Tanya

 

TANYA'S

COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO

FELINE CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE

 

 
 

COPING WITH YOUR LOSS

 

"Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world,

which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night.

I miss you like hell."

Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

ON THIS PAGE:


Grieving and Mourning


Grieving


Mourning

(Including Support)


Resources


Coming Through It


A New Cat?


 

If you need help as you grieve,

 

HOME


Site Overview


Just Diagnosed? What You Need to Know First


Search This Site


 

 

 

WHAT IS CKD?


What Happens in CKD


Causes of CKD


How Bad is It?


Is There Any Hope?


Acute Kidney Injury


 

KEY ISSUES: PROLONGING LIFE


Phosphorus Control


Hypertension

(High Blood Pressure)


Proteinuria


Anaemia


Potassium Imbalances


Pyelonephritis (Kidney Infections) and Urinary Tract Infections NEW


Metabolic Acidosis


Kidney Stones


 

KEY ISSUES: HELPING YOUR CAT FEEL BETTER


Nausea, Vomiting, Appetite Loss and Excess Stomach Acid


Maintaining Hydration


The B Vitamins (Including Methylcobalamin)


Constipation


 

CAT FOOD DATA


Ways of Assessing Food Content, Including What is Dry Matter Analysis


How to Use the Food Data Tables


USA Canned Food Data


USA Dry Food Data


USA Cat Food Brands: Helpfulness Ratings


USA Cat Food Brands: Contact Details


USA Food Data Book


UK Canned Food Data


UK Dry Food Data


UK Cat Food Brands: Helpfulness Ratings


UK Cat Food Brands:

Contact Details


 

SUPPORT


Coping with CKD


Tanya's Support Group


Success Stories


 

SYMPTOMS


Important: Crashing


Alphabetical List of Symptoms and Treatments


Fluid and Urinary  Imbalances (Dehydration, Overhydration and Urinary Issues)


Waste Product Regulation Imbalances (Vomiting, Appetite Loss, Excess Stomach Acid, Gastro-intestinal Problems, Mouth Ulcers Etc.)


Phosphorus and Calcium Imbalances


Miscellaneous Symptoms (Pain, Hiding Etc.)


 

DIAGNOSIS: WHAT DO ALL THE TEST RESULTS MEAN?


Early Detection


Blood Chemistry: Kidney Function, Potassium, Other Tests (ALT, Amylase, (Cholesterol, Etc.)


Calcium, Phosphorus, Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) and Secondary Hyperparathyroidism


Complete Blood Count (CBC): Red and White Blood Cells: Anaemia and Infection


Urinalysis (Urine Tests)


Other Tests: Ultrasound, Biopsy, X-rays etc.


Renomegaly (Enlarged Kidneys)


Which Tests to Have and Frequency of Testing


Factors that Affect Test Results


Normal Ranges


International and US Measuring Systems


 

TREATMENTS


Which Treatments are Essential


Fluid and Urinary Issues (Fluid Retention, Infections, Incontinence, Proteinuria)


Waste Product Regulation (Mouth Ulcers, GI Bleeding, Antioxidants, Adsorbents, Azodyl, Astro's CRF Oil)


Phosphorus, Calcium and Secondary Hyperparathyroidism (Calcitriol)


Phosphorus Binders


Steroids, Stem Cell Transplants and Kidney Transplants


Antibiotics and Painkillers


Holistic Treatments (Including Slippery Elm Bark)


ESAs (Aranesp, Epogen etc.) for Severe Anaemia


General Health Issues in a CKD Cat: Fleas, Arthritis, Dementia, Vaccinations


Tips on Medicating Your Cat


Obtaining Supplies Cheaply in the UK, USA and Canada


Working with Your Vet and Recordkeeping


 

DIET & NUTRITION


Nutritional Requirements of CKD Cats


The B Vitamins (Including Methylcobalamin)


What to Feed (and What to Avoid)


Persuading Your Cat to Eat


2007 Food Recall USA


 

FLUID THERAPY


Oral Fluids


Intravenous Fluids


Subcutaneous Fluids


Tips on Giving Subcutaneous Fluids


How to Give Subcutaneous Fluids with a Giving Set


How to Give Subcutaneous Fluids with a Syringe


Subcutaneous Fluids - Winning Your Vet's Support


Dialysis


 

RELATED DISEASES


Heart Problems


Hyperthyroidism


Diabetes


Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)


Pancreatitis


Dental Problems


Anaesthesia


 

OBTAINING SUPPLIES CHEAPLY


UK


USA Online


USA Local (Fluids)


Canada


 

SAYING GOODBYE


The Final Hours


Other People's Losses


Coping with Your Loss


 

MISCELLANEOUS


Prevention


Feline CKD Research, Including Participation Opportunities


CKD Research in Other Species


Share This Site: A Notice for Your Vet's Bulletin Board or Your Local Pet Shop


Canine Kidney Disease


Other Illnesses (Cancer, Liver) and Behavioural Problems


Diese Webseite auf Deutsch


 

SITEOWNER (HELEN)


My Three CKD Cats: Tanya, Thomas and Ollie


My Multi Ailment Cat, Harpsie


Find Me on Facebook


Follow Me on Twitter


Contact Me


Home > Saying Goodbye > Coping With Your Loss

 


Overview


  • When you lose your beloved cat, it can be extremely hard to cope, and you can feel lost and afraid.

