Life after Loss: Getting a New Cat

Getting a new pet after losing a beloved animal companion can be very difficult for many pet parents.  Some are able to get a new pet within days of losing the old pet, others may take months and sometimes even years, or never get another pet again. This is not a decision that anyone else can make for you – there are too many factors that play into it to allow for some easy guidelines, but perhaps, the following can provide a better understanding of the process.

Each pet is unique

First and foremost, every pet guardian knows that it’s not possible to ever replace a lost pet, but that doesn’t change the fact that to many, it still feels like that’s exactly what they’re doing when they bring another animal into their lives. It helps to remember that each and every animal is unique, and that your relationship with the new pet will probably be completely different than the one you had with your lost loved one. I’d like to think that our animals would want us to open our hearts to another; that, in fact, they are celebrating when we’ve recovered from our grief over losing them enough to even begin to contemplate  a new addition to the family.

How do you know when the time is right?

How do you know when the time is right? This varies from person to person. Just like grief is an individual journey, so is opening your heart to another animal. Don’t judge others, or yourself, if you’re not ready, or if you’re ready before others may feel that it’s appropriate.

This issue can be complicated in families where one family member may be ready for another pet, but the other is still deeply immersed in grieving the lost companion. This will require honest and caring discussions. Don’t surprise the family member who is not ready with a new puppy or kitten – rather than bringing happiness, this may complicate their grief, and it’s not fair to a new animal to come into this type of situation. Be mindful of other animals in the household who may also be grieving the loss, and think about whether a new pet would help them or whether it would add to their stress.

Think carefully about what kind of an animal you want to get. You may love a certain breed or coloring, but be aware that just because you adopt another animal that may look like your lost one, the new one will not be a carbon copy of your lost pet. He will be his own, unique personality and the two of you will form your own, unique relationship.

Do you “just know” when the time is right?

Ultimately, I believe that you “just know” when the time is right. Or, alternatively, a new animal will find you. Opening your heart to another and beginning the joyful journey of getting to know and love a new animal companion in no way diminishes the love you had for your lost pet.   Lost love and memories can beautifully coexist with new love and happiness.

20 Comments on Life after Loss: Getting a New Cat

  1. Debbie
    April 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm (5 years ago)

    I need a warm furry creature to grieve with. I can tell that warm furry creature all about the furkid that’s gone and he/she will understand. This is one reason we are a “multi pet” family. I couldn’t handle grieving alone.

    As a follow-up, I believe the best tribute to a lost pet is getting a new pet, not to replace the old pet (which, as most of us know, is impossible), but to give another creature a warm, loving forever home.

    Reply
  2. KKay
    April 16, 2013 at 10:11 am (5 years ago)

    I lost all 4 of my original cats about 8 years ago all within 10 months of each other, the oldest was 13 and the youngest was six. They all died from kidney problems due to bad pet food and a huge recall. At the time I was also a volunteer for a pet rescue working with semi-feral cats & kittens. When I was picking up the ashes of the youngest one I was telling the vet that I was done, just too heart broken and would not even volunteer anymore, after knowing her for many years she was more like a friend & a therapist. Well she said let me show you something, I knew what she was up to and told her “no”, but she did it anyway, out she brought out a strawberry blonde Ragamuffin who proceed to crawl on my shoulder, put his nose in my hear and just purred-OK I was hooked. I did not stop volunteering, there was just too many animals that needed help and I am back to 4 furry babies but my original four I refer to as the Fab 4

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 16, 2013 at 1:24 pm (5 years ago)

      That’s so much loss in such a short time, KKay – I’m so sorry. I’m glad you were able to open your heart again.

