Some Thoughts on Losing Pets

Yesterday my beloved cat Beezle died.  If you’re an animal lover, pet owner, whatever you want to call it, you’ll understand why I spent much of my morning in the bathroom at work crying when I lost the battle to keep it together at the front desk.  You’ll also relate to my referring to my cats as my children.  If you’re not, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.  You may be outraged at my equating my love for my cats to your love for your possibly multiple offspring.    To which I say your value judgment is not welcome in my world.  

Don’t get me wrong. I love children.  I adore my nieces and nephews and have been known to go all gooey over cute babies.  I’m a wonderful babysitter, aunt and godmother.  I probably take more safety precautions when I’m looking after someone else’s kids than they do themselves.  I have actually been told to ‘chill out’ by some of these parents, who look at my constant scanning of rooms for potential sharp corners on which the child could be injured as kind of comical.  This is one of the reasons I don’t actually have any human children of my own. I’d probably drive myself — and them — insane by my ‘must wrap in cotton batting’ attitude combined with a singular lack of patience with many of the things that go hand in hand with parenthood. 

 On the other hand, I have what has been called a remarkable patience with felines (I’m not as good with dogs although I do also love them) and can put up with behavior and messes from my cats that would drive a normal person mad.  I don’t like the messes and both myself and Dave get tired of the cleanup necessary to live in a house with multiple felines without having our friends walk in and say politely, “Wow, cats, huh?”   But it’s worth it because of the love and joy our little furry darlings bring us.   Which brings me to the main point of this post. 

 Yes, there is a difference between losing a child and losing a pet.  No one expects to have a child die before them – it’s (in theory) a lifetime commitment and it’s also tied into issues of the parents’ mortality, their line carrying on, etc… We know our pets probably aren’t going to outlive us and that the time with them is finite. But it doesn’t mean the love and commitment we feel towards them is any less valuable than the love a parent has for his/her child, or the grief at their loss any less painful or real.  It’s just easier to accept because we know it’s going to happen and our expectations are set.  It’s not something anyone has the right to place a value judgment on in terms of importance or what we should or shouldn’t feel. Please try and remember this the next time someone you know is dealing with the death of a pet. 

And keep in mind that the words “What’s the big deal?  It’s just a cat (or dog)” won’t just make you stupid and insensitive, but will put you right up there in Major Asshat territory and you will deserve the black eye you might very well get from a rightfully enraged pet owner. 



29 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Losing Pets

  1. I’m with you Dana, my Aussie Shepherd, Journey, is truly my best friend, we have actual conversations. He understands sentences. We have even had arguments that my wife finds hilarious. Journey and I facing each other in the kitchen, me saying “no you can’t have any more ice cream” and him alternately barking at me and pawing the freezer door. He turns 8 in October so I have about 6 more years with him and will totally lose it when he passs away. But I will know he had a great life with lots of love, treats, swimming trips to the river and beach and long walks to the park to play frisbee. There is an old saying, heaven is the place you go where all the animals you have ever loved come to greet you when you arrive.

  2. People who say, “What’s the big deal?” about a pet would likely be the same people to suggest that some one who lost a child couldn’t be that attached to them as it’s “only been a few years” after all. People who don’t like pets are missing an important gene for empathy that doubtless colours their human interactions as well.

    I am so sorry for your loss. We never forget them. They give so much. I brought Maggie’s ashes back from Texas because I knew as a proper Bostonian I couldn’t leave her there. She’s much happier scattered in Mt Auburn Cemetery.

  3. I couldn’t have said it better, Dana. I have never reproduced either, for pretty much the same reasons. My husband’s daughter, the mother of 3, thinks I’m insane whenever I gear up to babysit. I was an EMT though and I KNOW in painful and gruesome detail how fast accidents can happen.

    I also share your feelings about tje furry ones. My husband has 4 (chronologically anyway) grown children, 4 grandchildren and 1 great grand. I love them, I babysit for them, I listen to their problems, but I MUCH prefer the company of and will only share my home only with the four footers. As I’ve often said, I have NEVER gotten a phone call from any of the cats or the German shepherds saying they’ve crashed the car, gotten someone pregnant or that they need bail or rent money.