  • Many people also feel isolated because others may say hurtful things such as "it was just a cat."

  • This page aims to help you cope with your loss, and also discusses other issues which may arise, such as whether to adopt another cat.


Grieving and Mourning


 

There are two aspects to coping with a loss:

  • Grieving

    Grieving is about the emotions you feel when you suffer a loss, such as pain, sorrow or guilt. If you love someone, grief is hard to avoid because it is the last act of love.

  • Mourning

    Mourning is about how you express those feelings. Mourning can help you progress along your grief journey. Support is an important part of mourning.


Grieving


 

Grief is agony. You can't get away from it. As CS Lewis said, "The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal." And when you are in the midst of grief, you may well feel the price is too high.

 

Many people find losing a cat is actually harder than losing a human loved one. This is not as surprising as it might first appear, because we often spend far more time with our cats than with our human relatives, and our relationships with our cats are usually far simpler than those with humans, where there may be some emotional baggage. Cats, however, are always there, never judging us, always pleased to see us. Sometimes without us even realising it, they are the centre of our home. No wonder we miss them so when they are gone!

 

I have now lost nine cats. I lost four of them in less than a year, two old ladies (both aged sixteen) and two kittens. I lost one of my old ladies first, very suddenly and unexpectedly, followed six weeks later by one of the kittens. Nine months later I lost my other kitten, followed less than two weeks later by my other old lady. So believe me, I know loss and I know grief. This page attempts to help you along this horrible journey.

 

Part of the grief process entails finding a new normal. This often hurts, because you do not want to surrender your old normal; in fact, you'd like it back right now. Sadly, that is not possible, so you will have to find your new normal, though you will of course take as long as you need to do that.


Grief Stages


 

Never forget, grief is normal. Research indicates that there are five stages.

  • denial

  • anger

  • bargaining

  • depression

  • acceptance

The five stages of grief discusses the process in more detail.

 

You will not necessarily experience all of these stages, and grief is not linear so you may experience them in a different order or find yourself dipping in and out of them; but you will find your own way to get through. Some people need professional help, and there is no shame in that.

 

Notice I said get through. Grief is not about getting over your loss. Grief is about finding a way to live without the loved one's physical presence in your life.

 

Grief is a rollercoaster and once you have boarded the ride, you cannot get off, even though you will wish you could. Keep hanging on. The ride does end eventually. Loss will change you forever, though not always in bad ways.

 

If you feel suicidal, please do seek help. I once saw somebody commit suicide (he jumped off a bridge) and it still haunts me to think of the pain he must have been feeling and that I was unable to help. Please, for my sake, do not be that person, but find the help you need to get through this. Please contact your medical professional, the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or The Samaritans.

 

Thoughts on grief by John O'Donoghue discusses the rollercoaster of grief.

 


Grief and Time


 

I know it is hard to believe that you will get through grief when you are in the middle of it and can see no end in sight, but you will. There is no right or wrong way to get through, and how long it takes is very variable. Take no notice of insensitive people who say things like "I thought you'd be over this by now." This is your unique experience, and you take as long as you need.

 

Do not panic if you are at the beginning of your grief journey and do not see how you can survive this pain. The pain of grief often comes in waves, meaning it ebbs and flows, and it does lessen over time for most people, so do not fear that you will always feel as bad as you do right now, because that is unlikely. You may have some days that are worse than others (anniversaries are hard), but although it may not feel like it to you, you will be making progress on your journey.

 

When you first lose a beloved cat, you will probably focus a lot on time. You will think a lot about time markers, such as "this time yesterday/a week ago/a month ago s/he was still alive." You may simply wish to rewind the clock so you can be together again, or you may keep wishing you could turn back the clock so you could do things differently.

 

You may find that every day you dread reaching the time on the clock when your cat died. When Tanya died, I found 9.30 p.m. on Sundays very hard for months.

 

Time is also agony first thing in the morning. It can be both the best and worst part of the day when you wake up each day and for a few seconds all is right with your world until you suddenly remember your loss again.

 

Grief and loss are a process, and marking time in this way is part of that process. We all wish desperately that we could turn the clock back, while knowing that is impossible.

 

Time is also a strange thing when we look back on our cats' lives. So many people seem to focus on the last few weeks or days of their cat's illness, forgetting about the often many happy years that came before. I do this a lot myself.

 

When you are  grieving, time drags. Days last forever. And every day you can feel one day further away from your precious cat.

 

You may not realise it, but you are slowly moving forward on your grief journey, often imperceptibly. It is a truism, but time is indeed a healer.

 


Grief and Emotions


 

Grief is like a rollercoaster ride, with many emotions being experienced, often very close together. Although grieving is very individual, some emotions are felt by many people after a loss. Here are some of the emotions and experiences which you may face during the various stages of grief:

Numbness


Immediately after a bereavement, people often feel numb, and their loss does not seem real. This can be both comforting and alarming, because you expect to feel something.

 

It's almost like you're living a nightmare, and it doesn't quite feel real because at the back of your mind you know you will soon wake up and it will all be gone, which of course sadly doesn't happen.

 

Numbness is normal, especially if your loss is sudden and/or unexpected, and is your mind's way of helping you cope. It usually wears off after a few days, at which point you will probably wish you could go back to feeling numb again.

