Experiences with pet grief and replacement
November 19, 2008 12:06 PM   Subscribe

How did you deal with pet loss grief? I want to collect people's experiences with waiting to get another pet or getting one right away and the relative merits of each.

One of our cats died suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday and my partner and I are a little divided on how to proceed. I agree with the part of her argument that feels its in the interest of our other cat to have a buddy since that is all he's known (having other cats around that is) and he will likely get lonely and moody if he is by himself (hes already moody.. but hey, hes a cat). She thinks also that having another cat will help her move on where I feel precisely opposite- I want to wait a little bit to let the grief pass so the new cat doesn't always remind of how much I miss the other one.

To be clear- I am interested in your experiences with losing a pet in a home with more than one. Is this in the interest of the pet that survives? How did it help you as or hurt you as a pet steward to either wait or not wait? Obviously we have our own thoughts and proclivities but I want to know how it has played out for others. This is a decision that I do not take lightly because pet ownership is a serious responsibility and I want to make the best choice for all of us, cat included. While I welcome stories from all varieties of animals, obviously cat-centric answers will be the most helpful to me.

While I have seen other threads on this I am interested in a more balanced perspective- this is just as much about our other cat as it us.
posted by zennoshinjou to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have lived with my roommate for over 6 years. Upon our first living together I got a kitten. A year later, my roommate got a kitten. So our cats spent their whole lives together. Last year my cat went missing for 45 days, and my roommate's cat was totally distraught, crying all the time. Then my cat came back, and things were cozy and fine.

This past September, my roommate's cat died, and my cat was definitely confused and sad, and has sought lots of attention from me. My roommate took a few weeks before she started looking at new cats. We went to the shelter, but she didn't feel a connection with any of the cats/kittens, so we waited. Then last week, a stray kitten showed up at the store where my roommate works, and my roommate just fell in love. He was definitely meant to be our new cat.

We brought him home and introduced him to my cat. So far, my cat has not warmed up to him. She isn't particularly mean to him, but she doesn't love him the way she loved our old cat. But that could change. Who knows. But things are just fine, regardless.

If I were you, I would wait until YOU are ready for a new cat and get a cat you love for itself, not as a replacement. Your other cat will likely not be best buddies for a while with whatever cat you bring in, so you should do it on your own time-table. Just give your present cat lots of love. I'm sorry you lost a kitty.
posted by greta simone at 12:28 PM on November 19, 2008

I got two kittens (brother and sister) for my 10th birthday. The girl died a couple years ago at age 15. At first I thought about getting a kitten right away, to keep my boy cat company, but I didn't (couldn't afford it, etc...). In retrospect, I think it was good for him and I to have "quality time" alone together. He grieved with me, and we got even closer. (Crap, I'm talking about my cats like their people...) I think he liked being a spoiled only child. He died in May, and it hurt like hell, but didn't want to get a kitten right away, because it would have made me be sad all over again. But, toward the end of July my husband and I decided that it had been long enough, and it was time to get another cat. So we adopted a kitten from the Humane Society. I still get misty-eyed sometimes when our kitten does things that remind me of my cats that I had for so long. I think I always will.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:28 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am so sorry for your loss.

My sister and her husband lost one of their pugs this past summer. He was the dominant one of the two, and while they were grieving, their other pug was taking it even harder. The other dog would cry in his sleep and would just lie around (where before the two dogs were always chasing and playing with each other), so he gained some weight. My sister told me that she would take him out to pee, and he hardly knew what to do - she said he would just follow the other dog and do what he did. It was so sad to see him like that.

Like you with your cat, they had a hard time deciding whether to get another dog and when. My brother-in-law was dead set against another dog right away, but my sister argued that since the living dog was so lonely, the other dog was more for him than for them. Since they both work outside the home, it was really hard on the one dog to be alone (he was a little nervous before the death). So she stuck to her guns and brought home a pug/French bulldog mix puppy. I was there when the two dogs met, and it didn't take long for them to get along (of course, cats may be different). It's nice for the older pug to now be "the boss" and he seems like himself again, albeit with some weight to lose. The other dog is happy too.

