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Emily Henderson

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by Emily Henderson
what to say when a pet dies

I secretly hate when people allude to either great news or bad news on social media without divulging, but now I realize why they/we do it. A few of you may have noticed that about a month ago, I was a bit absent from social and the blog. I just wanted to check in and say “I’m fine but something is going on” when really both my cats died and I was very sad. The loss of Bearcat was especially heartbreaking, as she was such a big part of our lives and on the blog and social a lot (Mimi preferred to be on her own). I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it without bawling, but not talking about and pretending I was fine felt awful. We had them for 13 years and then they were suddenly both gone.

For anyone who wants to know the details, keep reading. If you’re averse to super sad details, skip ahead a few paragraphs, by all means. So here’s what happened: It was 8:30 pm and I was writing at the dining table, after making my first soup of Soup-tember. Brian went outside to pull up the trash cans and I heard him whisper-scream “EMILY!!!” in a way that was terrifying and it will haunt me forever, followed by “Bearcat is dead.” I went to the front door and he met me with eyes full of sheer horror. I would later remark how crazy it is that emotions can produce such immediate physical responses. My eyes exploded with water, my throat closed up, and I started choking/crying. As I saw her body lying in the front yard, I collapsed onto the stairs.

We don’t know what happened and part of me doesn’t want to know because I fear it was my fault. You see, Mimi (our other, more independent cat), had been sick for a long time and refused even the finest of cat food and was losing so much weight, becoming terribly skinny. The only thing she loved was chicken. She would jump up on the island and beg for it, which was admittedly gross and infuriating, but the lady was old and hungry, so we would often cave in. That night, as I made my first soup, I shredded extra chicken and put it outside for Mimi. Bearcat could have died from a heart attack, or a coyote could have shaken her (they live in our area and there was fur all around her), but I really fear that she choked on the chicken I put out for Mimi. That maybe I didn’t shred it into small enough pieces.

I didn’t go outside to see her, I saw her from the front door. Brian said that only one of us needed to see it because you can’t un-see your first dead fur-baby and he didn’t think both of us needed to have that image forever branded in our brains. After googling what to do and calling Emily B. (who I knew had experience with this), he wrapped her in a towel and took her to the only nighttime vet that would cremate a cat at that hour (in a very depressing coincidence, it cost the same $50 to cremate her as it did to purchase her 13 years ago). I sat at home, nauseous and crying until he got home. I was feeling guilty in so many ways, but mostly just missing our Bear. Our little Bear Bear was gone.

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what to say when a pet dies

I’ll be pretty honest here, we had two cats, we got them at the same time and I should love them both equally but I didn’t. Bearcat was special. She was the most affectionate, sweet, loving, cat ever. She would jump on your lap, rub her face against yours, snuggle into your arm all day every day, and purr so audibly that sometimes you couldn’t hear the TV. Everyone who met her remarked that she was the best cat that ever lived. She gave so much love, and our kids were obsessed with her.

Mimi was just a different story. During her last 10 years of life, she became unpredictable, rather “catty” and could be mean and lash out. She liked Brian more, but I was kinda scared of her, and so were the kids (although the kids were more fearless than I was around her). She was clearly so unhappy, and had been for years. They both suffered from upper respiratory infection, which they contracted from the Bronx housing project in which they were bred, amongst 15 other cats (at least). We bought them off Craigslist for $50 each. They both had ear mites and kitty aids. We debated calling the ASPCA but instead lied and told them we had called them (after we had our cats in our possession), but never actually did. Our hope was that they would be scared and stop breeding street cats, but we didn’t actually want them to get in trouble because clearly, their lives weren’t awesome if they were breeding stray cats for $50 a piece as a source of income in the projects. So they weren’t technically a rescue, but in some ways they definitely were.

what to say when a pet dies

That was when we were 25. When we moved to LA,  before we had kids, we treated them like our children. Our friends remember us saying stuff like “we need to go, we miss our cats and want to get home to them.” At one point, I wouldn’t let a friend cat sit for us because I feared that if they let the cats get out and one of them got lost or killed, I could never forgive that person, and our relationship would be forever changed. So I would hire someone, a professional cat sitter (later our nanny) to stay with them.

