"Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world,

which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell."

Edna St. Vincent Millay



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Do Cats Go to Heaven?

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Home > Saying Goodbye > Coping With Your Loss



  • When you lose your beloved cat, it can be extremely hard to cope, and you can feel lost and afraid.

  • Many people also feel isolated because others may say hurtful things such as "it was just a cat."

  • This page aims to help you cope with your loss, and also discusses other issues which may arise, such as whether to adopt another cat.



Grief is agony. You can't get away from it. As CS Lewis said, "The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal." And when you are in the midst of grief, you may well feel the price is too high.


Many people find losing a cat is actually harder than losing a human loved one. This is not as surprising as it might first appear, because we often spend far more time with our cats than with our human relatives, and our relationships with our cats are usually far simpler than those with humans, where there may be a fair bit of emotional baggage. Cats, however, are always there, never judging us, always pleased to see us. Sometimes without us even realising it, they are the centre of our home. No wonder we miss them so when they are gone!


The Five Stages of Grief

Never forget, grief is normal. Research indicates that there are five stages.

  • denial

  • anger

  • bargaining

  • depression

  • acceptance

The five stages of grief discusses the process in more detail. You will not necessarily experience these all in this order, but you will find your own way to get through.


Notice I said get through. Grief is not about getting over your loss. It is about finding a way to live without the loved one's physical presence in your life.


I know it is hard to believe that you will get through it when you are in the middle of it, but you will. There is no right or wrong way to get through, and how long it takes is very variable. Take no notice of insensitve people who says things like "I thought you'd be over this by now." This is your unique experience, and you take as long as you need. Some people need professional help, and there is no shame in that.


Here are some of the emotions and experiences which you may face during the various stages of grief:


Immediately after a bereavement, people often feel numb, and their loss does not seem real. This can be both comforting and alarming, because you expect to feel something; but this reaction is normal, and it usually wears off after a few days (at which point you will probably wish you could go back to feeling numb again).


Difficulty Functioning Normally

Every time I have lost a cat, I have completely lost my appetite too for the first few days afterwards. Everything tastes like cardboard, and I have to be forced to eat. I also feel sick, and sometimes actually am sick. Some people are unable to sleep, but I slept a lot and I welcomed sleep, because it took my mind off my loss. The downside was it meant that every time I woke up I had to go through that horrible split second when I hoped it had all been a nightmare, only to realise it was all too true. 


You are entitled to feel as if you are wading through mud. But try to keep to some kind of a routine if you can. You have already had a big change in your life, so try to keep some things the same, it will help you cope and work out a way to live without your cat's physical presence around you. Force food in, even if it tastes of absolutely nothing. Try to get showered and dressed each day as a minimum. If you normally watch a particular TV programme, watch it.


By all means take a few days off work if you can (essential in my case, since I cannot stop crying), but no more than a week. I would simply tell your employer a close family member has died, you do not need to be more specific than that is many cases.



If you have lost a much loved cat, it is inevitable that you will feel a gaping void in your life; and this feeling can be exacerbated when you lose a cat to CKD because you were probably spending a fair bit of time caring for your cat, and all that time suddenly becomes available again and can lie heavy on your hands. Your routine has disappeared.


You may need a rest anyway, but if time is lying heavy on your hands, try to do little things each day that occupy your mind a little, even if they are still focused on your cat - some people have found it helpful to make a scrapbook about their cat, for example. See below for more tips on capturing memories. Alternatively, do something you couldn't do while your cat was sick, such as going to the cinema. 


Guilt, Regret and Bargaining

These emotions are an extremely common reaction to bereavement, and you may well find yourself regretting something you did or did not do. This is the stage when you torture yourself with all the "what ifs." If only I had fed my cat a different food. If only I'd been more diligent with the phosphorus binders. I wonder if I acted too quickly. I wonder if I left things too late. If only I could have my cat back, I would never do anything bad ever again.