 

Difficulty Functioning Normally


When you are bereaved, you have had a big and painful change in your life, so it is natural to feel as if you are wading through mud. You will often find doing normal routine things is very hard, taking a lot of energy which you do not have. Extreme fatigue is a normal sign of grief.

 

Some people are unable to sleep, but I slept a lot and I welcomed sleep (although I could not remember any dreams during this time), because it took my mind off my loss. The downside was it meant that every time I woke up I had to go through that horrible split second when I hoped it had all been a nightmare, only to realise it was all too true. 

 

Every time I have lost a cat, I have also completely lost my appetite for the first few days afterwards. Everything tastes like cardboard, and I have to force myself to eat. Despite doing so, I lose weight (the only positive thing about grief; thanks, cats). I also feel sick, and sometimes I actually am sick.

 

It can be difficult dealing with practical matters, such as what to do with your cat's belongings. Some people want to put them away immediately, others cannot bear to move them even if they don't have any other cats because it feels like a betrayal to do so. Just do whatever feels right for you.

 

All the crying can give you a headache, so take acetaminophen (paracetamol) if necessary and appropriate. It may also help with your grief: Acetaminophen reduces social pain: behavioral and neural evidence (2010) Dewall CN, Macdonald G, Webster GD, Masten CL, Baumeister RF, Powell C, Combs D, Schurtz DR, Stillman TF, Tice DM, Eisenberger NI Psychological Science 21(7) pp931-7 found that acetaminophen not only helps with physical pain but may also help with emotional pain (in the study, the pain of social rejection).

 

The stress can predispose you to illness, so be kind to yourself and only do what you can.

 

At the same time, try to keep to a routine if possible, it will help you to cope and to work out a way to live without your cat's physical presence around you. Force food in, even if it tastes of absolutely nothing. Try to get showered and dressed each day as a minimum. If you normally watch a particular TV programme, watch it.

 

By all means take a few days off work if you can (essential in my case, since I cannot stop crying), but no more than a week. I would simply tell your employer a close family member has died, you do not need to be more specific than that is many cases.

 

When it comes to things that are optional, such as social events, do whatever feels best for you. It may take your mind off your loss to go out to dinner with friends, but if you can't face it, then do not go.

 

Emptiness


When you lose a much loved cat, it is inevitable that you will feel a gaping void in your life.  This feeling can be exacerbated when you lose a cat to CKD, because you were probably spending a lot of time caring for your cat, and all that time suddenly becomes available again and can lie heavy on your hands. Your routine has disappeared and you feel rudderless. Everything seems grey.

 

This can be particularly hard if you are a person who likes to solve problems, which is often true of men. You have been working hard at helping your cat, and now not only are you no longer doing that, but you probably blame yourself for not solving your cat's CKD problem, even though it is not a soluble problem.

 

You probably need a rest anyway, but if time is lying heavy on your hands, try to do small things each day that occupy your mind a little, even if they are still focused on your cat - some people have found it helpful to make a scrapbook about their cat, for example. See below for more tips on this. Alternatively, do something you couldn't do while your cat was sick, such as going to the cinema. 

 

Guilt, Regret and Bargaining


Ah, the biggies. These emotions are an extremely common reaction to bereavement, so it is highly likely that you will find yourself regretting and blaming yourself for something you did or did not do.

 

This is the stage when you torture yourself with all the "what ifs." If only I had fed my cat a different food. If only I'd been more diligent with the phosphorus binders. I wonder if I acted too quickly. I wonder if I left things too late. If only I could have my cat back, I would never do anything bad ever again.

 

Close behind this comes the guilt. Many, many people feel guilty for not noticing their cats' CKD sooner, even though this is actually normal - you cannot usually detect CKD until at least 66% of function is gone.

 

People feel guilty for choosing euthanasia, and for not choosing euthanasia. They feel guilty for having their cats put to sleep too soon, and for waiting too long. Whatever decision they made, whatever happened, whether it was within their control or not, they find something to feel guilty about. There are many strong contenders for medal places in the Guilt Olympics.

 

You may also feel guilty if your cat did not manage long after diagnosis - you may feel cheated or wonder if you made mistakes in caring for your cat. We are often brought up to believe that if only we try hard, we can fix everything. The truth is we cannot. Guilt is one way we refuse to accept that not everything is within our control. Although it is often possible to buy quality time for a CKD cat, the disease IS terminal, and by the law of averages some cats are not going to manage long after diagnosis. Please do not beat yourself up if this happens to you, but try to take comfort in the fact that you did your best with the knowledge you had at the time. Nobody can ever do more than their best.

 

You cannot change the past, however guilty you feel. After I lost Thomas, I kept reliving his death and the hours before, even though he didn't seem to be in pain and his crossing was peaceful. I just felt haunted by it. The only way I managed to cope was by telling myself "he is at peace now, he is at peace now." You need to find some peace too. One possible way is to try to learn from the past and use what you know going forward. 

 

Whatever your reason for feeling guilty, please remember that feeling guilty is a natural, integral part of the grieving process. You were obviously a good guardian to your cat, or you wouldn't be torturing yourself like this. Only responsible people do it. Try writing a letter to your cat explaining why you did what you did and asking for forgiveness for anything you got wrong. It might sound strange, since you can never send the letter, but some people find it helps them a lot.

