You may be surprised at the depth of pain you feel every time you think “I miss my cat.” These eight ways to cope with the grief of your cat’s death will help you through your loss. I also share advice from cat owners who understand the sorrow and sadness of losing a beloved pet.
“Grieving the loss of a beloved cat is an extremely personal experience,” says Michelle on for How to Survive the Loss of Your Pet. “Everyone copes differently, every cat owner has a different way to work through the loss and sadness. But one thing stays the same: we all have to find our own method of grieving. Otherwise the pain never heals. I miss my cat dearly and deeply, but I have to let him go. Otherwise I’ll never be happy again.”
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When you miss your cat, there isn’t much that can take the pain away. “Grief can’t be shared. Everyone carries it alone, her own burden, her own way,” said Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The sadness you feel when your cat dies can’t be shared and is yours alone. But, it can help to read about how other people coped with the death of their cats. Below are five ways to cope when you miss your cat more than you can imagine.
These tips may not take away the pain of missing your cat, but at least they’ll help you see you’re not alone. Sometimes just knowing your pain has been shared can help you heal.
8 Ways to Cope When You Miss Your Cat
Surrounding yourself with people who understand what it’s like to grieve the loss of a cat is one of the most important things you can do. If you feel alone – and if you are alone because you isolate yourself – then you may take longer to heal.
Reach out to others. Talk about how difficult it is to deal with the death of your cat. Find people who understand, who can genuinely relate to your pain.
1. Share memories of your beloved furry feline
“As a child, we were encouraged to talk about the pet and remember him or her,” says cat lover Pam Vetter. “Pets are family members and have important roles in our lives. Whenever a frog, lizard, parakeet or guinea pig has died in our house over the last 14 years since my kids were born, we’ve held a mini-funeral in the backyard. We bury the pet, put a rock marker on top, and share our memories about the pet. The time together serves to recognize the pet’s role in our lives. My kids are encouraged to share their memories about our lost pets.”
Don’t bury your pain or try to hide how much you miss your cat. Even just telling someone “I miss my cat” can help you through the grieving process. Sadly, you have to feel the pain before you can heal.
2. Give yourself time to heal after your cat dies
“Healing takes place over time, and there is no single formula to saying good-bye when your cat dies,” says Dan, whose 12 year old cat disappeared without a trace.
“The loss of a cat is the loss of someone you loved, and when anything you loved is abruptly taken away from you, there is no substitute. Four years ago, my cat Peep disappeared without a trace. I live in an exclusive suburb of Los Angeles in the hills. It’s often you have wild life and predators roaming at night. I was sick with some dental problem and when I came home from pharmacy at 9 pm, I couldn’t locate both my cats…one of then came home and the other didn’t.”
Cry as much as you need to. Weeping – letting your heart melt in sorrow – is the only way to deal with a loss so great. Try to spend time outdoors in the fresh air, away from the invasive noise of people. Allow the pure music of nature to fill your ears, the smells of forest and soil and grass to fill your nose. It will do your soul good.
3. Learn different ways to grieve the pain of missing your cat
Robert Neimeyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Memphis in Tennessee, says grief is more than simply a series of emotional stages. Grieving a loss isn’t just about going through the stages of grief – and healing isn’t just about letting time pass.
“We do have a great deal of agency in how we embrace our suffering, and the sense we make of it,” says Neimeyer, author of Techniques of Grief Therapy: Creative Practices for Counseling the Bereaved. He has published 30 books on grief and counselling therapy and has a clinical practice.
Dr Neimeyer recently wrote a paper called ‘Meaning Reconstruction in the Wake of Loss: Evolution of a Research Program’, which was published by Cambridge University Press. Drawing on the therapeutic encounters of thousands of bereaved people, many suffering from the loss of a child or a loved one through violent or sudden death, he states that we should not have a “timetable of expectation” when it comes to grief.
“The critical thing is that [a timetable or stages of grieving] simply obscures the degree of choice we have in how we engage in the choiceless act of grieving,” he says in One Step at a Time Helps the Bereaved. “We rarely choose to lose people we love, unless we have to make those hard end-of-life decisions about the removal of medical care, but we can choose how we fit loss into our life, and who we become in consequence to that loss individually, in our families, communities and cultures.”
It is often new purpose – not time – that can be most beneficial to a grieving heart. Newer grief therapy helps grieving people understand the lessons of their loss and places a premium on their capacity to find a new normal, new meaning and “construct a kind of resilience even in the storm of bereavement.” With regard to the pain of losing your cat, this means finding a new normal to help you deal with the loss you feel.
