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Is There Any Community Like the Cat Community?

I shared my grief over my beloved Dahlia's death, and the outpouring of compassion and support reminds me we really are a big family.

 |  Oct 23rd 2013  |   3 Contributions


Last week when I wrote a post about my sweet Dahlia’s last days, I figured some of you would respond with sympathy and condolences, but I never imagined the amazing impact of the compassion you showed and the stories you shared about your own similar experiences.

I learned that I’m not the only person who’s ever experienced an unexpected tidal wave of grief. Steve wrote, “I moved recently and the packing up of the two urns holding my boys I lost while living there came back like a ghost freight train in the night. I cried and cried even though it has been more than three years.”

2009: Dahlia had decided to "help" me bake some cookies. Looks like she's a bit embarrassed by the results of her effort.

Some of you are in the beginning of your grieving process, and the sharp, stabbing pain of loss is still fresh. Emily wrote, “I just lost my Eowyn on Thursday morning. She was only 1.5 years old. She had FeLV and was doing well until she became anemic. She is the fifth cat I've lost to FeLV in 2 years. I can't imagine feeling whole again.”

Emily, I hope you’ve found some comfort in knowing you’re not alone with your feelings.

Some of you wrote from a place farther down the road of grieving. I thank you for the reminder that the pain will gradually ebb, even though we’ll never forget the wonderful furry family members who shared our lives.

“I do not think that the grief ever fully goes away, but over time the pain gets (mostly) replaced by fond memories and a feeling of everlasting love for that tiny being that shared my life for however long it was,” Rose wrote.

How very true, Rose. This is one of my favorite videos of Dahlia and her best buddy, Thomas. Whenever I look at it I smile.

One of the common threads among those of us whose cats died from accidents or illness is a lingering feeling of guilt. Carisa wrote, “I still think about it sometimes ... how did I not see how sick she still was, how she wasn't getting better -- was there anything else I could have done? The vet kept telling us there were more tests we could do -- $3,000 and more suffering just for them to tell us what we already knew…”

As I replied to writers like Carisa with compassion and reminders not to blame themselves for making the best possible decision with the information they had, it began to sink in for me, too. Finally I’m starting to put away some of the guilt I felt and the second-guessing and self-berating is starting to fade.

Dahlia and me on a cold winter's morning in 2010.

Other comments reminded me that plenty of people don’t understand it’s just cruel to tell us “it was just a cat” and we should either get over it or be glad we could end their suffering.

“Over the past few months I have been expressing less and less of my devastating loss … because I keep getting the response of ‘it's just a cat and he was in pain,’” wrote Tamela. “No, he was not just a cat; he was my furry son and snuggle buddy and comforter, and yes I was able to take his pain away, but I am left with my own pain.”

I didn’t talk about my grief with people I knew in real life, either, and for pretty much the same reasons. I honestly didn't realize how much I was hurting until I had an emotional crisis that forced me to deal with it.

Tamela, I hope the support and love of a community full of people who know what it's like to go through this and understand, without question, the depth of grief we can experience when we lose a beloved feline friend, has been helpful for you -- and that it won’t take a crisis like the one I experienced for you to speak your truth and share your grief with those who understand your pain.

A man and his cat. Photo: Shutterstock

“Just this morning as I was leaving for work I glanced around to say goodbye and had the pang of sadness when I realized I had forgotten he was gone. I feel silly sometimes but it's nice coming on here and seeing that lots of other people love their cats as much as I loved mine,” Steph wrote.

One of the things I love so much about Catster is that we are a community, bound together by our love of cats and able to support one another because we know the pain -- and the joy -- of being cat parents.

I’m amazed and overwhelmed, and so very grateful to all of you. Thank you.

Thomas and Dahlia, 2011.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, professional cat sitter, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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