front paws twitching but no further movement. He laid on my chest next to my heart while I was watching him dying. As soon as my vet opened, I rushed him to her, barely alive. She took a look at him and told me he had a massive stroke. She knows our family very well so I have always trusted her judgement and when she had that sad look on her face I knew what she was going to say. There was no coming back from what happened to him and it was time. Never in my life have I experienced something like that with any other cat I’ve had. I’m blaming myself for not noticing his distress sooner or taking different actions at MedVet. I have so much pain and guilt that I’m struggling to cope. What could I have done differently? What caused this sudden attack? Was it possible the shot at MedVet triggered his demise? Most people realize that not having children of my own, these cats are my family and are sympathetic. Still those that don’t get it are sometimes hurtful. He’s not just a cat! He was my best friend! A portion of my life that is defined by him. I’ve been scouring the internet for answers to my questions and I stumbled on your site that most closely matched how I’m feeling so I wanted to tell you my story and thank you for some comfort in knowing I’m not alone in these feelings I’m having. I know my grief will subside. It will take time. I cannot change my guilt but I do know I acted swiftly in his best interest when I realized we had a problem. I have a female cat, Shelly, home and confused at my husband’s absence and now Ditto’s. Shelly has not left my side and we do offer each other comfort in our pain. I struggle to get the picture of Ditto’s suffering out of my head and I’ve only had one person understand and willing to let me talk over my grief. This will be the hardest death of a pet to bounce back from. He is missed every second of every day and I can’t stop my tears.

    • Betty, your post had me in tears, I am so very sorry for your loss. What an awful experience for you both.

      Please, please, please don’t feel guilt, none of this is your fault. You did your absolute best for him and it sounds like he was very very sick at the time he was at MedVet.

      We do what we can for our cats, we put our trust in the veterinarians, but medicine is not always black and white, and sometimes there’s nothing more we can do.

      I hope in time you realise that it was not your fault, and that you had 15 years with him. As I have said in my dying article, that we should not remember our beloved cats for how they passed, but remember the wonderful time we had together. It is always sad when we have to say goodbye, even when our cats have had a long-standing disease that we know will eventually take them, it’s hard to say goodbye to those we love.

      Please take care, you are a wonderful person for trying so hard.

  3. I lost two of my kitten dodo and koko who weren’t even 1 year old, last August in the span of 3 days (dodo on Sunday and koko Tuesday). Both of them died due to a chest infection. Lost in appetite, sleepy, hiding and not interacting with me (my brother used to say that I was their human mama). They would wake me up around 6 to give them food and if I don’t wake up they would start moving their paws on face and have to go if in. One day dodo came home late from late and wasn’t feeling well but I didn’t put that much into attention because he had a habit of eating leaves or bugs that would upset his stomach. He would remain in my washroom for hours staying in a single position and will only move to get under my bed that’s it. He wasn’t eating or anything. Few days has past and it was the same and I’m still guilty over that I didn’t took him to the vet before. I took him to the vet and they said it’s a 50/50 chance and gave him some antibiotics. So it was Sunday and he was getting worse but had enough energy to indicate that he wants to go out. I opened the door and he slowly work his way towards to the lawn and sat in the sun light. His Ginger fur was looking extra bright in the sun light. Just as I carried him inside, he attacked my hand to release himself and feel to the ground and collapsed. His last dying moment’s was that he was running away from something while lying on the floor. He was literally moving his arms while lying to make it look like he was running towards freedom. Just as he was doing it I grabbed his paw just started screaming his name and my whole family came running out asking what happened and I was trying to to explain while crying and in a moment or two he died with a single tear in his eye. I didn’t let his paw go until I realized what had happened. All of us started crying. He died surrounded by people who loved him. That same day koko started to show those sign and I was determined enough that I’ll save her. She would sleep on top of my mini room cooler but that night she didn’t I got scared. I took her to the vet and they said that she’ll survive and gave her antibiotics. So its Tuesday morning I woke up around 6 to give her meds but she already gave up but I was stubborn so I still have her meds and went back to my bed. I woke up again around 8 to get myself ready for the day. Just as I was about to leave my house for my University I decided to check up on her and just as I opened the door I was dead cold in bathroom. At that moment everything turned upside down and again the crying. I screamed her name and both my brother and mom came rushing. They see her dead body all alone. She died the exact opposite to her brother all alone without any trouble. Me and family were completely broken. My dad who doesn’t put that much emotion was visibly sad. Their mother also lives with us(she was our first cat) and she was looking for her babies. We had to make her realize that what happened. The thing that hurts the most is that I was the first thing they saw and I was the last thing they ever saw. Those few days were too hard for me and I had lost to many things that year. The greatest memory of them was that both of them loved playing besides my grand dad. The would even sleep in the same room where my grand dad lived. They would play with my grand dad’s feet or hand. My mom would come and took them away but my grand dad would let them stay because he enjoyed the way they played. Sadly my grand dad died at the start of that year so both of them were also attached to my grand dad’s last months and now 1 of 6 kitten has the same problem. I’m not ready for it again. The same pain and hopelessness that I felt over a year ago.