You may also feel guilty if your cat did not manage long after diagnosis - you may feel cheated or wonder if you made mistakes in caring for your cat. Although it is often possible to buy quality time for a CKD cat, the disease IS terminal, and by the law of averages some cats are not going to manage long after diagnosis. Please do not beat yourself up if this happens to you, but try to take comfort in the fact that you did what you could. 


Whatever your reason for feeling guilty, please remember that feeling guilty is a natural, integral part of the grieving process; and whatever you did, your cat knows you tried your best and loves you for it. You were obviously a good guardian to your cat, or you wouldn't be torturing yourself like this. Only responsible people do it. Try writing a letter to your cat explaining why you did what you did and asking for forgiveness for anything you got wrong. It might sound strange, since you can never send the letter, but some people find it helps them a lot.


Remember, you cannot undo years of loving care with one single choice. Last night Indie frolicked unexpectedly across my path and so I trod on her paw. She yelped and I felt awful, of course. Did this one incident ruin our relationship? Of course it didn't. I said sorry and rubbed her little paw better and today she's forgotten all about it. Hindsight is 20:20 but I'm sure you did the best you could in the circumstances, and nobody can ask for more.


Beliefnet has some information on coping with guilt.

Pet-loss has a helpful article on dealing with guilt following a loss.



You may also feel angry, perhaps at your vet or yourself, and sometimes even at your cat for leaving you; again, this is a natural reaction. If you feel angry at your vet, you could call and ask for a chat: vets know clients sometimes feel this way, and will usually be happy to provide information to reassure you about what happened. 


Some people feel resentful if they have other healthy cats, particularly if they were more bonded with the deceased cat. This is also normal, but try to remember that your surviving cat has no control over the situation; it simply wasn't his/her time. As time passes, you may in fact find that you bond more with the surviving cat, though this is not compulsory.



One taboo subject is feeling a sense of relief after your cat has died. This is actually normal when you have been caring for a terminally ill patient. If you analyse your feelings, you will probably find that you are not feeling relief that your cat has died; rather, you are feeling relief that the CKD is gone, that you are able to climb off the emotional rollercoaster. There is no shame in that.


If you do feel this way, try not to feel guilty: rather, focus on all the care you gave your cat and remember that your cat would never reproach you for carrying on with your life after he or she is gone. You have carried the responsibility for your cat's life daily for however long, and it is stressful. Harpsie had a lot of health issues throughout his life, and although I gladly helped him, it wasn't until we lost him and I no longer had to worry about his wellbeing that I realised how stressful it had been. I certainly missed Harpsie but I didn't miss that stress.



One of the hardest things to cope with can be a feeling of isolation: people in the west are often very uncomfortable with the idea of death and simply do not know what to say to the bereaved. Also, many people simply do not understand why we grieve for cats. People make tactless comments which can really hurt, such as "it was only a cat" or "you can always get another one", as if cats are interchangeable.


The comment I found most hurtful when Tanya died was "well, at least you have another cat", as if cats are interchangeable. In the end, I used to point out that although Harpsie certainly was an exceptional cat, he had not mastered the art of being both himself and Tanya simultaneously. Try to remember that these people are well-meaning, if misguided and seek support elsewhere. Always remember that your feelings are perfectly valid and that there is nothing wrong in feeling your grief. Feeling grief shows that you are capable of love, hardly something to be ashamed of. 


Marvie's Experiences

Here is one lady's experience of grief written very shortly after her cat, Gus, died after 15 years together. I think it is extremely moving.


"I still have peace, but peace does not have a cold nose, a pink tongue, whiskers or a warm purr.  Peace does not use the litterbox, hurl hairballs or wake me at two in the morning because it got lonely and wanted to crawl under the covers.  The sure knowledge that I did the best I could does not demand fresh running water in the bathtub, lose its toys under the living room couch or chase moths.  And even that wonderful sense of love I knew after my kitty-cat crossed, does not meow when I come home late or interrupt me at the computer with a warm paw on my leg, asking for a lap and a cuddle.  And though a fresh new set of paws will one day walk into my heart, the here-and-now, day-to-day presence of a creature who knew me better than I know myself, loved me better than I love myself (and let me know that on a regular basis, conceited little creature that he was), is gone. Peace is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't wear fur.


