Pet owners increasingly report thinking of their cats as members of the family. This deep love and attachment is recognized by the media and reflected in consumer trends, yet despite the widely-accepted idea of cats as family, openly grieving the loss of a beloved feline companion is still a bit taboo.
Not only is the death of a cat devastating, for many, it hurts just as much as losing a human loved one.
UK writer Lee Kynaston compared his deeply personal experiences of losing his father and losing his 15-year-old cat, Dave, in a piece about grief for The Telegraph. Kynaston’s father succumbed to cancer in 1997, a pain that he describes as “intense.”
Nearly 20 years later, Kynaston found himself “wracked with guilt” when he realized the depth of his hurt over Dave’s death was just as overwhelming, if not more so, as when he lost his father. He kept his feelings bottled inside, afraid he would be called “heartless, disrespectful, or just plain nuts.” But when he finally decided to explore the phenomenon and speak to others about their experiences, he found that he wasn’t alone – not by a long shot.
“How can you possibly compare the death of a pet – a mere animal – to the death of a loved one? Well, quite easily as it happens, because the animal in question was a loved one too.” -Lee Kynaston
Research shows that the death of a beloved family pet is comparable in almost every way to the loss of a human relative or companion. Yet, despite the elaborate funerals, religious ceremonies, eulogies, and the countless tokens of remembrance we use to help us cope human death, there are precious few accepted rituals for our pets.
Sure, you can hold a funeral for your cat, and those with supportive friends may even have quite a turnout, but always there is the risk of being labeled “weird, dramatic, hysterical…” After all, it was “just a cat.”
The death of a human family member or partner brings flowers, gift baskets, casseroles and sympathy galore from the people in our lives. We are encouraged to speak of the dead, share our memories, and “take as much time as we need.” In stark contrast, while reeling from the death of a feline companion – one that may have been by our side for half our life or more – we are expected to return to business as usual almost right away.
There are a few companies that offer bereavement pay and/or time off for the loss of a pet, but the practice is pretty rare, compared to the unspoken expectation of time off for the death of a human loved one. The unique and incredibly beneficial human-animal bond seems to be overlooked all together.
Our cats are our champions and best friends through all the ups and downs of our lives. They are the warm, comforting source of affection when we need it most, and the silly little clowns that make us laugh on our hardest days. The very presence of a cat is proven to lower our blood pressure.
How can we not feel as if a piece of our very soul has been ripped away when that constant source of stability and unconditional love is suddenly lost? There is a cavernous hole where a beloved friend used to be, and that is a hurt that penetrates just as deeply as any other.
It’s time we erase the stigma and realize that our grief is just that – ours. Feeling heartbroken over the death of a creature who devoted its very life to us is never shameful, dramatic or crazy.
If you’re looking for a token of remembrance to honor your beloved cat, check out the items below. Part of the proceeds from each purchase benefit a charity, in your cat’s honor.
See more available items by clicking here.