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The First Days After Your Cat Dies

When you’ve lost a dear and beloved pet, there will be a number of mornings when you wake up and the event will hit you in the face all over again.

It’s as though sleep keeps the grief and shock at bay, and then a new day arrives and the loss hits you all over again.

Seeking A Way To Accept What’s Happened:

It takes a while to accept and realize that your sweet kittie is no longer there. That she never will be again. And it’s a hard transition.

I am calmer today. Though I cried much of yesterday.

We all know that life is a myriad of love and loss. And I’ve had two pet losses in less than a year. I lost Charlie Ross last June.

I let Kendra know early in the day that she did not need to check up on me. She’s very busy trying to get unpacked. And she and I are alike in how we grieve. We prefer to grieve alone.

For me it is a way to ensure acceptance. To not try to distract myself constantly but just allow myself to feel the pain. Let the sadness and grief wash over me.

Steve from next door called yesterday afternoon to see how I was and we talked about this and that for a bit.

Ivy’ Is Acting Different:

Ivy is acting different. She typically sleeps in the living room. Last night she spent laying on one of her three cat towers in the bedroom. For most of the night anyway.

The First Days After Your Cat Dies, you feel such pain. Here is Ivy this morning in the living room.
Ivy this morning

I would wake up during the night and see her shadow on the tallest cat tree. I’d decided a few days ago that the cats would probably enjoy their cat trees more if they were all lined up in front of the bedroom window.

This morning Ivy was more playful than I’d seen her be in some time.

Yesterday she spent the bulk of her time in the chair with me. I brushed her fur and talked softly to her. Told her how beautiful she is and how much I love her.

Could Gracie Have Been Sick All Along?

I’ve come to think that many of you were right. That Ivy knew something was wrong.

Maybe Gracie had a heart problem or something from the get-go. Ivy never stopped hissing and pawing at her if she came near her.

It would always upset me, because Gracie was half Ivy’s weight and I didn’t understand this aggression that I’d see in Ivy.

When Charlie died, I think Ivy grieved. She was different for awhile.

I don’t see her grieving now. She seems maybe a bit relieved.

And I don’t look at that as a bad thing. I think Ivy knew something was wrong and it was disturbing to her.

Ivy stopped eating canned cat food weeks ago. Even tuna. It worried me.

But she still ate her dry food. If she started changing other habits, I’d decided I would call the vet.

This morning I began to look into the idea you put in my head about cats sensing illness in another cat. Here is some of what I learned.

Can Cats Sense Another Cat’s Illness?

Like dogs, cats also have an uncanny ability to detect ailments and diseases as well.

Cats also have an acute sense of smell and have the ability to sniff out a chemical change in the body caused by a disease.

A cat’s reactions to death or sickness can vary quite a bit. Cat owners may report a cat being unusually affectionate with a cat who is sick.

Or on the other hand, they may ignore or even become hostile to a cat who is sick.

Missing Gracie:

I miss my sweet little Gracie. The way she’d lay her head in the palm of my hand and then turn her head over affectionately, as though giving me a hug.

I miss her being in my bed for much of the night and the way she’d curl up next to me. She’d sometimes wake me up to play with her. And I didn’t mind that at all.

The image of her that most come to mind is when she’d open her mouth to yawn. It was just so cute. I smiled every time I saw it.

I miss her sweet little face, so young and full of curiosity. She was a special kitty and I loved her completely. And I believe she knew that and trusted me to take care of her.

Changes In Ivy:

I’m going to try not to spend the day crying, as I know it upsets Ivy. And Ivy is kind of changing right in front of my eyes.

For one thing, Ivy seems calmer.

Last night when I went to the bedroom, she did not sit in the living room in the dark with the red and white curtain tie in her mouth. She’d been doing that for a month or so, and she would cry plaintively for some time.

I would try to get Ivy to come to the bedroom, but she wouldn’t. So I would come in here and check on her, but otherwise left her alone. Ivy does not like to be picked up, and neither did Gracie. Gracie was always skittish like that.

Ivy didn’t do that last night. And that was odd. I heard her cry one time when I went to the bedroom around 9 p.m. But then she came in there with me and I never heard that sound again last night.

Ivy spending at least most of the night in the bedroom surprised me. It was new behavior. I think maybe she is relieved at what she perceived as a threat of some kind, and now this is her way of comforting me.

Gracie Mae on the back of the couch at the old apartment
Gracie at the old apartment

Cherishing My Time With Gracie:

I have no way of knowing what Ivy knew, if she felt threatened because she was jealous of another cat. Or if she knew Gracie was sick.