And when I miss that fur so much, when the grief swells and threatens to consume me, the memory of my bond with my fur-person grounds me.  It tells me to look forward and celebrate the joy that bounded into my life so many years ago; to pause and ground myself, let the love that was there surface and know that the love is still there.  It's lonelier on this side, but if I ride out the grief I come full circle back to the peace.  It doesn't wear fur and it doesn't stop tears, but it does bring the memory of love and changes the tears from those of desperate sorrow to those of healing and of hope."


Do Cats Go to Heaven?

I am sometimes asked by Christians whether I believe that animals go to heaven. I'm no theologian, but I believe that if humans do, so do cats. It wouldn't be much of a heaven for me without my cats!


Clarifying Christianity has an article entitled Do Pets Go to Heaven?

Petloss Website has the story of Rainbow Bridge, a place where animals wait for their humans until they are able to enter heaven together.


Helping Other Family Members

Supporting Children

You may find yourself having to support other family members in their grief, and this can be particularly hard to do for children. Encourage them to talk and express their fears, and let them see that you are grieving too and that there is nothing wrong in feeling this way and talking about it.


Be careful about using the expression "put to sleep" when talking to children, because they often do not fully understand this concept and it can make them afraid to go to sleep in case they too never wake up. 


Veterinary Wisdom for Pet Parents has some information on helping children deal with grief.


Other Feline Family Members

You may also have to deal with other feline family members who are distressed by the loss of their companion. Cats certainly can grieve, Harpsie fell into a deep decline after Tanya died. Surviving cats may search for their companion, howl, and become subdued or go off their food.


Talk to your surviving cat(s). I always talk to my cats, and not in baby talk but with an adult tone - after all, they are adults, just of a different species. Tell them what has happened and give them lots of love and attention. It can help to comfort all of you.


Flower essences (see Holistic Treatments) may help here, particularly Star of Bethlehem, as may homeopathic ignatia.


International Cat Care has information on how to help a grieving cat.

Cat Behavior Associates discusses how to help a grieving cat and emphasises the need to try to keep the cat's routine as normal as possible.

Holisticat has information on giving homeopathic remedies to cats.


Capturing Memories


It can be very comforting to create some kind of memorial for your cat. I would also write down your happy memories. When I lost Tanya, I was so upset that I blocked things out. When I think of her, I tend to think of her in her last few months rather than as she was in the many years before then. Videos help with this.


Memorial Pages

I created a memorial page for Tanya and found it did help me. There are several places on the web where you can do this, including In Memory of Pets which has a section specially for CKD cats.


Anne's Thistle is a lovely photographic tribute to Thistle.


Paw Prints

Some people have a cast made of their cat's paw, which can be very comforting. In the USA, vets often offer to do this, but you can do it yourself with moulding dough, available from toy shops.


Veterinary Wisdom for Pet Parents sells pawprint kits.


Richard Lamb sells paw print kits and other memorial items.



Some people who have had their cats cremated have used part of the ashes to have a piece of jewellery made, often in a heart shape.


My Crystal Companion offers this service, though it is not cheap.


Addicted2glassfusion sells such products at reasonable prices.


Pet Cremation Nevada sells jewellery which can hold ashes or fur.


Whisper in the Heart sells jewellery which can hold ashes or fur.


JLC Keepsakes sells jewellery which can hold ashes or fur; you can also have your cat's photo engraved on it.


Koi Creek Beads sells memorial beads.


Shpangle in the UK makes jewellery containing a lock of hair.



Gratefulness allows you to light a memorial candle online.


Pet Wicks Candles sells handcrafted candles which can contain a photograph of your pet.


