I was seven when we brought home our family cat. After what seemed like years of begging my parents to get a cat, I finally had one of my own. My sister and I grew up with our black-and-white mixed Maine Coon cat, and she was our little tagalong who loved chasing rocks outside and meowing to get her way. She was my confidante, support system and best furry friend.
Eighteen years later, she was sick, and we knew the end was near. So, we made one of the most difficult decisions of our lives: we took her to the vet to have her euthanized so she wouldn’t have to endure any more pain.
I went through the seven stages of grief almost all at once. As my dad buried her little body in a wooden casket he made in the woods behind my parents’ house (one of her favorite go-to places), grief consumed me. I didn’t know what I would do. I felt like I had lost a piece of my heart, and I still feel that way. To have a cat for that long is an immense blessing and loss when the time comes for your pet to go.
When my fiancé came home with a little three-month-old stray calico/tabby cat, I felt instant love for this little furball. The only thing was, I felt the guilt stage of grief all over again. Would this be what my other cat would want? After all, she was the envious type, and I was HER person.
It didn’t take me long to work through the grief stage again and find a balance with honoring a pet that has passed on and find a new one:
Still let your pet’s legacy live on.
Fortunately, I have my angel cat’s paw prints forever immortalized in molding clay. She was incredibly photogenic, it’s not an understatement to say that I have at least 20,000 photos of her. Probably more. There are so many ways you can keep your pet’s legacy alive, from jewelry to memorial gravestones and urns.
Target the source of your guilt and learn from it.
In this case, you may feel guilty that you brought home a new pet close to the time your other one passed away. For me, this occurred seven months after my cat passed away. According to Psych Central, the sooner you address why you are feeling guilty and see if you can make any changes, the sooner you will begin to feel better. Balance what your pet would have wanted with moving on. We’re not perfect by any means, and we can’t change what happened. We have to learn to move on without forgetting the special bond with had with a former pet. Talk with a mental health professional during your stages of grief and even afterward, if needed. Use a site like betterhelp.com to talk through the stages and your feelings wherever you are.
Realize that your current pet needed a home, too.
My little one-year-old cat lived in a dumpster near my father-in-law’s office. She would beg all of the men in the workshop for food, and she was a friendly, talkative little thing. She needed a home, and I’m glad we were able to give that to her. She has warmth and comfort in a home now, and she doesn’t have to rely on luck to get food or have to endure thunderstorms or cold weather. I love her in different ways. Every pet is different, with various personalities and quirks. And all of them need loved. You have enough love in your heart for multiple pets, just like you do with people. Just be sure to get your new pet’s vaccinations and socialize and train them for different situations and people.
It’s not easy to get over guilt, but it’s something I work toward every day. And you can, too.