Rehoming beloved cat in a week. How do I not get consumed with grief?
September 12, 2022 9:32 AM   Subscribe

We adopted a couple of senior cats from a rescue in April. They've never liked each other, but they seemed to be cohabitating fine. About 5 weeks ago the younger, larger one attacked the older, smaller one. Reacclimation has failed. We decided to rehome the younger one - she'd be a more attractive pet for someone than the older one. We're giving her up in a week, and I get consumed by grief when I interact with her or think about her. I have too much free brain space to ruminate and I have to stop. How?

I love both these cats so much. They were both in really rough shape when we got them from the shelter. They came from the same home and have been living together along with another cat (who passed away) since Baby was a kitten. Their previous owner had died, and she either wasn't able to care for them in the time leading up to her death, or she might even have died and not been found for a while. They were both severely matted (the shelter had them trimmed before we got them), they were both anemic and they were both very scared.

We've made a lot of progress with both of them. Baby, the one we're rehoming, is 14 years old. She was severely overweight, she had lesions on her butt, and she could barely walk due to her weight, the distribution of her weight and general deconditioning. We've got her on a diet of food she loves in a quantity that doesn't leave her hangry, and she's been losing weight safely under the guidance of out vet. She loves to play and she's been getting stronger. Her blood work is clear (we had to take her to an emergency vet early on who told us not to get too attached based on her blood workup). She walks just fine now, and she even made a leap from some furniture to the bed the other day! She's a lovable, vocal, soft kitty who loves being with her people and getting tummy rubs. But she's always been very jealous of attention we give to Smokey, our 20-year-old. One day I came home to find Smokey growling in the living room with a shocking amount of fur everywhere. When I approached him Baby came in and went after him again, but I was able to fend her off before she got to him. It was terrifying. Smokey was not putting weight on his right foreleg and I was concerned it was injured.

I took him to the emergency vet who determined that Smokey was physically uninjured from the attack, but he was severely traumatized. We've been keeping them in separate parts of the house which is unsustainable. He bounced back from his trauma pretty quickly.

We started looking for candidates to adopt Baby right away. We finally found one who lives on a single floor, where someone will be home pretty much all the time, they'll continue her diet regimen and use the same vet. Most importantly, she will be the only pet. We're confident this will be a good home for her.

I know cats don't have the same sense of "morality" as humans, and I know Baby isn't evil, but she caused a major upheaval in our life and made it untenable for us to keep her. I was angry and sad and disappointed. I focused on continuing to love her and treat her with kindness, and I quickly got over the anger and disappointment, but not the sadness.

I'm having such a hard time when I interact with her. I love her so much, and I'm going to miss her little chirps and trills, the way she asks for pets, the way she greets me when I come home. I'm going to miss seeing her progress back into health and fitness. I also feel guilty about upending her life again. I don't want her to feel like she's being punished or abandoned. She likes it here and she seems to really like us, and I know she's going to be confused and scared for days or weeks after we take her to her new home. I can barely type this through my tears. She has no idea what's going to happen. When rehoming was theoretical it was fine, but now it's coming up fast and it's all too real.

Making it worse is that Smokey has chronic kidney disease, and we're managing it, but he goes through cycles where his symptoms get worse and then better and I'm afraid he won't be with us much longer. I really want my little old fella to be healthy and happy and I want him to stay alive for pets and cuddles as long as he's not suffering, but honestly he could go at any moment. He's had some rough times, and he deserves to ride out his golden years in an environment of love, which he has with us. But the thought of losing both out precious cats is really unbearable. We were international cat-sitters from 2018-2021 and have looked after a lot of cats, many of whom we fell in love with. It was always sad to leave after getting to know a cat for several weeks, but Baby and Smokey are our first very-own cats.

I need some ways I can get my brain to stop plunging me into grief all the time. My current work contract was supposed to keep me super-busy which would have worked, but the work has been really light. I can't really leave the house to go for a walk or anything since I need to be available immediately if anything breaks loose with work. So I'm pretty much just hanging with the cats most of the time.
posted by under_petticoat_rule to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Has Baby had a chance to visit her new place? When I was fostering and placing cats, I would often take them to the new place briefly, let them get a look/smell around, and leave a little of their scent. It was definitely stressful for them, but then it ended quickly and I brought them back to my home.

But then, when they went to the new place permanently, it wasn't totally unfamiliar; it was less stressful, I believe. They usually settled in happily while I was still there dropping them off.

So, at least that could alleviate some of your concern over Baby's stress.

