Dos and Don’ts of Coping When Your Cat Dies

I want my dead cat back. I obviously can’t get him back because kidney disease destroyed him and his ashes are in a tiny wooden box underneath our plant, Robert Plant. But sometimes, I’ll be minding own my business making pasta, and my brain will ask, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if Kitty walked in here right now and we gave him some cheese?”

“It would be, brain, but he’s gone.”

Or sometimes, my brain will go, “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?”

“What?!”

“THAT BLUR OUT OF THE CORNER OF OUR EYE! WAS THAT HIM?”

“Maybe! Wait… no, it’s just a sock.”

Then I go back to mashing ice cream into a cup because I like to fool myself into thinking I’m doing portion control, but then that makes me sad because Kitty loved dairy products, and I know that I won’t have that crabby old man clawing at my heaping mug of Moose Tracks as if he bought it and I was the one who been unemployed for almost 16 years.

I’ve made some good and bad decisions in handling in his death, I think. But this is the first time I’ve lost a pet as an adult, and I always thought I would be able to handle it easier since my childhood home had a literal Pet Sementary behind it, but no. It’s been the worst experience of my life, which is saying a lot because my life has had its fair share of dogshit experiences.

Anyway. Here’s some advice on what you should or shouldn’t do when your cat dies. Again, I did just mention my life has been filled with dogshit, which is an indirect way of saying I routinely make bad decisions. It might be wise to view this free advice the same way you would eyeball a cardboard box on a sidewalk that has “FREE SHIT” scrawled on it with a ball point pen: curious diresion.

Do Cry So Hard the New Upstairs Neighbors are Wondering What the Fuck is Up with You Guys

The upstairs neighbors moved in on the same day Kitty collapsed getting a drink of water and five days later, we had a vet come over to put Kitty to sleep. So these three very young 20-somethings got to listen to our on and off wailing about his impending death.

They probably figured it out when they saw me wrestling with tangled IV cords or glimpsed out their window to see me carrying him around the yard on a pillow so he smell the weeds growing in our tiny backyard.

Do Go Full-Blown Sally Fields’ in Steel Magnolias

When I knew we only had a few a days left, I made a mental image of how Kitty’s euthanasia would go. We’d sit on the spot on the rug that he loved. He would lay in my lap on the teal blanket and Mike would be next to me with White Cat.

White Cat would sniff his little head as Kitty left whatever this timeline is. I would cry hysterically and after he was gone, Mike would gently persuade me to let go of his body. White Cat would lay coins over his eyes, and the vet would be character actor Margot Martindale.

It all went down pretty much that way, except White Cat immediately ran and hide when the vet showed up. He’s a cat and that’s what they do. We sit on the floor, but slightly north of the rug, but he dies peacefully on the teal blanket in my lap as I hyperventilate and Mike sits next to me.

But I’m traumatized from watching this creature I kept alive for over a decade fall limply into death. No one mentions this. I heard a lot of shit about a Rainbow Bridge, but no one tells you how fucked up it is to watch your little creature become nothing.

White Cat hid under the bed when the vet arrived. Mike tried to get him out before she left with Kitty as I sat there sobbing watching her tuck him into a basket and imprint his paw, but White Cat wouldn’t budge from around the bed.

Mike came back out from the bedroom, shaking his head, “He won’t come out.”

If you’re not familiar with Steel Magnolias, after they take Julia Roberts off life-support, Sally Fields asks where the grandson is and someone is like “at the neighbor’s”. Without another word, she just runs out of the room without another word.

I never understood it until Mike said White Cat wouldn’t come out and I, without another word, ran into the bedroom, expecting to scoop him up like she did to her grandson.

But, again, he’s a cat and there’s probably hella death pheromones floating in the air. He’s not coming out.

After I realize that he’s not budging from under the bed and I understand the sweet grandson scene, I went straight to the graveyard scene when Sally screams that its’ not fair at the casket, wailing and fucking up her updo, so you can tell Dolly Parton’s character is low-key thinking, “dang that took two hours of teasing.”

As the vet and Mike made awkward small talk in the living room over Kitty’s dead body, I slithered around on my stomach, crawling as far under the bed as my impending middle-aged body would let me, crying hysterically still, and pleading for White Cat to come out, scaring him more and making him retreat even farther under the bed.

I like to think that Kitty saw my desperate efforts. Let’s suppose the Christian idea of us floating out of our disease ravaged Earthly bodies is real (no one way that’s real, though). That means my poor boy was free from pain and thirst, and he was swimming through our apartment’s stale air on the way to the Rainbow Bridge, hopefully happy as fuck, and he took one last look at his home and his family.

