Saying Goodbye to Dennis

On Friday evening, I had to take Dennis our Blue Burmese cat to the vet to be put to sleep. He was 16. I knew this had been coming for some time, but how hard it was! And this morning I feel utterly bereft, just as if I have lost a member of the family, and of course, that is because Dennis WAS a member of our family.

I was given Dennis in June 2007 by a dear friend who was emigrating to Australia and couldn’t take her cats with her. At the time he was just about 3 years old. He was an incredibly handsome chap, regal even, with a sweet nature. I fell in love with him from day one. He was a solid cat, heavy to pick up who didn’t mind a cuddle and would nestle into me for extra love. Always remarkably intuitive in terms of what was going on for me, he would come and sit on my bed for hours if I was ill, or would make himself available for lots of sitting on my lap if I was feeling down. He had a very distinctive masculine miaow and was a big brother and protector for our other smaller cat, Lili.

He wasn’t good with change however, and when he originally moved in with me, refused to come out of his carrying cage for the first few hours while he assessed his new surroundings. Once he had emerged though, it didn’t take him long to assume his role as the man of the house.

When Andy and I started seeing each other, there was definitely a bit of a power struggle. I think they were a little jealous of each other to begin with… and Dennis even tripped Andy up going down the stairs once! (Something that Andy has never forgotten), but eventually they seemed to come to an understanding and a mutual respect.

Cats or indeed any other pet) quickly make themselves integral parts of our families. They provide us with emotional support, companionship and have individual personalities. Because they often live until they are in their late teens, they are in our lives for a very long time, so when they do leave this world , it is natural to feel as though there is a huge void. But learning to recognise and accept the grieving process is an important part of managing the loss of your cat.

I think the loss of a pet and the grief process that follows is one of the hardest, most intense experiences we have to get through in life, but it is personally helping me to write this post and to celebrate Dennis’ life and remember all the wonderful times we had together.

I find I’m mourning a time when he was young and healthy and it seems so horribly final that I will never have those times again with him. But I’m going to try and focus positively on the life I’ve shared with him, even though it’s very easy to be sad thinking about the end of his life, and the hugely difficult experience of taking him to the vet for the last time and holding him while he slipped away. So I am looking at old photos of him being King of The Garden (and probably the neighbourhood) and smiling at the memories this brings.

It is also helpful to talk to someone who understands how you feel. Avoid people who are likely to say “Its just a cat!” for as long as possible (forever may be a good option..!) Someone who tries to dismiss your feelings by suggesting they are misplaced or over the top, is not someone you need around you at the moment. I am so lucky that Andy and the rest of my immediate family are so supportive and keep making me cups of tea and telling me about their memories of Dennis. I also know that if I need to take myself off to be alone and don’t want to talk for a while, they will understand.

Grief comes in waves. One minute I’m starting to feel better and then it hits me again and I am tearful and sad. All this is completely normal and all that is required is to accept these feelings and let them wash over me. Time heals, no matter how bad I feel today and I know my mind is processing the loss and slowly coming to terms with it.

I am looking after myself too. Self care is so important. I did a yoga session this morning and made sure I started with some lovely deep breathing. I have written about this before, but deep breathing from the stomach area is relaxing and de- stressing (as opposed to breathing from the high chest area which we tend to do when we are upset or distressed.) I am making sure I eat properly and healthily and I’m getting some fresh air. I am thinking about Dennis and grieving for him, but I’m also distracting myself with things I need to do around the house to try and give myself a break from feeling sad.

Dennis was a one in a million cat. He had a very privileged life, and he never had to fight for food or sleep somewhere that wasn’t warm or comfortable. He had toys galore and loved his treats. He spent his days chasing around playing and then in later years, sleeping and relaxing. He particularly loved duck and we would give him small amounts whenever we had a Chinese meal. I shall never forget the funny little miaooooooooooooow once he caught a smell of it.

Then suddenly about 3 years ago, he started to lose weight, and over time, our local vets tried in vain to work out what was wrong. He has various tests and scans and was on a monthly steroid injections for a while. Though he was thinner, he seemed stable and, if not his old self, at least content. But then in the last 6 months, we noticed a marked change. He no longer looked comfortable and would sometimes stagger when he was walking. His weight dropped even further and he looked painfully thin… I knew the time had come and the vet agreed. Holding him while he slipped away was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but he deserved kind words and cuddles as he went to sleep, and I wouldn’t have not been there for him at the end for the world.

