coping with the loss of a pet
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Coping With The Loss Of A Pet Is Painful, But You Aren't Alone

There is no right or wrong way to deal with the loss of a pet.

Coping With The Loss Of A Pet Is Painful, But You Aren't Alone
Amy Mahinske

If you've ever lost a pet, you understand that it's like losing a family member. You've nurtured this animal for its entire life, regardless of the length. They have become a staple in your life and it's hard to deal with that being taken from you. Whether it's out of the blue or you've had time to prepare, it's never easy.

Those who have never felt the pain of losing a pet simply cannot understand what it is like.

While there isn't a right or wrong way to deal with the loss, it is a process that takes time to work through. No one pet owner will feel the same things, but it is okay to grieve at your own pace. Many people feel a pet can be like a child and that's perfectly normal.

You bond with these animals on a different level than other humans, but that doesn't take away from the relationship.

My cute kitten, who felt like a child

When I first moved to college, I didn't know anyone. I was living alone off campus, so it was a difficult adjustment. I decided I wanted to get a pet for some added company while I attempted to make friends. I went to the Humane Society with all intentions of adopting a dog, that's all I ever had growing up as a child. However, when I got there I absolutely fell in love with a small tortoiseshell cat.

I weighed the pros and cons of cats versus dogs and realized I had to have this cat. I went through the adoption process and a few short days later, she was mine.

As I held her, I was desperately trying to find a name without much luck. The first night I brought her home, I was watching the Disney movie Pocahontas when she crawled up onto me. She snuggled right into the nook of my neck, giving me a few kisses before falling asleep almost instantly. It was the first time she had come to sit on me and I knew in that moment I wanted to name her Pocahontas. I eventually shortened that to Poco, and so the story goes.

I finally had a cute cat and was ready to spoil her endlessly.

When I went to get her spayed, I forewent the precautionary tests to weed out any preexisting health conditions due to the cost and the fact that with all my other pets there had never been an issue ever. This would become the biggest regret in my entire life.

Her surgery went fine, everything seemed to be going great. A few weeks later, I got blindsided with something that could have been prevented. Poco stopped eating, stopped drinking, stopped using the litterbox, stopped doing everything normally. I took her back in to the vets for evaluation only to find out her liver had begun to fail and was beginning to go blind.

I was losing my baby after only having her for a month.

Due to the amount of anesthesia she was put under and her size, her body rejected the medicine and could not filter it out. The issues with her liver was something that could have been found if I would have just done the pre-surgery screenings.

The vet had told me she believed Poco didn't need to be put down yet, as she was hopeful for some recovery. Sure, she'd be blind her whole life, but at least she would be back to feeling better otherwise. I was encouraged to keep trying to help my baby, after all, she was the first pet I had ever adopted entirely on my own.

After a few more weeks of intensive treatments, with no improvement, of trying to reverse the liver failure, I was ready to take Poco to a veterinary clinic in Minneapolis for a treatment still in the developmental phases. They told me there was a chance she might not survive the procedure but at this point, she was already so sick, completely blind and eating/drinking very little on her own, I was willing to do whatever it took to get my Poco back to normal. I had scheduled the appointment to take her, only to be blindsided again.

After class one day, I came home calling out for Poco. She normally greeted me at the door, happy as can be despite everything that was going on. We still were having a fun time, cuddling like any pet would with its owner as if nothing was wrong. This was all supposed to be encouraging and meaning we were moving in the right direction.

I continued to call out for her, but she wasn't coming. Thinking she was sleeping or maybe just playing, I began to search her normal sleeping spots. I couldn't find on the first floor and as I started up the stairs to check there, my heart stopped.

There was my baby, my Poco, laying in her favorite spot looking over the steps. I called out to her again, almost afraid to keep walking up the steps. When she didn't react, I knew my worst fear had come true. I approached her slowly, trying not to startle her, but it was too late. I reached out, touching her cold stiff body. She didn't react in any way. Her pretty yellow eyes were shut tight and wouldn't open.

She had passed.

I had lost what felt like a child to me. She was the first thing I was solely responsible for. I was devastated. I hated myself in that moment. This could have all been avoided if I just had done the precautionary testing.


I beat myself for weeks on end over this. I didn't know what to do with myself. My whole world seemed to be missing something, and no matter what I did, nothing filled the void. I thought I was nuts, feeling this emotionally distraught, but I soon found out, I wasn't alone.

I began to research some techniques on how to deal with the agony I was feeling. Of course, nothing would replace Poco. I knew I couldn't push the thought out of her completely aside. She had made such a huge impact on my life, even if it was only for a couple of months. I decided to face my grief head on.

At first, I went to the few friends I had made over the short time I had Poco. Sure, they weren't good friends yet, but they would listen. I talked to them for hours on end about all the good times we had together and how she brought so much light into my life.

I also called my friends and family from back home, they knew me better than anyone. They helped me through the loss as much as they could with the distance between us. My best friend sent me a care package with all my favorite things, which like I said, didn't replace Poco, but helped with the hurt I was feeling.