Kitty looked down and saw me on my stomach, sobbing, half under the bed, choking on snot and dust bunnies, in my sweat stained week old pajamas, maybe wearing like one slipper in the middle of a weekday afternoon, completely devoid of dignity or attached to reality, not resembling anything remotely human, and he was like “fuck yeah mourn me.”

Crushed it, buddy.

Don’t Eat Their Ashes

You shouldn’t do that. Did I? You’re wondering because I wrote it down, and why else would someone write that down in a public blog. But no, I didn’t.

Did my brain take a few milliseconds to weigh the pros and cons of doing something as foul as eating ashes and itty bitty cat bone? Yes. Why? I dunno, shut up.

Maybe my brain wondered if that’d be cool, like maybe we’d get to be on a TLC show, but I quickly dismissed it. And by quickly, I mean varying levels of my subscious discussed the pros and cons of throwing my head back and tilting the bag of ashes into my mouth like a giant Pixie Stick as I sat quietly next to Mike, who was mourning normally. I only pretended to mourn normally.

When, really, I was looking at the ashes thinking, “hey, I don’t know about this idea, reptilian part of my brain. Won’t the big bits get stuck in the gaps between my molars? I don’t know if I want to floss him out of my teeth tonight.”

I didn’t do it, but I’m still confused why my brain went there. I’m guessing my defense mechanism of “make every tragedy into a joke” went inward. At least, Jesus Christ, I hope so. Because the guy from the pet crematorium handed me the little box, and my first thought was, “eat it.”

There’s two possibilities for this train of thought. The sad clown inside me was trying to make me laugh. “hey you ever wonder why people eat weird shit? This could be us now. You could be on TV between someone who chews on batteries and a guy who showers while wearing his mom’s underwear. Would that cheer you up?”

Or the cavewoman of my brain was like “for real though this is our chance. Don’t fuck this up for me.”

Don’t Murder

The morning after Kitty’s death, I’m numbly typing two words an hour with the posture of macaroni, clutching a blanket Kitty and I slept on together the night before he died, surrounded by snotty tissues, when I hear White Cat playing, but there’s an odd clunking sound I’ve never heard before.

Since I felt and cared for nothing that morning, I let it go. But after some time goes by, he drags it into the office, and I turn to see this clueless animal, rolling on the floor in pure ecstasy, flinging a dead bird around by its wing. The clunking sounds was the bird’s head slamming into the floor, furniture, and doorframes with each toss.

He’s never done that since so I guess maybe whipping a sparrow’s skull repeatedly against faux wooden flooring is a cat pagan funeral rituals?

Do Create A Wiccan Altar

Speaking of paganism, I made my boy a Wiccan altar. An online article let me know I only needed a red or purple candle (or white is fine), frankincense or mire incense (or whatever your local witchery [Amazon] has at a reasonable price), and a belonging of his (a pillow he liked). Sprinkling catnip into the open flame of whatever candle you could find allegedly helped with a psychic connection to cats kicking it in Summerland.

I am still waiting for a message but maybe I received it a couple weeks ago. The new cat we adopted is a nightmare and she bit me while attacking White Cat.

Glad to see you’re doing okay, Kitty.

Do Adopt a New Cat 6 Weeks Later

Look, don’t judge me. That’s actually a really slow turnaround for pets where I come from. When I was a young girl, my parents famously bought me a New Guinea pig six hours after one died. Needless to say, that experience didn’t teach me much about coping with loss, but it did teach me that feelings are bad.

Anyway, we adopted this cat and introducing her to White Cat has been a nightmare and they keep fighting. Why? Because despite advice from the shelter people, I more or less dumped her onto the floor like a cat Santa, and said, “ho ho ho! Here’s your NEW friend, White Cat!” And both cats were like, “ho ho nope.”

We’re stuck in a transition period, and it’s not going smoothly.

I ended up being bitten during one of the fights, my hand grew to the size of a baseball mitt and I got a shot of antibiotics in my ass at urgent care. This new cat needs a lot of work, and I have to keep reminding myself it’s probably because of me.

On her first night with us, I sobbed as I pet her, saying “I’m glad you’re here, but I only have you because he’ss deeeeaadd waaaaaaa..”

Surely, that made her tense and I would not be surprised if that was the day vowed to herself, “I’m definitely gonna bite this bitch one day.”

She sure did, good for her, but I guess the silver lining is besides having “get shot in your ass by embarrassed male nurse” checked off my bucket list, I realized I’m not so sad about Kitty. I’ve been so preoccupied with not developing sepsis due to my immediately infected hand, my grief ebbed away.

I guess my advice to getting over a dead cat is to adopt a feral cat as soon as possible.

You’ll still see something out of the corner of your eye, but it’s not your dead cat haunting you. It’s your new cat stalking you because she trusts nothing.

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