Losing a Pet: Guilt, Grief and Stories

If you have a pet you know how they are more than just a pet, they become part of your family. Pets are like children really, they look to us to feed them and care for them because they can’t, usually. And in return they give you love and companionship.

Maybe that’s what makes loosing a pet so hard, at least for me. Yesterday we had to put one of our cats down. She was in the final stages of renal failure and was in pain. She wasn’t eating or drinking and walking seemed very difficult. It was sad to watch her in this state, especially since it seemed to happen so quickly, like in a matter of days.

Of course I’m sad but I have this overwhelming sense of guilt weighing me down. I feel somewhat responsible for my cats declining health. No I didn’t mistreat her; she was well-loved, but being an indoor cat I probably didn’t take her to the vet for regular check-ups, didn’t take great care of her teeth, brushed her occasionally. I realize she was old, over 15 years, but how can I not sit her and feel that something I have done and didn’t do lead to this. If I had taken her to the vet regularly could her condition have been caught sooner and dealt with? I couldn’t even bring myself to ask the vet for fear of what her answer would be.

I remember when our cat was born (she was 1 of 6 kittens born in our tiny one-bedroom closet). It was just my husband and I, no house, no kids. The mother cat, who still lives with us by the way, became sick after the kittens were born so my husband and I had to take care of them like we were their mother. We had to bottle feed them and keep them extra warm and teach them to go to the bathroom. I use to get up at 3:30 in the morning and come home on my lunch hour to feed them; it was just like having kids I thought in my limited kid world. I didn’t begrudge the role but it certainly confirmed to me in my newly married state that I wasn’t ready for kids of my own.

Our cat’s passing also affected our kids, well my 8-year old. It’s not that my 3 and 6-year old don’t care, they just don’t seem to comprehend what’s happened and that’s fine too. My 8-year old was crushed. Before our cat became sick my daughter had created a blanket bed in her room. She didn’t create it for our cat but that’s where she spend all her time when she was unwell. It’s like there was a connection between my daughter and our cat. The same thing happened when the kittens arrived. They didn’t arrive until we created a space on our closet floor, like we knew this was something needed. My 8-year old went to bed with our cat sitting there and woke up to greet her.

We had to put down our older cat almost 4-years ago, weeks after our youngest daughter was born. My kids always talk to Limburger, our older cat. They like to imagine he’s walking with them to school or playing a game in the backyard. I told my kids that now Limburger had a buddy, someone to hangout with and Munch would have someone to show her around. Now instead of Limburger visiting, both cats might pop by. I think this helped my oldest daughter deal with our cat’s death. I’m not saying the cat isn’t dead, I don’t believe in making up stories, but having her spirit around is fine. Lots of people believe this when it comes to the passing of family so why should a pet be any different.

After our visit to the vet to say our goodbye (my husband was brave enough to stay with Munch as she was euthanized so she wouldn’t be on her own), we order in chinese food, my 8-year old daughter’s comfort food. We talked about the crazy things Munch did when she was here and the bond she had with Limburger our older cat. We laughed at the stories and remembered her in her fun, active state.

I think loosing a pet is hard, harder than I expected, but as long as we don’t forget our pets they’re never really gone and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Brenna on September 23, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss, Carrie Anne. I will be thinking about you and your family. Stay strong!


  2. Hi! I found a link to your blog on No Time For Flashcards…I’m so sorry about your loss. My cat will be 12 next year and I’ve started to notice her age a bit more lately than I ever have. I will be devestated when “that” time comes, so I am thinking about you and your family! I understand that pets do become such an important part of the family! I admire your husband for staying with her during that time. It’s obvious she was so loved.


  3. Oh, my. I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to your cat. I also had a pet once — it’s a dog, though, but pet is pet — and I still remembered the day he passed away. Not only because he passed away right at the Good Friday, but also because he passed away right several minutes before we went to the pet doctor. The car had been ready, my sister and mom had been ready, and he suddenly coughed so hard and didn’t move anymore.

    …*Sigh* But I’m sure they were happy and love us, their master, and that’s what’s important. It has happened and we can’t change it, but I’m glad at least we can know them. Those experiences are always important.


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