 

When guilt threatens to overwhelm you, ask yourself: would you be so harsh towards a stranger who had cared for their cat as you cared for yours? I doubt it. I hear from people regularly who have moved heaven and earth to help their cat, but they still find something to feel guilty about. The pain and guilt you feel are simply evidence of how much you loved your cat.

 

If you feel guilty about something medical, it can help to talk to your vet to clarify because you may have the wrong end of the stick.

 

Beliefnet has some information on coping with guilt.

 

Breaking the power of guilt Allen MA is a helpful article on dealing with guilt following a loss.

 

Anger


Although some people are surprised by it, anger is a common reaction to loss. You may feel angry with your vet for not saving your cat. You may feel angry at yourself. You may feel angry at CKD, the disease over which you have only some degree of control, and perhaps angry with me, because the site raised your hopes but your cat was not one of the lucky ones (if it's any consolation, I've never had years with my CKD cats, even though I run this site).

 

You may be angry with your family and friends for not understanding your pain. You may be angry about people enjoying themselves when you are suffering. You may even be angry with your cat for leaving you.

 

Some people feel angry with their other cats for being healthy, comparing them unfavourably with their deceased cat, particularly if they were more bonded with the deceased cat. This is also normal, but try to remember that your surviving cat has no control over the situation; it simply wasn't his/her time. In fact, feeling somewhat detached from your other cats is a part of grief, a protective mechanism because you do not want to be too attached in case you lose them too. As time passes, you may find that you bond more with the surviving cat, though this does not always happen.

 

You may also feel anger if you lose a young cat or a kitten. Although losing a cat of any age hurts, losing a kitten goes against the natural order of things, so you may feel cheated and angry about being deprived of many happy years together. But losing an older cat hurts too, because you have a shared history. Basically, it just hurts.

 

All of these are natural reactions. Anger and fear are linked, so anger may be a sign, for example, that you fear you or your vet did not do enough for your cat. If you feel angry with your vet, you could call and ask for a chat: vets know clients sometimes feel this way, and will usually be happy to provide information to reassure you about what happened. 

 

Relief


One taboo subject is feeling a sense of relief after your cat has died. This is actually normal when you have been caring for a terminally ill patient. If you analyse your feelings, you will probably find that you are not feeling relief that your cat has died; rather, you are feeling relief that the CKD is gone, that you are able to climb off the emotional rollercoaster. You are feeling relief from the stress and uncertainty, and there is no shame in that.

 

If you do feel this way, try not to feel guilty. Instead, focus on all the care you gave your cat and remember that your cat would never reproach you for carrying on with your life after he or she is gone. You have carried the responsibility for your cat's life daily for however long, and it is stressful. Harpsie had a lot of health issues throughout his life, and although I gladly helped him, it wasn't until after we lost him and I no longer had to worry about his wellbeing that I realised how stressful it had been. I certainly missed Harpsie but I didn't miss that stress.

 

Although the time available after a death that was previously given to caring for your sick cat can lie heavy on your hands at first, you may feel some relief that you have more time for hobbies and other pleasures, or even just sleep. Your financial situation will almost certainly improve. Don't feel bad about this, you will have enough grief on your hands, so do not feel guilty about the aspects of your loss that reduce your stress levels.

 

Isolation


One of the hardest things to cope with can be a feeling of isolation. Many people are very uncomfortable with the idea of death and simply do not know what to say to the bereaved.

 

Also, many people simply do not understand why we grieve for cats. People make tactless comments which can really hurt, such as "it was only a cat" or "you can always get another one." I wonder if they would also say to somebody who had just lost a child or spouse "why don't you get another one?"

 

The comment I found most hurtful when Tanya died was "well, at least you have another cat", as if cats are interchangeable. In the end, I used to point out that although Harpsie certainly was an exceptional cat, he had not mastered the art of being both himself and Tanya simultaneously.

 

Try to remember that these people are well-meaning, if misguided and seek support elsewhere (see below). If anybody you don't particularly want to talk to about your loss does ask, say something simple such as "it's hard for me to talk about at the moment, but thank you for asking." Always remember that your feelings are perfectly valid and that there is nothing wrong in feeling your grief. Feeling grief shows that you are capable of love, hardly something to be ashamed of. 

 

Grief can be particularly hard to cope with during the holiday season. Being surrounded by people who appear happy and who are in party mood can make you feel even more isolated. To anyone grieving this holiday season (2016) Coriell E Huffington Post has some tips on how to cope at such times.

 

Worrying About an Afterlife


I am sometimes asked by Christians whether I believe that animals go to heaven. I'm no theologian, but I believe that if humans do, so do cats. It wouldn't be much of a heaven for me without my cats!

 

The traditional Christian view is that human souls survive the death of the body, but many believe that this is not the case for animals. Some people believe this is because humans are capable of sin, so they will not automatically go to heaven, whereas animals are incapable of sin, so there is no need to mention them going to heaven specifically because they do not need to cleanse and redeem themselves.

 

Do pets go to heaven? Clarifying Christianity discusses whether pets go to heaven.

 

Heaven - not what you think? Waldron T also considers this.

 

Do pets go to heaven (2010) Daly J discusses this issue.

 

I Will See You In Heaven (2011) Wintz J Paraclete Press is a book on the subject. It is available from Amazon and Amazon UK.

