If you are a reader of the articles on this blog, there is a good chance you are an animal lover which means unfortunately you may have also experienced mourning the loss of a beloved pet. Some of us are dog people, some fish people, while others choose fish, reptiles, birds, or cats to share their lives with. According to the 2012 statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are over 74 million cats in the United States alone. Chances are, a great many of those are the companions to human beings. Our pets (with the exception of some birds and certain reptiles) will usually not outlast us, so as the care givers for these creatures of fin, fur and feather we are all likely to mourn the passing of one of our non human companions.
Recently I had to say goodbye to the last of my three cats, Tigger. This particular feline, who allowed me to live with him for just about 18 years, was the last of my three cats (the others
were Oreo and Esmerelda). Having had more than one cat, he was with me to help me get over the losses of Esmerelda and then Oreo, but as the last survivor there was not another cat left behind to help me get past losing him. After the loss of the first two, with a year or two between each, my home felt a little more empty each time. Still, with Tigger being there I was still living in a cat household so the normal situations of being woken up for breakfast, scooping litter, and refilling water bowls continued. With the loss of Tigger, all of that changed. It was a strange thing indeed to pick up the water bowls, put away the toys, and to empty the litter boxes. We get used to living our lives a certain way, and just like with the loss of a human friend or family member losing a pet changes things and in surprising ways.
The very first feeling I noticed was that the apartment felt empty and exceptionally quiet. That is a strange one for me, since Tigger was just a small cat who didn’t occupy a lot of physical space and who didn’t make very much noise. It is normal to feel this sort of thing with any loss, and the loss of a pet is no different. There were also a variety of other strange feelings which followed in the couple of weeks after Tigger was gone. Things like catching movement out of the corner of an eye and instinct telling me it was a cat, only to realize that it was simply the movement of a shadow. Another one was that I didn’t have to close the screen door when I went out on my patio to grill dinner, I was able to leave the patio door open.
It is important to understand, feeling lonely after the loss of a pet is ok! Everyone may not understand how much of a feeling of loss you have without your faithful companion, but there are millions of us in the world who are a part of the club of current or former pet parents. You have many kindred spirits all around you who have felt or are feeling a hard loss of their furry family member. Your life will be different without your pet, but remembering the good times you had with them will help fill the empty spot in your life where that little face used to be. Hang in there!