What should I do for my friends whose cat just died?
April 26, 2008 9:04 AM   Subscribe

My good friends' cat just died. What can I get them/do for them?

They are a couple who has sort of "taken me in" since I am young and new to the city. I've spent many nights eating dinner at their house and playing with their cat. He had cancer and they had to unexpectedly/suddenly put him down. Is just a card appropriate? Is there anything else I can do for them or buy them to acknowledge the pain and perhaps also show that I share a small part of their grief?
posted by Maia to Pets & Animals (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have any nice photos you have taken of the cat? Frame one for them mebbe so?
posted by Iteki at 9:06 AM on April 26, 2008

If you could arrange a gift-of-kitten such that the gift-of-kitten may be guiltlessly refused and that the kitten itself is cute, that would be a bold and perhaps wonderful thing.

It could all burst into flames and tears alternatively. Your call.
posted by stubby phillips at 9:11 AM on April 26, 2008

Four years after my 22 year old cat Bump died, I still miss him. It's a process. Someone I barely knew at the time sent me an amazing card in which he wrote about a treasured cat had died many years ago but still visits him in his dreams. He wished me sweet dreams about Bump and indeed, he shows up regularly in my dreams. I took some comfort in that idea. The kindness of a note like this softens the edges of the sadness. Making a donation to a no-kill pet shelter in the cat's name is a nice gesture too. We have a local org. called Meow Cat Rescue (a no-kill shelter). At some future time, another delightful creature will find his/her way into their hearts... (Bump had big paws to fill... 3 cats now!)
posted by lois1950 at 9:25 AM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of our two cats passed away two weeks ago, and I wouldn't want a replacement made as a gift. (Pets as gifts are not a good idea, in my opinion -- ours were originally gifts to someone else and, obviously, not valued by the recipients.)

I second a photo, or even a good frame for them to put a favorite picture in. I haven't quite gotten around to doing it for our dear girl myself.
posted by shirobara at 9:28 AM on April 26, 2008

seconding the idea of photos - it is likely too soon to try & offer a new kitty (if you're really close with a cat they can be as irreplaceable as any person)

when my mum's cat of 16+ years died i secretly borrowed/stole all her photographs of the cat & made them into a book with captions - she loved it & still keeps it beside her bed

that said, they don't really need any particular "thing" - just be there for them - encourage them to remember & tell stories about their beloved friend - offer them your shoulder, your ears & your support & let them grieve
posted by jammy at 9:29 AM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Get them a nice sympathy card, and send them some pretty flowers. We did that when my sister-in-law's dog died, and she really appreciated it.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 9:31 AM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

When a friend's cat goes to the Happy Hunting Ground, my mother (an old cat lover) usually gives a contribution to the Cornell Feline Center in its memory. Please follow that link!
posted by thomas144 at 9:37 AM on April 26, 2008

When my friend's beloved cockatiel died, I printed out the Rainbow Bridge story on nice parchment paper and framed it for her. That was many years ago, and she still has it on her desk along with a photo of Festus (her bird). And yes, be prepared to listen when they want to talk about their cat, and share any funny or cute stories you remember about him ("I'll never forget that time I was having dinner with you and Whiskers crawled up on my lap and tried to steal my shrimp...")
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:37 AM on April 26, 2008

One of the most difficult things for a grieving pet owner to deal with is the sense that many others simply do not understand the importance of their pet, and the depth of their grief. I think that a nice card with a note mentioning your appreciation for them and for their cat is a remarkable gift in its own right, and more than enough.
posted by googly at 9:45 AM on April 26, 2008 [4 favorites]

If they have a garden, maybe a rose bush or some other shrub to plant in the cat's favourite spot. The photo/frame idea is good too. Any decent gift or department store will have some kind of pet-related picture frame (pawprints round the frame, that kind of thing).
posted by essexjan at 9:47 AM on April 26, 2008

I am in complete agreement with googly, but if you want to do more, a donation in the memory of the cat to a foundation researching cures for animal diseases, including cancer, is something I would have really appreciated from a friend last year when I lost two of my furs to cancer. The Morris Animal Foundation is one that was recommended to me here, and where I made a donation in recognition of our wonderful vets. I was also grateful for the cards and flowers I received from those who knew how much these cats meant to me.
posted by vers at 9:52 AM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Could you have a sculpture made of said cat? Or, possibly, a bust, with the cat's name on the pedestal.

Nthing the card and flowers, it's de rigeur for grieving folk. Sometimes all it takes is a gesture to show you care for them in their time of grief.
posted by WalterMitty at 10:25 AM on April 26, 2008

I think googly, about four posts up, said it perfectly.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 10:34 AM on April 26, 2008

Definitely no new pets as gifts! Anything that shows that you care, a card, note or flowers, or even a donation to a good cause (as others mentioned) would do the trick. It's so sad when a pet dies, but others taking your grief seriously does help a little.
posted by different at 10:51 AM on April 26, 2008

My wife and I had to put down our beloved fluffy kitty about four days ago. It's been a really rough couple of says, but things are slowly getting better. I'd second those who say that pictures of the pet might be a bit too soon.

One of the hardest things is the sense of empty/alone-ness that fills the house without the kitty pudding around and doing her familiar things. A personal gesture that says you care and understand and that they're not alone means a lot.
posted by verb at 10:57 AM on April 26, 2008

Nthing card and flowers, and taking them somewhere fun as a distraction.
posted by desjardins at 11:09 AM on April 26, 2008

When one of my 2 cats died rather suddenly, a friend came by with a large slab of smoked salmon, which may seem like an odd gift but was just perfect. Maybe a bottle of champagne to toast the life of the departed kitty would be just the right thing, too.