I also realized that I needed to accept the death of Poco. I knew she was very sick, I knew this was a possible outcome. I continued to linger on the thought that this could have been prevented, but I couldn't blame myself entirely. No one could have known this was going to happen.

Things I would have done differently

Obviously if I could, I would go back and have the precautionary tests done pre-surgery. It would have showed that her liver was weak already and I would have been able to spare her. I would not have been able to spay her at that point, but at least I would have had the chance to give her a full life.

After finding out she was sick, I should have weighed the options of her life more. Though the vet told me there was hope, was it really worth putting this poor kitten through the wringer? If I realized the extent to which her condition was, maybe I should have put her down before it totally took over her body. I could have saved her from suffering instead of being selfish.

In the long run, this would have also saved me from finding her in my apartment. I had a very hard time going upstairs after finding her. The picture of her laying there lifeless stuck in my mind for weeks. I also would not have had to drive to the vets with her all wrapped up in my backseat. For me, this was the most traumatizing part of the entire scenario.

I would have spent more time with her as well. I was spending as much time as I could with her in between classes and working, but if I had known the extent she was suffering, I would have made more time somehow. She needed to be loved and cared for around the clock and I feel like I didn't spend enough time with her.

What should I do now that she's gone?

This left me at an awkward cross-roads: do I stay pet-less or should I get another cat? I got Poco with the intentions of having a companion. After she passed, I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself. Once I worked through the grief of losing her, I decided maybe it was best to go back to the Humane Society and adopt again.

I felt bad even thinking about this, I didn't want Poco to be lost in the excitement of getting a new cat. At the same time, I didn't want my new cat to feel as if she wasn't getting the right amount of love due to my grieving.

I was feeling lonely and didn't want to make an impulse decisions. I knew any pet I got after Poco would never replace her, she was my first pet and would always hold a special place in my heart. I also knew that any other cat would not bare the same personality or give me the same memories as Poco, but maybe it could help ease the pain.

I waited almost three months before I could even get the courage to go look for a new cat. Once I had felt like I had enough time to process the loss, I headed back to the Humane Society. I was looking at all the available kittens when one stuck out to me. She was a small tortoiseshell, almost identical to Pocahontas. I asked to hold her and that was it.

She crawled up my shoulders and perched herself in the nook of my neck, just as Poco did the first night I brought her home. The new cat began to lick my face from her awkward position and in that moment, I knew in some weird way this was Poco telling me it was okay to let the grief go and adopt her.

I knew this cat was not Poco, and she never would be, but I hadn't connected with any other cat I looked at like this. It was almost as if she knew me.

I named the new cat "Bug" as a homage to Pocahontas because I had always called her my "Love Bug". I kept reminding myself she was not Poco and never would be. It was nice to have the feeling of company back into my apartment however. Sure, they had very different personalities; Bug was much sassier than Poco had been in the first few weeks I had them at home, but it was amazing to feel happiness again.

I tried with everything in me not to compare the two, which was hard at first. Over time though, it became easier to separate those feelings. Bug was rowdy and destructive, but I could never be upset just because Poco wasn't.

When it came time to get Bug spayed, I took all the precautions that were available to me, regardless of the cost. I had to be sure I wasn't going to lose another baby. Bug's surgery went very well and we've been kicking it for over five years now. She is as happy as can be and fills my heart with so much joy, but there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about Pocahontas.

Bug certainly hasn't replaced Poco, but she helped fill the hole that was left in my heart.

Something that helps for me is to think that someday, hopefully not for a very long time, Pocahontas will be joined by her sister Bug. They'll be able to play in kitty heaven together and gossip about what a weird cat mom I was for them. Poco was never alone in this life, and while she waits the arrival of her sister, I'm sure she is not alone in life now but instead causing mayhem with all her new cat friends.

If you take anything away from this

Make sure you understand that losing a pet is a difficult situation to deal with. Do not let others make you feel silly for crying over the loss of a pet. If someone isn't supportive, then maybe they aren't someone you need in your life.

Remember it is okay to grieve on your own time. There isn't a set of rules on how to cope with the loss of a pet. You and your pet had a connection no one can fully understand but you, and no one can take that away from you. Only you get to decide when you've finished grieving.

Don't make any quick decisions. Let yourself go through the grieving process entirely before you decide if you want to get another pet or not. If you feel like you are ready to get another pet right away, great, but make sure you are certain.

It's okay to be upset or even angry, but don't blame yourself. In my case, I felt like there were things I could have done differently, but that was in the past. I couldn't change the choices I made, and I ended up giving Pocahontas the best possible life in the given circumstance. You have no control over what is going on in their little bodies, so don't beat yourself up over it.

Dealing with the loss of a pet is difficult for any person of any age. It doesn't matter how long you've had the pet, you have made a connection as soon as you adopted it. They become part of the family and definitely irreplaceable it's only natural.

You are not alone. Many others have gone through this heart breaking experience. Reach out and find someone you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with. They will be able to relate and help you in the process of coping.

So I'll leave you with this

"Sometimes losing a pet is more painful than losing a human because in the case of the pet, you were not pretending to love it." Amy Sedaris

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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