Last Updated on: December 2, 2021 by Ingrid King


Losing a cat is difficult any time of the year, but when it happens during the holidays, it can complicate your grieving process. I lost Ruby two years ago, a week before Christmas. Buckley died the day after Thanksgiving  2008. As a result, I’ve been through several difficult holiday seasons.

The holidays complicate grief

For those who have lost a loved one, the contrast between the rest of the world, which seems to be focused on making merry and celebrating the season, and the bereaved’s private pain and grief can be a glaring reminder that the holidays won’t be the same.

Additionally, if the loss happened during past holidays, there may always be some sadness associated with this particular time of year. This can also be a difficult time for those whose loss occurred during the year and who are now facing the first holiday season without the beloved pet.

Every loss is different, and every journey through grief is a unique experience.

Grief is cumulative. We don’t move through the stages of grief in order, and emerge on the other side. Grief is a very individual experience. While there are some commonalities, every loss is different, and every journey through grief is unique. And frequently, a new loss will bring back memories of past losses and may trigger unresolved feelings the grieving person may not even have been aware of.

Self-care is important

It’s important for the bereaved to find ways to take care of themselves at any time of the year, but it’s especially important this time of the year. If you’ve recently lost a cat, or are facing impending loss, and if you’re having a hard time with this holiday season, the following suggestions may help you cope.

  • Expect to feel some sadness and pain.  Allow yourself to feel these feelings and don’t try to cover them up with busyness and fake merriment.  Don’t be afraid to cry – tears are an important part of the healing process.
  • Plan ahead how you will spend the holidays. You may need to redefine your expectations around the holidays.  Accept that you may be by yourself this year since being with family may just not be possible. Connect with family and friends who are supportive and understand that you’re grieving virtually, but don’t use the distraction of online interactions to avoid thinking about your loss. Quiet time spent alone can help you work through your grief.
  • Take care of yourself.  Enjoy the special treats of the holiday season, but also remember to eat wholesome, healthy foods, and get at least some exercise each day.
  • Find a way to incorporate your lost cat into the holidays.  Place a candle next to a photo of your cat in a special place in your home and light it during significant times during the holidays to symbolize the love you shared. Get a living Christmas tree and plant it in your yard after the holidays in memory of your cat. Hang photo frame ornaments with your cat’s picture on your tree.
  • Share memories of your cat with family members and friends who knew your cat. This may bring tears, but it may also bring laughter, and it will make your lost cat a part of the season.
  • Make a donation in your cat’s memory to a charity that is meaningful to you. Maybe it could be the shelter or rescue group your cat came from. Maybe there’s an organization that does research into the illness that took your cat’s life.

Sometimes, the anticipation of how awful the holidays are going to be without your loved one can be harder than the actual holidays.  And as much as the bereaved dread the holidays, sometimes, the aftermath of the holidays can bring even more sadness than the actual holidays themselves, so be aware and prepare yourself for this possibility.

This article was originally published in November 2010 and has been updated.

64 Comments on Coping with Pet Loss and Grief During the Holidays

  1. My precious 16 year old girl died in my arms last Saturday night. She had cancer and kidney disease. My heart aches terribly from her loss. I’ve been crying so much, it feels like I might drown in my tears. I just miss her so much and it hurts.

      • Thank you Nancy. It has been over a week now since I lost my little furry angel. Missing her all of the time. This morning, I made a collage of her. Loved looking at the pictures of when she was healthy with beautiful blue eyes and such a loving, funny personality. I was lucky to have known her.

        • It is so very hard to lose someone you love so much. But how wonderful for both of you that she died in your arms. At least that can give you some comfort to know she knew you were holding her and she knows how much you love her. I’ve done the same as you with pictures and it helps me too. My bedroom walls are full of pictures of my cats and I do believe we will see them again someday.I lost my 16 year old cat Lotus in 2019 and I had her since she was a kitten. I went on Amazon and found the best frame to hold 4 of her pictures The frame is probably about 18 inches high, is black metal, and spells out the word Love in script. I checked to see if it is still available but it’s not currently available. Besides my bedroom walls and a couple of other rooms being absolutely plastered with pictures of my cats, the background on my desktop is always one of my cats and I change it once in awhile. It seems to help me. I even talk to the cats sometimes. Everyone has their own unique way of grieving and time of course helps as well and all the wonderful memories. You will be fine and she will too in time. But the bond you have with her will never go away.

