Lucky had come to our home around 2 years ago when his owner passed away and her family did not want to keep him so we took him in.
He was a large cat, with a gentle patient nature and while it took him a few weeks to acclimatise to our home (we have 3 cats already) he found his place. He also became the “big brother” to Twix and allowed a lot of attack-play to occur before he would lay down the law.
He was also one of those cats you could just pick up and cuddle and he would be really contented, just purring gently and happy to be held.
Lucky always had a good appetite and that didn’t change, however in mid September I noticed he was suddenly losing weight and his spine was more noticeable when I stroked him. I booked him into the vets immediately who checked him out and couldn’t see a problem, so they decided to take bloods.
We have a hyperthyroid cat already and the symptoms were the same so we assumed it might be this, but it came back negative but there was some concerns around his liver. They suggested he went for a scan.
He was booked in for a Friday and my partner and I were off work from the Wednesday so spent all the time up to Friday with our cats. The scan revealed there was some mass and they suggested doing a biopsy.
Lucky was put under sedation and then 15 minutes we got a call.
I cannot describe the agony of learning that when they went in they found his liver and spleen riddled with tumours.
They told us there as nothing they can do and the kindest thing would be to put him to sleep while he was already under sedation. We rushed to the vets and they brought him through to us, still sleeping from the sedation.
We got to hold him and talk to him and he was on my lap as the vet gave him the injection that would release him back to Gaia.
It was unexpected and devastating and the heart break of losing him after such a short time with us still leaves us in pain. His carrier was still in the car ready for us to collect him and we had to return without it.
Over a month on and that pain has not gone away and in truth has only eased a little but we did manage to gain some solace. So I thought, though while I am still raw, I would write this post for anyone else who loses a beloved animal companion.
Much of the world still does not understand how deeply affected we are when those of us who cherish and love our animals, lose them.
We have to go to jobs, to school, to college and there will be people who do not understand and their words, whether spiteful or gentle can still hurt us…because they don’t understand, they cannot understand.
Kindred Spirits – Firstly, know that you are not alone. The world IS full of animal lovers who will have gone through what you did. They will grieve with you and truly understand your pain. Whether you know these people in real life or need to find a forum where you can get support, I recommend you talk to someone who will understand.
I had some wonderful friends who understood, family that gave me the space I needed to grieve and a great forum for cat lovers who could empathise with me.
I made the conscious choice to step away from visitors and the like by sending out a message to my friends and family asking them not to turn up all call me for a while. If I needed them, I would call. This control of space was helpful.
Imagery – The day after Lucky died we became obsessed with finding pictures of him. He had not been with us as long as our other cats so we desperately needed to know we had images of him we could see every day. Between our laptops and our phones and my camera cards we collected all his pictures.
When we able we got several pictures printed, the first was a large canvas picture my partner wanted in his room – because Lucky had spent a lot of time there. We also got a collage made through an online company, I used of all his pictures and this is framed and is in the living room so we get to see him all the time.
Additionally we got keyrings made and a fridge magnet…because he loved being in the kitchen and the image of him looking up was exactly what we would see whenever we ventured into the kitchen.
This may sound silly but whether animal or human, when you lose someone, surrounding yourself with images of them is very therapeutic, though it might be that you need more time before you do it, as their image can be overwhelming. For us it was what we needed.
Pawprint – The vets were wonderful and when we asked if they could get a print of his pawprint for us they obliged and slipped it into a greeting card for us. As we both like tattoos, this pawprint will be something we get tattooed when we are ready.
However it does not not need to be a tattoo, the pawprint could be etched into wood or metal and used in jewellery, it could be treasured as a keepsake.
Casket – We do not own our home so did not want Lucky buried or even have his ashes scattered in this place. When we finally find our true home he may be laid to rest there. But for now we wanted to keep his ashes.
There are many animal undertakers if you will, there are plots where animals can be buried or their ashes scattered, tomb markers or trees laid in their memory. Think carefully about what you want, look at all the options and then make your decision.
We chose to have a casket and selected one that stepped away from the sense of “casket”. It was a black wooden casket in the shape of a sleeping cat. A plate is on the base that simply states “Our Lucky”.
This casket sits atop the microwave. The reason for that is it was one of the many strange places we found this cat when he lived with us. He decided that sleeping on top of the microwave was the best place for a time and he was so beautiful and had the softest meow we just didn’t have the heart to stop him.
Keepsake Box – I found that after his passing I wanted to keep things that reminded him of me. So I took one of the wooden boxes I had for another craft project and started to fill it. I found some of his fur from his bed and slipped it into a tiny vial. I put the image of his pawprint and photos into the box.
I found this helped, keeping things in one location that I could go to when I needed to. A Keepsake box is perfect for storing your animal’s favourite toys, their collar and tags, their leash, a snip of their fur or a discarded feather or shed skin (if the animal was a snake that is).
These are just a few of the things I did to help cope with his passing. I also found that simple things like collecting his casket gave me closure and being able to touch it every morning and evening has become a ritual that I find soothing.
Everyone grieves differently, but your grief is real and should not be ignored or shamed. Those who do not understand may try to do just that. Do not feel you cannot or should not grieve.
Do what you need to help you through the process, to help you get through the pain and remember the good memories. It takes time… I can tell you I am not there yet. I still weep when I think of him and writing this has brought it all back… But I needed to do this too.
One thing I do want to stress. If you are given the option of being with your animal companion when they are put to sleep – DO IT. If you are not given the option, ask for it! Whether they are sedated like Lucky was or they are aware, you need to be there for them. They need to feel you and hear you.
It is not about whether it will hurt you, it is about being there for them. Letting them seeing you and feel you stroking them as they pass to the Rainbow Bridge.
Remember, they will look for you if you are not there. Do not do that to them. Be there to let them know how much you loved them.
Until we meet again x