No one ever tells you before you get a pet that they will become such an important part of your life. The day you get a new pet is the first day of a countdown to the worst day of your life. Sorry, that was dramatic, but that is how I felt when I lost my cat, Penny.
I grew up on a farm, so death was actually pretty common in my life and part of my parent's livelihood. It wasn't until I met my now wife that I really got attached to an animal like I did Penny. My wife got her from Best Friends Animal Society. I had never had an indoor pet growing up so when she brought her home that first night, I was a little fearful of this "thing" pooping all over the house, shredding the couch, insert your pet fear! But this little girl just hopped up on my lap and never left. Now I must say, Penny was no cakewalk. She had what they called a "kitty cold" when we got her, but we later found out it was chronic sinusitis. Penny required nose spray Prednisone, asthma inhalers, allergy medicine, and much more... but I would trade anything to have those daily tasks back again.
We had 6 amazing years of Penny's zoomies, playfulness, endless sunspot naps, belly rubs, sleeping on our heads at night, cleaning my wife's hair, sitting at her chair during our dinners, teaching her how to "touch"/fist bump for a snack... she was the perfect cat. Seriously, all our friends said the same thing... "I don't like cats, but Penny. She's the best!"
But nobody told me that when your cat is dying, it will feel like a human is dying. At first, I tried to pass it off as another "cat cold". The final week was the worst. She stopped eating and we had to force-feed her high-calorie NutriCal. Penny wasted away to just 8 pounds and couldn't make it to the litter box without collapsing. The last few days her stomach became very bloated and she slept nearly all day. I tried to suppress the grief, but finally broke down the day we got an appointment at the vet. My wife and I must have known this time was different. We took Penny to the vet and waited in our car for the call from the veterinarian (with Covid-19 we couldn't be inside with her). The vet called and told us the bad news. Penny's body cavity was filled with fluid, she had kidney failure, and was diagnosed with Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) -- coronavirus for cats. The veterinarian said she had days left to live and the only FIP cure was an Ebola medicine illegally imported from China, but it only worked for "non-wet" cases and would not work for Penny's effusion FIP. My wife and I decided to not let her suffer any longer and to put her down. The grief and tears were uncontrollable for the first 24-48 hours.
Grief is all the love you want to give to your pet, but can't because they are gone. All that love comes out of you in the form of tears. Grief is just your love that has no place to go.
Penny taught me so much, especially about unconditional love and care. She was always there... a reliable, grateful, loving friend. So if you found this blog post because you too lost a pet, just know that it will get better. This grief you feel now seems like it will never go away. You will go to sleep crying and wake up crying. But after a few days, the crying stops. The sad final day memories don't sting quite as much. Everyone grieves differently, but try the following self-care ideas when grieving the death of a pet.
How to Cope with Losing a Pet
-Focus on talking about the happy memories of your pet with loved ones. Create a photo album of your pet to remember the good times.
-Focus the love you gave this pet on your family and friends.
-Make sure to focus on you too, including health, exercise, sleep, and diet.
-Time is the only thing that will heal your loss of a pet. Try to block out 10 minutes everyday for meditation and time to reflect. I suggest MorningEnvy.com for a great 10-minute gratitude routine.
-Once you have grieved and broken the habits of caring for your pet daily (30 days+ to break a habit), then you can consider getting a new pet, but know you will never replace this pet. You can only choose to focus on the good memories and give your love to a new pet.
-But most importantly, be like Penny. Be a reliable, grateful, loving friend for someone!
The reason it felt like a human died is because pets are a mirror of us. They spend their life reacting to us, caring for us, and being there for us! There is no saying goodbye, instead, say thank you.