  4. Mark, you should definitely tape your conversations with Journey… and I love your definition of heaven ’cause it sure matches mine! I grieved heavily when Boska, our half Aussie/half Rottie, finally passed on… I tried to remember the fact that we rescued her from death day at the pound, gave her love, walkies, and treats galore… but it hurt…

    Margery and Jan, I typed a response to you both, but I think it got eaten… or it’ll show up and I’ll have two! Margery, I totally agree re: the lack of empathy, although some people just can’t feel it towards pets whereas they can if a human is involved… but then their empathy fails at feeling the grief of the person who lost their pet. Again, they don’t hvae to feel it… just don’t decide we SHOULDN’T feel it.

    Jan, you and I are a lot alike. I tell myself my cats may pee on my clothes at times, but at least they don’t borrow ’em!

  5. Dana, I’m so sorry for your loss. I have no patience for people who do not “get” the bond between animals and their humans. Tommy and I do not have biological children (we finally gave up–I have lupus), but our cats very happily fill that void. We had a close call with our boy, Kitty, a couple of years ago (his weight plummeted and the vet suspected cancer), and we both fell apart. My heart goes out to you and Dave right now.

    I actually feel sorry for people who do not have the ability to empathize with or understand animals–truly, they are lacking something. In my book, anyone with a personality is a person–maybe not a human person, but a person just the same.

    Big hugs to you. Cry when you need to, and to hell with anyone who has an issue with it.

  6. These are all really great comments, and I don’t have that much to add. I agree with Margery too: people who say something like that are lacking the empathy gene. I wonder if they are more sympathetic about kids only because society tells them that they should be.

  7. I’m so sorry for your loss, Dana. HUGS.

    I’m a mom to two human boys who are now 19 and 23.

    I’ve been a mom in my adult life to five cats and two dogs (plus one family dog as a child, three gerbils, three rats and a bunch of fish)

    I have no pets right now because I’m still so upset about all my pet losses over the years I’m in a headspace where I can’t bear to get another cat or dog because they are going to die, and I don’t know if I can stand it right now.

    I’m still grieving my disappointment in human nature, my “marriage,” and everyone tells me a pet would ease my pain.

    Dorian, my youngest son, and I have decided we WILL get a kitten, once we find a better place to live, once we’ve recovered from our losses. But he still grieves for his Lilith, our little black cat, who mysteriously disappeared a couple of years ago. I have my suspicions what happened to her, but no proof.

    Now I”m crying at the thought of losing another pet and I don’t even have one.

    HUGS Dana. Grief is grief. It hurts.

  8. Dana, I’m so very sorry to hear of the loss of your beloved cat. Love is love. Life is life. Attachment is attachment. Connection is connection. Human to human, animal to animal, human to animal, it doesn’t matter. We’re connected, we’re alive, we love. We mourn. We grieve.

    In my family, we have a true burial ceremony for our loved ones when they pass on. We bury them with their collars, with any special toys, and we always sprinkle their favorite food over their grave before we cast the soil over their bodies, saying our own unique prayers as we do so. We have markers at each grave. We visit the graves and put cut flowers and sprinkle flower seeds. We honor their lives. I honor your love for Beezle.

    My sincerest condolences,
    Elle Amery

  9. Isabel, Lisa, Other Lisa, and Seph, thank you for both your kind words and for sharing your thoughts/feelings/experiences…

    Seph, I’m so sorry you’ve had such a rough time recently… I know the feeling of not wanting to suffer the loss, but given the disappointments of my own this last year I can’t imagine having gotten through it without my ‘kids.’ But given what you’ve gone through, I so understand not wanting to open yourself up to more pain down the line… I hope you and Dorian find the perfect kitten (or even better, two) and that it/they bring you joy, comfort and love.

  10. Elle, just moderated your comment, didn’t mean to leave you out!
    We used to take all our animals to be buried at my parents house in San Diego, but the burial area is full now and I live too far away to make it practical. When we lost Haggis two years ago we did our first pet cremation… and his ashes are in a box in a special bat cat container. Beez will join him there…

  11. As a total animal lover and also the resident of a ranch filled with animals, as well as surrounded by coyotes and other predators, I concur that every pet’s death is as traumatic as the first. With coyotes in mind, however, (and they are beautiful creatures, too) my three house cats are now indoors only. No more coyote food from me.

