And then there was one. For the past 12 years, my cat family ebbed and flowed but averaged four cats. With every loss or addition, the dynamics shifted. It’s a full circle moment. After 13 years, it’s back to one cat again, Odin. His sidekick and ersatz girlfriend, Nou Nou became a cat angel a few hours before the Fall Equinox.
The timing wasn’t ideal not there is ever an ideal time to die. I posted a quick notice on Instagram that thankfully almost no one noticed. I wasn’t ready to share my grief. There was no time to grieve with a wedding rehearsal dinner a big family wedding within three days. Two days later I came down with the worst cold/flu whatever that lasted over a month. In Eastern medicine, issues with lungs can reflect unexpressed sadness. Makes sense to me.
By waiting two months to write about the loss, while not in the grips by intense grieving, I can share from a clearer perspective. I’m hoping any insights can apply to other cat lovers whether they’ve experienced cat loss or not.
I posted a short video reel on Instagram from the funeral.
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You know it’s coming but you don’t know exactly when unless there is an appointment for euthanasia. It results in nail-biting anxiety and worry about doing too Having experienced every kind of pet loss, there is no easy or easier way. Knowing far in advance of a terminal illness, like kidney disease, offers time to prepare, makes changes and hopefully prolong the inevitable.
With Nou Nou, I never expected her to live to a ripe old 20+ age like Clyde or Merlin, but I didn’t expect her to go at age 9. Not when she’d made such emotional leaps and bounds in the past two years. She lived the first year of her life with a hoarder, lost an eye before being rescued. Lived in a cage of a tiny windowless shelter room for 7 months before I brought her home as a foster. Under-socialized with neurological issues, she could be categorized as special needs but I just considered her special.
I met Nou Nou ( first named Vicky) while volunteering a shelter. In fact, I met her the same day, a hoarder dumped a dozen cats. I wish I’d taken her right away. That look says it all but I wasn’t ready.
We let her be her own weird self even if it meant removing all rugs because she stopped using a litter box. Well, she never really liked using one so puppy pads had to do. Trust me, I tried everything. Most cats are creatures of habit but not Nou Nou. Just when she like a certain food, played a certain way, napped in a certain place, truly any behavior, she’d do a 180. Unpredictable or quixotic was her middle name.
It took almost 7 years before she decided to become a lap cat but always on her terms. I credit her radical shift to holistic healing with several animal communicators.
Shock, Anger, Denial, Guilt, Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue
Oh yeah, death brings out a witch’s brew of emotions. Every time is different. Don’t expect grief to follow a text book A to Z pattern or sequence. Expect the unexpected.
Like many older cats she had CKD and it ultimately killed her. It progressed slowly until kidney values plummeted. The vet gave her a few weeks to live but six months later, after the best summer of her life, she was still kicking. Two weeks before she died, something shifted. She was still enjoying her supervised outdoor adventures, but I felt I wanted a second opinion and booked an appointment with Odin’s vet. Two days before the appointment it shifted from a second opinion to possible euthanasia. Nou Nou being Nou Nou had other ideas and exited the day before. Thankfully, I had gabapentin, on hand to administer pain relief. The transition was gentle , natural and peaceful.
What I didn’t expect. Her death to triggered leftover, unprocessed emotions from my mother’s death in 2017. Thanks Nou Nou. Still working on that. If that happens, it’s wise to consider seeking counsel from therapy, pet loss professionals, clergy, holistic healing or in my case, a shaman. You don’t have to grieve alone.
No matter how prepared we are for an imminent death, the moment it happens, time stops. We are stunned into silence and shock. Maybe sobbing tears. Maybe not. My grief will not look like yours. Never compare. It’s all as unique as our cats. And it’s all okay.
I find comfort in creating ritual or ceremony. Every cat of mine gets a funeral of some sort and each time it’s different.
Odin helped in his own way.
Nou Nou is buried next to Clyde and Domino. She let me know her preferred spot well in advance. I just didn’t think it would be a year later. It’s weirdly comforting now to have this image. You might not be ready to even look at old photos or videos for awhile. Take your time.
I don’t know any cat lover who doesn’t have a ton of photos. It may be too painful to look at a cute video at first but later, it will be a sweet nostalgia. All the memories add up because as they say. “What is remembered lives.”
Nou Nou was her happiest in a wild spot by the lilac trees. I like to think she’s having new adventures in the great beyond.
Her final catnap in the garden as she drifting in and out of consciousness.
The documenting serves a useful purpose during grieving and that includes writing or journaling. I strongly suggest it. Write from the heart. Let it rip. If you’re worried someone will see it, you can always delete or tear it up later.