For a cat example, when our first childhood cat died at the age of eighteen, the other cat (who's about 4-5 years younger) definitely grieved as well. The first cat was a loud meower and the younger one wasn't. Once the first cat died, the living one developed this loud meow, and still has it several years later. I swear the cat shrunk due to grieving, but that could also be due to aging. My parents also had a big black lab. Where the cats never paid her much attention before, once Fluffy (yes, Fluffy) died, the other cat started to get closer to the dog, and would always give her a onceover whenever she came in from outside. They would often snuggle together by the fireplace. When the dog died a few months ago, the cat's personality didn't seem to change too much, but he is quite old himself now and is probably happy to have the peace and quiet (no kids, no other pets means full pick of all the best spots to sit and do cat things without anyone bugging him). My parents don't plan to get any more pets after this, and I think the cat is fine with this.

I hope you come to a decision that works for your entire household quickly. It's a hard question.
posted by melissa at 12:35 PM on November 19, 2008

My most sincere condolences.

One of our cats, Linus, died in April. He was nearly 20. Then, Soren died in June. He was about 15.

We had one remaining cat, a somewhat nervous female cat named Lady. Her behavior didn't change much, but she spent a fair amount of time after both Linus and Soren died just kind of wandering around the apartment, looking.

We were both devastated. We cried a lot. For several weeks after Linus died, I kept thinking that I was seeing him, just out of the corner of my eye.

The thing is, we've both lived for a long time in multiple-cat households. I don't know if Lady was lonely, but we were. (Lady tried her best to be three cats, but it seemed like a lot to ask of her.) We went to the SPCA one day in late July, about a month after Soren died, and ended up with two kittens (Roswell on the left, Yorvit on the right). Other friends of ours, when their cats died, waited several years before getting another cat. That, to me, seemed too long. But it was right for them.

We were lucky in that we both felt ready to adopt new cats at about the same time. We both still miss our late, beloved cats. Really miss them - like, just looking at their pictures now, I'm kind of weepy. My own opinion, with the strong, strong caveat that YMMV a lot, is that adopting a new cat within a week of the old one's passing is too soon. It's natural to mope around the house and cry right now. It's okay to miss your old cat. If your remaining cat isn't displaying any Big Red Flag kinds of behavior changes (not eating, crapping outside the box, etc.), then just be sure to cuddle and pet and play with him an extra amount.

Good luck, and again, my condolences.
posted by rtha at 12:38 PM on November 19, 2008

Mrs. Director is a big tender-heart and the loss of pets is always devastating, each and every time.

I've found that I needed to give her at least six months to grieve before talking about a new dog in the family but I eventually decided it was just too much for her to go through and we've stopped dog-go-round.

There are a lot of things we miss about having dogs but there are also many things we definitely do not. The primary example of the latter is death.

Pet grief is real grief so don't try to short-change it or rationalize it away with, "But its just a pet" type of thinking. Let it take its proper course.
posted by trinity8-director at 12:54 PM on November 19, 2008

My parents had two cats that they got as kittens from the same litter. When the boy cat (Ralph) died at around age 11, the girl cat (Bigfoot) became much more affectionate towards them. Previously she was the aloof one and he was the needy one. In their case I don't think another cat would have been the right choice for them (humans or cat). They got to have some more quality time with Bigfoot in the years before she died and she seemed to enjoy the attention. She was already an older cat by that point and overweight so I think a rambunctious kitten would have just annoyed her, but I don't really know.