      Reply
  3. Laura
    April 16, 2013 at 9:24 am (5 years ago)

    We went through the same thing about 2 year ago. We have 2 cats. A 7 year old Savannah ane we had a 16 year old Bengal which we had since he was a kitten. Sadly he became very ill and had passed away at home in the arms of my fiance. It was devastating. Not only did it effect us, My fiance felt as if he lost a child. He had him since he was a tiny kitten. I was blessed to have had him in my life during the last 7 years of his life. We knew we were going to adopt another kitten in time but what made our decision to adopt within a month after his passing was our Savannah. He became very emotionally unstable. He would walk around the apartment crying. He stopped eating and just slept all the time. Bizzy (our Bengal) was the only brother he knew and he missed him terribly. He was mourning his brother deeply. We decided that we needed to do somthing quickly before we lost our Simon to a broken heart. We decided to go to our local cat shelter in Sarasota Fl. THE CAT DEPOT which, if you are ever in the sarasota Fl area is a MUST see. They have the most beautiful shelter. All of the cats and kittens are so well socialized and well taken care of. We found our new addition to our family right away. a little silver Bengal mix named Pistol. He has been with us now for almost 2 years and we couldn’t be happier. He will never replace our beautiful Bizzy but he brings such joy to our lives and he brought ur Simon back to life. It took abou 3 day before we could have them together in the same room but once they came together they instanly bonded annow ar inseperable. Not only did he help our Simon but he helped heal our broken hearts over our loss and makes our healing process so much easier. I believ in no “Replacing” a lost loved 4 legges child but finding one that can fill your heart with joy and happiness that keeps the memories of your lost ones alive in your heart.

    Reply
  4. Lorraine
    April 16, 2013 at 9:21 am (5 years ago)

    Very nicely stated. Thank you.

    I was very sad when my 17.5-year-old Maddie died in late 2011. Her decline was long and gradual, so at some level, I was able to “pre-grieve” the loss of my beloved friend. After her death, the house felt so empty and “soul-less” without the patter of little cat feet, and I had a lot of cat-mommy love to give.

    Within a few months, I found two kitten sisters to adopt from a shelter, and they’ve filled my home and heart with their sweet kitten energy and antics. I’ll never forget Maddie, but I’m sure she’d agree that good cat-love should never go to waste. And there’s a lot of rescues out there waiting for their forever home 🙂

    Reply
  5. Michelle
    September 22, 2012 at 5:42 am (5 years ago)

    Thank you for such a honest & touching post Ingrid. I too, like so many others, suffered the loss of our beloved cats. We had 2 cat-kids that absolutely changed our lives during many years of medical issues that my husband & I encountered. They were our saving grace.
    Our boy, Barney suddenly became ill at the age of 13 & was diagnosed with Cancer. There was no treatment for him & we couldn’t have him suffer in pain another minute. We were so incredibly grief-stricken by his loss but we still had the blessing of his sister, Dharma. As we grieved Barney’s loss, we simultaneously loved on Dharma every minute that we could. I could tell by her mannerism’s & her need to be right beside me at all times that she was suffering just as we were. They were only a year apart & were amazing together. We had the “purrfect” family in our opinion.

    Then almost 2 month’s to the day, she suddenly without any warning signs whatsoever, suffered a major stroke. I rushed her to the Vet but once again, there was nothing that they could do to relieve her suffering & damage the stroke had caused. I spent time with her alone in the room, talked to her just as I did with Barney. Her eyes stayed fixated on mine as I pet her gently & told her that Barney was waiting for her & she would be at peace with him very soon. The Vet returned to the room & I stayed with her just like I did with Barney, as she quietly & peacefully passed. I left the Vet’s with an empty bed & blanket. I thought, how could this be? Why both of our babies gone so close in time? I remember thinking as I cried so hard, that I was so heart-broken & lost, that my heart actually hurt! I felt like I could have died myself my heart was so painful. I cried everyday afterwards & swore I wouldn’t get another cat as I couldn’t bear to go through the grief again.

    It has been 2 years this month & I still mourn them everyday. The difference is when we talk about them, we can now smile & say how lucky we were to have had the blessing of being their Mommy & Daddy & remind each other of things they did, how smart they were & how they knew just what we needed when we were ill. That is animal grace at it’s best!!

