How soon is it thinkable to replace your faithful feline companion when he or she passes on?

Coolidge (1998-2015) – Eel Creek Chronicles

 Effie (b. 2014)

Our shy and amazing Coolidge came home with us when he was nine weeks old. We wanted just one kitten, so he was separated from his sister. When I realized how shy Coolidge was—he let me know by hiding in desk drawers, which he did by pushing them open from behind, and then somehow pulling them closed—I regretted separating him from moxie little Sasha, his litter mate and protectress.

The Pet Protectors had rescued a litter of kittens from a feral pride, in a field behind a travel agency. They had named our little kitty Romanov, presumably because he looked like a Russian Blue. We renamed him Coolidge, after the presidential tradition of Garfield, selecting Coolidge among the presidents because he didn’t say much.

When we brought him home, Coolidge made a beeline for cover under the bed. I got down and extended a treat to him with my hand, and he deftly took it. But he wasn’t coming out.

We waited a few hours, and my husband put his hand on Coolidge’s back, and gently pulled him forward till I could pick him up. Coolidge looked terrified, but snuggled into my arms. He seemed to feel safe enough with us, but hesitated to leave the safety of the bedroom. I coaxed, and finally carried Coolidge into the kitchen and showed him a bowl of kitten kibbles. He ate them. I put him on the litter box we had prepared, optimistic that we would come home with a kitten. He knew what to do.

Coolidge had one more family member to meet: Hardy, our then 12-year-old Shetland sheepdog. They established a mutual tolerance and non-persecution compact.

We successfully persuaded Coolidge that he was too precious to go outdoors, and he never pushed the issue. The outdoors had been only trouble in his first two months of life. For one thing, he had contracted lungworm, which took close to a month to resolve with medication.

It was a month before Coolidge ventured into the dining room, but as he grew, he explored more. When he was two years old, he broke one of his hocks on a routine prowling mission. We suspect he incurred the injury prowling the rafters of the basement ceiling. The vet put a cast on his leg, with instructions to keep him confined to a cage, with no running or jumping, for 10 weeks.

My husband built a large cage for him with wood and light fence wire. Coolidge wasn’t happy, but he wasn’t as morose as I expected he might become. His quarters were in the living room, where I could spend a lot of time with him. I made an advent calendar to check off the days of our kitty’s captivity, and hung it on his enclosure.

Coolidge became diabetic when he was eight years old. He hated tinned food and would eat only kibbles, which are high-carb. I joined the Feline Diabetes Board online and learned how to treat Coolidge’s diabetes and how to cope with the sorrow of his compromised life. I checked his glucose and administered his insulin shots twice a day for the next nine years.

For the last two years of his life, Coolidge also had hyperthyroid, and I treated that as well. Then, at 17, chronic renal failure struck. There is no surviving it. Coolidge lived to be 17, which is exceptional for a cat with his health issues. He was never over-strong; he simply had people with a never-never-never-never-give-up ethos.

Coolidge surrendered his vitality on God’s time, without euthanasia, at home in my arms, on August 13, 2015, at 3:45 in the morning.  It was peaceful and awful at the same time. I held him through his throes. My husband built a wooden casket for our amazing cat of 17 years, and we put him in the ground in our small orchard. That was when I finally cried.

I called our vet when his office opened to let him know, and we commended each other for Coolidge’s good care over the rigorous years. But I had a question, and it was hard to ask, because I thought it would seem terrible. But I had to ask. I called our vet again at 4:30 in the afternoon. “Dr. A, I have never slept in this house without a cat!” (We had moved here five years earlier, when Coolidge was 12.) “I don’t think I can! Would it be horrible to get another cat right away?”

Our vet was not judgmental, but reassuring. “Sometimes it can be very healing to get another cat right away,” he said kindly.

My husband agreed. I called the pet shop that hosts select pets for the Animal Shelter. They had two kitties: a small, sickly male kitten; and a small, pretty, healthy, young, active, year-old spayed female Tabby, who less than half an hour later was ours! We named her Euphemia, Effie for short.

And no regrets!

(Note: This post was originally published at Eel Creek Chronicles by the author, Lauren Bottomly. All photos and text remain the property of the author.)

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42 thoughts on “How soon is it thinkable to replace your faithful feline companion when he or she passes on?