In other pets, I had a bonded pair of rabbits until one of them died very suddenly this spring. The remaining bunny, Freckles, definitely has shown signs of grief. He would probably love a new bunny pal, since they are social creatures, but it's not in the cards. I just try to spend more time with him, even though I know it's not the same.
posted by cabingirl at 1:28 PM on November 19, 2008

Thanks everyone for your input- I really appreciate your sincerity and it just reminds me how wonderful animal people are (not that I could forget!). This all really helpful and I look forward to hearing more.
posted by zennoshinjou at 2:11 PM on November 19, 2008

I lost my childhood cat a few years ago in a rather sudden way. The cat had been living with my parents but I thought of her often and felt a deep affinity and abiding affection for her. She lived with my parents because she wouldn't deal with moving- she would be throwing up and hiding weeks after the attempted move and wouldn't recover to her normal saucy self until she was returned to their home.

One day my parents called and said that she had gotten sick and the vet had offered two options- hydrate her and wait and see or have a $1000 test. They had opted for hydration and she had died on their bed in the night. They buried her in our garden under a nice tree, wrapping her in a shroud of my childhood book bag. I was swamped with grief- I literally couldn't stop crying for several days. Part of me was angry with them, because I would have paid for the test without a second thought and I felt like I couldn't second-guess their decision, but wished they had told me so I could offer.

A month later, on a trip, I cried in nearly every museum we visited- there was the cat bust that reminded me of her, the warm nook which reminded me of her favorite dozing spot, etc.

We adopted a cat four months after that, and the times I'd think of her and cry diminished (though I have tears rolling down my face now). Now I find it more difficult to think of how she felt cradled in my arms, or her personality quirks. I still have her picture everywhere and think of her often, but it is with love and affection rather than that stabbing pain. Our new cat has taken her place in my life, but she still has a place in my heart as well. I think adopting the new cat was the right thing to do, and we could have even done it a little earlier than we did.
posted by arnicae at 2:27 PM on November 19, 2008

I'm sorry for your loss. We somewhat recently lost one of our four cats, and I'm still torn as to whether we did handle (are handling) it in the best way for the other cats.

He died unexpectedly in mid-July while we were out of town, so we had absolutely no preparation - when we left he was a not-too-old cat with a chronic but manageable illness, and we had no way to imagine he'd die while in our cat-sitter's care. I mention this only because I have no idea how the unexpected factor affects our grieving process - or how it might matter that I was and am unbelievably angry at the pet-sitter and at myself knowing it may have been preventable if she or I had made other decisions. Also because I don't know what it was like for the cats - he may very well have been sick and scared for hours before the petsitter found him and rushed him to the emergency vet, and I have no idea if that would have been scary/stressful for the other cats or if he just went off on his own and hid.

When we came back, all the other cats were acting really, really weird. Really skittish, yowling/meowing more than usual or at strange times, etc. More so than usual for when we come back from vacation. Two of the three settled down within about two weeks. The third, four months later, is better but still doing the weird meowing in the middle of the night. This doesn't entirely surprise me, though - he has never reacted well to living with other pets who moved away. Some cats are okay with being only cats and some are not, and this is definitely a cat who needs companions. I think maybe for him it would have been good to get another cat quickly. If by some awful chance he became an only cat, no matter how hard it was for me, I think I would have to suck it up and get another cat right away. I have seen him as an only cat and it's really sad and also irritating for people sharing a house with the wailing and carrying-on.

For my own grief process, I cried every day for weeks. I still think of my cat nearly every day, although thank god I'm not crying anymore. I am only just now feeling like maybe I would be ready soon for another cat. I needed some time to come to terms with him not being around, and the new dynamics that's created among the other cats and in our daily routines. I think at this point, if my partner were open to it, I'd be looking at getting a new cat around Christmastime and that would feel like about the right time. So happens my partner thinks three cats is really plenty, and I can see his point, so we're trying life with three for a while.
posted by Stacey at 3:41 PM on November 19, 2008

I'm so sorry for your loss.

I agree with the others who say wait until you're ready for a new cat. You, your partner, and your kitty need time to adjust to the grief. How much time depends on your and your cat's natural response, but in the past I've waited a few months before looking for new kittens.

Along those lines, I highly recommend if you get a new kitten, get one that is completely different than the one you've lost. Different markings, different temperament.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 3:45 PM on November 19, 2008

I'm sorry for your loss, zennoshinjuo . So very sorry. We're all prepared for their shorter lifespans logically, but our hearts just know we've lost a loved one.

