SAYING GOOD-BYE AND SAYING HELLO:
When is the right time to get another cat after pet loss?
By BJ Burman
Poet Alfred Lord Tennyson said: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. And I have to say I agree with him. It is devastating to lose the cat we love, as many of us know first hand. And if you haven’t yet lost a beloved furbaby, inevitably you will.
But despite this loss, our heart still loves them, sometimes all the more. The human heart has such a great capacity for love. As much as we love our babies who have gone over the bridge, our hearts often start to yearn for another furbaby to share this life with. And without a doubt, loving another furbaby really does help to heal a broken heart.
So, the question is going to come up sooner or later—When should I get another cat? If you are an avid cat-lover (like me), you’ll find it hard to live without at least one cat or dog in your home. But when is the ‘right’ time to do this?
Well, there is no ‘right’ time, really. The right time is when you decide it is. But as I mentioned earlier, you may want to give it at least a few weeks. Most importantly, you want to make sure that you are emotionally ready to give your new cat all your love, and likewise for your remaining pets.
With this in mind, here are some points for you to consider:
- Don’t rush
- Older cats often don’t like changes (although my ‘oldies’ have been fine with this in the past). For some, adjusting to a new pet may be stressful. You know your pet best. You will know whether to introduce someone new, or not.
- If you choose not to bring a new pet into the home, your cat will eventually adjust to being alone, if he’s old. He may even thrive.
- A younger cat may need a companion, and so might you.
My Siamese mom cat was 19 when she died. Her daughter Princess got very sad. She started howling at my teddy bears, spraying outside. We got her a tabby kitten. She breathed new life into her and within a month they were curled up together. But the kitten needed a playmate so we got a second kitten three months later, a Siamese. Princess lived another 5 years to the grand dame age of 22 ½. The two Siamese often curled up together. The three got along so well, they made Princess’s last years so good and less lonely. We did wait 10 months before we got the first kitten, then another 3 for the second. Princess had a great life. (Annette)
- Let your cat help select a new pet. Perhaps foster a new cat or kitten and see how they get along. If they do get along, then you can make the arrangement permanent.
- Think about whether you are ready for the work of having another cat? Can you give him what he needs?
- Remember, getting a new pet won’t stop the grieving, but it can really help the healing.
My Sugar and Muffin are a month apart. Sugar was a very loving and loyal companion. He and Muffin played together, ate together and slept together with me. Sugar would lie up by my head and Muffin would curl up next to him. Sugar died suddenly in my arms one day. Muffin would look for him and her grief was devastating. She became very clingy and needy, having me as a replacement for Muffin since his death. But it wasn’t the same; she missed Sugar so much. After about 6 months I adopted a cat that was all white except for a gray spot on her head—Sugar was white except for a black mark on his ear. I called her Angel. Muffin became attached almost immediately but not as much as she was with Sugar, but Angel did help her through her grief in losing her companion. Each day they get closer and closer and I am glad she has a new companion. Angel also has helped me through my grief of losing Sugar. Cats do grieve as much as humans when they lose someone close to them, and they never forget either. (Claire)
- If you know your pet is going to die, you might consider introducing a new cat before this so that the remaining pet has another familiar companion when the other pet dies.
I have 1-year-old siblings, indoor cats Lucy and Linus. When Linus (the adventurer) sneaks outside, Lucy goes nuts—following me, crying and making a racket until I realize she’s missing her brother. She calms down as soon as I get him back into the house. I hate to think of the day one of them dies! (Sue)
- When introducing a new kitten, you might have to set their food, toys, litter box etc. up in a separate room, and introduce them to your old pet in your presence until you’re comfortable they’ll get along.
- Consider a new pet of the opposite sex; it may reduce same-sex conflict.
- If you have an older cat, an energetic young kitten may be an annoyance rather than a friend, so keep an eye on this.
No question they notice an absence and it disturbs them. My elder cat died in June. He and the younger one were not best buds, although that was because he only tolerated her. She loved him. After he died she would howl and look for him. And, yes, she also got lethargic. Since she’s only 7 (he was 14—died of heart failure) I didn’t want her to slip into lassitude for the rest of her life. We adopted another 7 year old cat, an easy-going boy. He’s distracted her and kept her occupied as she adjusts to a new cat in the house and the loss of her old friend. She’s not entirely won over, but it’s only been a month and he’s gently persistent. Still, whenever she’s let outside for a supervised prowl through the yard she always heads straight to where her late buddy is buried. (Maggie)
- If you decide on another kitten, consider a rescue cat—not only will they help you and your furbaby with your grief, but you are also saving a life, which is double the blessing.
My 18-year-old brother and sister cats (Jasper and Jitterbug) were together in my life since they were 9 weeks old. This past November, Jitterbug had a stroke, lived a few more days, and then passed. Jasper was inconsolable. Wandered around with a mournful yowl off and on all day. He’d wake up several times in the night with this mournful sound. Finally, in January, I rescued a 13-year-old cat (about to be euthanized by its owner) and brought her home. Jasper started to settle down. He likes his new friend. They eat side by side, sleep on the bed together, but are not as close as Jasper was to his sister. However, we are all happy with the arrangement. (Denise)
When adopting from a shelter, you will need to visit and meet the cats in person. Spend some time with the cats—don’t rush it. And possibly the most valuable advice of all, if you can’t decide, then let your cat choose you—you won’t be able to say NO when she does.
Here’s to another happy adventure!