  1. Christopher Tilley says:

    I don’t think that there is a right answer to the question.
    My first 2 cats were 13 and 20 when they died within a month of each other. It was 6-7 months before I got another pair. One died last year at 16 due to the complications of his IBD and the other will be 17 in about 6 weeks. If / when he passes, I don’t know if I will get more or not.

  2. Clare Hemington DipCAPBT says:

    We each respond differently to the death of one of our beloved feline family members and therefore, when or whether to get another cat, I believe, is an individual choice. There are no right and wrongs.

  3. Embla Ester Granqvist says:

    I have really struggled with this question. My first cat was about five years old when she was hit by a car. We had just moved to a new place, and there are plenty of cats around, but also a road where pretty much everyone breaks the speed limit.
    I was of course heartbroken, and got pretty upset with my boyfriend who suggested to get a new one, quite shortly after. He convinced me though, and we agreed that a kitten who grow up here would probably be smarter about crossing the road. All the other cats around here stay away from it, and our kitten would most likely learn from them.
    It turns out that this new cat was more like a dog. He was more careless than any cat I’ve seen, and was happier about following me around on my daily walks than hanging out with other cats (I even started taking extra walks because he loved it so much).
    But he also went on his own adventures, and one morning I found him lying on the other side of the road.
    I still blame myself for it – how stupid and selfish of me to take a cat to a place like this! But at least I know that he had the time of his life living with us. Although it was much too short.
    I can’t describe how much I miss my cats, but getting a new one is out of the question. At least until I live somewhere far away from any roads.

    • Lauren says:

      Every vet I’ve known advocates that cats be indoors, unless they out with you with a halter and lead. If you go to my own blog, Eel Creek Chronicles, and search “Effieland” you will see Effie’s outdoor romping space. It’s fully enclosed, including overhead fencing to keep raptors out. Effie is happy to be indoors and outside, and she’s safe. She is never in her yard when we’re not at home–she stays indoors. I’m pretty certain it’s true that outdoor cats simply do not live as long as indoor cats. Some cats learn to dodge cars, but how will you know yours will?

      • Embla Ester Granqvist says:

        That’s pretty interesting. I don’t know anyone in Sweden who would recommend keeping cats indoors. Around here people are mostly of the opinion that not ever being let out is torture for a cat. I can’t really agree with any of the two. All I know is that most cats I’ve known have been more comfortable outside, but I’ve also known a few who prefer chilling on the couch all day.
        I’ve never lived close to a road before, and was much too used to let my cats come and go as they please, to realize how stupid I was.
        I won’t be getting a cat again if I have to keep it indoors. Not that I completely disagree that you should, but my house is way too tiny for a cat to be comfortable.
        Oh, and effieland looks awesome!

        • Lauren says:

          Thanks so much for your comprehensive and thoughtful response, Embla! There are so many variables to consider–and I’m a Yank with no concept of Swedish life, really, though I was there briefly while buzzing through Europe in the mid-80s.

          You weren’t stupid. Cats are a learning curve unto themselves, and there is probably no such thing anywhere as a Cat Genius. Take care!

  4. weggieboy says:

    I hadn’t planned on replacing Louie when he died at age 7 from lymphoma. He was too special. Yet, when I picked up his ashes, a technician brought out this strange little furball that reminded me of – what? And the little furball walked directly to me when set down on the counter, instantly winning my heart!

    “What is it?” I asked. The furball had the wild look of Willie the groundskeeper in the Simpsons…. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to run! LOL!

    “A Persian kitten,” the technician told me, and she offered him to me if I wanted it, but only after he was old enough tp leave his mommy.

    A few weeks later, I picked him up. The wait gave me time to mourn Louie, yet something to look forward to. The rest of the story is I also got his brother because the two played well together, and they have become the center of my blog, which had no particular direction until I got them and added the tagline “surviving retirement with two cats”.

    When is the right time to replace a deceased kitty? Your heart will tell you because there is no standard answer measured in time.

    Here’s a look at Andy when he first came home with me.

    • Lauren says:

      What a heartening account, Weggie! Great retirement plan, too! We don’t mind so much things falling when they all fall into place!