We recently lost my oldest kitty just a few months after adopting a kitten. I had to wrestle with some feelings of deeper sorrow watching her doing her kitten-y thing when my little buddy's absence was still so freshly felt. If we'd had any idea how sick he was, I would have waited until I was more at peace with the change in our family. But we didn't, so there she was. In a way, her youth and curiosity have helped me to keep my mourning healthy and my heart open, so I can't say it's been a bad thing. Just a very conflicted thing.

That said, she's more my partner's kitty than mine, and I know we'll eventually add another, as our now-oldest and the youngster would do better together if she had a playmate more on her level. I'm waiting until I see the right kitty, until it feels right. Might be a couple more weeks, might be months. Based on past losses, I'm pretty sure I'll know when I'm more ready than not. Also based on that, though, I'm also sure I'll have moments of intense grief after getting the new kitty, because that's just what seems to happen.

The now-oldest went through a couple of weeks of mourning of his own. It took him a while to quit looking for his friend. Cats understand the concept of individuals, so it wouldn't have done any good to bring in some seemingly random interloper while he learned to do without our senior citizen. It would have just been new-kitty stress on top of "where's my brother?"

If you can get your partner to agree to wait until it feels right but do so within a timeline you both feel comfortable with, that seems like the best compromise for all concerned.

May the good memories and time heal the new wound, and your (eventual) search for a new ward be happily fruitful.
posted by batmonkey at 3:49 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I always say this in the "is it time?" threads:
You don't choose pets. They choose you.

You wanted experiences, so I'll share. I've currently got 3 dogs. Anyway

A long, long time ago, I had a mutt. His name was Potato. We were an amazing pair, me a single child and she my dog. We went everywhere together. We lived in the country. We would hunt fieldmice in the hayfield and play tag in the yard. We were inseparable. I got Potato when I was maybe 9 or so. That seems right. Maybe 8. Anyway, that dog and I...something special. I took her to obedience classes, I was the youngest in the room. She understood me to my core, and was the star of the class of fullbred, expensive animals. In the daytime, she'd walk with me to the schoolbus but stay out of its way. Then she'd spend all day with my dad (who was a park ranger), riding in his 1978 Dodge Power Ram, doing whatever it is park rangers do, from greeting guests to fixing toilets. Then, about 3:45 or so, she'd hear the bus coming from acres away. Yes, acres. Also, this park was at the bottom of a very large hill. Our house? At the top. She'd come to my father, and sit expectantly at his feet, kind of whimpering. He'd look at her, literally quivering in anticipation. "Well" he'd say, "go get him!". And BOOM she was off. Across the field, up the hill. I'd see her about 100 yards away and start to run up the hill to my house. We raced every single day always. Rain, snow, sunshine, it didn't matter. She beat me every single time, and then at the top of the stairs she'd leap up and tag me on my chest, waiting for me to open the door. From that moment on, I was her boy. I'd pet her maybe, or not. She'd sit with me as I did my homework. She see me to bed, and she'd sleep on the floor beside me.

Then one day, she didn't come home after we let her out. I called and called and called for her. That was fifth grade. Halloween. My parents told me to relax, to go to bed, that my best buddy's birthday party was the next day, which meant untold riches of candy and camaraderie. So I went to sleep. The next morning I woke up early. I've always been an early riser. "POTATO!" I said, realizing my dog wasn't in my room. I ran to the living room, it was cold and I wanted her INSIDE! I looked out the window, there she was in the front yard, laying peacefully and sleeping. I threw open the door. "POTATO, Come on girl!". She laid there. "Come on girl, it's cold!" Nothing. I ran out the door in my shorts and t-shirt. Down the little incline to her. As I came around her, I realized her eyes were open, her head was on her paws. She was gone. I started to scream.