  2. Thank you so very much for your post Ingrid and I know what you are going through right now and I’m so sorry. I’m glad Allegra is with you. You might remember I lost 3 of my cats in 1999 between Oct 22 and Dec 16th- 2 to cancer and 1 to renal failure. It was the most devastating loss I have ever been through. I have a memorial to each one on my bedroom walls with pictures mostly. I bought a beautiful new frame for William who was an orange tabby I adopted as a kitten in 2009 and he passed away from renal failure Dec. 16, 1999. It was a total shock. This Dec 16th I am going to find one of my favorite pictures of him for the frame and hang it on that day in his memory. After the loss of my 3 cats I did something which may seem insensitive to some. I went to our county shelter and adopted a bonded pair of boys. These boys have given me so much joy, more then I can express, and I in turn have given them a loving home. To me it takes nothing away from my love for my 3 who I lost as I have mourned them since they passed away and still cry when I think about them which is frequently. But as you said, everyone grieves differently and there really is no right or wrong way. Whatever feels right for the person to cope with the situation is the right thing to do for them. My cousin Gary and his wife had a cat for years and her passing left them so devastated that they will never get another animal. And like you, Ingrid, I had both Thanksgiving and Christmas invitations last year and there was no way I could get together with friends when I was grieving and hurting so much. And this year, like you it sounds like, I am alone as I have no human family in my state but I have my very best family right here which also includes my girls and 2 are 17 1/2 now and doing well. I was an only child and never could have pets growing up because we lived in a Chicago suburban apartment that didn’t allow for pets except for my 2 parakeets. I have more then made up for this with all the cats I have adopted through the years and if there is a rainbow bridge, I will be mobbed which I would so love. What I would give to see them all again.

  3. Hugs! I lost my first cat just before my Christmas break 2013, so I feel your sadness.

    I have written several tributes and donated to our local shelter in her honor. Last year, I bought an ornament personalized with her photo.

    Lucy is never forgotten. As I know that for you Ruby and Buckley are not forgotten.

    I hope the holidays will be kind, despite all that’s happening in the world.

  4. Ingrid I feel your pain. I lost my Katie at 10 years old from cancer on Feb. 2019, in Dec. 26, 2019 I lost my Mom, who lived with us. This Feb. 2020 I lost my beautiful boy, Mr. Penny with kidney disease. This has been very sad this whole year. I truly miss all of them everyday. I just adopted two older cats that their owner passed away. I love them very much. I also trapped and neutered a male cat that was coming around for two years. He is also a new member. I love them all but I still miss my other babies. I know this will take time. I just know in my heart that someday God will reunite us all.

  5. I don’t think any time of the year is easy when you’re missing someone. But with holidays, they bring so many memories with them. I like your tips for how to cope with missing them. I’m always thinking of you and hoping you’re doing ok. I know you miss Ruby really bad. I am sure Allegra is giving you extra love right now. She knows when you feel sad. Hugs…..

  6. We lost our loved cat on 21st December 2019. I came downstairs early in the morning and found her dying near her bed. She was unwell but we wanted to spend christmas with her one last time. I am male and it has devastated me and I have spent most of christmas crying ( or trying not too). My family watched carols from kings and I had to bite my lip, the sense of grief is over powering. She was a very intelligent and pretty cat and I miss her so much, I am trying not to become depressed. I hope they go to a heaven and we will be with them again when we pass over the vail.

    • If it’s any help at all, I feel your pain. We had to put our beloved friend, Sneaky, to eternal sleep this past Friday. I cry non stop. The only consolation that I can derive is that so many other people go through this and that I’m not alone in my grief. When will the pain stop? My other cat, Amber, misses him too and is grieving. I am giving her extra love and attention. So, Mark, please know that I share in your grief. May we only hope in time, it softens.

      • Dear Karen, Thank you for your kind supportive words and I am so sorry to hear of Sneaky. I hope the pain will soften also, I feel they are in a happy place although it still hurts. We just had one cat,the worst time for me is returning home and coming downstairs in the mornng. I think in time I will come to except things but I had no idea it would hit me so hard. Take care- Mark

  7. Sometimes I feel losing a pet is harder than losing a human loved one. Holidays do bring me a lot of memories of the cats I have lost over the years.