Memory is wonky while grieving
I don’t know about you but my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. Do you remember what happened three Tuesdays ago? I don’t. During the shock and heaviness of early grieving, I find memory gets wonky at best. If I think back to what exactly happened the day Nou Nou died, I couldn’t tell you. That’s why I suggest during the first 24 hours to jot down the details. Trust me, you’ll forgot much of it if you don’t. This not the time for fancy words, punctuation or full sentences. From the “just the facts, ma’am” approach you can write a proper blog post or whatever later.
I’m sharing for the first time, my unedited, stream of consciousness notes as an example. See it at the end or this post.
I’ve written about grieving often and sometimes the most meaningful posts are from the cat’s perspective like:
Nou Nou held her own at this blog but she was allergic to posing for photos or cooperating in any fashion. Gradually over the years she tolerated being photographed and in recent years some cute Instagram reel videos. This was a popular one that show her funny way of walking in the garden.
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So many memories and changes over the years. Nou Nou was always the only female and exerted her influence. I’ve always said that female cats rule the roost no matter what and that includes ruling over dogs. Through out the years her heart belonged to Odin. It was unrequited. Sure he’d sleep her sometimes, lick her ear or kiss her but these crumbs of affection were rare.
We’ve all heard of bonded cats who care for their ill friend but not Odin. When Nou Nou was ill she smelled bad and he ignored her. It was painful to watch how thrilled she’d get if he even walked nearby. It doesn’t matter now. She’s no doubt cavorting with good pal, Domino in kitty heaven.
Cats Go To Heaven But Visit Us On Earth
It’s a lovely sentiment to think we will be reunited with our dead pets but I’m re-thinking the “Until we meet again” concept. While we might be reunited in the future, our dead cats are very much around in the present. If you want to connect and communicate more deeply with your cats dead or alive, consider taking a course in animal communication or at least read up on it. There are plenty of YouTube videos too.
I had not one but three of my animal communicator friends reach out to say how ecstatic Nou Nou was on the other side. And I agree. I can feel her exuberant tail standing tall, that glorious feeling of freedom to run around normally without infirmity, illness or age.
Visitations or ghosts?
Nou Nou wasted no time showing up. It takes a lot of energy to take on a physical form like their cat suit which is why ghosts or apparitions are rare. Sounds or things moving like paw taps or common. The first couple weeks after she died, I’d pass the sofa we spent so much time together, I’d call out loudly, repeatedly and mournfully “Nou Nou, where are you?” After awhile, I could “hear” her annoyance and “Here I am. Stop moaning.
My other cats have visited in the form of cardinals but of course Nou Nou had to be different. A few days after she died. I’m lying in bed morose when I hear a loud, insistent tapping on the window next to my bed. I look out and a woodpecker is tapping the window wanting to come inside. Nou Nou!
As the weeks flew by (no pun intended) I called out to her less and she felt I didn’t need her as much. I still fight the automatic urge to cover a sofa armchair with plastic every night before going to bed. She had a thing for perching off the arm of a chair and peeing. I miss her but not that!
One Pet Death Impacts Everyone in the house
Even one death, changes everything. Cats are territorial creatures with complex relationships their humans know little of. With Nou Nou gone, I worried how Odin would manage being the only cat. He knew what was going on at every point before and after she died. He was a part of the burial and sat by her grave. You’d think given how he treated Nou Nou, he wouldn’t grieve but he did. When his other cat friends died, his way of grieving would be to act out or be more anxious or restless. This time he was out of sorts and looked sad. He visited his “girlfriend” neighbor more often and was more affectionate with me. He normally never sleeps with me but does and simply needs more attention.
A few months before Nou Nou died, she developed a new habit while watching TV. She’d spend a few minutes on my lap, then shift over to my husband, back and forth all evening. Now Odin, who observed the behavior but never participated, does it sometimes. He gets all the attention now and that seems to please him.
The Temptation To Adopt Again
It’s increasingly common to adopt sooner than later after a pet dies. It’s tempting and natural to want to fill the void. I have to admit, I was tempted. My husband thought Odin would like a new kitten to play with. We perused shelter listings for a cat that could be “The One”. There were a few contenders (how could there not be) but reality set in and I’m glad we didn’t make a rash decision. Adoption is a 20+ year commitment for a young cat or kitten. Even an older cat is a serious commitment, we aren’t prepared to make. That said, if the cat gods want us to adopt again, it would have to be an extraordinary fated event.
For now, as much I miss Nou Nou, I know she’s happy where she is and that’s good enough for now.