What Do You Do When You Come Across a Stray Cat Who Has Died?


Editor’s note: This story features photos of deceased animals, but they are lovingly prepared for burial.

A few weeks ago I stood guard over the body of a cat. I was in my office when one of the tellers from the bank next door came in and told us that there was a dead cat just off the sidewalk out front. He didn’t know what to do, but the sweet young man wanted to do something.

Following him out to the sidewalk, we found the cat.

It was a rather large intact male orange tabby lying on his side with an odd indentation in his belly, where I assume a car’s tire had backed over him. As I leaned in for a closer look, I teared up and gasped all at once when I saw that his poor little mouth was wide agape and one of his eyes was bulging out of its socket, like he’d been squeezed to death.

There was only a little blood coming from his mouth. It appeared that he had been suddenly crushed. I suspect that he had taken a nap behind the wheel of a car — as I often see the local feral cats do, and had not had time to escape when he driver started his car and pulled out.

“Oh kitten …” I cooed, and my heart ached.

The bank teller told me he had called the owner of the small complex that housed my store and his bank, and that the sanitation manager was coming to collect the body. When I told him that we had to move the cat, at least get him out of the street, he stopped me and said that he was under strict instructions from the complex’s owner not to move the cat due to health code restrictions and liability.

“We can’t leave him here to be crushed again!” I told him, but he insisted that we comply with the owner’s instructions.

After quickly debating with myself if I should get this young, well-intentioned man in trouble, as well as get my boss in trouble should I disobey a rule set forth by the complex’s owner, I decided I would not move the cat, but to instead keep guard over his poor broken body. It seemed only right. The thought of his body being cruelly mangled and rolled over on the busy street seemed so heartless and disrespectful.

So I told the bank teller to watch the cat for a minute. I ran to my car and found an old T-shirt. I also stopped back in my office to retrieve a cardboard box.

Returning to the body, I gently put the T-shirt over the cat, taking care to cover his face, then broke down the box and used it to create a little fort around him. Then I waited.

I occasionally had to duck back inside the store for calls or customers, but overall I spent the better part of two hours sitting on the curb, working on my iPad, guarding the tabby’s body. Several times when someone began to park in the spot, I had to wave them to stop before they ran over the cat and his fort.

A few of the older local guys laughed at me, and a couple people told me the cat was “gross.” I admit my vehemence to protect this dead cat might have been a little absurd, but I felt resolute, and still feel resolute, that what I did was the right thing.

Who knows what life this cat had led? He may have been a cherished pet; he may have been a wily street cat. Regardless, any dignity I could give this little creature who was robbed of life too soon was right and worth it. I knew full well the sanitation manager would just throw him in the garbage, but at least in this way I could give him a little more.

A big part of me regrets not just taking the cat and burying him while I had the chance.

When the sanitation manager finally arrived, he apologized profusely for my having to deal with such a “disgusting thing.” I told him I didn’t see it that way. Shaking his head, the manager roughly scooped up the orange tabby’s body with a shovel and dumped him in a disposal bin before I could do anything further. “Hope you don’t want your shirt back,” he tossed back to me as he wheeled the bin away.

My encounter with the body of the orange tabby really got me thinking about how we treat animals — pets and ferals — post-death. As a person who has personally laid to rest many animals, both my own and poor creatures I’ve found, I feel very strongly that giving proper respect to the bodies of animals is one of the most human and humane things a person can do.

So when I heard about the Pet & Wild Animal Burial blog, I was so moved to find a community of people who seem to share my views. I’d like to share some of the photos and stories with you. I warn you that while the photographs are tasteful and actually quite lovely, they can be difficult — and emotional — to look at. Please know that every animal featured on this blog was attended to with love, care, and respect.

Here are some notes from pet parents on the blog:

This blog is so beautiful and it brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for creating this account to respect such wonderful creatures. I have had three pet deaths within a year and they haven’t nearly been as magnificent as these burials. Rest in peace lovely critters. I love this blog so much. Seeing people show so much respect for animals is refreshing.

My dog, Zhar, a Rottweiler of 11 years, was put to sleep on Friday. It was a sunny spring day so we set a blanket outside on the lawn and had the vet come around home so he could pass in his own environment and with those who love him. We are picking up his ashes on Wednesday and though I am still distraught over his death, I am pleased his final moments and care after the fact was dignified.

A note for Chicco (pictured above):

I loved you from the moment I saw you amongst your brothers and sisters on granddad’s farm. You were so tiny and your eyes were so blue. You were the best little buddy in the world, and I’m never going to meet another cat like you. I love you Chicco. Goodnight.

An unnamed photo of a beautiful cat, lovingly laid to rest:

A fox given beautiful post-death care:

Found this darling baby on the road, buried her in the yard.

This sweet message about Kiki (above) from her loving owner:

Kiki was a bossy, talkative lady with a lot of love to give once she trusted you. She was sick on and off again for over a year, and even though I had time to prepare myself for her death, it was hard to get ready to say goodbye. When she passed I filled a bin with flowers, one of my scarves, photos of her and her housemate, and other little treasures to comfort her transition back into the earth. I can no longer visit the location of the burial, so the photos I took are my way of holding her close.

This striking lizard was dearly loved:

Sausage, you were my moody little prissy baby. I love you.

And lastly, this one just made my heart melt and break all at once:

We are so lucky to have these creatures in our lives. Hold yours close tonight.

Thanks so much to Pet & Wild Animal Burial. Your blog is so important to the mourning process, and I’m sure helps pet parents and animal lovers around the world.

All memorial photos courtesy of Pet & Wild Animal Burial except “Cat Memorial Statue” from Le Cimeti├¿re des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques (Cemetery of Dogs and Other Domestic Animals) courtesy of peopleplacesandbling.com.

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