  4. I have read the other story’s and it brought me to tears. So many similer things. I had a cat I named him Samie. He was a beautiful Blue Russian. My boyfriend at the time brought him to my bed and Samies meowing woke me. I fell in love instantly. He was only a week after his eyes opened I took him under my wing. We had a special bond that could never be replaced. Unfortunately at the age of 10, Samie showed signs something was not rite and a Vet told me he had Lymphoma Cancer and only had 3 months left. I was devistated and fought hard to keep him longer. I had to give him shots myself at home along with SubQ daily and lactalose to help him poop. At 3 months he was playing with a bell and I took him to vet and she told me she’s never been wrong on her timing till now and she said he’s a miricle he won’t be dieing soon. So 5 yrs went by and his Cancer went in remmission permanently, only to be replaced by Kidney disease the last year of his life, which he made it to 23 years. When. Vet told me of his Renal failure devistation hit me hard. For the whole year I tried to nurse him to health but he just kept on crashing off and on. The last day of his life I gave his daily medicine, he looked at me and sofley meowed, I think he was telling me no mom. So I kept giving him his SubQ, and I sat on the couch w/him. At this point in his life he could not walk, or make it to the litter box, I had incontanance pads all over the living room so be could do his business. His back legs would drag behind him, and instead of using his litter I had to take his box away cuz he began eating his litter. I was feeding him with my finger and he drank alot of water. I could not for the life of me find anyone to take us to the vet so he ended up dieing in my arms 2 weeks ago. His eyes cloudy, and he was laying on my chest. I pet him and loved on him. He kept grasping for air. I cryed and asked God if he’s suffering please take him. God it hurts so bad. After crying out loud to God I began feeling parts of his body twitch. Than I told my Samie it’s okay to go I don’t want you to suffer anymore. All of a sudden his whole body jerked, than both of his paws began to flop as he was gasping to take his last breath. I Layed him in his little bed next to me and his face was in my open hand, he wasn’t breathing, no pulse or heart beat. I was traumatized by that and when I close my eyes at night that’s all I see. My house is so empty, I feel so alone, I wake up, and call his name Samie like every morning for 23 years, than I feed him. Reality keeps knocking me down that he’s gone and I can’t express the pain and sorrow I feel. I feel so ripped in half, my life will never be the same. I don’t have a car, and my family is no support whatsoever, and I don’t have any friends I want around. I isolate myself cuz no one understands, I walk around my house in a daze, and can’t sleep. I’m not coping with this at all. I miss my little love bug, and I keep asking myself did I wait to long to get him Euthanized? Was he in alot of pain when he passed? It tare’s me up inside badly. Everything you wrote I went through and still going through, and reading all you wrote you sound so compassionate and understanding. Thank you for allowing me to express myself I see I’m not totally alone as far as how I feel. This has helped me with coping best I can. I get his remains Tuesday, and I made a special place for him in my room with a little memorial. I never in my life ever been through anything quite like this. The grieving is painful, I blame myself for not Euthanizing him sooner, my mom tells me I’m selfish to keep him alive suffering so long. She’s probably the worst person to listen to. The guilt anger and frustration of my loss seems to huver over me.i miss my little precious soal.

