Grieving the Loss of a Cat from the Heart of a Cat Lady

How you grieve the loss of your cat will not be the same for everyone. For the cats I lost, the way I felt when the cat died was different each time.

Dealing with my grief was hard, and I cried a lot. So, I am sharing my experiences, hoping they might help someone else when their cat dies.

With each situation, I will share what I learned as I processed my grief that may be useful as you grieve your cat.

When I wasn’t home with the cat

When our first indoor cat, Kilala, died, I was not at home with her when she passed. I felt guilty about this and like a bad cat mom.

She died in the afternoon while my husband and I were both at our jobs. That morning, my gut told me that she was different. Her mouth was dry when I gave her a thyroid pill in a way that it had never been before. But I decided I could take her to the vet the next day if she still seemed off.

I did not deal with her passing very well. I felt awful for not recognizing that she was dying. I should have been with her.

And then I worked instead of admitting how sad I was. I should have taken a couple of days off of work. Instead, I continued working the evening she passed because my team was busy. But I made a big mistake in my work that cost the team many hours, and someone else had to fix it once I did take sick time.

Grief Processing Tip: If you feel too sad or overwhelmed to work when your cat dies, take time off work if you can. It’s also okay to cry a lot and be sad, even if others in your home handle their grief differently.

When the feral cat didn’t get vet care in time

There have been a few instances with outdoor cats where we could not get the cat to a vet in time to save them.

Chloe, the feral mother of my cat Nacho, died after surgery. We thought she would be okay, but she passed the night after.

And I’ve taken outdoor cats to the vet for two friends with an outdoor cat that needed attention. Both times, the cat was euthanized. And I had to make the on-the-sport decision.

While I didn’t know those cats for long, I still allowed myself to cry for them.

Grief Processing Tip: Give yourself grace. Feral (unfriendly) cats sometimes only let a human help them once it’s too late. Doing your best to help outdoor cats is all that you can do.

When I thought the cat was getting better

My outdoor cat, Charcoal, also died alone in the cat shed. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt. I justified too many changes due to him being a semi-feral cat.

  • He stopped coming around to be petted.
  • He rarely came out for breakfast with the other cats.
  • He stopped following Midnight around.
  • He was on the trail camera much less.

When I opened the shed to check on him, he would run out scared. So I didn’t do that often and stuck to my rule about not opening the shed

I thought he was avoiding the new feral kitten that he didn’t like. And it was winter, so it made sense that he would be in the shed more often to stay warm.

And then I saw him in the yard a couple of times. I took this to mean that he was feeling better! I was very wrong.

Grief Processing Tip: We are not all cat behavior experts. It’s easy to play the “could have, should have, would have” game in hindsight. Instead, try to focus on how much the cat was loved and given a good life.

Relief when the cat died

I felt sad when Lina died. She is the cat I’m holding in the photo above. We were in the parking lot at the vet on what would turn out to be her final vet visit as she was literally dying in my arms.

The experience with Lina was different. Her decline was very slow. She didn’t have any specific condition that we were aware of. She was old at 17 and her body was giving out.

In her last few months or so, she became very needy. This was during the pandemic, so I was working for home. Lina wanted to be held all the time. If she wasn’t sleeping, she was whining to be held.

The whining was hard to deal with after awhile. I did almost everything while holding her. And my husband would also hold her.

When she passed, I felt relief. The whining was done.

Grief Processing Tip: It’s okay if you feel like a burden was lifted when a cat passed that was difficult to care for in the some way. The cat was loved very much, but we know they will not live forever.

The unexpected cat death

Midnight had a very short decline. He was when of my outdoor cats, and I miss him dearly.

I noticed his weight loss, and we kept him in the garage for treatment after a vet visit. However, he didn’t respond much to the medicine or appetite stimulants.

I expected him to recover completely, but he made no improvements and seemed to be slowly starving to death. After consulting with the vet again, we decided to have him euthanized.

The short time of his decline made his loss very difficult.

Grief Processing Tip: Know that you did the best that you could for the cat and come to peace with their passing.

Practical Steps for Grieving the Cat Loss

Knowing what I went through when losing cats may or may not be helpful for you.

  • Reflect on the good times you had enjoyed with your cat
  • Talk to friends or family about your cat
  • Seek help from a grief counselor, if needed

Losing a cat is hard. The tears flowed as I remembered all the cats I’ve lost. I hope that you are able to find peace and healing.

It will take time. It’s much easier for me to talk about Kilala, who died in April 2019, than Midnight, who passed in May 2022.

Writing the story of my cats’ passing helped me process each situation and gave me some closure. While their stories are shared on this blog, you could journal about your cat even if no one else will ever read it.

You can also read through Cornell University’s Guide for Grieving a Cat for professional suggestions and advice.

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Heidi Bender is the writer and founder of the Joy of Cats. She enjoys sharing cat information and providing helpful cat tips. She considers herself a cat lady and currently cares for nine cats.

1 thought on “Grieving the Loss of a Cat from the Heart of a Cat Lady”

  1. Because of my strong spiritual beliefs and foundation, I know that I will be reunited with all of my loved ones, feline, human, and other, in due time, in a MUCH better place than the mess we have made of this earth. When I lose a loved one, I grieve–for ME, not for them because they are free of pain and the harshness of life on this earth. No matter the circumstances, leaving this place is a GOOD thing, an end of sorrow, pain, and so many problems.

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