  8. I understand all too well. We had to put one of our cats down the day after Christmas years back and now facing the same dilemma with my oldest now which would make 2 cats in one year. Alas, it’s not right to see them suffer and their quality of life is lacking. The good memories, pictures and video is always there to keep you company.

  9. My brother and I each lost a cat friend last year, although he still has one little princess left. His favorite boo-boo, as he liked to call him, had to be put down the day after Christmas. I accompanied him as no one should have to go through that alone. My cat, almost 21, passed in August. Not a good Christmas. We just memorialized both deceased kitties with an online donation to the Winn Feline Foundation in hope that they can find cures and treatments for the many diseases and illnesses with which cats are afflicted.

  10. Thank you for the post. There are many losses at the rescue I follow lately. Haven’t met them but; I still cry for each one.

  11. The last two Christmases since Truffles has been gone I’ve decorated the table where her ashes are kept. It contains a painting of her, her paw print, and various other special decorations that I change each year. It’s a way of keeping her with me as I celebrate the season.

  12. Not only did we loss Chuck right before Thanksgiving, it was also our wedding anniversary. But showing him our love by ending his suffering was more important than all of that. It’s weird how the sadness sneaks up and jumps me when I least expect it!

  13. I still hang the Christmas stocking that I made for Nani even though she’s been gone for 5 years. I still miss her like crazy.

  14. Thank you for this timely article. 2017 has been tough – deaths of my pets and animals at sanctuary I volunteer at.

  15. Ingrid, I understand your pain. Just before I retired a stray showed up and I became a first time cat mommy for Mac. About a year later, I acquired another cat that I named Rusti. Last July, Mac became terribly sick and stopped eating. He was diagnosed as having FeLV, a disease for which he had tested negatively twice before. After he was euthanized, I put the carved box with his ashes, his collar and his picture in the corner of the garden window where he loved to sit. For the next month, I cried frequently and Rusti spent most of her time under my bed. About two months later, I went to Animal Control to get her required license. Before I left, I wandered into the cat room. There were so many cats in cages that it disconcerting. As I viewed the cats, I found a wonderful gentle giant named Chance that I added to my family. Having him has helped me get over my depression and has brought Rusti out of her shell. In Mac’s remembrance, for the holidays, I placed a small poinsettia near his remains.

  16. I lost my Precious Prince Charming Panther – my silky satiny black kitty boy a few months ago and I just can’t see celebrating Christmas without him. I am so sad all I do is cry. I was told I should honor his memory so I am putting up the tree in another room and hanging up all my bridge babies stockings. They can’t use anything I give them but I WILL put something in their stockings anyway.

    MY other 2 do not care about Christmas but I will give them a gift and stuff their stockings anyway – just so we can honor our Precious boy!

    • I’m so sorry about your Precious, Heidi. I like your ideas on how you’re going to honor his memory this holiday season. Be gentle with yourself.

  17. Hi, I lost my lovely Kelly 2 years ago on the 2nd day of Christmas. She had been very sick suffering from cancer and very sudden she couldn’t walk anymore. It was a devastating experience to loose my cuttlemate and especially because it happened during Christmas. Since that moment I haven’t had any luck at all in my life, just strange things keep happening to me and now also my health is a big issue. I’m really not looking forward to Christmas at all this year and so I miss her more than ever….I’m just keeping up appearances for the rest of my family…

    • I’m sorry about your Kelly, Chiitra. My heart goes out to you. I hope that maybe one of the suggestions in this post might help heal your heart, even just a little.

  18. Ingrid,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings, and to all the others who are missing precious furbabies this Christmas. I miss my Hobo terribly, but am so grateful for the 15 years we shared together. The joy they bring us certainly outweighs the loss, but the emptiness is the last thing we have. It helps so much to know others truly understand. Thank you and blessings and hugs to you for Christmas.

  19. Thank you so much for this heart felt message and acknowledgment of those of us who have lost our cherished furry children! I lost Missy on November 9! I had her since she was 7 weeks old and she passed at 16 1/2 years old. It was always Missy and Me! She was my little baby. I feel her love and her gratefulness that I was her Mommy but I’d really much rather her be here with me. Your words were very healing and I appreciate your sentiment! Thank you and Missy thanks you too.

