How to Cope With the Grief of Losing a Pet

Iíve had my cat for 18 years. She was my childhood pet and has been my companion for all of my young adult life and into my late 20s. Sheís been with me through all the ups and downs of adolescence. Now, sheís getting older and the pain of old age is catching up with her. I keep her comfortable, and sheís still a happy kitty, but I know the time to let her go is coming soon.

Whether a pet goes naturally or must be put to sleep, the loss is devastating, especially when theyíve been with you for so long itís tough to remember what life was like without them. Here are a few tips Iíve taken away from the process of dealing with the grief of losing a pet. I hope it brings you some comfort.

Let the Grieving Process Run Its Course

Iíve never been able to understand the grieving process†as clearly as I do now. While Iíve lost loved ones in my life, it has never been this close to home. When coping with the grief of losing a pet, you might notice yourself going through these stages:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Iíd like to think Iím phasing into acceptance now, but who knows where Iíll be after we say goodbye. The important thing to remember, and what Iím thankful for recognizing now, is that the grieving process is totally natural and should be allowed to flow however it may. In other words: donít beat yourself up over any of it.

Although these steps seem sad and your initial reaction might be to try to fix it, avoid it or cover it up with happy things ó itís important to let yourself process every step of the path to healing.

Take Care of Yourself

I havenít even lost my cat yet, but knowing itís coming makes the grieving feel even worse sometimes. It can be hard to pull myself away from my sadness long enough to do something for myselfóit feels wrong. But I have noticed that when I force myself to get up and have fun, Iím better able to deal with the process, and Iím more able to maintain a good attitude when spending time with her.

I know that self-care will be even more difficult for a period of time after sheís gone, so here is a list of things I do to help me feel better:

  • Cooking a favorite meal (or new recipe) with my husband
  • Treating myself to something super cozy like a soft sweater or warm socks
  • Curling up on the couch with a blanket, a book and a cup of tea
  • Binge watching a feel-good TV show
  • Visiting a friend and spending time with other animals

Do Something to Remember Them By

For some people itís a tattoo; others choose to keep their petís ashes after cremation in a pretty box or put a little bit in a necklace and spread the rest in a special place. There are also some weird ways to remember your pet†out there like using your petís fur to create a piece of jewelry or clothing.

If youíre used to sleeping with your cat right next to you†(or on top of you like cats do), that empty spot might make coping with the grief even more difficult. Treat yourself by buying a special pillow or getting a stuffed animal. It sounds silly, but thereís no judgement in how you cope with losing a loved one as long as itís healthy for you.

Donít Replace Your Pet

Some people jump into adopting a new pet shortly after losing their loved one, but this usually isnít the best idea. Any new pet is going to have its own personality, and itíll never be able to remove the sadness youíre feeling. Itís best to let the grieving process run its course, focus on taking care of yourself and do something to remember your pet by instead of trying to replace them. Then, once your heart has healed a bit, itíll be a better time to consider opening up your home and your heart to a new companion.

I believe my tips will help you cope with the grief of losing any pet, but hereís another article to help with mourning the loss of a dog. I hope my experience helps you through yours as much as others have helped me through this difficult time.

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Tylene is a freelance writer, editor, photographer, gardener, wife, auntie and pet-mom in Idaho. She cares†a whole awful lot about people, plants, animals, food and the planet. Reach out to her on Twitter @tylenewelch

Photo by†Yerlin Matu†on†Unsplash


Melanie S

Some pets are hard to get over. I miss my Alvin kitty everyday!

Anette S
Anette S3 days ago

The doctor was here, Cassy is dead and I feel relieved and at the same time helpless and alone...
Yes, I know it's so much better now.She doesn't feel any pain any more - on the other hand, I'm just in pain right now. It's so unfair, I want her back and we're go digging together in the sand for whatever...
Hope I'll feel better after some sleep...

Teresa A
Teresa A4 days ago

I'm 70 and have had pets during all my life, therefore I have lost some. It's always very difficult to deal with losses and everytime this happens I use to say: no more pets but knowing there are so many needing our care and love (which they so widely and unconditionally reward) always makes me reconsider and I never regretted it. Besides they may have gone but are always in my heart.

Wendy R
Wendy Rose4 days ago

Thank you for this heartfelt article.

Maggie Davey
Maggie Davey4 days ago

Such an unpleasant and very unkind post, Dean. We each of us do what is right for us at the time and when we see a dearly loved companion weakening, of course we grieve - for what we will lose, for the love we have known. It happens with humans dying as well.

Elisabeth H
Elisabeth H4 days ago

I also lost a cat after 18 years. tyfs

Debbi W
Debbi W4 days ago

Our vet retired a year ago and I really miss him. He made it as easy and gentle as possible when two of my cats had to be put down two weeks apart. Cutting short their suffering was my gift to them. Neither could be saved, but I could end the suffering. I cried and still miss them, but I love having pets and death is part of life.

Christine S

thanks for the article. I agree- let your self grieve . Don't let others dictate how or how long you should grieve. And be kind to yourself, don't let guilt destroy you. Most of our pets will pass on or have to be put to sleep before we are ready- know that you loved them dearly, gave them the best life possible, and did the best you could for them in the end...

Michael F

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

Amanda M
Amanda M4 days ago

Thanks for sharing