Uma owned her from the moment they met, Tracy Weed recalls. The elegant Blue Abyssinian — a.k.a. “Uma the Puma” — was with her for 8 years, surviving 3 cancer surgeries (all for mammary tumors) and pancreatitis.
Then kidney failure struck. Weed did all she could to keep her friend going. There were moments of grace along the way, those not-so-small things that lift your spirits when your cat is sick: Uma back from the vet, relaxing in her garden or at her food dish.
Or, as her human put it, “To most, just a cat eating. To me, Uma, diagnosed with kidney failure, eating with gusto for the first time in weeks!”
Uma made it through the summer. In September, however, she lost the fight.
Weed was devastated, especially because this loss came close on the paw-step of her dog Kayla’s death. “Never again will I be awakened by Uma’s soft tapping on my cheek,” she mourned, “or have her check out any and everything that I eat…or see her amazing, alert face checking from wherever she’s been to see that I’m all right and in one piece.”
There are heart cats, and there are soul cats. Both are wonderful.
A soul cat, in the words of artist-writer Joyce Fredericks L’Heureaux, is “a sensitive, warm companion…affectionate and moody personality; the soft and gentle friend who reminds us that it is okay to be ourselves.”
These are the cats who become our kindred spirits. Losing them is much like losing a second self, and we don’t get over the loss. There is no statute of limitations on grief over a cat, any more than there is on grief over a human.
A New Cat
A lot of people don’t want to suffer the pangs of loss again.
Some of them, like Derek Tangye (A Cat in the Window, Lama, A Cat Affair), are 1-cat people. At least, that’s what he told himself after the death of his ginger cat, Monty.
To these people, the deceased pet is irreplaceable. Which is true. No cat or kitten will ever take the lost one’s place. But the new one will, in time, carve out a place of his/her own.
“Some people think it’s better not to get the same color, sex or breed as the cat whose death you’re dealing with,” observes Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen.
“Others love a certain breed and can’t imagine living with another type! Again, it depends on each person. But one thing is the same for everyone: don’t compare your cat.”
Tangye, by the way, told his wife that he’d back down only if “a black cat comes to the cottage in a storm…and we can never find out where it came from.”
Some months later, he opened the door to investigate a noise, and a little black cat walked in out of the storm. They never did find out her origins, and she lived out the rest of her life with them.
Timing Is Everything
I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting another cat or kitten right away. But you do have to make sure you’re emotionally ready. Everybody grieves differently, and some of us just need more time than others.
Also take into consideration any other pets you may have. Some cats are very social: A new buddy will keep them from pining for their lost friend or litter mate. Others might resent a newcomer showing up while they’re still grieving.
Last, but certainly not least, if your last cat had a potentially contagious disease, thoroughly disinfect your house before bringing the new guy or gal home. No need to invite tragedy in a second time.
Finding Joy Again
“Once we have experienced the Joy of Cats, it is so much greater than our sadness,” writes Pamela Merritt. “This is why we experience such a longing to pour love on another cat, who we know needs it very much.”
In November, Weed brought home a new Blue Aby, Yvette. “This little love is the best,” she says, “and somehow, though I miss Uma and Kayla, I feel like they brought Yvette to me…. This little Yvette is such a love, my heart is full.”