What I’m about to write next may be asking for some pretty emotional and negative responses, but the truth is a lot of the guilt about Bearcat’s death was also guilt that we hadn’t been the same parents to her since we’d had kids. The first 10 years of her life she (and Mimi) were treated like gold. They received hours of attention a day. After we had Charlie, it diminished a bit, (Mimi actually ran away a few days after his birth and was only found after a week of Brian papering the neighborhood and spreading their litter and our dirty laundry outside our house). But then after we had Elliot, it got worse. We just didn’t have the hours in the day to give them the love that we used to and we felt AWFUL. We would complain about the smell of the litter box, how Mimi had been peeing everywhere, how they destroyed our rug, how they snotted all over our baseboard. Our laundry room was a constant source of disgust and annoyance with daily pee, litter, and often cat poop on the ground in the morning (despite a constantly fresh box). We complained about all of that, but we still loved them, especially Bear, so MUCH. I felt this incredible guilt in so many ways.

Meanwhile, we knew that Mimi was sick with kidney failure. Brian took her to the vet for the 4th time this year and the vet confirmed that she was dying, in pain, and miserable. So a few days after Bear suddenly died, we made the decision to put Mimi down. We had no doubt it was the right thing to do, but it still feels terrible to end the life of your pet, no matter how much you maybe didn’t connect with her.

It was super odd to go from two cats to none. But strangely, the kids didn’t notice. Both cats had become indoor/outdoor which reduces their lifespan by years, but they loved laying in the sun in the backyard all day and always managed to find a way out. They weren’t like dogs, making their presence known all day. They would often sleep in closets for hours or hang out under our bed.

For the first few days, I couldn’t talk about Bear without having to leave the room and immediately start bawling. So I knew that I wasn’t ready to tell the kids. Then I had to go up to Portland and I didn’t want Brian to do it by himself. PLUS the kids hadn’t asked where the cats where! So we kept putting off telling them and had an answer just in case they asked while I was out of town: that they were at the vet because they weren’t feeling well. But it never came up.

what to say when a pet dies

We knew that at some point we were going to have to tell them. But our kids are young, at the time not even 3 and 5. We now knew why parents say that family pets left to go live on a farm instead of telling their kids the much sadder truth. And despite my educated parent brain knowing that lying to them would be the wrong way to handle the situation, it just seemed so easy.

But as we grieved and healed, we both decided to tell them the truth. But how?? Obviously, I Googled it, but most of the advice was for “kids” around 7 and up, not small kids like Charlie and Elliot. We weren’t worried about Birdie, she is so young. But Charlie had been asking about death lately and we really didn’t want him to think that being old automatically means dying. He is VERY close to Brian’s parents and he knows that they are technically older than us, so we didn’t want him to think “if Bearcat can die just like that, then can Boba and Sue Sue?” I know that is a natural fear that he should process, but also easier said than done when you’re the one actually doing the parenting (like so much of parenting). We also didn’t want them to think that at any moment one of us could die, even though that is also true. We subscribe to the parenting style of making them feel secure and safe for as long as possible. I’ll go ahead and admit that we shelter our kids from unnecessary negativity all day every day. So talking about death and the fear of death was new and hard for all of us.

what to say when a pet dies

But we knew we had to. So in case you are in our same situation here is what we said, our script verbatim. It was Friday night, before family movie night and it was just the four of us.

Hey kids, we need to chat with you about something. We sat them down on the sofa. I don’t remember who said what, but Brian and I took turns and had rehearsed it a few times.

Remember how Bearcat and Mimi were really old? They nodded. For cats, they were the oldest they can be (a lie, but it felt okay). And you know how they were sneezing all the time and Mimi was really unhappy and skinny? They nodded. Well, we took them to the vet and they said that they were really sick and that it was their time, so they passed away. 

Charlie got it immediately and started bawling and asked, Bearcat is dead?? and Elliot, hearing Charlie’s question and our answer, started crying, too. We said yes, buddy. Then I grabbed my “prop” (a glove), and put it on my hand. My mom had given me the idea for this analogy.

I put on a positive voice.

Listen guys, every person or cat is made out of a body and a soul, like my hand. Your body is like the glove and when it’s time for you to die, your body gets discarded (I took off the glove) and what lives forever is your soul (I happily wiggled my gloveless hand). I was even prepped for the oncoming questions. Where do souls go?

