Losing your cat: finding love in grief


Dear Ms Kitty,

I recently lost my cat Muffin to Chronic Kidney Disease. I am grieving this loss and don’t know how to move past this debilitating feeling. Do other people find that adopting another cat is helpful?

Devastated on Delmonico

Dear Devastated,
When we open our hearts and share our lives with a cat, we also learn how difficult it is to outlive them. Everyone processes these experiences differently. Your grief is a way of connecting to Muffin, but it can be shifted into something less painful. Having another cat to care for could be a way to continue sharing your love.

It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All the unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.– Jamie Anderson

Some people do find solace in adopting another cat shortly after a loss. Others need time to heal before they feel ready to commit to another companion. You will never replace Muffin but you could pay tribute to her, when you are ready, by helping another cat who needs a home.

It is important to recognize that every cat is an individual and will have his or her own personality. If Muffin had traits that you found particularly endearing, create a list to help you identify cats that might provide you with similar experiences.

Some people love lap cats, or cats that are very talkative, or a kitty who loves to be groomed. Others want a cat who is adventurous and will travel with them, a playful joker to make them laugh.

Adopting a new cat may show you the joy of a vastly different personality. You have to be able to accept her or him and not try to judge against your memory of Muffin.

Happy Cats has many cats who are just waiting for their loving family to appear. You might consider volunteering with us or another cat shelter to be around other cats and see how that feels.

If you are not sure it is time to adopt you might offer to foster a cat who needs special attention as they wait to be adopted. Some cats really have a difficult time in the shelter environment, so foster homes are critical, and we always need foster families to help.

September 13th is National Pet Memorial Day. If you have not created a ceremony or memorial for Muffin, you might try doing something to process your feelings of loss. The act of honoring Muffin could help you to move from grief to gratitude and make an opening for a new cat companion.

  • Plant a tree or a bush to serve as a lasting memorial to your cat.
  • Donate to a cat shelter in your cat’s name.
  • Write or draw your story of Muffin.
  • Create a photo collage that will remind you of the happy times with your companion.
  • Commission a piece of art in honor of your cat. This could be jewelry, a candle, a painting, garden stone or photo frame. You might browse Etsy and search for “cat memorial gift” to get ideas.
  • Make a shadow box with mementos from your special companion: a collar, some whiskers, a bit of fur, a special toy, her favorite brush and some photos.
  • Not sharing your grief can make this time feel even more lonely. You might reach out to a pet grief support group either in your community or online. Lasting Paws Pet Memorial Service offers a monthly pet support group at 719-488-3333. Their next session is coming up on September 20th.

You can take your time, make an appointment to visit with some of our Happy Cats or browse the ones cats online and see how you feel. You might find you connect to just the right new cat friend and get the answer to your question.

Melissa Shandley is one of the founders of Happy Cats Haven, a Cat Behavior Consultant and Cat Care Provider.

Thanks also to to Life After 50 for publishing our monthly Ask Ms Kitty column.

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