For you: you're a good person. I hope you are kind to yourself.
posted by amtho at 9:42 AM on September 12, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Possibly a mantra that you could repeat when negative thoughts encroach: "I'm doing the right thing", or "I'm helping Baby and Smoky live their best lives", or something - because it is true - you ARE doing the best thing and you ARE helping them both live their best lives. Guilt is hard even when it's illogical, as it usually is.
posted by j810c at 9:51 AM on September 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I know this is a cliche, but you need to try to focus on the moment. If you let yourself think about the future, it will steal the last time you have with her. with her. Enjoy every little thing about her, all the things you've mentioned. The tears will probably come anyway, but they're not the point. In many ways, this is like having a terminally ill pet. I'm so sorry, but it sounds like you're doing the right thing for them both.
posted by praemunire at 9:54 AM on September 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Oh, also: there was no better reassurance than seeing a newly rehomed cat curled up on a bed or a cat tower or playing or eating, not even noticing I was on my way to the door.
posted by amtho at 9:54 AM on September 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When you start feeling bad, remember that Baby gets a new, safe, home where she won't traumatize Smokey. You are amazingly good to your cats and are making such a good, though painful, decision. Baby is so lucky to have landed with you. You can wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it when you have persistent negative thoughts, a swell as having a mental or written list of alternate thoughts. Music may help with persistent negative thoughts, try to redirect your attention to something positive.
posted by theora55 at 10:06 AM on September 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We took on some cats from one of my wife's cousins, back in March - "Pretty" and "Taylor". The cats were middle-aged (~9 or 10), but were basically competing on basic care for everything with the dogs in the house. Her cousins were sad to lose them. Their behaviors were described as problematic ("Taylor only likes males," "Pretty is aggressive with other animals and will bolt if a door is left open"). The first week, they were definitely weirded out and displayed some of the problematic behavior. After a month, they were both extremely friendly and outgoing with both of us, regularly sleeping with us in the bed. Taylor is a feral cat, and definitely retains some flight/hide tendencies if you approach her, but is absolutely changed from when we first got them.

All this to say is that cats want to be happy, and the current situation will never allow for that. You're giving her another chance at happiness. I'm not sure if you have any connection with the rehoming hosts, but if they can give you updates on her progress, it can definitely help feel like they're just moving to a better place. We send pictures to her cousin regularly, who is shocked and pleased at how well they acclimated. She feels less like she failed at giving them a good home.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 11:08 AM on September 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Definitely get yourself a mantra about doing the right thing, or that this is about putting Baby's (and Smokey's) needs above your own. You're making a sacrifice to make their lives better, and it wouldn't hurt if you didn't care so much.

Baby will be okay, probably even more okay than she is now. You did a GOOD JOB getting her to a place where she can be rehomed when she needs it, and that's important work. Think about the good times you had with her (and vice versa), when you're tempted to dwell for too long about how bad this feels. Come up with some Top 5 Lists for Baby, than you can refer back to when you need them. Top 5 Glowups, Top 5 Cute Habits, etc.

You will also be okay eventually, though you may always have a little pawprint on your heart for her. That's okay too.

Make sure you get some pictures with her, like together. You may not want to look at them for a while but you'll likely be glad you have them later.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:42 AM on September 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like you're taking excellent care of your cat friends, and I'm sorry that's so painful.

Based on what you've written I genuinely believe Baby and Smokey will be okay and this will be hardest on you. If you are someone who could imagine talking to Baby, maybe when you start to feel bad tell Baby about her new home and how great it's going to be, and how you will miss her so much but she'll be so happy with a whole person and territory with no stairs all to herself, absolute monopoly on belly rubs, etc etc. Of course I'm just telling these comforting things to myself, not the cat, not coincidentally I would probably be weeping copiously the whole time, but the distraction of naming good things to look forward to sometimes helps me manage all the emotions around things.
posted by jameaterblues at 5:07 PM on September 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ohhhh. This is so hard, and I'm so sorry. If it might help, just remember you're doing what you can to give Smokey the old age / peace he needs, not getting driven out and attacked in his home. And even when he does pass, that won't have been a waste - it will always have been a kindness you gave him while he was ailing and elderly. You can't avoid grief (alas) but you can know you took good care of your kitties in the ways that were possible for you and them.
posted by Lady Li at 11:40 PM on September 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, all your answers have helped immensely.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 11:43 AM on September 14, 2022

« Older Citi Bike (NYC) not waiving "Lost" Bike fee...   |   In need of a new period tracking app/website. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.