(Note: This post is about pet loss and pet grief. As part of a grief management process suggested by some pet loss resources I’ve found, this is a letter to a recently departed pet. There are some pet loss resource links at the bottom of this post, you can scroll all the way down to skip the letter.)
The first and foremost thing in my mind about you right now is: I am sorry. I am so sorry. My beloved goofy floof, you should have had many years to snooze in the sun and gallop on your wheel and snuggle your humans, and I am so sorry you won’t have that. You were such a sweet, huge-hearted, friendly, happy boy and your absence is devastating to both me and your human dad.
You were my little Medici lion.
They tell me that I couldn’t have saved you, but I’m still working through processing that. You were still alive when I got to you, and I watched as you slipped away. I heard your final cry. They tell me you weren’t aware by that point, that you didn’t suffer; I struggle with going back and forth between hoping you knew nothing about what was happening to you, and thus did not suffer… and wondering if you knew we were there with you in your final moments, that you didn’t pass alone.
Your necropsy showed us you had undiagnosed Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, and pulmonary hypertension and you threw a clot and suffered what amounts to a massive heart attack. They tell me that hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) can cause this – rarely, but it happens and that we were just that unlucky small percentage who’s initial presenting symptom of this heart disease is “acute catastrophic decompensation”.
You seemed so vibrantly healthy and you were so young and joyful and energetic. I’m struggling with a lot of guilt that I somehow failed you, that I didn’t see what was wrong and didn’t manage to save you. I hope wherever you are, you forgive me. I hope you know how absolutely loved you were, still are, and will always be. Love doesn’t stop with death; grief is, as Vision says in the MCU, love persevering.
Your sisters miss you, too. We let them sniff at you and say goodbye. I think Cairo understands – she’s a former colony feral, she has no doubt seen death before. She seems sad and she is more clingy than usual, but she isn’t searching for you and she’s only called you a couple times.
Kiva’s struggling a bit. She’s never seen death before and even though she sniffed at you several times she seemed confused and she’s searched for you and called you. The past few days, she has taken to following me around yowling loudly when I’m downstairs. This morning when you weren’t there to pester her to share the little bacon crumbs I gave her, she walked out into the hallway and let out the saddest meow I’ve ever heard her make. She’s anxious and upset and she won’t let me out of her sight. You were her best kitty pal, and she loved you to bits. We’re giving them lots of extra snuggles and the four of us are getting each other through this.
So I want to talk about what you meant to me. You were ridiculous and hilarious from before we even adopted you: I was looking at a different kitten in the rescue room but you were in the next cage hollering and waving your paws through the bars like a little kid shouting ME ME PICK ME. I petted you and rubbed your cheek, and as I left you wailed. I went home and told Buddy about you and we reached out to the rescue sponsoring you the next day. I think we had you home within 24 hours of that. As we were leaving with you, he told you “Mom came back for you”.
It was more or less in my mind that you’d bond with Buddy; he was still missing Zachary so much and I thought he needed a boy kitty in this house full of girls.
You had other ideas.
You decided you were Mama’s Boy and while you loved Buddy, you very clearly bonded with me and I was Your Human. You often watched me, gazing at my face and giving me slow-blinks whenever I happened to return your gaze. You would happily snuggle me any time I sat down.
You slept either by my feet or on my pillow. If I got up in the middle of the night to pee you’d come tuck me back in, snuggling in my arms and purring loudly until we both fell back asleep. You’d sit in my lap while we watched TV. Occasionally you’d insist on wrapping your forelegs around my neck and being held while we watched. You loved to nibble on my fingers. You’d often plant your muzzle on my cheek and give me a smooch. You’d cuddle up to me and shove that massive head of yours under my chin.
I called you Big Dude because you were such a bro. You were mischievous and kinda naughty, but there wasn’t a mean bone in your body. You were so super sweet.
Oh yeah, that was another thing. You were BIG. You were easily the biggest cat I’ve ever had. When we got you the rescue folks estimated your age at about four months (and our vet concurred), but you were so big we thought you were probably older. A few weeks after we got you, you lost your baby fangs and proved us wrong. Buddy still has one of your baby fangs. You ended up at 17.5lbs. You had no clue how big you were and you’d curl around my head on the pillow or plop yourself on top of me and oooof! And yet even after you grew up into a big, burly dude you remained sweet, curious, goofy and affectionate. You were such a pure little soul.
