Too many of my friends have had to say goodbye to their beloved cats this year.
It didn’t matter whether the cat in question was a relatively young one or a senior who had lived his 9 lives to the fullest. All these friends grieved, and grieved hard.
The special Angel of Death for critters did not skip our house, either. Dawnie, the red Abyssinian who was my second self, went in for a routine surgery only to have my veterinarian find a fast-growing tumor in her bladder. I told him not to let her wake up.
A little less than 2 months later we lost Merlyn, our 16-year-old tabby, to kidney failure. A shy, retiring cat, she seemed to have made very good friends with the 2 stuffed animals sitting on my bedroom table, nuzzling them and chewing thoughtfully on their whiskers.
Finally, in November, we had to euthanize Topaz, our flamepoint Siamese and loving goofball-in-residence. Ironically, it was his big heart that gave out in the end.
Grieving for Your Cat
“Because man is higher up on the evolutionary scale than the cat doesn’t necessarily mean that a man’s death is more painful for those he leaves behind than for those who have lost a cat,” remarked Dr. Louis J. Camuti in All My Patients Are Under the Bed.
Camuti, a famous cat vet in New York City for more than 60 years, dealt with all manner of cats and people. “Should one mourn more for an indifferent uncle than for a devoted and loving pet?” he said. “I think it would be a very strange person who did so.”
But there’s another piece to the grieving puzzle. When you say goodbye to a much-loved feline, you can’t help feeling as though you’re also letting go of that part of your life you shared with him/her.
This was especially true with Dawnie, our last link with the deceased friend who had given her to us so many years before.
Carla and Imhotep
Carla, like myself, was a card-carrying Aby lover with a gorgeous Ruddy male named Imhotep. He had been diagnosed with renal failure the year before we met. She took good care of him, and he seemed to be doing fine.
Then late last May that changed drastically. Carla checked him into her veterinary clinic’s ICU in hopes that he would “bounce back.”
Don’t Miss: 19 Cat Health Warning Signs
For a little while he did. Carla visited him regularly. She held him, talked to him and sang to him. Imhotep was always happy to see her, and his appetite picked up a bit.
At the end of the week, the cat hospital folks finally told her she could bring him home or wait until Monday to pick him up. She thought it over and figured it made more sense to let him stay over the weekend so that he could get continuous care.
But when she went back on Monday, Imhotep’s kidneys had stopped working. She brought him home so they could have a little more time together. Then 2 days later they made that last awful trip to the vet together.
Imhotep had been Carla’s baby, and “he was there through a lot with me.” She was, she told me, “heartbroken, depressed. Shocked that he was gone. I cried every day. It was the worst I ever felt in my life. I felt like there was nothing that would ever make me feel good again.”
Now almost 8 months later, Carla is beginning to think Abys again. She still misses Imhotep deeply, but she’s also “remember[ing] how wonderful having an Aby kitten around was. And all the crazy Aby antics.”
Talk about your cat. Not everybody will understand, but a lot of people will: Your animal-loving friends. Online support groups.
Celebrate that fur-person who stole your heart. Write about him/her. Hang a photo or painting where you can see it. I still keep Merlyn’s stuffed-animal buddies out. And I’m dedicating the next edition of my book, Houdini, in Topaz’s memory.
When you’re really ready, consider adopting another cat. It is, in the end, the best tribute and the surest route to healing.