The passing of a pet can often be the most profound loss with which any animal-lover could be faced, and, in many cases, can be overwhelmingly alienating as well. The truth is, you never really feel it the way it’s supposed to be felt until it happens to you. In many cases, the pain of pet loss can be so great that people feel the need to immediately soothe the burn by adopting a new pet. But is that really such a good idea?
Danger was my pudgy little black cat, and the absolute love of my life. After roughly 6 rambunctiously joyful years of life, I lost him to a blood clot that dislodged in his brain and gave him a stroke, causing him to die quickly but horrifyingly in a howling fit in my arms. Shocked and heartbroken, I was left devastated for months afterwards – a trauma I will likely carry with me to my own deathbed. (Dramatic enough for you, eh? Don’t worry, I’m fine guys. I promise.) But yeah, in all honesty, I was pretty inconsolable. It was one of those situations where tears just kept falling out of my eyeballs and my face was permanently scrunched up like a weeping infant for weeks, if not months. Every social interaction I tried to engage in was punctuated by me hyperventilating in the bathroom for 15 minutes. I became “that girl who cries at parties about her dead cat”. It was so bad, you guys. So bad.
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To make matters worse, during the same time, I was fostering a sweet little girl cat I had found as a stray on the streets – Sweet Baby Jane Foster the Foster, aka Lil’ Mama. She, too, was all-black, and had the same silly expression as my boy. One would presume that the logical course of action would be to simply adopt her right off the bat, but honestly, every time I would come home and see her sitting on the couch ready to greet me, it tripped me out. Hardcore. For a split second, she looked exactly like my little man Danger, and that alone was a heartache that I found difficult to endure.
Now, in order to conclude whether or not you’re in a good place to bring a new four-legged family member into your life, you have to understand the mourning process, even if that means playing the role of Cries At A Party Girl for a hot minute.
While it may initially feel like the right decision to take the plunge into a new relationship with a new pet, take a moment to consider your situation. Are you making this decision as a person who is still mourning, or as a person who is ready to move on?
There are many factors that come into play when you are faced with the decision of whether or not to take a new animal into your care. If, after convalescing with yourself, you’ve realized that you’re still feeling the ache of the absence your beloved previous pet has left to a very serious degree, you may want to reconsider signing those adoption papers just yet, and here’s why.
One of the most common reasons for why people hastily adopt a pet after pet loss is because they find an animal that looks just like the one they’ve lost. This can be disastrous for many reasons. You are already putting your new pet at a disadvantage because, while he may look just like Fido, he is not at all necessarily inclined to act just like him, which will, in turn, make you resentful, and that’s not fair to the new baby. Not only that, but you could find yourself in a situation similar to the one I was in with Jane Foster (who ended up getting adopted by a very loving family, by the way!), where seeing your new pet could send you spiraling into a Bizarro World vortex of confusions and despair.
So please, heed my advice! DO NOT look for a “replacement” for your pet. DO NOT adopt a pet too hastily, and DO NOT adopt one just because they look just like the one you just lost. You will save both yourself AND the animal in question a really miserable experience.
However, perhaps you have journeyed through all the 800 million stages of pet-loss grieving, and are on the fence about whether or not you’re really ready to bring someone new into your life. Perhaps you’re on the other side of the bereavement coin and feel guilty about getting a new pet because you don’t want to feel like you’re replacing Miss Kitty Pryde. If this is the case, remember to take it slow. Don’t force yourself into a new relationship because you feel like you have to, but don’t hesitate on adopting a pet with whom you have a genuine connection based on guilt.
Maybe if you have some free time, try volunteering at your local shelter and get to know the babies who are in need of a home. Don’t expect to ever truly “get over” the loss of your pet. Just because the memories you have of the animal you’ve lost are now bittersweet, doesn’t mean you can’t make new memories with a new furry friend who will love and appreciate you just as much.