Coping with Cat Loss

No matter how long you've owned your cat, it's never easy coping with cat loss. Learn how to offer condolences to those who have lost their cherished pet and what to expect from the mourning process if you've lost your pet.

Four Stages of Grief

Owners affected by the death of their beloved cat usually go through four stages of grief. Understanding how this process works will help you recognize them if you experience them, which will help you more quickly cope with the loss. The stages are:

  1. Bewilderment/shock
  2. Anger
  3. Depression
  4. Acceptance

During the first stage, the person is surprised that their pet died. Realistically, we know cats cannot live forever, but their death, especially when unexpected, can be difficult to fully process. Owners often understand their pet "died", but they don't yet understand, on an experiential level, that the moments of being around their cat (which have become a normal part of the owner's life) won't continue.

Once owners begin to process this, they often begin asking a lot of questions, which may include "What If I did so and so". This begins a transition from shock to anger (though some people may go right to the depression stage or, rarely, quickly accept it after a relatively short period of grief).

In the second and third stages, one is unable to accept their cat's death. One main difference between the anger and depression stage is the extent to which the owner has moved towards acceptance.

Anger, for people, is usually the result of wanting something and perceiving somethin else (at which one is angry) as being in the way. Basically, in the anger stage the owner is still thinking under the context that they can be with their cat (even if they know the cat is dead), so they get frustrated (oftentimes at themselves) as they consider all the things that contributed to the inability to currently be with their lost pet.

In the depression stage, the owner's mind has adapted to (thinks according to) the understanding they won't see their cat again, but the idea that they won't see the cat again, and/or the lack of emotional and intellectual stimulation they got from their pet, makes them feel empty, or unfulfilled

Once one has transitioned through these stages, one moves onto acceptance. One realizes it is time to move on. Often, people consider adopting or purchasing a new pet in this stage.

Helping a Friend Grieve after a Cat Loss

If your friend is suffering following a cat loss, the best thing you can do is offer condolences and let them grieve normally. If they want to talk about their cat, allow them to. If they don't want to be reminded, try to be sensitive to that request.