    We now talk more often about the possibility of adopting a kitten (or 2) & I think we are very close to doing so. I now feel that it would be the right thing for us to do in memory of Barney & Dharma. They gave us such unconditional love & happiness that they would want us to do the same for 2 more cats so that they could have a loving home, not a life of lonliness in a cage at the SPCA. And I know for a fact that Barney & Dharma will be watching down on us lovingly & approvingly. This seems to be the fork in the road for us in knowing that grief & the feeling of loss never ends but when you take a new turn, those feelings become less painful & the memories become much stronger. I believe that we are now stronger & have the time & endless amounts of love to give & maybe, just maybe, it’s the right time again.

    Thanks to everyone who put their experiences & thoughts on here. It really was beautiful to read them & feel the connection that we animal lovers all have & that our feelings are real & we are not alone in our grief. To me, it is all precious & priceless thoughts & lessons in love & grief & is incredibly heart-warming!!! 🙂

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      September 22, 2012 at 5:56 am (5 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing your story of Barney and Dharma, Michelle. I think you put it perfectly when you said you felt like your heart actually hurt after your loss. It does feel that way, doesn’t it?

      I’m glad you’re becoming open to the possibility of bringing a new cat into your life. I have a feeling Barney and Dharma are smiling.

      Reply
      • Michelle
        September 25, 2012 at 10:15 am (5 years ago)

        Again, thank you Ingrid for taking the time to read & respond to my “ridiculously long” story of Barney & Dharma.
        Just for you to reply & reinforce my feelings means the world to me! You are one special & dedicated lady.
        This is one of my favourite sites to visit for comfort & connection to other’s stories & will continue to be going forward.

        Please keep up with the wonderful work that you do…it is so valuable to so many!
        A Fan For Life,
        Michelle

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          September 25, 2012 at 10:25 am (5 years ago)

          Thank you so much for your kind words, Michelle!

          Reply
  6. andrea
    July 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm (7 years ago)

    <3
    just..beautifully written.
    <3

    Reply
  7. Ingrid
    June 30, 2010 at 5:55 pm (7 years ago)

    The longest I’ve been without a cat was three months after Feebee died and before Amber came into my life, and I think the only reason I lasted that long was because I worked at an animal hospital at the time and not only had Virginia, my office cat, but also all the cats that came and went every day. Coming home to an empty house was awful – but at the same time, I knew I had to go through three months of that before I was really ready to open my heart and home to another – and I had almost ten wonderful years with Amber.

    I think your “we’ll see” comment says it all, Layla – I don’t think we can predict how we’re going to feel when we lose our feline companions, no matter how much we try to anticipate it.

    Reply
  8. Layla Morgan Wilde
    June 30, 2010 at 3:50 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks for the reminder that timing is everything. Cats have come and gone at pivotal junctures at my life. I’ve never gone more than two years (since age 18) without a cat. It was easier in some ways. No need to find live-in cat sitters etc. but eventually a bed without a cat just isn’t a home! At times I long for the freedom to live in India for six months or something without worrying about my cats. I’m tempted to say when my gang goes to kitty heaven that’s it but we’ll see.

    Reply
  9. Ingrid
    June 30, 2010 at 12:57 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Marg. They do have a way of finding us.

    Thanks for sharing your stories about Mr. Boober, Aliza and Lulu, Laura – clearly, all three of them were meant to be with you.

    Caren, thanks for sharing your story of how Cody helped ease the pain you felt after losing Bobo.

    Thanks, Mason.

    Bernadette, I think your comment touches on something that I maybe should have included in my article about what not to say to someone who’s grieving – just because you have many other cats doesn’t make each individual loss any less painful.

    Amy, it sounds like Floyd definitely have a paw in guiding that mother cat to the right vet so the kittens would find their way into your home, and heart.