I cherish the months I had with Gracie Mae. It seems almost impossible that I won’t see her jump on the bed and snuggle up to me again. She was so loving and affectionate.

I thought she would be with me for many years down the road. But her presence was cut short at a very young age.

I very much hope that she was not afraid at the end. The thought of that just breaks my heart.

My babies, Charlie Ross and Gracie Mae were such bright lights. They brought me such joy.

I like to think that their stars are still shining somewhere in the universe. And that they’re together.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

– Vicki Harrison

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51 Comments

  1. Cats can definitely feel illness in others. I had a cat who sensed my daughter’s scoliosis hurting her. The first night we had he him he curled up to her back when she cried in the middle of the night. And when she settled down, he refused to leave her. She is severely retarded and he used to play with her to make her laugh. Also cats can sense grief, so Ivy is trying to help you through. Such a nice cat.

  2. You gave Gracie a home so much love. She let you know that every day. It’s interesting that Ivy could have known. It would explain a lot of her behavior. And now, it seems that she is trying to comfort you.

  3. You have a beautiful and full heart, especially when it comes to your fur babies. Sending you much love.

    1. Thank you. All of you are so important to me. You’re always there when I need a helping hand and a kind heart.

  4. Sweet sweet Ivy is so connected to you. She feels your grief, too. She’s a stellar kitty. She might need some quiet alone time herself for a few weeks. She’s been thru a lot just like you have in the past several months. I think she really loved Charlie and grieved that too.
    When you sense she needs company again, I strongly advise to choose a neutered male that isn’t an alpha. That kind of kitty will be one Ivy is likely to accept.
    When my existing alpha kitty who was attached to my heart and soul got lonely, I found him a kitty friend by selecting an “un adoptable”kitty who loved other kitties but didn’t love people. So she became His kitty. 3 years later, she loves people and is a sweetheart she just needed a chance to feel safe. They are great buddies now.

    1. I hadn’t thought of that, but she does probably need some time alone to process things in whatever way cats process these things.

  5. I specifically came into my email to see if you had posted. Such a beautiful piece! There is grief; there is knowledge coming through; above all, there is so much love. Bless you, my friend!!!

  6. Brenda, if sweet little Gracie did, infact, have a heart issue, there probably wasn’t anything you could have done. I feel bad that you are feeling sad about not doing everything you could have for her. You didn’t know, and didn’t have any indication that there was even a possibility of something being wrong. In reality, you did the best possible thing for her. You gave her a home and lots of love. She was a lucky kitty, and you were a lucky mama. I emailed you today. When you get a chance, please read my email. Love and hugs to you and Ivy.

  7. Brenda, you are such a loving and caring pet mama that if it was possible for you to have know that Gracie was sick I think you would have known and sought help for her. But there just weren’t clear signs. I wish there had been, too, but there weren’t. So don’t burden yourself with guilt, dear friend.

    You know, I had the same tho’t as you and the reader above about Ivy’s expression being one of sadness in the photo of her you posted today. She is aware of your sadness, I think, and her behavior reflects her need to be reassured that all is still safe in her environment and also to comfort you. It’s so interesting the way pets are often so sensitive to the feelings and moods of their people.

    Please know that I am thinking of you and wishing you peace and acceptance during this time of grieving for Gracie. Sending hugs to you and pats for Ivy.

    1. I’m doing everything I can to reassure Ivy that everything is fine and she’s mama’s baby. She’s lost two pet babies in less than a year too.

    2. This morning Ivy came to the doorway of my bedroom and just laid there and looked at me. Then she got up on her “cat tree wall”, as I call it, and was playful. She’s watching me though.

  8. Our dogs and cats can sense when we are sad! I was watching a movie but didn’t read reviews first and it got so sad that I started crying hard. All of a sudden I heard my dog whining so I went over to him and pet him and let him know that I was ok. Poor dog was snoring and I woke him up crying my eyes out and he didn’t know why!
    I think Ivy was comforting u the best way she knew how to by staying by your side bc she knows u are hurting!

    1. Ivy stayed by me yesterday. But last night she seemed to want time to herself. And that’s fine. Whatever she needs, because I can’t explain to her what happened. I don’t even know what happened.

