Losing A Cat: How To Grieve And When To Adopt A Kitten

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Losing A Cat

When losing a cat, owners miss them terribly. Some become inconsolable because oftentimes cats are family. Whether by accident, illness, or old age, the death of our little felines is always a difficult step to take. Because we consider it a full member of the family, we know how painful it is to lose a loved one. Here are some things you can do if you have lost your cat, or if you want to support a loved one who is grieving for their animal.

Losing A Cat: Tips For Adult And Children + New Adoption Tips!  

Losing A Cat As An Adult: 

You will go through the 5 stages of grief: 

Cat mourning, like any form of grief, usually goes through five stages. Their duration varies greatly depending on the person and the situation. Sometimes just understanding why you feel anger, guilt, or sadness, and knowing that these are normal psychological mechanisms helps move you forward. This proves to us that sooner or later the pain will subside and we will be able to move on in life, without forgetting the loved one.

  • Denial: During this phase, the person refuses to believe that their cat is dead: “it is not possible, I cannot believe it”. This refusal to accept reality is temporary, and constitutes a kind of self-defense mechanism to make the pain more bearable in the face of an inevitable situation. 
  • Anger: At this phase, a person is revolted against this situation which has been imposed on him/her. Often, they look for someone responsible for their misfortune, whether real or a scapegoat: the driver who crushed the cat, the vet who could not treat an illness, the husband who left the window open, etc. It is important to let that anger flow and understand that it is part of the grieving process.
  • Bargaining: During this phase, the person recognizes that the situation is real, but wonders what they can do to bring their cat back. The owner also imagines scenarios that could have prevented the fatal outcome: “If only I had had more money, I would have taken him to 10 other vets to have other medical opinions … if I had closed all the balconies to prevent him from jumping… if I had been there when…”, etc. This step can be difficult for loved ones to understand, because sometimes the feelings that the bereaved person expresses seem irrational. The main thing is to be present and to listen, without judging. 
  • Depression: During this phase, grief, discouragement, withdrawal into oneself often mark this stage. The evidence of the cat’s absence is obvious, with its myriad of consequences: loneliness, broken habits, etc. The presence and listening of those around you are, again, important in overcoming this stage – so have a good entourage or else find one online. 
  • Acceptance: At this stage, the person is finally at peace and begins to live normally again, even if they do not forget their little furball. She/he is finally looking to the future and can sometimes build a new adoption plan.

Remember that in addition to loving your animal for what it was, you have symbolically associated it with important landmarks in your life without knowing. Your cat was: the child you never had, the companion who brought you support during a difficult period, the children’s friend,… The duration and intensity of your sentence are correlated with these parameters. Let go at your own pace, only you can heal your pain.

You might experience confusing events following the death of your cat:

It is not uncommon to feel like hearing him walking in a room or scratching at the door

Expect to see him in a specific place or at certain times of the day (the morning hug, home from work, etc.) You might dream about him/her as well. 

Manage your entourage: 

We can accept and live our feelings about the loss of our cat but often it is difficult to express them to those around us for fear of being judged. However, if you have lost your cat and are sad, then this is completely normal. The attachment to your pet, the happiness it has brought you, all carry a strong emotional charge.

Some people around you will have a hard time understanding you and will give you unsolicited advice: “it was just a cat, it’s not like you’ve lost a loved one” or they act as if it were an object that can be easily replaced. Do not take offense to these comments, and go your way. Entrust your sadness to people who can understand your grief, or to a caring, empathetic person who will know not to judge you.

Surround yourself with love, do not isolate:

Experts recommend that you should not isolate yourself after the death of your pet because it is running the risk of withdrawing into yourself and not being able to mourn. Get support from family or friends who have undoubtedly experienced this type of event before, and their tips can be of great help. On the other hand, many people have friends who have never had a pet or who have not been able to establish a very strong bond with their little companion. In this case, join a forum. 

Losing A Cat As A Child: 

The cat is sometimes an object of transition for children: it becomes attached to it symbolically and becomes a form of maternal substitute, a first best friend, etc. An identification process occurs, and mourning for the cat then becomes mourning for a part of oneself that has gone with the animal.

The death of the cat can therefore be disturbing for the child, and one must be attentive to his suffering: due to the identification process, he can develop anxieties and psychological disorders. For example, if the animal had to be euthanized due to health issues or, worse, behavioral issues, the toddler may be made to imagine that the same fate could befall him. You should therefore be careful about what you say to your child in these circumstances.

It should also be taken into account that all members of the family are affected by the death of a cat and that everyone must be able to grieve. It is therefore an ordeal to be shared so that parents and children can support each other and help each other to pass this ordeal as well as possible. Crying together but also listening to each other, remembering the many good times lived with the cat allows everyone to relieve their pain and to know that they are not alone in being upset.

Should you adopt a new kitten quickly?

After the death of their pet cat, some children and parents wonder if they should replace the cat like a toy. The child and the home might perk up – and quickly. Therefore, this question is legitimate, because the lack of the presence of your pet is profound.  However, some experts say it’s best to avoid adopting a new kitten too quickly. Here’s why: 

  1. A hasty adoption might lead to returns:

It is better to allow the necessary time to mourn to pass. Indeed, a hasty adoption would have no other purpose than to compensate for the loss suffered. 

