Friday, December 13, 2013

When a Pet Dies

This week we lost one of our cats, and by lost I mean he died. I almost told the kids we lost Finn, but didn't want them thinking he ran away. Saying "lost" just feels easier than saying "dead" or "died". Those words seem so cutting. So hurtful. So in-your-face final.

But, then, that's what death is.

K understands death. She knows it means your body (or an animal's body) no longer works, and that person (or animal) is not coming back. Religion is too abstract a concept for her at this point (not that we are religious), so "heaven" offers no comfort. If she can't see something, it's hard for her to believe it exists. This week, though, I would have gladly set aside my atheist tendencies if it would have brought her a moment of peace.

It's just so hard to see your kids in pain.

Finn's death was sudden. Very, very sudden. He went from seemingly healthy, to extremely sick within 2 days. I thought maybe he caught a virus, and was just dehydrated. Or, I tried to convince myself of that. I knew in my heart as we left for the vet, Finny wouldn't be coming home.

Feline Leukemia (not actually cancer, but an immune disorder.) Something he's probably had since birth. Something I guess he was never tested for (I didn't realize not all vets consider it a routine test.) There is no treatment, anyway. How long a cat lives with it just depends, but most don't live past 4. Finny made it to 5.

Breaking the news to K was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Finn was our cat-dog. He loved to cuddle, all day, everyday. We have 2 other cats, but he was the one who sought out human companionship. As much as I sometimes found that annoying (sometimes you want to read a book without a cat in your way), K loved it. It was the one animal who would stay with her for as long as she wanted, like a loyal dog (he also drank from the toilet and ate trash, hence "cat-dog".)

K has cried every day since Finn passed. Wednesday night I just laid with her as she cried. I didn't think it possible someone could cry for as long as she did. It's hard to convey how it feels to have your heartbreak over and over, with every sob, every gasp, every heave.

Having a pet die is part of life. An unfortunate part of childhood, sometimes. Something you know will eventually happen when you adopt that fluffy little kitten, or playful little puppy, but which doesn't deter you because of the joy pets bring. But Finny shouldn't have died. Five just isn't a long enough life for a cat. It's just not fair.

Now, you've read a lot about how K is dealing with this, but I haven't mentioned B. He didn't take it as I expected. He wasn't upset. He asked lots of questions (like if Finn can be mummified), but didn't cry. He told me that he just "doesn't have a heart for animals, only humans". He said Finn always ran from him anyway (active little boys and cats don't always mix.) He doesn't get that death is sad just because death is sad. He never bonded with Finn. He never played with him. He is very matter-of-fact, black and white. Finn is gone, but that doesn't change much for B. He wasn't a big part of his life, anyhow, and death just doesn't have a deeper meaning, or greater sadness for him at this point.

It worried me at first, but then I remembered having lunch with K at school a couple years back, and one of the little girls at her table told me how her dog had died. I assumed she meant years ago, but, nope, just that week. There was no look of sadness on her face, no tears. She told me he died, and went back to eating her lunch. All kids are different, I suppose. I should probably be thankful I am only dealing with one upset child, not two. B is young, and I should be happy he's a bit sheltered from the pain death brings.

As for my husband and I, we are dealing with the guilt of not seeing something was wrong. Not that there's anything we could have done, but we could have been prepared (and, yes, we are making sure our other cats are tested.) Maybe noticed subtle hints. Watched Finn closer. In reality, I'm sure there isn't anything we could have done, but the guilt is still there. We have indoor cats because we want to make sure nothing happens to them. An illness like this was something we barely knew existed, let alone something we thought we'd ever experience.

And of course we are heartbroken. We thought the cats would live forever, something we joked about often while sweeping the floors for the umpteenth time. The finality of death is always hard, too. Especially when it's so sudden. Too sudden.

Sure, it's just a cat, and no, we are not people who equate pets with children. But, he was here, a part of our family, and now that's he gone I realize just how big a part. I miss my snuggle buddy more than I expected. So much more. AND, I can't promise there isn't a new cat in our future (especially because our other male cat, Max, was very attached to Finn.)

Yes, we still have a lot of other pets, and I am probably crazy for even entertaining the idea of a new kitty down the line (hey, I even surprised myself), but I guess you really don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

So, that has been our week. A terrible, no good, awful, very bad, week. I know it will get better, but for now, we're just sad.

We're really going to miss you, buddy...
I hope we gave you an awesome 5 years. 


  1. Losing a pet was very hard for us - Jackpot was a member of our family and there are times when I miss his smile or his impatient nature. :) Everyone deals with death a little bit differently but you are right - it's a fact of life when owning pets.

    Jackpot was a rescue and when we decide to welcome another pet into our home - we will rescue again, because know that's what he would have wanted. To save another animal just like we did for him.

  2. I am so sorry about your kitty :-( We have three cats and they truly are members of our family, so I understand how painful it can be to lose a pet. I'm sorry K is taking it very hard. Our cats are 15 and 17, so I should probably start preparing D sooner rather than later :-/

  3. Losing a pet is so tough, you just feel as you feel. I am sorry that K is taking it so hard and while this doesn't help now, she will learn something from this. As for B, I was quite impressed that at his age he could put his feelings into words so easily, that he doesn't have a heart for animals, only humans. Wow, that's a lot of clarity for such a young boy. I think they react how they react and what matters is that they find acceptance with you for whatever their feelings are, whether it means that you hold K while she cries or you understand that B is being true to himself. Hugs for all of you.