    I like to think all our former pets are together playing and that’s as “spiritual” as I can get!

    Dear Beezle. He was lucky to have Dana and Dave.

  12. Kit, I love to think of all my passed on pets as playing together, along with the pets of friends and family… I don’t know who is picking up after ’em, but as long as they’re happy…

  13. hard to type with tears in my eyes, but hugs and love to both of you–and all Beezle’s kitty friends. They will miss him too.

  14. You’ve got the best pictures of Beezle, Mom… the ones that I put together when Bill put up all the pics of Koryn?

  15. i know how you feel. i felt that same way when my dog dharma died when i was ten and even more when my cat billy bob died when i was thirteen which both made me feel destroyed.

  16. Cameron, I hate to say it, but it doesn’t get any easier when you hit my age either. Which doesn’t quite seem fair, does it? I’m really glad you and Mel got to meet Beezle before he took that last downswing in health!

  17. You’re so right about the importance of pets in the lives of their owners. My sympathy for your loss. (My spouse & I have a set of little urns with the ashes of the pets we’ve lost during our 21 years together – we plan to scatter the ashes outdoors some time.)
    – Jean

  18. You know how I feel. You’re a great mom to your cats and losing one of them is a pain beyond bearing. I just wish you peace and the comfort of knowing you provided him with a truly loving home. LOL.

  19. I’m very touched by all the outpouring of love for our Beez. Thanks so much, all!

  20. Dana and Dave,

    I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve lost a precious member of your family. Our house just about everything but a cat, and I joke that a cat would offset the equilibrium. Our dogs leave the hamsters, birds, fish, hermit crabs alone, but I’m not sure a cat would do the same thing!

    What I’m also sorry for is the implied need to write this column. In my mind, that means someone has spoken those words to you, and that’s very sad, too.

    Cherish the memories of Beez, and love the ones that you have.


  21. I’m so sorry Dana – sending you lots of hugs, love, comfort, and light. I know Beezle was a blessed cat to have you for a mom.

    Also, I fully agree with your post – my cats are my children, and no one will ever convince me to think otherwise.

  22. Louisa, no one said it this time around, but it’s definitely been heard in the past…My post was prompted by the fact there were people at work I couldn’t tell what was going on because they would not have understand my grief nor my need to be with my boy when he died. Nice people, but there’s the value judgment going on and it’s implied that the death of a pet couldn’t possibly be a reason to miss any work. It was so hard for me to leave that morning knowing we were going to try get the vet over that night — as it turned out, Beezle went downhill very quickly before I even got home. I spoke to him on the phone and Dave says it was the last thing he responded to before slipping into a coma and dying… the sound of Momma’s voice.

    Thank you, and Sheina, for your comforting words and your empathy.

  23. Dana, my kids know me. for Christmas they gave me a plac which says The more people I meet, the more I love my dogs. I do love dogs and all animals. My rotty, Sweetie died in my arms. I still cry over her and it’s been years. I have cats, too. They develop kidney problems which are terrible. Make sure they drink enough. I have one of those waterers that make a tinkling noise which attracts them. You never forget those you love even if they are animals. Keep Beezle alive in your memory, Janet

  24. I don’t think of my pets as my children. There more like “reliable friends.” But I had a thought after reading part of your post and wanted to expand on it below this paragraph. So here goes….

    Quote from your post: “What’s the Big Deal? It’s Just a Cat (or Dog)?

    To those with children- saying something like that is about the same as me telling you, “Don’t worry you can have another kid.” Right after your son or daughter died.

  25. Reliable friends works too, Danis. we grieve when our friends die too, y’know? And yeah, exactly what you said re: your addition to my thought.

  26. Janet, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I lost my half Rottie/half Aussie baby a couple of years ago and I still cry over her too.

    We have three huge water bowls that we are constantly refilling. Our cats drink up a storm…

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