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Are you struggling with dealing with the loss of your cat? Our expert guide looks at how grief may affect you.

Losing a pet

For many people, the loss of their cat is as traumatic and emotionally challenging as the loss of any other family member. This creature that has bought so much joy and unconditional love into our homes and hearts – their absence leaves a massive hole and it hurts.

Whatever the circumstances of your loss, whether your pet battled with a long illness or you were in the position of losing a cat suddenly, it is likely that you will be grieving. Grief is a unique and individual experience, and while it is perfectly normal to grieve for the loss of a loved one, there is no normal way to grieve.

What are the symptoms of grief?

Everyone responds differently to grief and you may experience all, some or none of the following:

  • deep sadness and the need to cry
  • in contrast, you may feel numb and empty
  • guilt or blame – for yourself or others
  • confusion about what has happened and a need to understand everything about your cat’s illness or death.
  • in contrast, you may avoid trying to think about it
  • anger, which is a common part of the grief process – you may feel angry towards yourself, others or even your pet for leaving you
  • tiredness, lethargy, not wanting to do anything
  • in contrast, extreme anxiety or insomnia – can’t sit still or feeling tense or fidgety
  • sickness, an upset tummy, loss of or increased appetite
  • inability to concentrate, thinking about your cat a lot and reliving events around their death
  • physical pain
  • relief – when a cat has been in pain or had a chronic or lengthy illness, it is not unusual to feel relieved when they have died. This is sometimes followed by feelings of guilt and shame
  • feeling like nobody understands you and that others will see you as being silly for being upset about your cat’s death

Why am I grieving for my cat?

The relationship you had with your cat was likely to be a strong one. It’s an attachment relationship, similar to the type of relationship a parent has with its child. Little wonder then, that it hurts so much to say goodbye.

It may be that your beloved cat hasn’t died yet and you are anticipating, or even dreading, their death. Perhaps you have a difficult decision to make and are struggling with how you’ll get through this. This type of situation often brings anticipatory grief – a type of grieving that starts even before your cat has died.

When a pet is very sick or dies, it can be difficult to manage your feelings or thoughts as the world carries on around you. You may feel alone in dealing with the loss of your cat, as if nobody would understand.

Whatever you’re thinking or feeling, it is likely to be part of your own personal grief. There is no set time limit for grief. Equally, there is no set way to experience or process your grief.

Many people find it helpful to talk through their experience of grieving for a cat with someone who understands how important a relationship with your cat is.

If your grief becomes complex or prolonged, you might benefit from seeking out a personal therapist to support you through this difficult time. You can ask your GP about finding a suitable therapist.

If you’d rather have someone to talk to that will simply listen, you can contact our Paws to Listen helpline, where our trained listeners are on hand.

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