I can't recommend pointing them to that Rainbrow Bridge business. If they don't buy that particular view of the afterlife it's not going to help.
posted by zadcat at 11:24 AM on April 26, 2008

A card is a wonderful idea.
posted by Silvertree at 11:49 AM on April 26, 2008

This idea is so good. I am a dog and cat lover and I would be truly touched by something like that.. it's really simple, but so thoughtful and such a great way to remember your pet.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 12:07 PM on April 26, 2008

When my first dog had to be put down, a friend showed up at my door almost immediately with a tray of frozen manicotti, the same as she would have for a dead parent or spouse, because she knew that my dog was part of my family. I'll never forget that.

And a couple of days after he died, my vet sent me a note that really touched me. She pointed out that because of me, my dog had known love and security every day of his life. I can't describe how comforting that was; while I was immersed in feelings of helplessness about his death, she reminded me to think about what a great life he had.

So I would say that if they're immobile with grief, take them a meal, but at the very least, definitely send a card that tells them you're thinking of them. You could mention how much you liked their cat, and a reminiscence about her. or you can use my stock phrase now (thank you Dr. Sanford....)

"Because of you, ___knew love and happiness every day of her life."
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 2:40 PM on April 26, 2008

I lost my cat -- he'd been with me since I got him as a kitten 11 years ago -- a few months back. I know it's already been written several times, but I highly suggest you don't give them a new cat/kitten.

chocolatepeanutbuttercup really nailed it with why cards can be powerful: It not only shows your friends that you're thinking of them, but it helps reaffirm why the animal was so important and loved. My vet sent me a card, too, and I was surprised by how moved I was by the act and the card, even thought it was fairly generic.
posted by not_the_water at 3:47 PM on April 26, 2008

A few months ago, out cat Tubby died. She was old, she was sickly all her life, but my husband had taken her in as a runt kitten and had provided for her with everything and anything she could have wanted for all the days of her life. I later contributed when I came into their lives.

Tubby was eternally "Preparing her Report". OUr joke was that since Tub was a stern and often grumpy kitty who, when something happened that she did not approve of, would put the incident down in her "Report".

One day, she quietly died. My husband had gone out to lunch and came home to her still-warm body. He was wracked with guilt that he had missed her death, but I contended that she went off in another part of the house to be alone. Mr. Oflinkey was still inconsolable until I reminded him that Tub had now Turned In her Report and he had done very, very well.

Just keep in mind for your friends that this death is a death in the family. It is as serious and painful as any other. But do remind them, as other have said, that when it comes to the Report, they too have done very, very well.
posted by oflinkey at 3:54 PM on April 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

When my dear cat Sasha got hit by a car back when I was in grad school, I didn't find out for a day or so until the drunkard down the hall told me he'd thrown her in a garbage bag and into the dumpster.

Another neighbor in the house did the most amazing thing -- she showed up at my door with a jug of wine and a beautiful filet crochet-covered pillow. The filet lace was a picture of a cat. She said, "I called my mom and told her your cat died, and she said we could use this to bury your cat."

I had to tell my friend that the cat was in the dumpster. Then the even more amazing thing happened. This friend helped me dig through the dumpster, retrieve the smelly body, and drove out south of town with me to some University farmland to bury the cat on the pillow.

I am so glad you are thinking of your friends right now, and there are many good ideas up here (but nthing "Not a kitten".) I can tell you that, years later, I think this is one of the most touching things that has ever happened to me.
posted by lleachie at 4:58 PM on April 26, 2008

My namesake, JujuB, was the cat of a dear friend of mine. JujuB died at the age of 22. I had a life sized cement statue of a cat painted to look like JujuB. She keeps the statue in the sun room, JujuB's favorite place.

We both cried when I gave her the statue. I thought she would put it in the garden on JujuB's grave. She said no way, it's staying in the house where she can see it every day. It's been about 5 years now and JujuB is still guarding the sun room.
posted by JujuB at 5:29 PM on April 26, 2008

There is a wonderful children's picture book called Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant. It isn't so much a children's book as a book for anyone who has lost a beloved cat. I challenge cat lovers of any age to read it without feeling a little misty. When I worked at a bookstore, it flew off the shelves for grieving adults and kids alike. It addresses the loss of a cat in a way that isn't uber-religious or cloying. I find it a little less cheesy than the Rainbow Bridge, though that's also a good suggestion. It's a popular book, so you should be able to find it at any major bookstore.
posted by Locative at 7:01 PM on April 26, 2008

Along the manicotti line, when my cat was badly injured recently a dear friend made us homemade bread and enough delicious stew and pasta fazul to last us a couple of days. There is a reason people bring food during crises and at funerals. It is a primal comfort to eat good something good and nourishing at times of loss, and when something has been prepared with love you can taste it. If you are a good cook I recommend making them a special dish, the kind you eat when you are really low. If you aren't, then give the note or card that googly recommended with a small gift of flowers, something beautiful that will remind them that you are thinking of them. It will mean a lot.

Whatever you do, thanks for being a caring person and for understanding the importance of their companion in their lives. I too will never forget the kindness shown me when I needed it and your friends won't either.

Thank you, Specklet.
posted by melissa may at 7:59 PM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you make a small ($10-$15) donation in the cat's memory to the Companion Animal Fund of the Veterinary School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they will send a real nice card to the owners, and the money will be used in research to improve the lives of pets.
posted by lu3 at 8:09 PM on April 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

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