It is OK to Grieve For Your Cat


Grief - It’s something that we try not to think about. Yet, it’s a fact of life and something we all experience at some point.

I hate thinking about grief and death. But today, I can’t help thinking about it.

You see, today is the 4th anniversary of my dad’s death.

Four years ago, early in the morning, my dad passed away suddenly. He was alone in a hotel room, travelling for work and suffered what could be classed as a heart attack.

Yes, that’s a very sad way for someone to go. Particularly as my dad’s death was later ruled as being avoidable.

It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives. But one thing my dad’s death taught me was to focus on the positives – to not sink into the grief but to swim and float from how proud I am to be his daughter.

After his death, I realised how much my dad meant to so many people. We were immediately surrounded by amazing family friends who dropped everything to support us. I don’t really remember it, but I am told that his funeral was so well attended that people had to stand in the corridors.

Within months my dad received numerous posthumous awards, an award was named after him and an annual remembrance lecture was developed. His obituary was even published in several publications, including Engineers Australia – a feat he would have been very proud of.

And I’m very proud to be his daughter. He has inspired me to live life to the fullest and has reminded me that life is short and very unpredictable.

I’m so very grateful for the support we received from everyone. The friends, family, the colleagues, and my amazing boyfriend (now husband).

And I am so very grateful for my cat, Tabby.

When my dad passed away, Tabby was 19 years old.

Tabby was the cat that my dad initially never wanted but grew to love and cherish. Till he met Tabby he was a dog person, through and through.

But Tabby changed that. As a kitten, she followed us home and forced herself into our lives. She developed a close bond with all of us, including my dad. She loved him deeply.

To me, she became my sister. I am socially awkward and struggle to make friends. She didn’t care about that, and became my best friend. I’m an only child and she was there, through the good and the bad for most of my life.

And the bad included when my dad passed away.

In hindsight I realise just how much she grieved for him. But she didn’t let that stop her from comforting us. In those early days, despite all the people in our house, she ensured that she would cuddle us as much as possible. Each night she would curl up next to us.

What we didn’t realise was how grief was effecting Tabby. She lost weight, her kidney disease progressed significantly and eventually the rest of her body gave up on her.

What was the hardest to see, was that her cheeky personality was still there. She would still do whatever she could to comfort us. She would still play tricks on us to get her way and still manipulated us to give her the food she loved. And she showed us so much love.

But this didn’t hide that her body was failing her. That she was in pain. That forcing her to live through daily IV drips was not fair.

In March 2017, we made the difficult decision and said good bye to our dear Tabby.

My best friend for 23 years, my confidant, and my cuddle buddy.

Tabby is so dear to me but I really struggled grieving for her. I felt that she deserved a great celebration of her life.

But I realised, to society, she is a cat. “Just” a pet. A death that we should just get over. Something that can be replaced by a new cat.

But that is definitely not the case. To me she was so much more.

I believe Tabby’s life should be celebrated, memorialised and remembered.

And I am not alone in this.

Studies have shown that for many people the loss of a pet is similar to the loss of a human family member. However, as it stands, it is not socially acceptable to grieve a pet, let alone a cat.

Despite the obligatory memorial social media post, I have barely spoken to anyone, but my husband, about the grief of losing Tabby.

But today I am admitting, I’ve struggled and I miss her like crazy.

But Tabby was always resilient and had the drive to achieve what she wanted and I’m inspired to embody her spirit.

She may not have awards named after her, people won’t constantly tell me anecdotes about her.

But she has been my inspiration and given me drive to succeed. I won’t sink in my grief, I’ll swim.

She was the reason we adopted our cats, Lumos & Noxie. We wanted to do our part to stop other cats living on the streets like Tabby did for her first few weeks.

My husband and I are constantly using the lessons Tabby taught us to care for Lumos & Noxie - from their food, their toys, the attention they require to the games to play with them.

And how to train them to be catexplorers. Tabby was harness trained, and I will always cherish the memories of our walks, our holidays and car rides.

But most of all, Tabby is a big part of my inspiration for Catexplorer – a community for catexplorers to share our experiences.

The community I wish I knew about when we were training Tabby, back before I even knew what a catexplorer was.

Tabby may not be well known, her life may not be celebrated by many people, but she has left an amazing legacy – the creation of a community to make life easier for future catexplorers.

She will always have a huge part of my heart. 

And screw what society thinks.

I will continue to grieve for her. I will continue to remember her. I will continue to be inspired by her. And most of all, I will continue to love her.