Ask Ms. Kitty – Love hurts: Grief and Your Cat

Dear Ms Kitty, 

My heart hurts from my girl passing away. Do you have people I can talk to about that? I wonder about getting another cat but also feel guilty.

Dear Guilty,

You are not alone. Along with the joys of sharing your life with cats comes the heartbreak when it’s time for them to leave us. It is one of our biggest privileges as humans to be able to give them the gift of relieving their suffering. It is also one of our biggest sorrows.

Cat guardians often have their friends for almost a human generation, 15 to 20 years. They are there for us through many life changes. They watch us—and our children—grow and shift. They make many moves with us, doing their best to adapt to every new environment. They purr when we’re sad and get excited when we’re happy.

You may be feeling that loss acutely when it comes time for your nightly snuggles, or when it’s feeding time, or time you used to set aside to play.

Dr. Judith Lee, of Compassionate Care Veterinary Support, says finding a meaningful ritual can help. She says, “I find ceremony an important part of the mourning process. This is highly individualized.

“I like keeping a picture of the pet in a place that I will see several times a day.  Sometimes I will look at it for long moments, other times I will place a finger of connection on it, and sometimes I will even speak to it out loud. Bring as many touchstones to this space as is helpful.

“Allowing the heartache is courageous, difficult, and healing. And allowing as much time as is needed is important. Four months after the loss of my young cat, I continue to feel the stab of loss and continue to visit the small altar erected as a testament to the love we shared.”

She also offers some thoughts about the best time to find another kitty. “An addition is never a replacement. The deceased pet’s love will always remain in our hearts. Staying open to discovering the adopted cat’s personality is respectful to our previous companion, the adoptee, and ourselves.”

Lasting Paws Pet Memorial Service (formerly Homeward Bound) offers a monthly pet loss support group, facilitated by Sharon River Hansen. You can contact her at (719) 488-3333 to sign up.

Sept. 8 is National Pet Memorial Day, a day to honor the bond we have with our companions who have gone on before us.

Happy Cats Haven will be dedicating our Purrflection Garden at 3 pm that day with a short ceremony led by local Pastor Bosley-Mitchell from the Community Congregational Church. She will bless and dedicate the space for us and offer a celebration of life for your beloved pets who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

We will come together in love and community for a Planting Party at 9 am the morning before, September 7th. The garden will be brought to life through a mix of plant donations and purchases over the next year. We envision this space as a relaxing refuge for contemplation, surrounded by trees, commemorative walls, and xeric plants and grasses. Please see our website or call for more info at 719-362-4600.

  • Compassionate Care Veterinary Support: 719-330-1926
  • Lasting Paws Pet Memorial Service:   (719) 488-3333
  • Happy Cats Events: HappyCatsHaven.org/events/

Sara Ferguson is the Director of Happy Cats Haven. Ask Ms Kitty is a free helpline offered by Happy Cats Haven and Colorado Cats Boarding, available on our website at HappyCatsHaven.org/helpline/.

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