Cats are integral parts of our families and companions like none other. They are a source of entertainment, emotional support, and have individual personalities. In addition, cats often live into their late teens or early twenties so they are in our lives for a very long time. Because of this, when they pass away it is natural to feel as though there is a void within you.
Losing a Loved One is Hard
The loss of any loved one, regardless of whether they are a human or animal, is painful. Death and the emotions it brings are never easy to deal with. When the cat that has died was a constant in your daily life it can be very hard to get through your day without them. But learning to recognize and deal with the situation is an important part of managing the loss of your cat. As hard as it is, there are thankfully some things you can do to help guide yourself through the process of grieving. The process of grieving a pet cat is no different than that of a human family member or any other pet. You will go through the same stages of grief as you would for anyone else.
Stages of Grief
According to the Kubler-Ross model, there are five stages a person may go through to cope with grief.
5 Stages of Grief
These stages do not necessarily happen in a specific order but may occur in someone grieving the loss of their cat.
Denial of the Loss of Your Cat
Denial is typically one of the first stages of grief that you will go through. This stage, like any of the other stages of grief, is different for everyone and you may even skip this stage altogether. You will eventually come to terms with losing your cat but there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that what you are feeling is normal and okay.
Anger With the Loss of Your Cat
Another stage of grief is anger. You may feel angry at your cat, yourself, a disease, or someone or something else, but remember that it’s okay to feel this way because feelings are always valid. How you react to your feelings is what is important. Yell into your pillow, cry, write down your emotions, work out at the gym, or go for a run and let your mind and body process this anger.
Remember that it’s okay to be angry, but don’t stay angry longer than necessary or take it out on those around you. It may be easy to lash out or blame whomever is nearby—including your veterinarian—but try to understand that your veterinary staff are there to help and are often also saddened by the loss. Nothing can change what has happened, so you need to remind yourself that you are simply grieving, and being angry is just a part of that. Staying angry for too long will not help anything but at the same time, there is no time limit for grieving.
Bargaining About the Loss of Your Cat
You may find yourself trying to figure out what you could have done differently to prevent the death of your cat. Some people will express “if only” and “what if” sentiments or try to strike a deal with a higher power through prayer to bring their cat back.
Depression From the Loss of Your Cat
Almost everyone experiences the stage of grief known as depression. Crying, sleeping a lot, not wanting to do anything, feeling lonely, not wanting to eat, and other symptoms of sadness are very normal for you to exhibit after your cat has passed away. Honor these emotions but remind yourself that they will slowly be easier to manage as time goes on and you won’t feel this depressed forever.
Acceptance of the Loss of Your Cat
It may take some time, but acceptance is a must for anyone who has lost a loved one. If your cat has died, you will inevitably need to adjust to life without them. How you do this may vary from someone else but you must find a way to accept it. You will always miss your cat, but once you accept that they are gone it will slowly get easier to continue on with your life without your cat.
Ways to Process Your Grief
Different things will help different people cope with the loss of their cat. Some people need to be alone, while others will feel the need to get a new cat as soon as possible. Try some of the following tips if you aren’t sure how to process your grief:
- Give the popular poem, "The Rainbow Bridge," a good read. Cry if you need to.
- Surround yourself with other people who knew and loved your cat. Don’t be afraid to say you are sad or angry and acknowledge the hurt you are all feeling together.
- If you have another pet, spend time with them. Pets grieve too so if you had a pet that was especially close to your cat it may help you both to spend time together.
- Try looking at pictures of your pet or sort through its favorite things. Consider making a photo album, scrapbook, or shadow box to remember your cat and remind you of happier times.
- Redirect your attention and focus. Don’t forget that there are still many beautiful things about life, even though your cat is gone. Spend time doing things you enjoy.
- Call an empathetic friend who loves cats and talk to them. If you can’t think of someone to call, try going online to a forum or support group for people who are experiencing the loss of a pet. Talk about your cat and tell someone what you loved about your cat and why they were so special.
- Consider getting a new cat someday. This may be completely out of the question for some people, but for others, they need that tangible, physical being to hold and pet. You will never truly be able to replace your cat but you may help fill the emptiness in your heart with a new one.
- Remind yourself that time cannot be slowed down or sped up but it will get easier for you to cope with each passing day.
- See a grief counselor or therapist. Talk therapy is powerful and often necessary. There is no shame in needing help getting through a difficult situation.