  9. Oh Brenda,
    what a shock to open your blog and read about your Gracie Mae! Oh my God, it’s just surreal! I have been helping a older friend organize and purge her basement and get things ready for our countywide garage sale. Haven’t even opened my e-mail for a few days. It’s just incomprehensible; so very shocking. I went back and read your previous postings; so tragic. I know what a blessing it was for Gracie Mae to have been adopted by you. She had a brief life, but you loved her dearly! I know you will need some time, but I hope you will adopt another kitty. You are a wonderful, generous, loving soul and you make your animal’s lives so full of love and joy. Sending you a tender hug and prayers…
    Susan

  10. Brenda, you gave her the best life for the rest of her life. Such a precious gift.

    1. She was a precious gift to me. I just never thought our time together would be so short. Still hard to believe.

  11. Brenda, I’m sure Ivy knew there was something wrong with Gracie. We had four dogs at one time, the 13 yr old dog developed Chushing’s disease and the other three dogs acted very mean towards her! Apparently they can sense that that animal is about to pass away!

  12. My heart has been hurting since yesterday when I heard about Gracie. This comes all too soon after I’ve lost Monkey and the pain is still fresh. Seems unreal that we’ve both just experienced this – and so unexpectedly. I am just SO sorry, Brenda.

    Cats definitely know when another is sick. Clementine wouldn’t go near Monkey when he was very ill. It was almost like she was afraid of him. They can smell illness just like a dog can. Cats also grieve the loss of another pet in the home, so you will probably see a lot of changes in Ivy. Clementine has been super needy and clingy ever since Monkey died. She sleeps glued to my side all night long.

  13. Crying, writing, and talking about your loss is so good for you. Take care of yourself, too.

  14. Brenda, my heart breaks for you. Gracie was such a sweet girl. You made her a short life wonderful, full of love and affection.

  15. I had a cat that passed with a similar description as yours. The vet said it was likely his heart. My other cat Gus-Gus was a stray and mean as heck. I knew that when I adopted him as the shelter said he they were going to put him down. Anyway this cat would walk a huge circle around my other. I thought it was just because he was mean. After the cat passed he would sit next to me or my bed.. something he would never do. I think he knew the other was sick and now was just trying to keep me company. It only lasted a few weeks then he returned to his grumpy self but thought so interesting he must have known he was sick and I was grieving. Animals are such interesting companions

  16. You need to read the book. MAKING ROUNDS WITH OSCAR by Dr. David Dosa. It’s about a cat that semsed death. A very good read!!

  17. Brenda, I don’t know if this will help you find a reason for little Gracie, but it’s my story of Joey. He was brought home to me as a kitten living beneath the carcass of a car in a rough neighborhood. A young boy claimed it was his cat and he was feeding him goldfish. My daughter paid him $20 for Joey. For over a year, Joey lived safely and happily inside with me. Neutered, de-flea-d, and healthy. One night, I heard a horrible howl from him. By the time I arrived from the next room, he was gone. There was a bit of blood around his mouth, similar to what you found on Gracie. My friend, a vet tech, suspected it was a sudden heart attack, possibly brought on by heart worm disease, something vigilantly checked for in dogs, but not cats. Joey could have been bitten by an infected mosquito while he lived outdoors. Or maybe he was born with a defect.
    I comforted myself by dwelling on the good months we had together. Like Gracie, once he was in my possession he never knew a bad, cold, or hungry day. I know none of this will erase your pain today, but maybe it will help knowing how much so many of us care…and wish we could be there to hug away your tears.

    1. Joyce, this has me crying. For Gracie and Joey and for all of us who have loved a pet and lost them. Thanks for telling me this story about your Joey.

  18. O Brenda, I am so sorry. I didn’t know. With so much happening in my own life I missed the past few posts. I felt so much affection for your precious kitty, she reminded me of one I loved a lot and she brought you so much joy. So with tears I send you heartfelt prayers and concern.
    Thank you for sharing your heart with us. We love and care for you, Brenda. Your sweet babies seem like an extension of my own little furry family.

  19. I always knew dogs had a keen sense of illness or death in another dog but did not know cats can doe this too. I am so sorry for your loss of Gracie. She was a beautiful little creature and I know you will miss her.

    1. Oh, what a beauty she was with her ginger markings and blue eyes. I am so sad that I will never look into those beautiful eyes again.

  20. Thank you for the very interesting facts about cats. They are such interesting creatures — some so loving and others yet so aloof. I am so happy you have Ivy with you. I wonder if she will end up sleeping in bed with you now that Gracie is gone. I thought of you so often yesterday and feel your loss💞

    1. Thanks Annette. You and I have been friends for a long time. Ivy is staying close to me. Even if she wouldn’t get on the bed, she was still close to me on her cat tower in the bedroom. And that made me feel better.

  21. Gracie Mae was with you for a very short season. During that season she filled your heart with joy, contentment and peace. Focusing on all that brought will be difficult for a while but when you least expect it, you’ll find yourself smiling a little.
    Ivy needs you as much as you need her. As I said yesterday, please talk to Ivy as much as you need. I believe that will help you and Ivy.
    Gentle hugs, Brenda!