    • Hi Shanette,

      I am so sorry for your loss and the pain you are going through. I know the feeling all too well. Unfortunately death isn’t black and white. Is there a perfect time for euthanasia? I don’t know, I doubt it. I know many of us cling to the hope that the treatment will help, the cat will rally, and what if we euthanise too soon? Please, please, please don’t blame yourself, and don’t listen to people who tell you you waited too long. Nobody knows that.

      There is no time frame for grieving, we are all different. Please be gentle on yourself and try to find people who understand. If you are on Facebook, look up the Cat-World group, we are all cat-lovers there.

  5. Thank you so very much Julia. Your words spoken so we’ll. I got A glimmer of hope instead of hopeless after reading your reply. Especially when you said is there A time for Euthanasia, you didn’t know, but you made me feel that it is alright to not know, that we cling to the hope that treatment will work and that’s exactly what I was feeling. Thank you and I will go to Facebook to visit your group. Thank you, and God bless.😇

  6. ‘Hobo’, our official office cat at Adventure Books of Seattle, passed away very suddenly at age 12, at 11:30 PM, July 22. He was an orange and white Maine Coon, very affectionate and smart. For the last couple of years he had more hairball problems than usual and we had him in to the vet twice for enemas. I didn’t like doing that to him, since it was painful for him, but it was either that or a probably fatal blockage.

    On Saturday morning, the 21st of July, he seemed his usual self. Up and down the stairs, visiting either me or my wife. Sunday morning same thing. But by Sunday afternoon he became listless and was having trouble with his back legs. My wife called me and I got there at 4PM. She had called the local emergency vet office that was open on Sunday…but frankly…they are bunch of jerks and started talking to me about cremation costs and that it was cash or debit only, etc. Nothing much about an exam or treatment.

    By five PM he was in distress, and I’ve had enough cats to know when the end is here. He wasn’t crying out or suffering, but he was certainly dying and a little agitated. My wife put him into his favorite blanket on her lap and brushed him for the next few hours. He just laid there, but he calmed down and slept. But he no longer move on his own, and I don’t think he was able to see anymore. I was in shock.

    At ten PM, we placed him into his bed and decided that he could just stay with us until morning, and if he was still alive, we would rush him to our regular vet, a GOOD vet, as soon as they opened the doors at 8AM. He didn’t make it. At 11:25 PM he started panting a bit and then stretched out his front paws to us, and then he died right there. (*insert a bunch of swear words here*)

    I didn’t break down right away, that came the next afternoon. I knew I had to something special for him. We put his favorite sheepskin into a wooden box, along with some toys and an empty baby food jar. (When he couldn’t take regular food one time, we fed him chicken baby food for a few days and he liked that.)

    We got into my truck early morning, and drove all the way from Auburn, WA up to the Olympic Mountains to a special place I knew, a remote spot high up overlooking a valley. It’s pretty far out there. I dug a grave for him that took a few hours because I wanted it to remain undisturbed. I wasn’t letting him get cremated. You can judge that as you wish, but no way was I doing that. I put him four feet down and made sure no one would ever find, or disturb his grave. We covered it with moss and went home.

    Then we fell to pieces. It’s been difficult. We couldn’t figure out how he got SO sick, SO quickly, and died so suddenly. The usual guilt feelings came. Did we leave something out that he ate? Or was he getting another blockage and just too tired (this time) to take another round of treatment? We will never know. The house seems so empty without him. He was the most wonderful cat we ever had.

    • Hi Robert,

      I’m so sorry for the loss of Hobo, he sounds like a wonderful cat. What an amazing final resting place you gave him, I can picture it now. No judgement from me at all.

      Please don’t blame yourself, cats can’t tell us if or when something is wrong, in fact they are great at hiding symptoms of sickness. It sounds like you loved him very much.