I had learned very, very young that you shouldn't wake a 'Nam vet father either by screaming OR by shaking, but it didn't matter. My dog was gone. I have no idea how long I screamed. My father came running out in his robe and underwear to ask what was the matter. He has never cared for anything 1/3 as he cares for me. I pointed. He turned me, took me inside. They asked if I wanted to stay home from school to help bury her. I did not. I went to school. It sucked. My principal, the best principal ever ever ever, called me in and talked to me. He was great. I went to my friends house after school for birthday-party-cum-halloween.

Suddenly, my dad shows up with a puppy. I didn't want it. That was 1991. Bubbles passed away last year, in 2007. She was a great dog too, and she loved me, but she and I never had the same relationship as me and Potato. It wasn't that it was too soon, it wasn't that she wasn't perfect---it just wasn't the same.

So fast forward to 2002. I had just lost my redbone coonhound after a search and rescue demo, he'd had a seizure in my jeep and died. I was crushed. I had signed up to go on a 4 day SAR training course with Saiorse (my coonie, the decedent), and I still wanted to go. 5 weeks after Saiorse's death, I still didn't have a dog. The day, the very DAY I was to leave work and go to the training, I was preparing to leave the community center where I was a program director.

"Dogs?" someone shouted? "Yea puppies, they're soooo kyoooooooot!" said a second grader. "Get Tom" someone said. So out I came, to see a box full of puppies. 4 of them. I knew the second I saw her that she and I were going to be great together. I put my hand into the box. 3 puppies ignored me, she came to my hand. She crawled in. She sniffed me, looked up at me, licked me, and laid down. I was claimed.

That night we went on our camping trip and started our lives as inseparable creatures. She followed me over acres, as a 5 week old puppy. No SAR training, of course, but she was there! That night a thunderhead rolled in, and she earned her name. Storm is still with me today, living with her sister and her brother (not really kin, but they all live together) with my girlfriend as I search for a house here in Florida.

It never occurred to me until my dad said something a couple years into my having Storm. "Son" he said, "I never thought you'd find another dog as good as Potato. But you did. You and that dog are amazing." And then I dug out the photos. They even look similar. Potato and I ran through fields together, careless and happy. Storm and I run through fields, searching for missing people and people pretending to be missing.

My point, after all of that, is that I didn't pick Storm. She picked me. That's how I got her sister, Naya, and her brother, Freckles, and also the kitten we had for a while last year, Echo. (At Petco the shelter had cats. He freaked out when anyone picked him up. I pick him up, and he goes to sleep, and then proceeds to get very unhappy when anyone takes him away from me. Unfortunately he slipped out the door one evening, never to be seen again. Pretty sure a lady in the neighborhood is keeping him.) We're a motley crew, but we're pretty awesome.

My sincerest apologies for your loss and my rambling post. Just don't search for a new pet anymore than you'd "search" for a new girlfriend or boyfriend. The time will come, and you will know it when you see it.

My dad told me later that the hardest thing he'd ever had to do was bury my dog. He said it took him hours, he kept having to stop to cry. Potato had been shot in the guts by my piece of shit neighbors, who came back assholes after a year on sabbatical in Vermont when they didn't offer him the chance to stay. They also killed Potato's brother, Sabre. Should I ever meet any of them as an adult, they will learn what it is truly like to be visited upon by violence. Potato was shot about a half mile from my house. He came home because I called him and because he needed me to know that he hadn't abandoned me, disappearing in the night.
posted by TomMelee at 4:39 PM on November 19, 2008 [22 favorites]

Oh yea, big fat fail on the cat centric, btw. Sorry 'bout that.
posted by TomMelee at 4:39 PM on November 19, 2008

Its ok Tom.. oddly enough the dog I had since I was ~7 or 8 that lived with my parents recently died also (he was quite old.. 18!) so I can relate to dog stories as well. I really appreciate you and everyone sharing what I know are tough stories.
posted by zennoshinjou at 4:57 PM on November 19, 2008

That's really heartbreaking about your neighbors shooting your dogs... I can totally understand your feelings towards them. Its funny how animals will do things like Potato did when he came back... little cat still did all the things that made her so endearing and irreplaceable right up to the end.. even when she was so sick. I really don't understand folks who don't see all the love and awareness that animals have to give.
posted by zennoshinjou at 5:01 PM on November 19, 2008

Sorry for the glut of self-posts but I think TomMelee has a really great point about your pets choosing you. That's exactly how it was with little cat and I think that's something we need to keep in mind.

