Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
On August 6 and 15, my husband and I lost the first two cats we ever owned. Erin and Brookline had been with us for 16 years, our entire young adult life. They were part of our family and we loved them so much. Our third, now only, cat, Momo, is also grieving. It has been hard on all of us. When will it stop hurting so much? When can we get another cat? We don’t want Momo to have to be alone. She’s 6 years old and has only ever known a house with other cats.
Thomas: Oh, Nicole, we’re so sorry! That’s a really hard thing to go through–losing two cats within just days of each other!
Bella: We’re purring for you and your husband and Momo.
Tara: Yes, we’re purring hard, and we want you to know we understand your grief very well. Especially Thomas!
Thomas: When I lost my sweet snuggle buddy, Dahlia, I was so sad. I mean, just look at me in that picture up there. I thought I’d never feel better ever again!
Bella: But he did bounce back–and so did Mama, eventually.
Tara: One of the things Mama did to help Thomas get through was to spend lots of extra time with him.
Thomas: And she’d hold me and stroke my cheeks and say things like, “Oh, Thomas, I’m sad, too. It’s going to be okay, and I love you.”
Bella: That might be helpful for you and Momo. Being able to take the time to share your feelings and offer support to Momo will help you both through your grief.
Tara: As for if the pain will ever end–it will, but grief takes its own time and there’s no statute of limitations on mourning.
Thomas: There are a lot of toxic myths about grief, and you need to be aware of those and understand that that’s all they are–myths!
Bella: Author Wendy Van de Poll, founder of the Center for Pet Loss Grief describes those myths as follows.
Tara: First, there’s the myth that you should never have any joy while you’re grieving. That’s just not true! There are still going to be things that make you laugh, even while you’re deep in mourning. That doesn’t mean you’re callous or uncaring; it means you’re human.
Thomas: The most toxic myth of all is that it’s selfish and extravagant to grieve for a cat when there’s so much suffering in the world. People are capable of grieving for both suffering humans and suffering and deceased cats. The two are not mutually exclusive. So don’t get down on yourself for your grief.
Bella: Another myth is that there’s a right and wrong way to grieve. That’s just not true! Your grief journey is unique to you, and there’s no reason why you should follow the seven stages of grief in chronological order. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t feel angry as well as sad, or any other kinds of emotions.
Tara: Grief isn’t an easy journey, and there’s no road map for it. But you might find some help from Wendy Van de Poll’s book, My Cat Has Died: What Do I Do?
Thomas: The most important thing is not to go through your grief alone. It’s good that you have your husband as well as Momo, because you all can support each other as you move through your grief process.
Bella: As for when it’s time to bring another cat into your home, that’s a more difficult question. You see, Mama brought another cat into the Paws and Effect Gang just a month or two after Dahlia died, and although it wasn’t too soon for her, it was too soon for Thomas.
Thomas: I’m ashamed to admit it, but I got into some huge, screaming and clawing, fights with that new kitty. Kissy didn’t deserve that, but I was still too early in my grief to accept another kitty friend.
Bella: To be fair, Kissy had never gotten along all that well with other cats, either, so she had some accountability for the fighting, too.
Tara: Momo is probably going to follow your lead, as far as grieving goes. If Momo stops eating as part of her grief process, she needs to go to the vet right away, because if cats don’t eat they can get very sick.
Thomas: We can’t tell you when exactly it’s going to be time to bring in a new cat. That really depends on you. There’ll be a point when you know you’re ready. When the time does come, make sure you get a cat with a personality that complements Momo’s. If Momo is laid-back, adopt a cat who also has a laid-back temperament. If Momo is an energetic kitty, then get another energetic cat.
Bella: Most shelters will be able to help you adopt a cat who will be a good fit in your home. And if it turns out that the new cat has a hard time integrating into your household, they should have some tips for that as well.
Tara: Our favorite cat behaviorist, Pam Johnson-Bennett, has a great guide for introducing new cats at her website.
Thomas: Please let us know how things go, Nicole. And once again, please accept our deepest compassion and condolences. Purrs to you!
Bella: How about you other readers? Do you have any ideas for helping Nicole, Momo, and her husband get through their grief? Please share your tips in the comments!
we are so very sorry….you have gotten some great advice here. there really is no timeline. and, since we foster, we can assure you that there can be laughter amongst the tears – nothing like some kitten therapy to remind everything that life is a cycle. only you will know when you are ready for a new friend….for some it is right away, for others it takes longer. just know you aren’t replacing a family member by adopting – you are paying forward the love you have for those you have lost and opening your heart to healing.
I had the same thing happen to me a few years ago – I lost 2 cats in 3 days. My eyes are still tearing up when I think of my boys. I went from 4 cats to 2 and after a month or so I couldn’t handle the emptiness in my home, so I adopted 2 more at the same time. I’m lucky as most (I do have one that is a bully, but we are working with him and he is getting better) of my cats get along. I still miss my boys, but the joy my “new” 2 have brought me helped. Best of luck & please know you are not alone! Don’t be surprised if you think you are “done” grieving and you suddenly burst into tears, missing them. I have no real advice, just wanted you to know your in my thoughts <3
I meet people struggling like this as an adoption coordinator at adoption events fairly often. Some folks have found it helpful to volunteer at the adoption center to get to know some cats to help them choose the next cat for their family. When the family doesn’t have a Momo, another cat, I have found some find comfort in fostering a cat – it helps them have some of the routines that they are missing but with some of the boundaries naturally created by knowing the cat is just a visitor. I particularly worry about older people who lose an only cat slipping into depression without a companion – they may worry about taking on another cat at their age but there are so many wonderful cats over 7 who are overlooked that would make great companions. Rescue Groups and Shelters are ALWAYS in need of volunteer fosters – many have programs that allow you to have long term fosters which gives you the chance to have a long term relationship but know that should something happen to you the cat would be taken care of.
My cat Little Bit was grieving when his friend Scooby died many years ago. I didn’ t realize he was grieving. He just quit eating. The vet couldn’t find anything wrong. It took a few days and lots of babying to bring Bitsy’s appetite back and he “loved” to eat. If your kitty is lonely you will soon know it. Give it lots of love before you bring in another kitty but by all means do so. If possible, pick one from a rescue and make sure it likes other cats. Some cats don’t want to share a home and that would be devastating for Momo. A younger cat might be good. Sorry about your kitties, I know how difficult this is.