    1. Ivy is sticking very close to me. She wants lots of attention, which I am giving her. I talk to her. She seems more lighthearted today because I am calmer than yesterday I suppose.

  22. You know Brenda, you loved Gracie so much and she loved you, and you will always have that. After my husband died, our dog Taffy just wouldn’t move from his pillow or his side of the bed. I thought she was sick, and I took her to the vet. He told me that animals grieve just like us and no matter how bad I was feeling that I had to spend extra time with her. You know it helped us both deal with the grief. So you and Ivy are grieving, and I am so glad Ivy has you and vice versa. I too have been crying since I saw your post yesterday, and I still am right now. As a Christian, I wish I understood why certain things happen, unfortunately, I don’t. I prayed yesterday, last night, and again today, for you and Ivy. I know this is so hard and as a reader that has gotten to know Gracie and Ivy, I feel this loss immensely. Every day I looked forward to seeing if you were going to mention them. I’m glad you have this blog because I know it helps you with your grief. Something I did when my cat Rockie passed on was to find someone to paint a picture of him from a picture. I happened to find a person in a magazine that did it for me, but I also know that there are people on Etsy that do this. That picture of Gracie on the quilts (I think it was in yesterday’s post) is one of my favorite and that would make a beautiful little painting if you so choose. My heart goes out to you and Ivy. I am keeping you in my prayers. I also want you to know that I have two cats, Alex and Maverick. Yesterday, I felt so sad about Gracie, and I went and laid down on my bed crying. Both my cats came up and snuggled and cuddled with me. Our pets are so intuned to our feelings. It felt so good just holding them. Last night, I got down on the floor and played with them with my bad knee and all. The loss of Gracie reminded me to love mine even more and to do more things that they like. I owe that to Gracie. So you and Ivy now need each other more than ever, and I am so thankful that you have each other.
    Hugs,

  23. I haven’t done research on this, but speaking from personal experience as I lost each of my beloved doggies over the years, they seemed to “know” that they were dying and at least to my eyes and senses, seemed to accept it with a peace and serenity that most humans do not. That photo of Ivy in today’s post, where she is lying down stretched out and looks relaxed, but her facial expression somehow seems sad to me. I think she is worried about you, Brenda, and senses that you are grieving the loss of Gracie. When we are upset, our beloved pets sense this and get upset too, because they don’t know what to do to make us feel better. Of course, just being themselves can make us feel better. Grief over the loss of a loved one – whether a person or an animal – comes and goes, it can return when we least expect it even after many many years. Accepting it and rolling with it is what we should do, rather than trying to “tough it out” and ignore it, or pooh pooh ourselves for feeling such emotions. I would know something was wrong with me and be frightened if I did not grieve after the loss of a loved one, whether a person or an animal, and if I did not sometimes look at a photo and tear up, or a memory would suddenly pop into my head and I would start crying, over a lost loved one. Don’t scold yourself or feel that something is “weak” or “wrong” with you for feeling such emotions. Perhaps if more people allowed these emotions to surface and accepted them, the world would be a better place.

    1. I just looked at the photo of Ivy from this morning again, and I think you’re right. She’s jumping up in my chair every little bit, never staying at the window watching birds for long. She seems, I think, to believe she’s taking care of me.

  24. I find it incredible how perceptive Ivy has appeared to be. As you say, she may have perceived Gracie as a threat because of her illness, of which you knew nothing. The fact that her behavior is so different and she is so much calmer and her habits are different is just amazing. We can all learn from our beloved pets.

    1. I feel so sad that if Gracie was sick I didn’t know and didn’t do anything for her. I don’t know if I could have, but the possibility sits before me. Could I have done something for her, I keep asking myself. My sweet cuddly little Gracie.

  25. Brenda, no matter how long or short of time we have with a pet it is hard to loose them. I never thought of Gracie being sick, but maybe you are right Ivy knew. Animals know more that we do and perhaps you are right, it made her sad or afraid or maybe she didn’t want to befriend Gracie because she knew she was sick. Whatever the case, I am so happy that you have Ivy, your daughter and Steve for solace and help. Take care my friend.

      1. I missed your blog for a couple of days and I was shocked to read about sweet little Gracie. My heart goes out to you !! Just looking at that sweet face and beautiful blue eyes, melted my heart. It’s hard anytime we lose a beloved pet but when it is completely unexpected, it has to be extra hard. You gave her a good life & gave her so much love. So very sorry for your loss, it’s hard to find the right words.

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