It’s still adopt-a-pet month. Since I’m revving up to fill an empty space in my home and my heart, this topic is in the forefront of my mind. All week we’ll discuss how people deal with the loss of a pet and the complicated adoption process in these unusual times. We’ll talk about the waiting period between the time you lose a cat and when you begin to consider adopting again. How long does one typically grieve the loss of a precious cat? For me it seems to depend on the circumstances of the loss, as well as the depth of the bond I had with that particular cat.
I lost a kitten once when I was pregnant. It was back in the day when I allowed my cats outdoor privileges, and this little guy was hit by a car. I cried for days. I’m sure that my grief was tied up in the fact that I was pregnant with my first child and more emotional, my attachment to this little guy, as well as my guilt for allowing this to happen.
When my beautiful Himalayan, Katy, died at the age of 18 of kidney disease after two years of successful subcutaneous fluid administration, my grief felt different. Katy had been with me through some difficult times and serious life changes. You probably know how bonding that can be. I loved that precious girl to the moon and back. She put me to bed each night—lying next to me on my pillow for several minutes before trotting off to do her thing. How sweet is that? Despite my deep feelings for that precious girl, I was more accepting when she died. She died on her terms and it was at the end of a long and very good life. I mourned, but in a more thankful, grateful way. I gave thanks for having had her in my life and I was able to let her go.
Not so much with Lily. I blame my painful grieving on the fact that I was blindsided by her fast decline at such a young age—11 years. I find myself wondering what we could have done differently—did the treatment actually interfere with her recovery? One factor in my grief is that Lily and I were so close. It’s harder to let go of something/someone who was so much a part of your every day/every minute life.
I think the situation this year with the virus lingering unseen potentially all around us and our fears and our frustration with the whole situation, magnifies the stress of loss—any sort of loss. We’re all struggling to some degree with the changes and restrictions during this pandemic. We’re struggling to stay in survival mode. When something affects us emotionally, such as a loss, it hits harder—the pain goes deeper.
So is this a good time for me to adopt another cat? Would it be healthy for me and for the new cat? When I was finally able to view pictures of adoptable kittens, I discovered that those I chose as possibilities all looked identical to Lily. Is that a sign that I may not be quite ready to love a new fur baby for who she is—without comparing?
Tomorrow I’ll discuss experts’ views on what’s normal when it comes to grieving for a pet and what reaction of grief you can expect with your remaining pets.