You liked Polly more than she liked you. She barely tolerated you, and would frequently hiss and swat. But you were dauntless, as if you were quite sure if she just got to know you a little better she’d love you the way the rest of us did. You never stopped trying to be friends with her. During her final months, you would sit by her or sleep next to her. You knew somehow that she was very sick and you were determined to watch over her and take care of her. She’d hiss and swat, and you never hissed or swatted back, you’d just flop over and show her your belly.
After she passed you started sleeping in her old bed. It was way too small for you and you overflowed it, but you still loved to sleep in it. I’d like to think that you’re both together and she’s a little more patient with you now while the two of you wait for us.
Your goofiness was a part of what made you so endearing. You were terrified of cookie sheets, we never figured out why. You were curious about dogs. We were pretty sure you were dog software running on cat hardware. You loved catnip and you’d roll around in it and drool. When we got a live catnip plant you liked to chew the leaves, but you were surprisingly polite about it when the plant was within reach. You’d nibble a leaf here and there, but you didn’t wreck the plant.
You would eat just about anything – you were the most food-motivated cat I’ve ever seen. You hated cheddar cheese and would make faces if I offered you some, but you’d still try to eat it because you knew it was food. I coaxed you into your cat wheel with treats and for the rest of your life whenever you wanted a treat, you’d sit in the cat wheel and stare at me. You loved to run in it, but you yeeted yourself out of it a couple times. You were so ridiculously clumsy, mostly because you had no idea how big you were.
You never stopped being fascinated by your Litter-Robot. Every time you heard it start up you’d gallop in there and stand on the ramp, staring at it.
We couldn’t free-feed you because you’d eat yourself into a sphere, and we couldn’t give you your day’s ration of food all at once because you’d eat it all, so we fed you three times a day. You knew when you ate, and you’d start meowing loudly all over the house half an hour before mealtime. When we went into the kitchen to feed you, you’d stare at us with what we called “the flat look” because it reminded us of the emoji. We had to get Surefeed chip feeders because you stole everyone’s food otherwise. You still managed to defeat the feeders sometimes and steal food anyway. You were a big, loud, hilarious presence in our lives for 4 1/2 years.
No matter where you were in the house or what you were doing, if I called you you’d come galloping in to jump on me and snuggle. You were such a boundlessly joyful cat. And so beautiful – you had a glorious long dilute ginger coat and big copper eyes, and a sweet, handsome little face. You looked so dignified, but you were such a silly goofball.
You were a good boy, who loved his Mama. Right now it feels like my heart will be broken forever over losing you so suddenly and traumatically, but I will also be forever grateful you were my kitty. I’d do it all again, even knowing this day would come so much sooner and so much harder than we could ever have anticipated. I wanted more time with you, but I’d take what I could get all over again. You were worth it.
I will love you forever, Big Dude. Fly high, roll in catnip, and eat lots of treats until we see each other again.
P.S. You be nice to Polly!
Pet Loss Resources
Losing a beloved pet can be every bit as heartwrenching and sad as losing a two-legged family member. It’s normal to feel shock and profound grief, because your pet isn’t “just a cat” or “just a dog” to you – they were a member of your family, particularly one who’s love was uncomplicated and pure. Often, if a pet was ill or injured you may have had to make the difficult decision to let them go. If they passed at home in unexpected or traumatic circumstances, you may be struggling with shock and guilt on top of your grief. These are all normal, and there are resources out there to help you. Here’s some of the ones I found helpful while processing Lance’s sudden passing. Note: None of these are sponsored links and I do not receive anything for sharing them. These are all links I found myself while working through my own grief, and I share them here.
- Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
- Grief Healing – a listing of hotlines and message boards for help in getting through your grief.
- Letters to Pushkin – a place online where you can share a letter to your pet.
- Two Hearts Pet Loss Center – resources for both owners and veterinarians (yes, they’re sad and they grieve for their clients too!)
- Lap of Love – provides end of life vet care including hospice and euthanasia in your home, where your pet can be helped across the bridge in the comfort of their familiar surroundings, as well as resources to help you know when it’s the right time to say goodbye and in dealing with your grief in a compassionate manner.