“Our work is all about understanding grieving as a process of trying to reconstruct a world of meaning that has been challenged by loss,” says Dr Neimeyer. “What happened, and why and what are its implications for our lives, while also looking at the life we shared with our loved one and carrying it forward in ways we can in their physical absence. Time heals remarkably few wounds of grief because it’s not what time does for the bereaved person; it’s much more a question of what the bereaved person does with that time that matters.”
4. Give yourself time to grieve your cat’s death – and find purpose in your life
After I lost my cat, all I could think was “I miss my cat.”
But I learned that as tempting as it was to focus on how much I missed her, it was creating more pain and suffering in the long run. Focusing on my grief and pain was actually making things worse. It’s important to do the work of grieving your loss – and your cat’s death really is a huge loss! – but not allowing yourself to get swallowed up in the black night of the soul.
There is a difference between healthy grieving and unhealthy dwelling on the pain of loss. Grief takes time and energy – so you will find yourself more tired than usual. Unhealthy dwelling on your loss will suffocate you and prevent healing. So, give yourself time to grieve…but gently distract yourself from the long-term suffering that dwelling on a cat’s death can bring. Make an effort to remember joyful memories of your cat’s life. Keep busy. Find activities, places, and people who sooth your soul and quiet your mind. Learn ways to gently encourage yourself to come alive when you feel dead inside.
5. Consider rescuing an abandoned kitten or cat
“I had my multi-coloured white and ginger cat, Penny, for eight wonderful years,” says Cynthia Colby. “Her death was sudden. She seemed to be losing weight to a point until she appeared too thin, so I took her in to the vet’s and got the bad news. They suggested an operation, but the next day I got a call during the surgery that she might not make it. I rushed in, and she died in my arms. In my case, whether or not to get another cat was already solved in a way, as I had just rescued a small black kitten. I missed my cat so much, but I found it helpful to foster the new kitten for the local Cat Adoption Team. The month before, I had decided to adopt her myself. After Penny died, I called her my ‘Little Gift from God’.”
Rescuing a cat who needs a home may be one of the best ways to cope when you miss your cat. Fostering or adopting an abandoned animal may give you a sense of purpose, and may help you look beyond the pain of your present grief.
6. Learn different ways to cope with your cat’s death
Read How to Heal Your Heart After Losing Your Pet: 75 Ways to Cope With Grief and Guilt When Your Dog or Cat Dies, for support. I interviewed veterinarians, grief experts, and pet owners about healing after putting a beloved pet to sleep.
It’s true that time does ease the pain of missing your cat, but it’s also good to learn what helped other people cope with the pain. For example, I talked to one pet owner who got a paw print tattoo after putting her dog to sleep. I wouldn’t have thought of getting a tattoo of a cat’s paw on my ankle, but she said she is comforted every time she sees it.
7. Welcome another cat into your home – when you’re ready
“Last January we had to have our beloved cat, Janvier, put down,” says cat lover Jessica. “He was suffering from renal failure, and the treatment would have crushed his spirit and terrified him, so we made the hardest decision of our lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss having my first baby around. It’s pathetic, but we haven’t even gotten rid of his kitty litter (it’s clean!) or his leftover food.
I still think I can hear him puttering around at night. We have two young children and insanely busy lives, so we haven’t adopted a new cat yet. We feel like we wouldn’t be able to give him or her enough attention at this time, which would just not be fair. I really believe that having a new kitten would help us survive our cat’s death. I also think that bringing a new pet into our lives would help us honor Janvier, by constantly reminding us of the cute and funny things he used to do. So I hope that one day soon-ish, we’ll open our homes to a new pet both to help heal our hearts and so our children know the joy a cat can bring to a home.”
“There is something about the presence of a cat that seems to take the bite out of being alone.” ~ Louis J. Camuti.
If you’re thinking about opening your heart and home to another cat, read Should You Get a Cat After Your Cat’s Death?
8. Imagine your cat being held by an angel
The Willow Tree – Angel Holding a Cat With Affection is a beautiful symbolic way to remember your beloved cat. I always find it comforting to think of the cats I lost as being in Heaven, resting in peace, their souls intertwined with the angels’ and my other lost loved ones.
Think of your kitty being held in the arms of an angel; feel the peace and love and acceptance that comes with the thought of your cat resting comfortably. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or if you can prove the existence of Heaven. It doesn’t matter if cats have souls or not…all that matters is the comfort you’ll feel when you think, “I miss my cat.”
Your stories and thoughts about grief and your cat’s death are welcome below. I can’t offer advice, but it may help you to share memories of the beloved cat you lost. Your experience will also help other cat owners cope with the pain of their cat’s death.
If you’re a believer, you may find How to Find God and Mend Your Broken Heart helpful.