Dennis was more than a pet cat. He was a wonderful companion, a friend and joy to have around. He lit up my world. Goodbye Dennis. I will never forget you. ❤️

If you are struggling after losing a beloved pet animal you may also be interested in the following:

Coping With Losing A Pet

51 replies »

    • He was wasn’t he! Thank you so much. Am struggling a bit this weekend….but will be OK. xx

  1. Condolences to you on the loss of dear Dennis. He was indeed a handsome cat and I’m so glad you enjoyed each other’s company together for what is a long time in cat terms. In that respect he had a blessed and happy life with all of you.
    We lost our lovely Ginger cat suddenly 5 years ago due to a stroke and we were devastated! It changed our lives to realise that life in whatever species is fragile and to make the very best use of it. We ignored the ‘friends’ who said it’s just a cat and never quite warmed to them again! Others gave us understanding messages and our daughter looked for rescue cat from the SSPCA.
    We homed Lui cat 2 months later who was not a happy cat. His owner had died over Christmas time and the family didn’t want him. He was soon rehomed but he needed special care from experienced cat lovers so when he bit someone out of stress they returned him back after just 1 day! Thankfully he came to us and he has blossomed into a wonderful member of the family who loves hugs, strokes and some alone time!
    Think it’s so ‘healing’ to introduce a rescue cat if you can. Your other cat will obviously feel the loss of Dennis and may need some stress drops from the vet meanwhile to help.
    All good wishes in the days ahead, take care xx💐

    • Ah bless you Judith – thank you so much for leaving such a lovely comment. Aswell as Lili (who we also took from my friend who emigrated) we rescued a black stray (from the streets of London!) about 5 years ago. Buffy is still a bit swipey if she is feeling stressed, but like your Lui has blossomed into a beautiful happy cat. (If you search ‘Buffy’ on this Blog you can read her story) I will always have rescue cats in future. Preferably the one sitting at the back of the cats home, that has been there the longest, that no one else wants! It may well be that we will soon adopt another cat.. but I’m just concentrating on going though the grieving process at the moment. Thank you again for your lovely words x

      • I am like you, since having rescued cats, I will always have another and especially look at the ones that no one seems to want. It doesn’t matter how old they are, it’s nice to know they experienced home life, like they once did. A legacy that my last cat, Miley left me with.
        I’m not in a position to adoot another since losing her, but I hope one year, when in a suitable home to be.

      • Ah I hope so to… they give us so much back when we offer them a home x

      • Yes. Miley, (my last cat who I truley miss) when I adopted her, she knew she had a home 5 minutes being there. She knew she was safe, but did not know how to play. She soon learnt though.
        I miss her face full of cuddles she used to give. She was always around me and only odd times did she have a little time to herself. It was like an empty nest, in the early months of losing her.
        She was so rewarding with her love.

  2. So sorry to read this sad and painful news about Dennis. I do fully understand how you feel. I’m still missing Mr. Bowie every day. They are not ‘just a cat’, they are all ‘one in a million’ cats. Please cherish all the beautiful memories of the very beautiful Dennis in your heart.

    • Thank you so much and my condolences for the lost of Mr Bowie. I love your blog and your beautiful pictures…They are all individual characters as you say and the pain of their passing completely knocks you sideways. I will cherish the memories of my little man. He was such a special cat xx

  3. That brought tears to my eyes reading those lovely memories it reminded me of the 4 cats I had when I was younger all different personalities , but each unique in their own way. All family members as well like all my pets including my guinea pigs now, we sadly lost one of those Squeak last year and it broke our hearts.

    I really feel for you Karen sending you lots of love, Take care of yourself Malcolm x

    • Thanks so much and what a good point you make. It might be a cat,, a dog… a rabbit… a hamster or a guinea pig…. it doesn’t matter – they are all members of the family. Appreciate your taking the time to comment – thank you x

    • Thanks so much. Yes I’m struggling with it at the moment… but I know I will come to terms with it over the next few weeks, He had a wonderful life and I’m concentrating on that x

  4. Beautiful essay. We’ve been where you are, having lost both a male and female, each 18 when they passed. Cats are special challenges because they are so smart and have their ways of expressing themselves and sensing moods and illnesses. They are family members. The pictures are beautiful.

    • Thank you so much. I hope you are over these very sad passing’s… I found writing the post helpful. I really appreciate your reading and taking the time to comment, and yes they are definitely family members x

      • I don’t make comments often, just when I see something particularly striking or feel I have something that needs to be said. That’s another compliment to you, by the way.