I know I said it above, but truly thank you for sharing your stories.
posted by zennoshinjou at 5:04 PM on November 19, 2008

Aww bro much <3. Hopefully others will continue to post!
posted by TomMelee at 5:09 PM on November 19, 2008

This isn't cat-centric, though I do have a cat in the late stages or renal failure so I'm trying to get used to the idea that I'll probably be losing her soon. But regarding the grief of losing a pet, I lost my horse last Christmas, and I have to say that while I don't walk around crying every day like I did for a couple of... well, longer than I want to say -- I do find myself getting a little teary as the one-year anniversary approaches.

I do have a second horse who seemed pretty mad at me for the first couple of days after my first horse was put down -- we had to do it in front of him, so I'm not sure whether there was trauma about that or not. But he would turn his back on me, walk away from me, refuse to greet me, etc which were behaviors that are absolutely not his usual MO.

I am now leasing another horse, and it's kind of hard. He makes me miss my first horse a lot because I'm realizing even more what a special relationship I had with him... but on the other hand, I have been missing that kind of partnership that we had and want to try to get that back with another horse. (My second horse is rather old and can't do much work-wise.) The second horse welcomed this new horse right away, so he's fine with it. Caveat: horses are not cats, but there's the same kind of acceptance/rejection/I hate this new guy thing with them as there is with any pet.

Anyway, so sorry for your loss, and yes, you will be sad for a while. You will know when you're ready for another cat. As for your living cat, all cats are different -- some will resent another cat coming in, while others will welcome it.

Hope all works out for you!
posted by OolooKitty at 5:09 PM on November 19, 2008

I, also, am so sorry for your loss. Please do take good care of yourselves.

You didn't mention how long ago your cat died. Days? A week? I think you will get a pretty good read on your remaining cat over the next week to month that will give you an idea of what they need.

Allow that to factor into what YOU need, but really be clear on what you need first.

The reason I say this, is if your cat feels lonely, I am sure you will do your best to fill in that empty space for him, he will get more rubs, treats, etc. And I feel you cat would probably adjust to the extra love.

Also, your cat may not like the cat you bring home. Then you will have other issues to deal with as well, so you need to be ready to take that on.

So, as getting or not getting a cat can go either way, it comes back to your love. Do you want to give your current cat all your love? Or do you want to bring another cat home and give them both all your love?

Just allow things to be for a bit. You will see if your house feels empty, or you are just having a more intimate pet-love fest with the cat who is still here. We all grieve in different ways, and it sounds like you and you partner are having opposing needs. Just let it be for a bit, allow yourselves to grieve, and I guarantee at some point, when you don't expect it, you will just 'know".

(If you like, you can check out the blog part of my website for ways of dealing with the loss.)
posted by Vaike at 5:15 PM on November 19, 2008

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Not cat-centric, but... my mother has chocolate labs. My brother and I have fully accepted that we rank far below them on the "favorite children" scale. Her first lab, the male (Hershey)was a giant lovable wuss. All bark, no bite - but an incredible caring creature.

We'd always been a one dog family, but several years after she'd gotten Hershey, she decided to get a companion female for him... at first he had this sad look about him like "why, wasn't I enough of a pet to you? what did I do to deserve this little brat?" But as the years went on, he and Nestle were a great pair of siblings, good companions both for each other and my parents. November 2005, suddenly Hershey collapsed in the living room. In a matter of days he's diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and we lost him. It hit all of us really hard - such a gentle giant to be lost so quickly to us. We had always thought that Nestle had been the alpha, but after he was gone, she was miserable - crying, trying to get into bed with my parents, carrying around Hershey's old toys, having anxiety attacks when anyone would leave through the garage (the last place she saw Hershey, mom's theory). I didn't think my parents were ready to get another dog (we tend to grieve long and hard for our animals) but by spring my folks had a call into the breeder again...