  7. Thank you for your wonderful site, Julia. I got here looking for comfort on the passing of my 16 year old cat, Vidar, just 2 days ago. I thought I was going crazy feeling this very deep grief for a cat, and it’s such a comfort to know that it’s a real thing 🙂 It was not because he had to be let go due to a liver tumor and kidney failure but more because I couldn’t be there for him on his last days. We were relocated 2.5 yrs ago and had him checked before bringing him with us but that’s when he was diagnosed with early stage liver cancer and could be a max of 1 year left. The vet advised us to leave him behind with family for more quality of life and he lived 2.5 years more! I truly hesitated in going back to be with him but that thought of “it’s stupid to fly 12hrs for a cat” is now killing me and it’s hard to forgive myself for that. He has been a wonderful family member and I believe he even saved my life when I was having health issues (it was exactly the same time he was diagnosed with cancer). It was hard to leave him behind, but more difficult to not be there for him on his last days. So to anybody who has the same situation with their beloved cats, it’s not stupid to come home to be with them no matter how far. It will take a long time for my cheeks to be dry everytime I will think of him. Thank you again for your site!

    • Hi Makis,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so sorry to hear of Max’s passing. Please don’t feel guilty, you did a wonderful thing for him by finding him a loving home and putting his needs first. It is so easy to beat ourselves up about the ‘what ifs’, and forget all the good things we did for our cats. You sound like a wonderful cat loving person and I am sure Max knew that.

  8. Hello,
    I’m having such a difficult time dealing with the sickness of my cat Gizmo. He was diagnosed with cancer about 3 weeks ago. Since then I’ve been giving him liquid Prednisone & b12 shot. He’s slowly getting worse. I’ve had him 13 years and I don’t know how I’m going to deal with losing him. I’ve tried everything I know to do to try to help him, but I think the end is coming. It’s so hard to watch a cat that ran around the house, play fetch, so talkative and loving a month ago to see him sleep most of the time. How do I know when it’s time? Will he let me know? God give me strength to make the right decision..

    • Hi Karen,

      I’m so sorry to hear about Gizmo’s diagnosis. Cancer is a devastating disease. I’ve been through the absolute despair of a cancer diagnosis in a cat and you want to fight it with everything you’ve got.

      Sometimes cats will let you know, sometimes you have to make that tough decision yourself. With my cat Eliot, we knew it was time when she was no longer really interacting with us, she spent most of her time sleeping…uncomfortably. I have said it before, and I will say it again. If I had my time with Eliot again, I’d have put her to sleep a week or two earlier, in hindsight, I think we waited too long.

      My thoughts are with you during this hard time.

  9. Sheba had been in our lives for 21 healthy years. I realize that this is a dream life span for her but knowing that she lived a full life does not make her loss any easier by and means! As you have described, she was with my family through many transitions. She was born to another sweet kitty when my children were little and my nuclear family was intact. She and her sister were adopted by my mother and brother and their nuclear family was intact until 2017.

    She had a feisty personality and many, including me did not fully understand her. She was independent and did not really care for social interaction with people. Accept on her terms, she would not allow petting and grooming was off limits. People seemed to be her source for food and shelter alone. But we loved her. In 2016 she endured displacement due to a house fire and was forced to adapt to my pets. That was a challenge for us all! Then in 2017 she (we all) lost her nuclear family; first her sister, then my mother and brother.

    It was at that point that I adopted Sheba. Over the past year, I have experienced a bond with her that seems beyond what I would have imagined. Again, I had my own pets, one of whom I lost back in February. He was a sweet fourteen year old mini schnauzer and his loss has been very difficult. Sheba and I grieved our losses together. Sheba and I taught each other another level of unconditional love. She would hear my voice in the morning and call for me. She would wait on the couch when I was busy. She came to accept me as “mommy 2” and allowed me to groom her and snuggle with her.

    By mid fall I realized that she like her sister had the symptoms of renal failure. I knew that my time was limited. I decided that I would love her and shower her with all of the attention and comfort that I could provide.