  5. I am so sorry to hear about dear Dennis. I understand the pain you are going through,after losing a beloved pet. Yes you will eventually get over the loss, but the memory will be with you forever. I’m sure it won’t be long before you find another needy
    friend to care for. I remember the time when you constantly pleaded with me to get a cat. I was reluctant only because of the fact
    whether either one of us would have the time to care for it. Your persistence prevailed, and you accompanied me to a cat shelter
    in Southampton. The owner showed us various cats of colour and size, at the same time offering recommendations on each cats
    qualities. None of which seemed to appeal to you very much, and you ask if there were any more that we we could see. The owner said she had one more, that was upstairs. She also stated that she thought this cat would be unsuitable for adoption at that
    time Undeterred you ask to see it anyway. We came upon the most scruffiest animal you could wish to find, and my immediate thought was (N0 WAY). But without hesitation, you said “Dad,that’s the one”. What followed was to say the least ;Chaotic, for the next 3 weeks or so, but that cat turned into one of the most amazing pets we ever had. I’m sure you remember, whom i called,
    ‘BIG AL’ I still fondly remember him, as you will of Dennis.

    • That’s lovely Dad.. thank you. I remember it now you have reminded me .. what a gorgeous cat he was… though it took a long while before he felt comfortable with us. He was worth every second though. Dennis will be with me forever, but I’m hoping that in the next few weeks I can think about him without getting upset – its a process xx

  6. Mr. Cat sends a purr…😻💓and his sympathies.🙏🏻
    Thank you for visiting my blog. 🙂

    You have much interesting information here. I look forward to reading more.

  7. Oh dear, I am so sorry to read you have lost Dennis, such a handsome boy. I cannot imagine how you are feeling at this time, it’s quite a heartbreaking thought. In the past, I was never a pet owner but in recent times a stray tabby has come to stay and he is an absolute joy. We ‘talk’, he brings laughter and is always available for and demanding cuddles.

    Throughout lockdown he has been an almost constant companion and almost seems to feel my need for his presence. Without him, over three months of isolation would have been so much more difficult to endure. ‘Gigi’ has brought much to my life and I hope, in some way, my little boy feels the same way. My condolences for the loss of your beautiful boy. I hope that in time you can come to enjoy his treasured memory.

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment… and yes he was such a handsome chap! I am so glad you told me about Gigi….It sounds as if you needed this little stray as much as he needed you. Cats are such intelligent creatures and gravitate towards those who will love them.. I hope that Gigi remains a permanent fixture in your life… I’m sure he will only enhance it x

  8. First off, thank you for following my blog Karen, and I’m happy to now follow yours. This is a lovely tribute to your beautiful cat Dennis. I’m a lifelong lover of cats (I love dogs too), and am all too familiar with the intense heartache and pain that comes from losing a beloved pet. I’ve grieved as hard for some of the pets I’ve lost as I have any human. I also bristle when some people dismiss our agony with comments like “It’s just a cat”, though most of our friends are also pet owners who understand the grief of losing a furry member of the family.

    • Thank you so much! I love your blog, I was drawn to it first of all for the disco list (my era!!)… Thank you for your kind words about Dennis. I miss him terribly! … and yes there are people who understand and people who don’t.. Thank you again for reading and taking the time to comment.

  9. I’m sorry to hear about your loss of Dennis, King of the garden. I completely understand what you mean when people say ‘just a pet/cat’. So lovely that you you have memories of him and photos xxx

    • Thank you so much! I really appreciate your kind words and yes, lots of lovely memories x

  10. Tears. Dennis sounds like a one of a kind pet, and wow, your pictures of him. I can’t imagine how you felt holding him as he slipped into his next life, but it was wonderful that he was loved until the end. xoxo

    • Thank you so much. Its such a hard thing to do, but it was the very least I could do for him xx

  11. Been there and will be again, so you have my very real and present sympathy. He was indeed a dear family member. Thank you for sharing you experience with us, Karen.

  12. So sorry to hear your sad news about Dennis. He looks such a handsome chap. I do fully understand how you feel. We lost Teddy, Jarvis’s brother a few years ago and the pain we all felt was awful, as you say our animal friends are our close family and selfless companions – we still miss him and it was nine years ago. We now have Jarvis who was thirteen last month, We do dread the day when he’s not with us anymore, but make the most of it – he’s very spoilt with love which isn’t a bad thing.
    Alison xx

    • Yes I absolutely agree. We must savour every year as it flies by so quickly… lots of love to Jarvis x

  13. That picture of him tucked up in bed is SO much like one of the cats we used to have – wherever we were, he would be – hanging out – sleeping – sitting – watching…

  14. I too have a 16 year old cat. Splenda came into my life just a month after my daughter left home for the military. I still say God sent this lovely creature to me. It has been just the two of us for 16 years. I know I don’t have many years left with her so I am soaking up every single thing I can. She rules the roost of course. Splenda is my best buddy and I couldn’t ask for a better roomie. Sorry for you loss.

    • Thank you so much for reading…Splenda sounds splendid! I’m so glad that you and Splenda have each other and long may it continue. I think 16 is early to lose a cat but Dennis was a Burmese and i think pedigrees don’t always live a long. I knew a cat once that lived until it was 27!

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