How To Mend Your Heart After The Death Of A Beloved Cat

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When your cat is your family, you feel their loss as deeply as you would with any other loved one. They were with you every day, for both the good and the bad. Your cat was your sounding board when you were upset, your cuddle buddy on cozy nights, and your best friend no matter what. They were an important part of your life, and it’s natural for their death to be a heartbreaking, and even traumatic, experience. 

Coping with those intense feelings of grief can put life at a standstill. It will always be difficult, but these tips from grief support professionals will help.

Let it Out

It’s normal for people to feel like they need to hold in their emotions. We do it to protect ourselves from the people who don’t understand our grief, and we think that by ignoring the pain, it will go away. But the truth is, holding back will not help. Grief is something that will fester and grow. It’s necessary to acknowledge those feelings before you can start the process of moving on.

death of a cat

To acknowledge your grief about the death of your cat, start with a single conversation. Choose a person who will not judge you or dismiss your feelings. They don’t need to say anything back, all they need to do is listen. Talk to them about your fondest memories of your cat since the first day you met until the day you said goodbye. If you don’t have anyone you’re comfortable talking with, there are support groups and hotlines meant for this exact purpose. And when you’re done talking, let yourself cry, scream, or pound a pillow. Do whatever you need to do to let your emotions out.

Here are a few grief support resources:

  • ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline: 877-474-3310
  • Cornell University Pet Loss Support Hotline: 607-253-3932
  • Tufts University Pet Loss Support Hotline: 508-839-7966
  • Ohio State University also has a resource guide for support groups, online chats, and hotlines. You can find it here

Address Feelings Of Guilt

death of a cat

Since we can’t have our pets live forever, we settle for the hope that they’ll pass peacefully in their sleep after a long and happy life. But for many pet owners, this isn’t how it works. So many cat owners are faced with the difficult decision of euthanasia. And while euthanasia is an act of love meant to prevent pain and suffering, it’s never easy. Many cat owners face feelings of guilt along with their grief. 

Instead of viewing euthanasia as ending your cat’s life, you need to see it as a gift. As hard as it is, it’s a decision that spares your beloved cat from suffering during their final days. If you’re feeling guilty, it helps to talk it out and face those feelings head on.

Find Closure

When a human family member passes away, people come together to recognize the loss and grieve together. There are funerals, memorial services, and special ceremonies dedicated to the deceased, but they also help the living find much-needed closure. Consider doing the same thing for your cat.

Many people find it helpful to have a small gathering where people can come together to celebrate a pet’s life. It can happen after a pet’s death, before a scheduled euthanasia, or even during the euthanasia procedure. If that doesn’t feel right, there are also other ways to recognize your loss. You could have a memorial made for your cat or make a donation to an animal shelter in their name. These types of acts can be extremely cathartic and help bring peace and understanding during a difficult time.

Don’t Feel Pressured to Move On

You might feel like you need to be “back to normal” within a few days after the death of your cat. Or maybe your friends and family were supportive at first, but now they’re pressuring you to move on. It’s important to remember that there is no timeline to grief. Grief is an individual process, and everyone must take it at their own pace.

Seek Help When You Need It

If the death of your cat starts to affect your long-term emotional health, you’re encouraged to reach out to a mental health professional. It is possible to develop symptoms of PTSD after the death of a beloved cat. Losing sleep, unexplained irritability, obsessive thoughts, panic attacks, and consistent nightmares are signs you need professional help. Talking to a trained professional can offer a way forward. 

There will always be people that will say things like, “It was just a cat.” While these comments are hurtful, you have to know that they simply aren’t true. Psychologists say grieving a beloved pet can be just as painful (and even more so) than that of a human family member. It’s important to acknowledge those emotions and work through your feelings. There’s no doubting that it will be difficult. But take it one breath at a time and incorporate these strategies into your everyday life.

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22 Comments

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  1. Ironic to see this today, as I’m taking my dear little Annie over the Bridge in an hour. Not my first, not my last, but you’re absolutely right. It’s never easy. Annie is a rescue, as all my cats for 50 years have been. Unwanted, abandoned, unloved – I have wanted, kept and loved each and every one of them unconditionally. Annie is 17 or 18, in kidney failure and having breathing difficulty. Meds have given us a few extra years, but it’s time now. Dear little Annie.

    • So sorry to hear this, Renee. Annie sounds like she had an amazing life with you. Our thoughts are with you during this difficult time. Rest in peace, sweet Annie.

    • I’m so very sorry for your loss.

      I have been there, and I know very well how it feels. But, because of you, Annie had a good life. Sending love…

    • I am sooo sorry for your loss of Annie. The gut-wrenching feelings that go with doing the right thing for our babies that feels all too wrong for us. Annie sound like your ❤️ Kitty. She has lived such a long, beautiful life with you. Take comfort in knowing you gave her a beautiful life. I unexpectedly had to help my Simba on 12/31/19 and just can’t get through the loss even though I’m surrounded be 13 additional loving kitty kids. Simba was my ❤️. I will continue to love the lost and unwanted shelter, stray and feral kitties, in honor of Simba but will never be the same. God bless you as you travel through the steps of grief. Don’t let anyone diminish your feelings of loss.

    • So sorry to hear of your loss. It is so hard. Annie was lucky to have such a caring and loving owner such as yourself. You gave her a loving home and she knew it and loved you in return. Take all the time you require to heal your broken heart. 💔😿

  2. When I lost my two 21-year old boys within a few months of each other, I was devastated. I ended up fostering a litter of 5 kittens, spaying and neutering and homing them as a memorial to Dash and Hobbes. It was a positive step forward for me, and the joy that is kittens helped me to deal with my pain, as well as putting 5 kittens into loving homes. I’d recommend this for anyone!