    Reply
  10. Amy & The House of Cats
    June 30, 2010 at 12:03 pm (7 years ago)

    After our boy Floyd passed away, I wasn’t sure about geting another cat. But after a few days I realized that I really did want to help another kitty and that now I would have that opportunity because our home can handle that number. I was ready very soon after because I knew that though I missed Floyd he would be ok with helping another kitty who needed it. My boyfriend wasn’t ready quite as fast – he did need more time, so I gave him that. Once we were both ready we decided to take in one (or two if there were two together) kitten if the vet had any that people dropped off that needed homes (that is how we got our last two and with the last a second was dropped off the next week – I had at the time felt it would be too many but later regretted it which is why we decided if two were together we would not separate them). When our vets nurses daughter took in a pregnant stray and needed homes for the kittens, we were ready and able to take them in – they have been with us a month now and I am so glad we decided to open our home up again! I am sure Floyd somehow guided their mom to the right place so we would be able to help these little kittens out.

    Reply
  11. Bernadette
    June 30, 2010 at 11:23 am (7 years ago)

    I’ve already lived with others when I lost one, and that softens many of the issues of bringing in a new friend. But even with that I often experienced guilt at loving a new companion, afraid that the one I’d lost would be forgotten if I loved another as much as I had loved them. No amount of telling myself they’d be glad if I rescued another as I had rescued them, or that they possibly even sent the new kitty to me, could assuage my guilt until I was ready. I’m so glad I have my art to help me through this or I’d be a total basket case.

    Reply
  12. Mason Canyon
    June 30, 2010 at 10:27 am (7 years ago)

    Very inspiring post. I think when the time is right, you will find the right pet or as you said, they will find you.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

    Reply
  13. caren gittleman
    June 30, 2010 at 10:08 am (7 years ago)

    Ingrid this is a beautiful post and so very, very true!
    When my Bobo passed at age 18 (it will be 3 years this July 2nd) I thought my entire world and life had ended. I didn’t see how I could go on, let alone get another pet.
    I was lost.
    What happened was there was a void (yes ultimately for Bobo) but for also a cat, I LOVE CATS!!!!
    A friend had me go with her to Petco for an adoption event. That time I didn’t come home with a cat (it was about a week after Bobo passed)
    A week later we went to another event and I adopted my precious Cody (he was at the event a week prior to but I hadn’t really noticed him due to my grief)
    I felt guilty adopting him, as if I were betraying Bobo. Two people told me something that stuck with me:
    1) That Bobo would want me to give the love to another kitty that I had given to him because I was such a good “kitty mama” to him
    2) My vet said “you aren’t replacing Bobo, you are creating memories with a new cat”……
    So true…..the pain of losing Bobo and the life we shared can never be replaced, but adopting my Cody will always be special because he helped to ease the pain, he helped me get through it, he provides joy, love and silliness each day and for that I am forever grateful!!

    Reply
  14. Laura
    June 30, 2010 at 9:24 am (7 years ago)

    This is a great post Ingrid, and I agree with you that you either “just know” and/or the animal finds you. If everyone just spent some time truly listening to their heart and head, and focusing on it, the answers are there.

    I adopted Mr. Boober years ago within 1 week of my first cat Sinead losing her battle with cancer. He was completely different from Sinead, and helped me grieve more than I realized at the time. I adopted Lulu about 6 months after getting Mr. Boober. She also was his half-sister, and I loved having two cats although she was – and still is – very rambunctious! I adopted Aliza (our formerly feral kitty) after a bad event/change in my life. I wanted to give this poor girl a chance and it was one of the best things I’ve ever chosen to do. Aliza became Mr. Boober’s constant companion, and helped all of us – cats and humans alike – by calmly holding the space while Mr. Boober’s life was ending. Now I have two girls – Lulu and Aliza. I have no idea when we will get another cat, or maybe a dog or two, or three…nor does my husband. But I do know that when it happens, it will be the right time, and the right pet just meant for us. Thanks Ingrid. Your posts are always thought-provoking. 🙂

    Reply
  15. Marg
    June 30, 2010 at 7:28 am (7 years ago)

    I think all of that is so true. I also totally agree with you that usually an animal will find you when it is time. Everyone is very different on when they get a new pet if they do get another one. Great post.

    Reply

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