We don’t know, but we know that they are so happy, they are together as best friends, and their souls will always be with us. I kept reiterating that they were together and so much happier because they didn’t feel old and sick anymore. Which, in the end, made the kids super happy.

We related that we were also so sad and we missed them too, but without crying. Then I gave them a little stuffed animal that they could reach for, squeeze, and snuggle every time they missed the cats. Birdie was immediately fine and happy, having a new toy, and said I’m going to name her Bearcat. Internally, I was like hmm…uh, well, I’m not totally sure that’s what should happen, but I didn’t say anything and by the next day, she had already renamed her Alice.

That night, we all cuddled and watched a movie and the kids went to bed like normal.

what to say when a pet dies

The next day we got a call from their preschool teacher that Charlie was talking about his dead cats and really sad, so we walked her through what we had told him so that she could reiterate the same ideas. We picked him up from school and talked a bit more about it, sharing in his sadness. When we got home, we looked at a bunch of old photos of the cats, specifically Bear which made them both happy/sad.

So far, so good. We felt like we had helped them through this process in a way that taught them a bit about the process of life, while supporting their emotions and giving them some vocabulary to their feelings.

Then we had a parenting fail. A week later, we took them to get beta fish because they had wanted them forever. We honestly didn’t make the correlation that we were somehow replacing the cats with new pets. The kids were both asking for a dog but neither Brian nor I were or are ready for another real pet. I suppose we were trying to distract our kids from experiencing the pangs of missing the cats and putting off the impending dog situation. We wanted to give them some responsibility and help them understand how to care for something else, blah blah. They took to it all immediately, excited to feed them, telling them they were their “mommy and daddy” and saying good morning and goodnight to them. It was incredibly sweet. But a few days later, I overheard Charlie telling his friend my cats died so I got a fish, wanna come see? And I again thought uh, well, ok, but eek, I feel weird, he’s not wrong but it doesn’t feel right…

So that is where we are now. We try to bring the cats up in a way that feels positive so that we aren’t just shoving their feelings under the rug. We don’t want them to think that the fish replace the cats, so we try to separate the two but I think we probably should have waited a little bit longer between the two situations.

Meanwhile, the fish are now two weeks old and well, the kids are totally over them (SHOCKING). And now I have to change fish bowls every week. Our kids weren’t old enough to care for fish and let’s face it, a single beta fish in a glass bowl is a VERY boring pet. But these are the types of parenting tropes you don’t fully understand until you’re committing them yourself.

They both beg for a dog or cat, but we aren’t ready and they aren’t either. I miss Bear so much. I miss her snuggles, her soft fur. Her purr that was so loud you could hear her in my Insta stories. She was the sweetest, happiest, best cat in the world and even though Mimi didn’t want much to do with people, they were our first babies and it’s just odd to live without them.

what to say when a pet dies

Anyway, I guess I just needed to tell you all. Bearcat specifically had a big presence here, on the blog, and I couldn’t NOT tell you. Plus, I felt my mom’s advice was perfect for younger kids, and I hadn’t been able to find that kind of advice online. So if anyone has any other suggestions to share for anyone dealing with this situation, please leave in the comments.

Thanks for listening to my long journal entry about my cats.

 

  1. So sorry, Emily! We had a huge parenting fail facing the same thing a few years ago when our beloved cat, CJ, died. We kept meaning to tell our two year old, but he never noticed… Seriously, SIX MONTHS later he said “Where’s the cat?” and by then were were like, “Oh, she died.” Worst parents ever. I still miss our girl all the time, but I do NOT miss cat hair and litter pans, so there’s that at least.

    1. I know!! it took us 9 days before we brought it up to THEM. so odd. and yes, no litter is a huge plus.

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss Emily 🙁 I’ve lost two cats before, and now I have a new kitten, and they were/are the world for me. All the best to you in this time of grief.

  3. I should not have read this at work… damn onions…
    I totally get you, on everything in this post. The lost of my first cat ten years ago is still upsetting me. I also felt so guilty because I let him outside and that it is probably why he died. And now that I have a one year old son, I also feel the guilt you were referring to, like I’m abandoning my present cat. I know I do not spend enough time with her and she gets older and crankier and… and, I’m sad and scared, especially for the future. I also fear for when she will be gone as well. My son will probably still be really young and I wonder what I will tell him. So, thank you for this, I will keep it in the back of my mind for when that dreadful time will come.