    By the new year she had gone blind, however she adapted and got around the house just fine. Her hind legs were also visibly weaker too. Sigh. But she was still happy. Still eating. Still social. Six weeks ago , she bled into her eye. She was sleeping more and roaming around the house less. She was also pacing and becoming confused. I tried to accept that the end was quickly approaching but just could not conceive if euthanizing another pet so soon. Four days ago, there was a vast change that made me have to accept that the time had come. I did not care about the incontinence as I just placed tarp covering everyplace. None of the before mentioned problems would trigger a decision. Sheba was either sleeping or restlessly pacing in circles. She did not know who I was that day and I feared her ability now to navigate the stairs. My heartbreak began. I put her in her “suite” and allowed her to rest (I thought). I checked on her later and panicked as I finally found her under the bed. Sheba did not hide like this! When my fiance and I retrieved her, she cried out and fell to the floor. I began to sob but knew what I needed to do. I could get no one to come to the home after hours and did not want to take her to an impersonal emergency clinic. We decided to let her have peace at home. The night was so long and restless.

    The next morning I found her on the bathroom floor (atypical) in an awkward position. Because she did not respond to me, I thought that she was gone. My fiance called for transport services. She was so weak and disoriented that I hurt for her. She gave me a final chortle as we said goodbye and I feel more miserable now than I have for any of my pets. Is it because of all of the loss or because of Sheba’s way and what she represented to our family? Or maybe what we taught each other about life? Probably a combination of all but I ache for her and my tears will not stop.

    I may in fact have waited too long because I felt that she still had quality of life and for my own selfish reasons. But I did try to make a choice based upon how Sheba was feeling. So I have no guilt timing. I do wish that I was strong enough to see her on her way to heaven, but I have demonstrated a lack of ability to see any loved one off. I just don’t want it to be my last memory. I guess we are all different and need to do what feels best, as long as it is not at the expense of another.

    I thank you so much for this forum and all of the stories that cat lovers have shared. Cats have a unique quality of relating life experiences with you. And if they accept you as their two legged mother, it is a blessing beyond description that many do not understand. Sharing my love for Sheba is cathartic and I thank you for the opportunity to share a glimpse of a beautiful soul.

    • Hi Pat,

      Thank you for your lovely post and your kind words. I am so sorry for your loss of Sheba.

      I think our cats can also represent periods in our lives. For me, Eliot represented a lonely time in my 20’s, and she passed away 8 weeks to the day after my first child was born. It felt like she waited until I finally had family here (I was born overseas). Levi represented the children growing up, we adopted him when my son was 1 and he passed away when my son turned 12.

      Holding on is common, I have done the same, and in hindsight regret it, but we can’t take that back. We hold on because we don’t want to let go, and we cling on to the hope that they will get better (or at least not get worse). All humans need to hold on to hope.

  10. Pets fill out hears with happiness and joy but nothing in this world is forever, they break our hearts and we grieve for them. I know my current love will break my heart and I worry for her as she is such a gentle soul I don’t want her to feel any pain. She is my mothers cat and Mom was taken too soon but every song she sang to her, I sing moms songs to her myself in hopes that when that dreaful day comes, mom will be with her on the rainbow bridge. If you give good love don’t be afraid to love again, keep loving as long as you can, the animal world needs love. Bless.

    • I too have a pet who I am especially bonded to (he’s a dog), and can not imagine the pain I will feel when I lose him. He is my constant companion and my best buddy.

  11. You are so right Julia. Your pets are there for periods of your life and when they are no longer with you, you are supposed to just let it all go. That is very hard to do. Especially for my sentimental soul.

    • Lulu, I suppose that is where I am and why I feel stuck. I remember my mom’s connection with Sheba and then my own attempts to nurture Sheba when my mother passed; using my light, childlike voice that reminded me of my experiences with my mother as a child. It’s the circle of life, I guess. I will continue to love my remaining fourteen year old cat for the remainder of our time together. And I will continue to share my life and love with pets as they bring so much happiness in this crazy world that we live in. Thank you for your words!

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