    • I’m glad this post provided some healing for you, Deborah. I can’t imagine how much you must miss Missy. 16 1/2 years is a long time, but it’s just never long enough.

  20. this is my first year with out Ollie, who despite his Ebenezer ways loved Christmas.. It was hard putting up the tree knowing Ollie’s body would not be under it, but I know his spirit is still enjoying the holiday, and that helps.

    Great post.

  21. Thank-you for this post, Ingrid. I wish you peace this season. I am glad you have the unconditional love of Allegra and Ruby at this time of year.

    My church is honoring the memories of everyone’s pets who have passed on Jan. 8th. It will be my first time at this annual service and I have enjoyed taking out old photos of my former cats to bring to display there and remembering their unique personalities.

    Blessings, Sandy

  22. My heart goes out to all those who have lost beloved pets. We have lost several animals just before Christmas (Our dog Katie in Dec 2009) and Tiger (our cat in Dec 2010) as well as Midnight (July 2009) so December and Christmas always brings some sad memories as well as the joys of Christmas. We have pulled out our pictures of Christmases past to help remember the good times. We just adopted Wilcox (“Willie”) one week ago – a four month feisty tabby kitten. So this December will have some additional memories! Now if we can just keep Willie, Oreo and Angie (the cats) and Susie and Jasmine (the dogs) from destroying the various decorations this year.

  23. Dear Ingrid, I am so grateful I found your website. Actually, the day my Kitty was euthanized, August, 19, 2011. Kitty was 23 years-old with a good quality of life. Being an aged cat, for many years I always thought, “Will she make it to this Holiday Season.” And when she did, “Will she make it to the next?” Christmas Eve is the most special night of the year for me. Magical, mystical, spiritual. In the past few days it hit me, Kitty will not be with me this year. I always chose to spend this Eve with My Kitty. To share together. Gratitude. LOVE. And it is said, Christmas Eve is the night the animals talk! And my Kitty was the most wonderful talker 🙂 I am grieving her severely, every day, but a great sorrow hit me realizing Kitty will not be here on earth for Christmas…and this summer, for once, I felt she would be with me more years, as she was doing so well. So, I will need to think of something very special to do in her memory and honor. One will be a donation to animal welfare. I advocate *legislatively, big time, for horses: anti-slaughter and save our wild horses from extinction. However, at Christmas, I will donate to SAVE a horse’s actual LIFE. I will also put more food and toys into my library’s kitty rescue basket. And maybe, just maybe, I will adopt a kitty from a shelter. Maybe. Its only been 2 1/2 months now, and at Christmas, it will be 4 1/2 months since Kitty died. When Kitty passed over I felt I needed a lot of time before getting another animal. My grieving is intense. It would be a “betrayal” to my Kitty. I needed to honor her and her memory. Or maybe no animal ever again, as the pain of loss is so great. Then I thought how selfish this is. There are so many cats needing homes and I can provide a Forever Home and so much LOVE. Then I thought a kitty and/or kitties might come into my life by serendipity. Or a kitty would choose me. Then last week an animal rescue adoption site popped-up on my computer as I was reading articles on pet loss. So I took a look. On the 1st page, last in the list, a 7 year-old, female, brown w/black stripe, white breasted tabby jumped out at me and took a hold. The look in her eyes, direct, at “me.” 🙂 I took note and proceeded to browse more cat photos and bios. None felt so in touch as this tabby. But my heart went out to so many. So many. So maybe a Christmas kitty…but only if I feel the time is right. And I do trust this. I knew my Kitty was for me, the time was right. I knew when to help my Kitty with 4 serious illnesses to wellness. Then I knew the time was right to give her the final gift of release. The final battle could not be won. Well Ingrid, this “comment” is long enough. Thank you with all my heart for your websites and writings. For your care and love. And my thoughts are with you at this coming Holiday Season. For it is a time when the past, present, future, come into one’s thoughts.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss, Ronnie. 23 years is a wonderful long life for a kitty, but of course, it’s never long enough. Those “firsts” without our loved ones are always hard, and I think Christmas is the most difficult holiday to get through after a loss.

      There is no right time to get a new cat. There is nothing selfish about waiting until you feel ready. Everybody griefs differently and needs to do so at their own pace. I know you’ll find a special way to honor Kitty’s memory this holiday season. You’re in my thoughts.

