Newsday Tuesday – Adopting After a Pet Loss

Is there a right way and a wrong way to grieve the loss of a pet? Experts say that it can take three weeks to three months to work through the grieving process. As I alluded to yesterday, it often depends on the circumstances of the loss and what else is going on in your life. Loss this year (2020) is particularly difficult as we’re already feeling so much perceived loss of freedom. Nothing is quite the same and this is a stressful way to live. Add to this the loss of a beloved pet and it can really tax our emotional system.

Strangely, I know of around a dozen cats and dogs that have died or who are struggling with serious health issues in recent weeks. One friend lost two dogs within weeks of each other under totally different circumstances. (Sudden health issues.) If these pet parents are like me, they’re asking themselves, “When should I begin to think about adopting again?”

Some never do. The grief is too much for them and they refuse to allow themselves the joy of loving again. I, on the other hand, have never considered being without a cat or two (or four) in my home. And I’ve been looking at kittens online, searching for just the right one, however, I have to wonder if I’m actually ready to adopt yet.

As I said yesterday, every kitten that strikes my fancy looks remarkably like Lily. Yeah, there’s a part of my brain that wants to replace her, although I know intellectually it’s impossible to replace a cat. They each come with a different set of habits, attitude, and purr-sonality. In fact, experts say that it’s an emotional pitfall when you’re bent on choosing a replacement cat that looks just like your former cat.

So how do you know when it’s time to adopt again? Is there a way to prepare for that day? Some recommend volunteering with cats or fostering cats as a way to ease back into the kitty-cat game. This can be a healing activity for you and it certainly is a gift for needy cats and kittens.

Professionals also recommend listening to your inner dialog. If memories of your deceased kitty are still overwhelming, it may not be time to adopt.

Before going in search of your next cat, determine why you want a cat. If it is to replace your former cat or because you think it will be a distraction for your grief, please reconsider. Maybe you should wait a while longer. Experts say this probably isn’t a good reason for adopting.

If you’re not sure whether the timing is right, pay attention to your experience with your cat search. Are you hitting dead ends? Is every cat you choose an exact replica of the one you lost? Are you not connecting with any of the cats? Are they all being adopted out from under you? The universe might be telling you, “not now.”

However, the experts say that if a cat comes into your life unexpectedly, consider it a sign that maybe it is time. Then give that cat a chance to become who it wants to be in your relationship.

I’ll bet some of you have stories about your experiences with loss and renewal with a new cat. Maybe you’ve adopted the wrong cat or the right cat with the wrong emotional set. I’d love to hear your story.


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