Loss of a Cat

Sep 3, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion

When Louis brought Nadia for her dental cleaning and evaluation, he was pleased to know her bloodwork and blood pressure were good and that we could help with her bad breath. As he left, he spoke softly to her, stroked her head, smiled and wished her luck. We never imagined that we would find a mass under her tongue that would end her life.

After her diagnosis, we talked to Louis about his choices. He decided he could be her nurse for awhile but wouldn’t do any more surgery. We started hospice care at home. Nadia had been with him longer than many of his friends and family. His wife said that Nadia was Joined “at the hip” to Louis and would spend every waking minute with him if she could. They were soulmates she told us.

After a time, the tumor became larger and she lost interest in eating. Louis knew the time had come but wished with all his heart that he did not have to make this choice. He hoped and hoped that she would die on her own, without suffering. Then he knew she would not.

They came to the hospital together one last time. Louis is a very tall man with giant hands that stroked her fur as we gave her the last injection. As her breath left her body, he sobbed for awhile. We hugged and sat and talked about her. He told me stories and showed me pictures. Finally, he felt strong enough to leave though we both knew how much it hurt to leave without her.

The loss of a pet can be as devastating as the loss of a child or spouse.  Yet often there is no one who understands how devastating it can be. Having to make the choice to end a life can often leave people feeling guilty or angry. Unlike people, there is usually no ritual to help us through the process.  There are funerals, memorials, and other rituals that would be acknowledged by most everyone for the loss of a person. Often society doesn’t acknowledge the legitimate emotional needs after the loss of a cat. It can feel very lonely and isolating when people say things like “it was just a cat.”

Finding a way to memorialize your beloved cat is one way to deal with feelings that can be so powerful that they feel like physical pain.  My beloved cat is buried underneath a rose bush I can see from my kitchen window. Every time it blooms it is as if she has visited. There are “grief hotlines” in several of the veterinary schools staffed by students who are trained to help and to listen. Grief counselors can be your advocate.

Sit with someone who knows you well and will understand how lonely you are feeling. The depth of your loss is real. You deserve to have the solace that comes of talking it through. The loss of a beloved family member, no matter the number of legs, can feel catastrophic.  Take the best care of yourself and your heart. Do whatever you need to heal. Don’t be reluctant or afraid to ask for help. Don’t mourn alone.

Dr Elizabeth Colleran

Diplomate ABVP Specialty in Feline Practice

Dr Colleran attained both her Masters (in Animals and Public Policy) and Doctorate from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. She opened Chico Hospital for Cats in 1998 and the Cat Hospital of Portland in 2003. In 2011, she became President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Dr Colleran is a member with: American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, and American Association of Feline Practitionesr.

Chico Hospital for Cats
548 W East Ave,
Chico, CA

Phone: 530-892-2287‎

Website: http://chicocats.com/
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Cat Hospital of Portland
8065 SE 13th Ave
Portland, OR 97202

Phone: 503-235-7005
Fax: 503-234-0042

Website: http://portlandcats.net/
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