    • That’s so great, Alex! Yes, definitely agree that fostering and rescuing is a wonderful way to cope with the loss of a beloved cat. Also, Dash and Hobbs sound like they were well loved to both live to 21 years old!

  3. It has been 2 years since my Izzie left and I still tear up thinking about her and I miss her EVERY day.
    She was my best friend.

  4. My 18 1/2 year old cat died in my arms yesterday. I had her from 8 weeks old. She was very special as all cats are. I will sorely miss my Merritt. Have been sharing on FB and C&M. People have been so loving and supportive in their comments. My girl decided on her own when to die. I didn’t have to make that decision. I’m thankful for that this time.In time I will get more cats but I know I know I know I need to grieve for her for as long as it takes. No rush. And I’ll be gentle with my self.

  5. Before I got to the last sentence of this article I am balling my eyes out! You see I had to make the most difficult decision of having my sweet boy, love of my life euthanized last year Jan. 9th. I was so blessed to love him and him love me for nearly 8 years. I feel for those who are going through the same. May we never forgot❤😭

  6. I lost my beloved Smokey in 2005 after having him in my life for almost 20 years. I was devastated and still miss him so much to this day. I have 3 other cats now and my oldest is 14 and I know that I will be just as devastated. They are more than pets they are family.

  7. As someone that just lost my beloved Oscar (way too soon due to FeLV), the only comfort I can give is this:
    It hurts. Bad. But at the end of the day we can only take solace in the fact that although they were only part of our lives for a part of our life, we were their entire life, or at least the best part of it. We love them for the short time that they are here. Then we grieve, we cry, we mourn. All I can ask is that once you are ready, please find another animal that is in need and show that animal that humans aren’t as bad as they think. Give them the love that they so sorely miss and need.

  8. My cat died last Monday, he wasn’t even there years old. I have lost a lot of older cats but never one do young. We adopted him at 6 months from a rescue. He was part Mainecoon and followed me around like a puppy dog. We were out of the country when he showed signs of being ill. By the time we came back he was looking like a very old kitty. The vet seemed hopeful but his little pancrious was apparently too angry and he died in the middle of the night. We also adopted two part simese girls who bonded with him. Now my husband and I as well as the other girls are grief stricken over the loss of a wonderful playful sweet boy…💔💔 My husband and I keep having memories thinking we are seeing him and the girls walk around the house crying and looking for him… Too sad for even words…

  9. After having my “Pretty Girl” for 15 years, ( she was abandoned in an apartment when I rescued her & she was 1-2 years old), a beautiful black smoke Persian, with big golden eyes & a sweet disposition. I had a male Norwegian Forest cat at the time & he was very jealous of her, hissing & growling at her, & she deferred to him, making no demands for attention. She was content for the first 3 years to just eat, sleep, & stay away from “ Meowser” as he was known. When he died from thyroid disease at the age of 17, ( he was a rescue also, from the SPCA) she became more social. She would catch a mouse & bring it to me, in her mouth, howling with glee as she dropped it at my feet, alive !! She never killed the mice she caught. Sweet puss,😸. I took her to the Vet on January 30 th where she took her final journey on the Rainbow 🌈 Bridge, after a year of being treated for thyroid disease, kidney disease & a tumor in the wall of her bladder, which was inoperable. I can’t even put into words just how much I miss her…💔😭.

  10. Just lost my Tiger on Sunday. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure on Saturday. That night he took a turn for the worse. I couldn’t watch him suffer any further. I made the call to the vets office that morning and scheduled for that afternoon. It was hard because Tiger was my sons first pet. Tiger was only 11 yrs old. CHF can either be treated if caught early or can go overnight. It hurts, and here I am still cleaning up cat beds and toys. Not ready to let them go just yet.

  11. I lost one of my boys unexpectedly one month ago. I am devastated, he just had that ability to know when I was upset and sad, he would be in my lap right away. He slept with me every time I slept during the last 10 days my mom was with me. He actually wiped my tears. He was so special to me. RIP Phantom

  12. When my precious cat, Snicky, died I was devastated. Snicky died in my arms while we were listening to soft music. But, moments before he died he looked up over my shoulder towards the corner of the room. His eyes got very wide and he stared at something for several moments. I looked to see what it was and I could see nothing but something got his attention. He stared very intently at whatever was there. A moment later he died. Two years earlier three of my sweet sisters died. All were cat lovers. I prayed during those final weeks of Snicky’s life, he had kidney disease and a bad heart, that one or all three of my sisters would take care of Snicky when his time came. The last night of his life I told Snicky it was ok if he had to leave me. I told him he would be loved where he was going. Someone came and escorted my precious Snicky into the kingdom. I believe we that love our precious cats and dogs and Lose them to death will see them again one day…but they take a huge part of our hearts with them. Snicky had my heart from the day he decided to make my home his. I can’t wait to see his sweet face again one day down the road in the kingdom……..❤️

  13. So very sorry Renee, I totally understand how you feel for your sweet Annie.
    I had to do the same for my precious Connie two weeks ago today, she was also a rescue kitty, approx. 12 years old. She was diabetic for the past 12 months which never really got under control even with twice daily insulin injections, in the end her kidneys gave up. My sweet baby girl is at peace at Rainbow Bridge now, my head understands but my heart hasn’t accepted it yet.

  14. I just had to take my Suki on Monday to be euthanized. She was a beautiful yet challenging cat that I adopted at the rescue 12 years ago. I’m not sure how old she was saying but I think about baby three. She had severe thyroid disease and she couldn’t take the medication because she had a bad reaction to it. She constant chronic diarrhea and it was getting so bad she was going up to 15 or more times a day. It was time but I still feel terrible and of course after it’s done I always second-guess myself. I have three other healthy cats at home But for some reason the house was totally empty to me now.

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Written by Amber King

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