Photos and Paintings

Perfect Memorials sell a rotating photo cube.


Easy 123 Art will create a painting by numbers kit of your cat from a photograph.


Pets in Paradise offers portraits and other keepsakes in the UK.


Coming Through It


When you are in the midst of grief, you cannot imagine ever feeling happy again; but keep going. Breathe in, breathe out. In my experience (nine losses) and that of others I've spoken to, the first 2-3 weeks are the most painful. After that, you don't suddenly wake up and feel happy again, but the pain changes to a quieter, deeper kind of pain that somehow I found easier to bear. I can't guarantee that this will happen for you but it might.


Just as living with CKD was a rollercoaster, so is grief. At the beginning, you will naturally have many more bad days than good ones. Some days you will feel you are beginning to do a little better, and then the next day you will feel terrible again. Once again, this is normal: just take each day at a time, savour the better days and try to keep going through the bad days. Above all, be gentle on yourself. One day you should realise that gradually the balance of good days to bad days has changed. As time passes, you should also notice that your emotions have changed from 99% pain and 1% happy memories to 1% pain and 99% happy memories.


Thoughts on grief by John O'Donoghue discusses the rollercoaster of grief.


Should I Get Another Cat?


Firstly, a new cat can never "replace" your cat, because they are all different and unique, so you do not need to feel guilty for contemplating getting another cat. Secondly, there is no "right time" to go and get another cat, if indeed you ever do. Some people, often those with no other cats, cannot bear the emptiness of their home and go and get another cat quite quickly, within a week of losing their first cat. At the other extreme are people who never get another cat at all because they simply cannot face the thought of having to go through the pain of bereavement again at some point in the future. Both approaches are equally valid, neither is right or wrong. The only important thing is to do what feels right for you personally at a time when it feels right. 


After Tanya died, I couldn't bear to add another cat to our family since it meant the pain of loss would one day follow. However, Harpsie, a very sociable cat who had never been an only cat, had other ideas: he became so depressed and then physically ill after Tanya died that we had to acquire another cat on our vet's advice a month after we lost Tanya. It did the trick for Harpsie, Indie did indeed cheer him up; and although it did not happen overnight, I fell in love with her too. Some people feel that getting another cat is showing disloyalty to their deceased cat, but although I felt this way myself to start with, I soon realised that Indie would never take Tanya's place in my heart (she has her own place), that helping Indie would not hurt Tanya, and, since Indie was a rescue cat, I was confident that Tanya would in fact be pleased that we were helping a cat in need in her memory.


If you already have another cat who is older and you decide to get another cat, I would think twice about getting a kitten. It can be hard for elderly people to cope with young babies and toddlers, and the same goes for cats, especially if a young kitten keeps trying to play with the older cat. I would consider getting a cat who is a bit older and beyond the manic youngster stage. If you do decide to go for a kitten, get two: that way they can play together, and the older cat can watch their antics but not be worn out by being asked to play all the time.


If you already have a surviving cat and you decide to get another cat, please introduce them carefully. Imagine how your existing cat feels when suddenly faced with a newcomer. Where is my friend, and why is this stranger here? will no doubt be going through your cat's mins. A careful introduction can make the entire process much easier and less stressful for everyone. Harpsie's site explains how to introduce a new cat.


"Another cat? Perhaps. For love there is also a season; its seeds must be resown. But a family cat is not replaceable like a worn out coat or a set of tyres. Each new kitten becomes its own cat, and none is repeated. I am four cats old, measuring out my life in friends that have succeeded but not replaced one another."


Irving Townsend


Somebody to Talk To


It is often thought that being able to talk to others about your loss can help you feel better. I think that depends upon a number of factors. When I lost Tanya and Thomas, I wanted to talk about how I felt, but kept getting choked up, so writing was easier, and I used boards and e-mail for a long time, which helped me a lot. When I lost Indie though, I did not really want to talk about it or her at all, in person or online. I've no idea why I feel this way, her loss is still recent as I write this, so I do not have enough distance to analyse why I feel this way. All I know is, you must do what feels right to you.