  5. franhunne4u says:

    Just Monday last week I had to ask the vet to euthanize my tom – his kidney report came back so bad, the vet recommended immidiate action – and the option of medication was not given. So now I have a social but now lonely 7 year old cat in my home, who for now does mourn a little but right now is quite content. I am sad with the loss of Tom, my sometimes grumpy gentleman … but I know, for Kessy’s sake I cannot wait eternally to get another.

    • Lauren says:

      That sounds thoughtful to both you and Kessy–maybe Tom would like another pal, too–that’s totally your call. It would likely be hard on the new chum to lose Tom so soon.

  6. helentastic67 says:

    I don’t thi k Jamima is going to make it to 17, she is close but while it breaks my heart I think it won’t be long before she goes to God so to speak. I might find this decision easier knowing a friend has 2 year old cats that need adopting. And that time is coming closer and closer. We can never replace them we just need to open our hearts to new personalities and love. Where’s my cat! Want every moment to last………

    • Lauren says:

      I think you will love Jamima wholeheartedly and embrace the new cat wholeheartedly when the time comes to transfer your affection. . . .

  7. maryltonks says:

    I agree that it’s a very individual choice. I think I would get another baby soon. Usually I’ve had multiple cats and this is not so much an issue for us. >^..^<

  8. Kate Crimmins says:

    The decision is different for different people. I have more than one cat, so I’m never “catless.” I didn’t expect to get a 4th cat again when my cat died two years ago but then I saw one that needed a home. She had only one eye and would be harder to place. Hopefully the little sickly kitten got a home too.

    • Lauren says:

      Of course people will vary in such a decision. I had never slept in our house without a cat (we’d lived here five years). Our perceptive vet read me well, in assuring me that it could be very healing to get another cat very soon. I don’t know about the sickly kitten–I hope he was rescued too. Effie being young and active was definitely a welcome and healing providence.

    • Lauren says:

      Coolidge was in chronic renal failure and respiratory compromise, and that final few days enabled me to grieve. I simply knew that Coolidge would pass from life in his own ready time, and he did. It also helped that Effie is not a #2 “okay whenever you’re ready” type of cat! She was ready to be our cat. We were ready to be her people. It was a lock.

  9. heretherebespiders says:

    I had to rush. Our bereaved cat Lokii was sinking into depression, eating fabric, and crying constantly when Spot died. He bonded with his new brother Lumi in under a week and they are as insperable as he was with my good old man Spot.

    • Lauren says:

      Cats can be so wonderful at bonding, especially when they’re motivated, as they are in grief. I’m happy for your restored harmony!

  10. usathroughoureyes says:

    Such a great post. It is definitely a very difficult decision. We personally have discovered waiting is best so as not to transpose special remembrances of the lost pet on the new one. Each is individual.

    • Lauren says:

      I think your observation is astute and well considered. In our case, there’s no overlay of remembrances from Coolidge transferred to Effie–or vice versa. They are very different; I’d say they have really nothing notable in common. And I really applaud your reasoning. Every case is different. Stay cheered–the right cat and the right time always seem somehow to converge.

  11. flyhummingbirdfly says:

    I’ve had many clients ask me this. I tell them it’s not “replacing” your loved one. But it’s them feeling that they have more love to give and that another animal could be this lucky to enjoy the love they are able to provide.

  12. zodiacimmortal says:

    Weggieboy.. LOVE Andy! my Sully makes the same noise sometimes.. though I call her grumpy old cats when she does.

    As for how long… we got Sully 2 days short of a month to the day after my last cat died.

  13. ddominikwickles says:

    Our sweetheart, Aggie, passed on the end of October. We had planned on waiting to adopt another until summer(we are renting looking for a house to buy) but I was missing Aggie terribly and having withdrawal symptoms from not petting and snuggling with a feline 🙂 Just 2 weeks ago we adopted two sister kittens. Guess what, no more withdrawal symptoms!

    • Lauren says:

      What a lovely account! Cats can really boost their peoples’ healing. It makes me happy that your kitties got a loving home, and you got over the painful withdrawal symptoms. Thanks for sharing your story!

  14. Rohvannyn says:

    It really varies. I know someone who is a serial cat owner. Same with dogs. When one passes away, she seems to always replace them within a week. As for me, I personally hurt too much to get another cat right away. It took me more than a year to even think of finding another cat friend when Orion passed away, and quite a bit longer to actually do it.

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