 

People who do not believe in an afterlife may feel that their loss is harder to bear because they have nothing to look forward to. I believe that love survives. The physical body may be gone, but the love, the energy of the cat, lives on. Just because you can no longer see your cat, does not mean s/he is not present in some way. I have lost count of the number of people who have told me they have caught a glimpse of their deceased cat out of the corner of their eye (this has happened to me too).

 

Albert Einstein said “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

 

Rainbow Bridge is the story of a place where animals wait for their humans until they are able to enter heaven together.

 

Animal Reincarnation - Everything You Always Wanted to Know! (2011) Atwater B Createspace Independent Publishing Platform discusses reincarnation.

 

Grief and Other Family Members


Despite your own grief, you may find yourself having to support other family members in their grief too.

Supporting Children


It can be particularly hard watching your  children grieve, because nobody likes to see their children in pain.

 

Try to be honest and to use simple, clear language. Be careful about using the expression "put to sleep" when talking to children, because they often do not fully understand this concept and it can make them afraid to go to sleep in case they too never wake up. 

 

Encourage them to talk and express their fears, and let them see that you are grieving too and that there is nothing wrong in feeling this way and talking about it. Making memorials of some kind (see below) can help children mourn.

 

The American Animal Hospital Association has some information on helping children deal with grief.

 

Other Feline Family Members


You may also have to deal with other feline family members who are distressed by the loss of their companion.

 

Surviving cats may search for their companion or become subdued. Owners' perceptions of their animal's behavioural response to the loss of an animal companion (2016) Walker JK, Waran NK & Phillips CJC Animals 6(68) found that people who had lost a cat or dog observed behavioural changes in their surviving animals, "including increased affectionate behaviour, territorial behaviour, and changes in food consumption and vocalisation." The study concludes that further studies are necessary "to establish whether these behavioural changes are indeed a reflection of loss, result from a reduction in competition for resources or are a consequence of change in owner behaviour resulting from either their own feelings of grief or concern that their companion animal is grieving."

 

Personally, I think our other cats are grieving in their own way. Harpsie fell into a deep decline after Tanya died.

 

Try to keep to your normal routine for your cats' sake, so feed them at the usual times and make sure they do eat.

 

Talk to your surviving cat(s). I always talk to my cats, and not in baby talk but with an adult tone - after all, they are adults, just of a different species. Tell them what has happened and give them lots of love and attention. It can help to comfort all of you.

 

Flower essences (see Holistic Treatments) may help here, particularly Star of Bethlehem, as may homeopathic ignatia.

 

Seven ways to help your cat through a grieving period (2014) Krieger M Catster has some suggestions on helping grieving cats.

 

Do cats mourn? Buzhardt L VCA Animal Hospitals is a helpful article on feline grief.

 

International Cat Care has information on how to help a grieving cat.

 

Do cats grieve? Johnson-Bennett Pet Behavior Associates discusses how to help a grieving cat and emphasises the need to try to keep the cat's routine as normal as possible.

 

Marvie's Experiences


Here is one lady's experience of grief written very shortly after her cat, Gus, died after 15 years together. I think it is extremely moving.

 

"I still have peace, but peace does not have a cold nose, a pink tongue, whiskers or a warm purr.  Peace does not use the litterbox, hurl hairballs or wake me at two in the morning because it got lonely and wanted to crawl under the covers.  The sure knowledge that I did the best I could does not demand fresh running water in the bathtub, lose its toys under the living room couch or chase moths.  And even that wonderful sense of love I knew after my kitty-cat crossed, does not meow when I come home late or interrupt me at the computer with a warm paw on my leg, asking for a lap and a cuddle.  And though a fresh new set of paws will one day walk into my heart, the here-and-now, day-to-day presence of a creature who knew me better than I know myself, loved me better than I love myself (and let me know that on a regular basis, conceited little creature that he was), is gone. Peace is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't wear fur.

 

And when I miss that fur so much, when the grief swells and threatens to consume me, the memory of my bond with my fur-person grounds me.  It tells me to look forward and celebrate the joy that bounded into my life so many years ago; to pause and ground myself, let the love that was there surface and know that the love is still there.  It's lonelier on this side, but if I ride out the grief I come full circle back to the peace.  It doesn't wear fur and it doesn't stop tears, but it does bring the memory of love and changes the tears from those of desperate sorrow to those of healing and of hope."

 


Mourning


 

Mourning is about expressing your grief. Mourning includes talking about your loss, crying, creating photo albums celebrating your cat.

 

When a human dies, we have the ritual of a funeral and creating a resting place for the body, which are things we can also do for our cats if we wish (see The Final Hours).

 

Mourning can help you progress along your grief journey. These are some ways to mourn:


Memorials


 

Creating some kind of memorial for your cat can be very comforting and an important part of mourning.

 

When I lost Tanya, I was so upset that I blocked things out. When I think of her, I tend to think of her in her last few months rather than as she was in the many years before then. Creating memorials can ensure this does not happen to you.

 

Donations


Some people like to make a donation of some kind in memory of their cat.

 

They may donate their unused supplies to a cat in need or to their local shelter. Other people like to donate to CKD research. You can read more about this here.

 

Candles


Gratefulness allows you to light a memorial candle online. The candle stays alight for 48 hours.