  24. Thank you so much Ingrid, you are so right: the miracle of life is that grief and joy can co-exist. We can leave our heart’s door open for joy and love even when we are missing someone terribly. Thank you for reminding me! Lots of love to you and Allegra! (I’m Italian and I love her name – “cheerful”!)

    • Thanks, Anna! Allegra came with her name, and it fits her personality perfectly! Happy Holidays to you and yours from Allegra and me.

  25. Thank you so much for a WONDERFUL post, Ingrid!!! I must admit that when I first read the title of your post it took me some time to get over the FEAR it would bring out and uncover pain and grief… But I’m so glad I found the courage to read it and I really thank you for the great and so insightful tips!! I lost two much beloved girls last winter (they were both 18 years old), and this time of the year brings back sadness and grief. We will never forget all our little angels we have lost in the course of time, they are alive in our hearts and in our love. I have candles burning right now. For all of our little beloved ones who are now free to run with no pain and looking at us, smiling.
    THANK YOU and have a merry Christmas with Allegra! (I have my beloved Zoe with me, and my mom’s sweet Lilli, Tommi and Theo!)

    • Anna, I’m so glad that my post was helpful. I’m sorry about your two girls and the sadness and grief this time of year brings, but I’m glad you have Zoe and Lilli, Tommi and Theo to help you make the holiday season brighter. One of the things I learned through my various losses is that grief and joy can co-exist, and this is never more apparent than during this time of the year.

  26. I’ll be thinking of you and Allegra this holiday season and wishing you a very Merry Christmas. I know it will be a difficult time, but as you said there will also be some wonderful new memories made.

    Thoughts in Progress

  27. Thoughtful and insightful suggestions. The holidays are big triggers at the best of times, and I send lots of love and light for an easy passage. Happy Solstice and all the good things it will manifest in 2011.

  28. A very well-written and timely post. The holidays celebrate togetherness, and when you are missing a beloved one, it just does not seem right. We lost “Gus”, our beloved Dachshund to seizures last New Year’s Day. He was a senior when I pulled him from the shelter as a rescue–already white-faced and walked like a truck driver–4 years before, but he walked into our lives and our hearts like he’d been with us from puppyhood. How I miss our boy. He is memorialized on a plaque at the shelter where I found him, where he looks over all the new adoptions.

    • Thanks, Debbie. I’m so sorry about Gus. I love how you memorialized him with a plaque at the shelter – what a lovely thing to do.

    • Hi, this site is wonderful. It’s so comforting to know there are so many cat lovers and genuine feelings of love for our fur babies. I’ve had cats all my life, I’m nearly 60 now, not in good health and had another sad Xmas. Last year lost my 15 year old dog, my best friend, I took it very hard. I have cats, we lost our huge, black & white elderly boy, Alex, suddenly, days before Xmas. His brother, Swayze is sad as they were close. I try to stay away from people who are not cat lovers, I prefer animals to most people. We have 5 cats now & the holidays have went by in a blur. I make the effort for my other pets, have 3 rescue dogs too, from Romania. Have been involved in animal welfare all my life and as I’m on my own, they are my constant companions. God bless each and everyone of you for taking the time to comment here and bring some comfort to people, some who have no one to confide in about their loss of their animal companions. Mara

  29. Very good post and good thoughts on how to ‘get through it’, too. This is the first Christmas I have decorated my house since my husband passed away in 2007 and part of the pleasure I am getting now, is to see the cats ‘enjoying’ the decorations, too…

  30. I’m thinking of you and Amber this holiday season. I remember reading about your holiday traditions with Amber and also Buckley in “Buckley’s Story”.

  31. Oh Ingrid, I am so sorry. I know how hard it is. We lost our beloved Beta almost 6 years ago and it hardly seems possible that he’s been gone that long. I don’t think we ever get over it, we just become more used to it. Even though there are other furry little ones in the house, they don’t place his place in our hearts. Sweet Amber will always be with you, an angel on your shoulder. Many years ago, when I was 18, I ordered a personalized food mat for my Rocky. He died unexpectedly before it arrived. The pain was too much when that box arrived. I have never ordered a personalized item for a pet again. God bless you and please know that Amber is in a good place over the Rainbows Bridge and in your heart. Making a donation in your pets name is an awesome idea. A friend did that for us when Beta died, it meant so much to us.

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