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. ❤️
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