    1. yep,. same double guilt. it was a month ago and i’m feeling better but man, I was just like ‘she’s gone and its my fault’ for so long … xx

  4. I’m sorry for your loss Emily. Some of those pictures, especially of Charlie and Bearcat, are just so, so sweet. We have an older dog who is in fine health but I know this conversation is inevitable and it pains me to even think about it. I think you found a great balance between honesty and sensitivity. That is tough to navigate while you are also grieving. Thank you for sharing, I hope it can bring you some comfort.

  5. I’m so sorry. Don’t we know those same feels. We are still feeling the loss of our dear cat, Sam. A farm kitten which our daughter brought home. It became her therapy for anxiety and sleeplessness. Poor kitty had kidney failure at a relatively young age of eight. Sam-the-cat died about the same time our little girl grew up and left home. It felt like a double sucker punch to this mamma. I always wonder if I fed him wrong somewhere… did he eat a stray grape? Emily, we cant beat ourselves up about how they died but ultimately we rescued and gave our pets the best life/love we could…. many times better than their beginnings. Our friend walked in our house one day and commented to our rescue kitty and rescue min pin, “When you guy landed here, you hit the lottery.” Your cats hit the lottery too. The bonus is your family also won in a big way.

    1. ah thank you. My friends tell me the same thing. They had GOOD lives, sure they were better before we had kids but still REALLY good. hopefully. x

      1. Dear Emily,
        So sorry to hear what happened.
        Best wishes

  6. I’m so sorry, Emily. It’s crushing to lose a special part of your family. And I’m sure it was very difficult to write this post, but i appreciate that you did.

  7. Hi Emily –
    I am so sorry for your loss. I am a veterinarian, and we always send home the book CAT HEAVEN by Cynthia Rylant to clients when they lose a pet and have children in their family. I think it’s a nice bridge to help children understand that their pet is no longer suffering and at peace. To be honest, sometimes the book helps adults heal too (be prepared to cry!). I feel for you as you grapple with this loss and I know your immense sadness. It’s obvious that both Bearcat adn Mimi were a big part of your family, and I know he will live on in your heart forever.

    1. My daughter – she’s four – always wants to come to the vet when we bring our cat. So there we were, for a normal wellness visit thankfully, and my daughter saw Cat Heaven on the little bookshelf in the room. She asked me to read it to her, but I could barely make it through the story! It really is a gentle way to introduce the concept of pet death, and what happens to the cats afterward is sweet. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

      Emily, I’m so sorry about your kitties.

      1. I wish I had bought it!!! It’s so funny because Brian doesn’t believe in “heaven” so he was like ‘do we have to use that word?’ so we debated but then I said no, I guess not. but then GUESS WHO USED THAT WORD WHEN OUR KIDS WERE ASKING WHERE THE CAT’S SOULS WERE? Brian Henderson 🙂 He said ‘they are in kitty heaven’ and later he said ‘It just seemed like the right thing to say!’

        1. Thank you. Such a helpful post.
          And so funny about Brian’s explanation. My husband also doesn’t believe in heaven or God and wants to explain everything with science. However, my 3 year old twins reached the “why” stage recently and I just over heard my husband answer the 5th of a chain of “why” questions with, “God”. I was like, what!?!?

  8. Oh boy. This one hit so close to home. My cat Olive is 14 and has gotten so thin over the past couple of months. We’ve narrowed down the cause to something GI-related but she will. not. eat. I have to sit with her on the floor and coax her to take a bite. It’s honestly the most time I’ve spent with her in a while because I have a 3.5 year old and a 1 year old and… life. That guilt you wrote about is so heavy for me. Before I had babies, she was my baby. She was the most spoiled cat and there’s a part of me that thinks she’s gotten to this point because I’ve neglected her. Not physically but emotionally. She knows she’s in 3rd place now, and there was no avoiding it but it makes me so, so sad. She’s a wonderful cat and it breaks my heart to think of our family losing her. I’m so sorry you went through this; thank you for sharing the story and making me feel not so alone. Giving insight on how you told your little ones is really helpful too. Sending a hug and sympathy.

