In my opinion, there is only one downside to welcoming cats into our hearts and homes and that is the last good day.
So how do we make that last day a good day? I was faced with that very question this week as Jayna, our senior cat, gave us the look that simply said, "I'm done."
In my book, Raised by Cats: Behind the Mic and the Meows, I speak a lot to the idea of "good days" for our cats. Their view of life is so different from ours and if you think about it like they do, there is no concern for a long, happy life for a cat. Our cats just want to the days they have to be good.
Heartbroken and disoriented, I penned this love letter to Jayna on my Facebook page shortly after she peacefully passed in our home.
We don't like to think about it but odds are, in most cases, we are going to outlive our cats. Honoring them with a graceful goodbye is a painful experience but one that I feel we must commit to each time we bring a cat into our home. It is as important as the commitment to giving them a good, forever home.
As I have reflected about Jayna's life, I have felt a push -- almost as if from the Queen herself -- to share our story in hopes that you, too, can prepare and experience the graceful goodbye.
Patty Spitler, our host of Pet Pals TV, invited me to come on WISH-TV and talk about Jayna. Part of me cringed at the thought of even trying to put together words to describe my grief but another part of me whispered, "Do this for Jayna."
Jayna gave us perspective and clarity we hadn't had before and, believe me, having a House of Cats, this is not the first time we've had to let one go. I believe she prepared us so well that it has almost felt uncomfortable in the last few days to be so at peace with her passing. It has, of course, at other moments felt unbearable.
If you are preparing to say goodbye, have an aging cat or are in the process of grieving a pet you lost, I am going to say this for your benefit as much as mine:
Your feelings are valid and you have a right to grieve in the manner that best soothes you.
For our family, preparing for the day made so much difference. Here are some things you can do to prepare for your cat's graceful goodbye and some resources to help you grieve:
#1 Talk to your veterinarian -- Your veterinarian goes through this more than they would like to and is a great resource to help you navigate this tough time. It is important to remember that your vet is not there to decide for you. The vet's role is to provide all of the medical possibilities available. As your cat's trusted caretaker, you must decide whether to pursue tests and procedures. It is important to express to your vet when you want to shift from the perspective of prolonging life to one of comfort care and hospice.
#2 Research resources available -- There are wonderful organizations now such as Lap of Love and, here in Indianapolis, Rose Pet Memorial Center that can help you.
Lap of Love is an in home euthanasia service. You can call them any time to set your pets up in their system so that when the day comes, there aren't as many decisions to make.
We called them two years ago when Jayna was diagnosed with kidney disease. They were kind and helpful when I called all these years later. As it turned out, our regular vet was able to come to our home but Lap of Love still treated us with so much understanding and offered their grief counseling services at no charge.
Rose Pet Memorial Center (and similar centers in other cities) help you in deciding what type of mementos you may want and the various ways to honor your pet's memory. They offer incredible services and options including memorial services.
#3 Listen to your cat -- I can not stress enough the importance of you being tuned into your cat's needs. Pay attention to their quality of life. What did they enjoy most on their best days and how much of that are they still doing? Honor them by putting your own feelings aside and giving them good days.
A wonderful resource that has helped us when our cats are sick and we're wondering what to do is this Quality of Life Assessment from Lap of Love.
#4 Surround yourself with support -- you do not need to go through this alone. Not everyone will understand the grief we feel when our cats pass away. There are, however, plenty of people who do. Talk to your vet, ask the companies I've mentioned here for referrals or join my KJ's Cat Club group where we support each other through these times.
I couldn't be writing this right now without the love and support my family has received this week. If there is one thing I want you to take away from this, it is that you are not alone and you can give your cat that graceful goodbye while also giving yourself the grace to grieve.
To see our tribute to Jayna and get more advice on how to help give your cat a graceful goodbye, watch our Pet Pals TV segment here.
Purrs, love and light to you,
Your Kitty Correspondent
In loving memory of our Queen Jayna
KJ is the Kitty Correspondent for Pet Pals TV searching out and bringing you positive stories of cats! Follow KJ here on Facebook and get a copy of her Amazon #1 New Release, "Raised by Cats: Behind the Mic and the Meows" here!