 

Written or Photographic Memorials


Many people find it therapeutic to create a letter, journal or book about their cat. Remember all the things that were unique about your cat and write them down.

 

Online Memorials


I created an online memorial page for Tanya and found it did help me.

 

In Memory of Pets offers this service and has been doing so for many years.

 

Modern Cat also offers this service.

 

Book Memorials


You can also create hardback books and videos online. You can often use text and photographs, though some people only use photographs. You upload the photographs from your computer and then play around with the layout until you are happy with it. Check for online discount codes before you buy.

 

Anne's Thistle is a lovely photographic tribute to Thistle.

 

Shutterfly offers books and many more products.

 

Picaboo offers this service.

 

Mixbook offers this service and has some tips on how to do it.

 

Jewellery


Jewellery is a popular choice. You can either buy an item of jewellery that reminds you of your cat, or you can even have some of your cat's ashes turned into a piece of personalised jewellery. If you have a Pandora charm bracelet or similar, you can often get charms made to fit.

 

Fishpond sells a silver cat necklace, which is shipped from the UK. Some members of Tanya's Loss Support Group have bought this and like it.

 

The Animal Rescue Site sells a "you are my sunshine" necklace.

 

Snozza is a reconstruction of your cat's nose and face in silver. I bought one of these when I lost Indie. You can also do these with living cats, in fact they come out better. The company was very nice and very professional. I also got a miniaturised pawprint silver charm from them for my traditional charm bracelet.

 

Pet Cremation Services sell jewellery which can hold ashes or fur.

 

Whisper in the Heart sells jewellery which can hold ashes or fur.

 

32 Paws and Co sells lockets that can hold fur.

 

Shpangle in the UK makes jewellery containing a lock of hair.

 

Addicted2glassfusion sells jewellery made from ashes.

 

Everlife Memorials sells charms made from ashes to fit Pandora charm bracelets.

 

Koi Creek Beads sells memorial beads made from ashes.

 

My Crystal Companion offers jewellery from ashes.

 

Jewelry Keepsakes sell a variety of products, including jewellery made from ashes.

 

ShadowsofLove sells a variety of jewellery options.

 

Ashes into Glass sells a variety of products made from ashes in the UK.

 

Photos and Paintings


Perfect Memorials sell a rotating photo cube.

 

Easy 123 Art will create a painting by numbers kit of your cat from a photograph.

 

Cuddly Toys


Cuddle Clones can create a cuddly replica of your cat.

 

Shelter Pups offers the same service for US$125. The proceeds apparently support rescues.

 

Felt 2 Rescue also offers this service, and donates what you pay (apart from shipping costs) to a shelter of your choosing from their list of possible beneficiaries. It appear that you have to place your order via facebook.

 

Other


Collage will create a blanket with photos of your cat. Other products are also available.

 

You can plant something in your cat's honour, and sit out near it in the summer. We planted roses for our cats. The rose for Thomas was called Happy Wanderer, because having been the local stray, he did enjoy walking around his neighbourhood.

 

Some people choose to have some ashes mixed with tattoo ink and receive a tattoo of their choosing.

 


Support


 

Grief is lonely and very isolating, but support is available.

 

It is often thought that being able to talk to others about your loss can help you feel better. I think that depends upon a number of factors. When I lost Tanya and Thomas, I wanted to talk about how I felt, but kept getting choked up, so writing was easier, and I used boards and e-mail for a long time, which helped me a lot.

 

When I lost Indie though, I did not really want to talk about it or her at all, in person or online. I've no idea why I felt this way. All I know is, you must do what feels right to you.

 

If you want to talk, choose your audience carefully. I would not talk to people who do not understand how much it hurts to lose a cat. If you have friends or family who understand, that is wonderful. Alternatively, there are some resources below, including my online support group.

 

If you do not want to talk, that is fine, with one condition: if you feel suicidal, please seek help. Please. I would hate to think somebody reading this feels so low without any support. People do care, so please reach out. Please contact your medical professional, the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or The Samaritans.

Online Support


Not all these sources of support are run by professional counsellors. If you need professional help, please do seek it out.

 

Tanya's Feline Loss Support Group

This is a free private online group I have set up for all those who have lost a cat (whether to CKD or some other cause) and who need some emotional support. In order to join it, you must join my main support group (just click on the above link and respond to the two messages you will receive), but you don't have to use or look at the main support group.

 

You are welcome to post to the group for support, or just read messages from other members, whatever works best for you.

 

The Association for Petloss and Bereavement

Offers online chatrooms, plus links to petloss counsellors in the USA and Canada.

 

Day By Day Pet Support

Offers an online chat support line for grieving pet owners every Sunday and Thursday.

 

The Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service

Offers free online support. You can send an e-mail to pbssmail@bluecross.org.uk, and you will receive a response within a maximum time of 48 hours.

 

The Samaritans

Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by phone or e-mail. You do not have to be suicidal to contact The Samaritans - they are always happy to talk to anybody who is grieving or distressed. Their service is completely free and confidential. 

 

The following sites contain compilations of various grief support resources, though it is not always easy to tell how old they are.