If you want to talk, choose your audience carefully. I would not talk to people who do not understand how much it hurts to lose a cat. If you have friends or family who understand, that is wonderful. Alternatively, there are some resources below, including my online support group.


If you do not want to talk, that is fine, with one condition: if you feel suicidal, please seek help. Please. I would hate to think somebody reading this feels so low without any support. People do care, so please reach out.

Online Support


Tanya's Feline Loss Support Group is a group I have set up for all those who have lost a cat and who need some emotional support.


The Blue Cross and SCAS (the Society for Companion Animal Studies) also offer free online support through their Pet Bereavement Support Service. You can send an e-mail to pbssmail@bluecross.org.uk, and you will receive a response within a maximum time of 48 hours.


The Association for Petloss and Bereavement offers online chatrooms, plus links to petloss counsellors in the USA and Canada.


You can also contact the Samaritans, who are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by phone or e-mail. You do not have to be suicidal to contact The Samaritans - they are always happy to talk to anybody who is grieving or distressed. Their service is completely free and confidential. 


Telephone Support



The Blue Cross and SCAS (the Society for Companion Animal Studies) offer a pet bereavement support service. Just call 0800 096 6606 (free call) between 8.30 a.m. and 8.30 p.m. any day (there is an answerphone outside these hours) and you will be given the details of your nearest telephone befriender. This service is completely free apart from the cost of your call to your nearest befriender (which is charged at the local rate wherever possible), and all calls are confidential. This service is a member of the British Association for Counselling, and is supported by the British Small Animal Veterinary Association.


The Samaritans offer telephone support in the UK and Republic of Ireland every minute of the day. You don't have to be suicidal to call them.



Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine offers a  offers a support hotline, provided by veterinary students trained by professional grief counsellors, which is available between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The phone number is (607) 253 3932.


Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine offers a similar service which is staffed during the semester Monday-Thursday, 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. and Saturday 1 p.m.-3 p.m Pacific Time. The phone number is 1-(866) 266-8635 or (509) 335-5704.





In Memory of Pets has a helpful article about the journey through grief. 


Coping with the loss of your companion animal is a helpful website from the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center about coping with grief and loss.


When a kitty dies is a moving piece from the blog A Dozen Cats Past Crazy which I think perfectly captures how loss feels.


Softpaw has the story of Rainbow Bridge, and also Choices by Anne Kolaczyk (also known as "You have chosen tears").


Teri Pike has a movie version of the Rainbow Bridge story.


Poetic Expressions has a collection of poems about grief.


Zen Cat is a story about the cycle of life and letting go by Jim Willis.


For Good from Wicked has lyrics which I think speak for many who suffer a loss. Try to listen to a recording too - the music is very moving.




Surviving the Heartache of Choosing Death for Your Pet by Linda Peterson is available from Amazon and Amazon UK, but only from third party sellers.


Absent Friend by Laura and Martyn Lee. I recommend this book, which is available at Amazon UK or Amazon. but again, only from third party sellers.


Death of an Animal Friend is a helpful little booklet published by SCAS, price 2.50. You can download an order form here.


Goodbye, Dear Friend by Virginia Ironside costs 8.44 from Amazon UK. It is also available at Amazon from third party sellers, though one reviewer did not like its  "British outlook."


I shall walk in the Sun above,

Whose golden light you loved.

I shall sleep alone and, stirring, touch an empty place.

I shall write uninterrupted.

Would that your gentle paw could stir my moving

pen just once again.

I shall see beauty, but none to match

your living grace.

I shall hear music, but none so sweet as the

droning song with which you loved me.

I shall fill my days, but I shall not, can not, forget.

Sleep soft dear friend, for while I live

You shall not die."

Michael Joseph


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This page last updated: 20 June 2012

Links on this page last checked: 28 April 2012