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Losing a Cat - the Grief Process
Recently, I had to sign the final paper on a litter of kittens’ just weeks old. They were all tailless-domestic kittens; strays left behind when the queen abandoned them. Equipped with a special intuition, the queen knew these babies weren’t right, therefore she fled. Being a kitten rescuer, fleeing is out of the question for me. I rushed these four kittens to the vet (they were in deplorable shape). When the tech stepped forward to take their temperature, the rectal thermometer wouldn’t budge. None of them had a rectum, thus no chance for quality of life. Although only having them for a few hours, the grief hit hard overcoming me. I wept for days. These kittens should have never touched the earth.
As humans, we adjust to change. Whether it is the loss of a job, the death of a parent or loved one or changing from one job to the next, we are in an almost constant state of flux in our lives. These changes when it involves losing a cat or a kitten forces us to dig deep into our physical and emotional tool boxes and learn to cope with what follows. After I lost my twenty-one year old barn cat an old friend once told me that Cleo’s pain had ended which meant that now mine would begin.
When do you say goodbye to your cat?
Even that cat sleeping on your lap domesticated and relaxed still maintains her wild ways. Part of her instinct is to hide any feeling of pain; she suffers quietly. If you are in tune with your cat and know her habits, you will feel when she is acting off. A trip to the veterinarian is always a good idea. Cats hide pain by changing their normal habits; sleeping more, eating less, becoming aggressive, hiding for the better part of the day even missing the litter pan. They don’t feel good. A large portion of their brain is wired to think: “If I show that I am weak- I will be eaten!”
So many times, I hear from people who insist when I suggest they take their cat to the vets: “But she’s not acting sick!” Even purring deceives us. Cats purr to get comfort not just because they feel good. I have heard cats purring right before the final injection. Purring is the first sound a cat feels and hears. The vibration of the purrs of the queen right after delivery guides her blind kittens to her milk bar. The sound of purring comforts many a cat healthy or dying.
When your cat is sick and it is an illness of no-return, it helps to make a list of priorities. List the pros and cons of keeping the cat alive or of letting her go. As you make the list, ask yourself several questions regarding your cat:
Your vet is there to guide you, but he cannot make the final recommendation. Even if you ask him what he would do if the cat were his, it is likely he will turn the question back to you- “What do you want to do?”
Cats depend on us for everything and this final act of saying goodbye rests in your hands. You need to make an informed decision, weigh the cost of your outcome against the well-being of your cat and ask yourself one last important question:
“Am I keeping her alive out of selfishness or is there a chance for her to recover?”
Whether the death comes after a long illness, or is swift and unexpected, if you can be truly objective in your answer to this one question then your cat will end up better off in the long run. We all will eventually die. Death is a part of life and a large part of change.