 

Cat Chat

 

Land of Pure Gold

 

Rainbow Bridge

 

Chances Spot

 

Telephone Support


 

UK


The Blue Cross

offers a free pet bereavement service. Call 0800 096 6606 (free call) between 8.30 a.m. and 8.30 p.m. any day (there is an answerphone outside these hours) and you will be given the details of your nearest telephone befriender. This service is completely free apart from the cost of your call to your nearest befriender (which is charged at the local rate wherever possible), and all calls are confidential.

 

The Samaritans

Offer telephone support in the UK and Republic of Ireland every minute of the day. You don't have to be suicidal to call them.

 

USA


Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Offers a support hotline, provided by veterinary students trained by professional grief counsellors, which is available between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The phone number is (607) 253 3932.

 

Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Offers a similar service. The phone number is 1-(866) 266-8635 or (509) 335-5704. They also have an e-mail address, plhl@vetmed.wsu.edu.

 

University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine

Offers a similar service. The phone number is 1-(217) 552-5371. The service is available Wednesday afternoons 1-5 pm Central Time. they will return calls within 24 hours if you leave a message at other times.

 

The ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline

Is available at (877) GRIEF-10. I understand that the person who responds is a retired clinical psychologist who specialises in pet loss. If not available, they will call back within 24 hours

 

The Veterinary Social Network

is linked to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. They offer four free individual, family or couple grief support sessions, or eight for clients of the college. They also offer an in-house pet loss support group.

 


Resources


Here are some resources which you may find helpful. Please see above for support.

 

Websites


 

Coping with the loss of your companion animal (2013) University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center is a helpful booklet about coping with grief and loss.

 

Softpaw has the story of Rainbow Bridge, and also Choices by Anne Kolaczyk (also known as "You have chosen tears").

 

Teri Pike has a movie version of the Rainbow Bridge story.

 

Poetic Expressions has a collection of poems about grief.

 

Zen Cat is a story about the cycle of life and letting go by Jim Willis.

 

Music


For Good Schwartz S Wicked has lyrics which I think speak for many who suffer a loss. Try to listen to a recording too - the music is very moving.

 

Books


The following books are either books I recommend myself or books which have been recommended by members of Tanya's Feline Loss Support Group.

 

Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet (2015)

Moira Anderson Allen

Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss (2014)

Russell Friedman, Cole James & John James

Soul Comfort for Cat Lovers (2012)

Liz Eastwood

The Loss of a Pet (2005)

Wallace Sife

When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing (2004)

Alan Wolfelt

Grieving the Death of a Pet (2003)

Betty J Carmack

Absent Friend (2000)

Laura and Martyn Lee

Goodbye, Dear Friend (1998)

Virginia Ironside


Coming Through It


 

When you are in the midst of grief, you cannot imagine ever feeling happy again; but keep going. Breathe in, breathe out. Complicated grief and posttraumatic stress disorder in humans' response to the death of pets/animals (2009) Adrian JA, Deliramich AN & Frueh BC Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic 73(3) pp176-187 found that around 30% of people in the study experienced grief for six months or more. Therefore when people hint you should be "over it" by now, you will know they are talking nonsense. You take as long as you need.

 

You are probably horrified at the idea of six months of this pain, but please don't panic. In my experience (nine losses) and that of others I've spoken to, the first 2-3 weeks are the most painful. After that, you don't suddenly wake up and feel happy again, but the pain changes to a quieter, deeper kind of pain that somehow I found easier to bear. I can't guarantee that this will happen for you but it is certainly possible.

 

Just as living with CKD was a rollercoaster, so is grief. At the beginning, you will naturally have many more bad days than good ones. Some days you will feel you are beginning to do a little better, and then the next day you will feel terrible again.

 

All this is normal. Just take each day at a time, savour the better days and try to keep going through the bad days. Above all, be gentle on yourself.

 

Strangely, once some people are well along the path of their grief journey they find that they worry about moving further forward, because they feel disloyal to their cat in some way, or they fear that as the pain lessens, so will their memories. Yes, in a weird way they actually miss that horrible acute pain you may be feeling right now!

 

I think this is understandable, but try not to worry, because your love for your cat will never die. Moving forward does not dishonour your cat in any way. But time passes, and to an extent it heals, and gradually since you are still living in this world, you will find your way in it and even find new happiness in new things. Clinging to your grief does not help your cat in any way, but it can hurt you. Remember, your cat loved you and would want you to be happy.

 

Eventually you will become used to not having your cat around. This is a sad moment, but it will happen, though you will still get moments when it hurts. Basically you want the pain to end, but it also hurts when it does. It can feel disloyal to your cat to move on, but clinging to the past does not help your cat, nor does it help you. Your cat lives on in your heart forever.

 

One day you should realise that gradually the balance of good days to bad days has changed. You will cry less, you will even find things that make you smile. As time passes, you should eventually notice that your emotions have changed from 99% pain and 1% happy memories to 1% pain and 99% happy memories.

 

"What will survive of us is love."

Philip Larkin

An Arundel Tomb

 


Should I Get Another Cat?


 

This is something that worries many people, both whether to do it, and if so, when to do it.

 

Whether to get another cat is automatic for some people. They always have cats, and if one dies, they get another. There are also people who are not planning to get a cat, but somebody asks them to rehome a cat and suddenly they have a cat again.

 

At the other extreme are people who never get another cat at all because they simply cannot face the thought of having to go through the pain of bereavement again at some point in the future. Other people may not get another cat for practical reasons, e.g. they are shortly moving home, or cannot afford the basics for a new cat, or they are elderly and concerned that they might outlive the new cat. Or they are holding out for the cat who feels "right."