The breeder called with the spring litter and had a proposal for my mom. She had a dud in the litter, and knowing that my parents wanted a pet, not an animal to show/trial/breed, she offered him at a discount. My mom wasn't keen on him at first, but the rest of us convinced her that being offered a weird little genetic freak was a sign from fate - he was meant to be a member of our family. So by April Milk-Dud came home and Nestle went from a total neurotic ball of anxiety to a normal lab again. She's definitely the alpha this time, and I think her mourning of Hershey helped all of us get "back on the horse" again. They will tell you that they did it for her, but I think fate had it's hand in it too - if we weren't offered the little freak, we might not have done it. I too believe that our animals choose us... and we're all glad Dud popped up and made life normal again. (Or as normal as it can be with two labs...)
posted by librarianamy at 7:32 PM on November 19, 2008

When the mister and I got married, we had a cat, Sam. About 2 years into our marriage, we added a second cat, Aiko. They bonded and Aiko would daily love on Sam and then kick his ass to take over the spot he'd just warmed up. (Clearly he did it for her.) When we added a puppy to the mix, the cats taught the dog manners and made sure that the dog always gave cats the respect they demanded.

Seven years ago, Sam had to be put to sleep due to an aggressive cancer. It sucked. We initially said we wouldn't get another cat. Six months later, we took in another cat. She and Aiko never got along. Aiko didn't want another cat around. After five years of stalemates, cold wars and inappropriate potty behavior, Aiko was an only cat again and Ella found a new home where she's really happy. The decision to rehome her was worse than the decision to put Sam to sleep.

Yesterday, Aiko, at the age of 15, was sent to the great beyond. She was done and there was no more we could do for her. After holding her in my arms as she passed, I'm in no rush to add a new cat to the family. For the first time since I got married nearly 15 years ago, I had to sleep in my own bed last night without the familiar warmth and purr next to me.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid that the new dog (we're up to three at the moment) may also have to be put to sleep this week too. I'm hoping for a final diagnosis on Saturday and if it is what we think, there's nothing to we can do to fix her. I'm pretty numb at the moment. So last week, we had four pets. Probably by Thanksgiving, we'll have two. I don't want to have to deal with two end of life events in a year much less in a week. We'll just stay at two dogs for a while.

I'm sorry you're going through this. Just know that when you do decide to take on another pet, it is not a replacement. Ella wasn't a replacement of Sam. They were different animals with different personalities. Aiko will not be replaced either even if we eventually adopt another cat.
posted by onhazier at 7:35 PM on November 19, 2008

Oh TomMelee! Now I'm going to wake up in the morning with some seriously puffy eyes.
posted by greta simone at 8:35 PM on November 19, 2008

I'm really sorry to hear about that onhazier.. hopefully it won't be time for your dog to go too.

I know I sound like a broken record, but thanks to everyone who continued to post. I know its tough to revisit these memories.
posted by zennoshinjou at 4:46 AM on November 20, 2008

Sadly, we're going to be facing this question sooner than we'd like, and I appreciate everyone's comments a lot.

When we had to let go of my Rudy* rather unexpectedly a few years ago, it was honestly the worst day of my life ever ever ever, and thinking of it can bring up the tears like nothin'.

After that it took a while for me to re-warm-up to the other two cats -- I just looked at them and thought, "yeah, you're cute and all but YOU'RE GOING TO BREAK MY HEART."

I think I'll follow the advice to let them choose us. Timing-wise, find that sweet spot between when you can't bear to let another one into your heart, and when you've forgotten how much they enrich your life and don't want the hassle and heartbreak ever again.

*Rudy came with me to the family; the other two came with him
posted by mimi at 11:27 AM on December 10, 2008

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