  1. Your new little kitten is a being in its own right: 

Your new kitten will have its character and its personality, and should not be a means of continuing to support/imitate the missing cat. It is important for everyone that the future adopted kitten is not seen as a sort of extension of the first or a reincarnation, but as a new member of the family.

  1. While mourning, you may suffer from a lack of patience:

Some owners have a tendency to react badly to the attitudes of this new companion when they do not coincide with those of the previous one. A kitten has everything to learn, and finding a new home can take time and require your patience. So avoid seeing him as a replacement, a place that he cannot and should not have to assume. In addition, the animal would perceive the tensions it arouses and risk living them badly and developing behavioral disorders in spite of itself.

  1. Expectations to the rule: 

Aside from the 3 points mentioned, adopting a new kitten can be of great help once the loss of the deceased cat is accepted. It is not a question of replacing him or of forgetting him then, but of opening his home to the arrival of a new member. It is giving another cat the chance to live in a loving family, able to give them the comfortable life they deserve.

As a result, give yourself time to deal with the loss of your pet. Leave time for mourning and going through the 5 stages of grief. 

You can consider welcoming a new kitten as soon as you feel your capacity to accept his departure. This period will be longer or shorter depending on your sensitivity and the relationship you had developed with your missing cat, but it is necessary.

Tips For Other Cats In Your Home:

It is often said that animals live in the moment, so it is unlikely that a cat will exhibit lengthy periods of mourning like humans. 

Nearing or after the death of their friend, cats do exhibit behavioral changes that can sometimes be difficult to understand when a feline companion goes missing.

When animals are closely related, they are more likely to be marked by the disappearance of their companion. We’ll never know if cats understand what death is, but they do notice very well when their companion is away and if something has changed around the house. Adding to the confusion they feel, the pet owner’s distress after losing a pet can also spread to the cat. So often our prolonged mourning affects the mood of the cat and the reality is that we should also learn to accept and live in the moment and not in the past like animals do. 

Signs of mourning:

It is impossible to predict a cat’s reaction to the disappearance of a companion. Some cats seem completely indifferent while others seem rather happy to be rid of them. Other cats, on the other hand, will stop eating. Some cats also experience changes in personality or behavior when their companion goes missing.

Very little research has been done on grieving in cats. But a survey by an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found that cats:

  • ate less,
  • slept more, 
  • and meowing more after the death of a feline companion.

The good news is that of the 160 households surveyed, all the animals that lost a companion returned to their usual behavior after six months.

A home full of reactions and smells: 

When we own several cats, which we will call a community, there comes an unfortunate day when we are sad, but so is the whole community.

Our little felines smell the dead companion, they look for him, they smell “the death” of the friend, and can sometimes have unexpected reactions such as spitting, hissing, fear, anger, etc.

Let’s put ourselves in the paws of our cats: the smell of the buddy is there, but the buddy is hiding, we can’t see him, he’s not in his usual place. And their smell is not like before, she smells of fear, disease, even death.

Help a grieving cat using these tips: 

  1. Don’t remove ALL the scent by cleaning: 

Indeed, if the odor suddenly disappears in places or is found masked, the cat asks even more questions and goes straight into the stress, especially since, as well as we do, the smell remains in the walls, baseboards, tile joints, and furniture.

The cat seeks but does not find, and depending on its character and its level of stress, its reaction may differ, as in humans. Often I hear: ” I cleaned everything, washed and scented, nothing to do, he’s still looking for his buddy/girlfriend/boyfriend” and that’s normal. But cleaning doesn’t make it any easier for the remaining cat or the community.

By leaving the smell intact, it will naturally fade, and the community will think that the missing friend is moving away, and will be able to understand that his smell disappears with him, the mourning will be all the better.

It is therefore necessary to help fellow pets from losing a cat by removing their own belongings (cushion bowls, basket, etc.).

  1. Minimize change:

Minimizing the changes will give your cat time to better cope with the disappearance of his feline companion. Maintain the same habits as before. Changing her meal times or simply moving your furniture can cause her even more stress. A grieving cat may lose its appetite.

  1. See a vet if diet changes:

A cat that refuses to eat is potentially at risk of a fatal liver disease, or hepatic lipidosis. If they won’t eat: 

try warming his/her food slightly, 

try adding a little water or meat juice, 

try not to change your diet to stimulate your appetite,

finally see your vet if your cat doesn’t eat for three days. 

  1. Spend more time brushing, stroking, and playing with it: 

This will create a positive association with both you and the cat and will change the feeling at home. 

  1. Don’t try to replace a missing cat right away: 

If they are still disturbed by the absence of their longtime companion, your cat is unlikely to welcome a newcomer, who would only be a source of additional stress. Any significant change in behavior will need to be examined by your vet, in case it hides a physical problem. A behaviorist can also help you solve your cat’s behavioral problems.

  1. Get help and support from someone who has already been through this:

Helping your cat get over their grief can be difficult especially if you, yourself are having trouble coping with the loss of your cat. You have to talk about it with someone or join a forum with people who have had the same experience. Someone who knows how painful losing a pet can be, can sometimes help you get over your grief.

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