 

When to get another cat is another consideration. There is no "right time" to go and get another cat, if indeed you ever do. Some people, often those with no other cats, cannot bear the emptiness of their home and go and get another cat quite quickly, within a week of losing their first cat. Others wait weeks, months. or even years.

 

The only important thing is to do what feels right for you personally at a time when it feels right. If it does not feel right, then don't do it.

 

If you feel guilty for contemplating getting another cat, let those feelings go. A new cat can never "replace" your cat, because they are all different and unique. However, if you feel fear, or dread, or as if you "ought to" adopt, then it is probably better to wait for a while.

 

I am normally not in a hurry to get another cat following a loss. After Tanya died, I couldn't bear to add another cat to our family since it meant the pain of loss would one day follow. However, Harpsie, a very sociable cat who had never been an only cat, had other ideas: he became so depressed and then physically ill after Tanya died that we had to acquire another cat on our vet's advice a month after we lost Tanya. It did the trick for Harpsie, Indie did indeed cheer him up; and although it did not happen overnight, I fell in love with her too. Some people feel that getting another cat is showing disloyalty to their deceased cat, but although I felt this way myself to start with, I soon realised that Indie would never take Tanya's place in my heart (she had her own place), that helping Indie would not hurt Tanya, and, since Indie was a rescue cat, I was confident that Tanya would in fact be pleased that we were helping a cat in need in her memory.

 

When Indie died very suddenly and unexpectedly many years later, my reaction was very different. I began looking for another cat the next day. I still have no idea why I felt I had to do this, but I did, it just felt right this time around. Not only that, but having not adopted a kitten for over twenty years, I suddenly felt I had to have kittens.

 

If you do get another cat, in my experience it can often help with the grieving experience. I could not bring Indie back, but I had to smile when I watched my kittens play. I say that even though one of the kittens who succeeded Indie died less than a year later.

 

Nevertheless, be prepared for a period of uncertainty at first, when you find yourself comparing your new cat to your deceased cat and find the new cat wanting. You may subconsciously have hoped that your new cat would be a clone of your deceased cat, only to be disappointed. Be patient, both with the new cat and yourself. This is a new relationship, and you need to give it time to grow. If you do that, you should gradually learn to appreciate your new cat's quirks and unique personality. You may also be anxious about your new cat, panicking at every possible sign of ill health. This is normal after a loss, but should improve with time.

 

Remember, love is infinite. Loving a new cat does not mean you have less love for your deceased cat; rather, your heart will grow as you learn to love your new cat.

 

If you are not 100% sure, but want to help cats, you could consider either volunteering at your local shelter, or fostering rather than adoption. This way, you can help a cat in need but without a permanent commitment.

 

If you already have another cat who is older and you decide to get another cat, I would think twice about getting a kitten. It can be hard for elderly people to cope with young babies and toddlers, and the same goes for cats, especially if a young kitten keeps trying to play with the older cat. I would consider getting a cat who is a bit older and beyond the manic youngster stage. If you do decide to go for a kitten, get two: that way they can play together, and the older cat can watch their antics but not be worn out by being asked to play all the time. This is what I did after Indie died. I still had Karma, who was sixteen, so in fairness to her I eventually adopted two kittens, so they could entertain Karma by playing together, but leave her in peace. Karma had severe arthritis and was not very mobile but she was very interested in the kittens and I feel watching them did give her pleasure.

 

If you already have a surviving cat and you decide to get another cat, please introduce them carefully. Imagine how your existing cat feels when suddenly faced with a newcomer. "Where is my friend, and why is this stranger here?" will no doubt be going through your cat's mind. A careful introduction can make the entire process much easier and less stressful for everyone. Harpsie's site explains how to introduce a new cat.

 

"Another cat? Perhaps. For love there is also a season; its seeds must be resown. But a family cat is not replaceable like a worn out coat or a set of tyres. Each new kitten becomes its own cat, and none is repeated. I am four cats old, measuring out my life in friends that have succeeded but not replaced one another."

 

Irving Townsend

 

 

*****

 

Whose golden light you loved.

I shall sleep alone and, stirring, touch an empty place.

I shall write uninterrupted.

Would that your gentle paw could stir my moving

pen just once again.

I shall see beauty, but none to match

your living grace.

I shall hear music, but none so sweet as the

droning song with which you loved me.

I shall fill my days, but I shall not, can not, forget.

Sleep soft dear friend, for while I live

You shall not die."

Michael Joseph

 

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This page last updated: 03 June 2018

Links on this page last checked: 03 June 2018

  

   

*****

 

TREATING YOUR CAT WITHOUT VETERINARY ADVICE CAN BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.

 

I have tried very hard to ensure that the information provided in this website is accurate, but I am NOT a vet, just an ordinary person who has lived through CKD with three cats. This website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used to diagnose or treat any cat. Before trying any of the treatments described herein, you MUST consult a qualified veterinarian and obtain professional advice on the correct regimen for your cat and his or her particular requirements; and you should only use any treatments described here with the full knowledge and approval of your vet. No responsibility can be accepted.

 

If your cat appears to be in pain or distress, do not waste time on the internet, contact your vet immediately.

 

*****

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