    1. AH, i’m so sorry. Do the glove analogy thing if it feels right. Who knows how much they understand but 1/2 of this battle is also feeling like you did the right thing as a parent and performing an analogy about souls and bodies made me feel like I was at least not phoning it in and just like ‘they are dead and in heaven’. they have a physical and visual way to process what that all means. but who knows 🙂

  9. First, I’m sorry for your loss. Seriously.

    Second, this reminds me of when we lost one of our cats three years ago. He wasn’t that old. He loved to go outside, and would run past our feet whenever we opened the front door (we could not stop him – if we locked him in a room he would just destroy the room, and if he was not locked away then he would get out either when we entered the home or when we let our dog out; I’d try to wait to feed him dinner until everyone was home / inside but so he’d stick around but even that didn’t work all the time). He had a bum leg so he was not the fastest cat (faster than us, but not faster than a dog). We think the neighbor’s dog got out and attacked our cat for fun, killing him (later, I found out that twilight was the most popular time of the day for animals to hunt, so it probably happened soon after our cat escaped when my husband came home that evening). We didn’t find the result right away because our neighbor’s house had an unkempt yard, but a day and half later, I saw an unforgettable shape lying still in the tall grass – so, I had the terrible task of walking and driving through our neighborhood looking for him beforehand, posting signs, calling shelters and vet offices to see if they’d seen him, and then the awfully sad task of removing the signs and answering neighbor’s questions as I took down the signs once I knew the truth. I felt so sad. I didn’t post on social media hardly at all about it because there are too many judgmental people out there. There were people who hated us for not keeping our cat indoors all the time (listen, cats have personalities – just because their cat loves the indoors doesn’t mean our cat was capable of that). There were also people who did not understand why I’d be so sad about “just a cat” (funny thing, these are people who had never actually met our specific cat). I thought one year would be a reasonable amount of time to grieve but it took me two years before I could look at a picture of our cat and not be very sad to the point of tearing up. Again, I kept it mostly to myself, as no one was as sad as I was about this (my mom thought one month was a reasonable amount of grieving time, for example). I’m now at the point where the good memories triumph over sadness. I would like to get another cat in the distant future, but not now. Maybe when my kids are in high school would be a good time for me.

    I’m glad you posted this, but I could never have done it. I just wouldn’t have been able to stomach any negative comments.

    1. Oh dear. I can’t imagine finding that. I KNOW that allowing them to be indoor/outdoor reduced their life but they LOVED it and they were 14 so I just wanted them to lay in the sun in the grass, which they did. I’m grateful that having two small kids definitely softened the pain because I had to parent and I was just so grateful that my kids were alive. But i’m so sorry for your loss. That sound so traumatic. xx

  10. I’m so sorry about your cats!!! I wish I could give you all hugs!

  11. I am truly sorry. I went through similar issues with my German Shepherd after my daughter was born. I think it’s normal though. I feel I treat our beloved Maine Coon like a King since there is more time in the day to devote to him. My daughter is 14 now, so no more fighting to eat her vegetables, no more bath times, or please put your shoes back on so we can go. In a few years that balance will return. Thanks for sharing.

    1. So 14 is the age that they’ll stop battling? 🙂 JK. I know its earlier, but birdie just entered 3 and I’m like OH RIGHT WE ARE BACK TO THIS??? Charlie has gotten better at almost 5, but her ‘NO! I WON’T’ reaction to say, putting on shoes, is REMARKABLE. Yet again 🙂 Anyway, yes. We need some years to properly care and love a pet again while giving our kids what they need. If we could just let them be indoor/outdoor we would (dogs and cats) but living in a neighborhood with cars we just can’t. (we grew up so far out in the country that our dogs/cats would just wander so we didn’t really have to ‘care’ for them. just snuggle them at night.

  12. i’m SO SORRY. as a person with cats, dogs, frogs, chickens, and sometimes other critters [as well as a 10 year old] i relate to everything here. i hope you don’t carry the guilt over any of it – i am sure you guys were an amazing home for those kitties over 13 years!! they were beautiful, and i know that once it’s not so fresh you will think of them without the pain. [first comment; love your work]

  13. Thank you for sharing this, and I’m so sorry for your loss. Like you, I have two older cats and two little kids. My baby in particular is obsessed with the cats. Last night as I was giving him his bottle to go to sleep, our cat Eva came over and snuggled with us and my son gently pet her fur as he drifted off. It was so incredibly sweet. One day, I’ll hsve to be in your shoes and through my tears I’m sure I’ll be googling for this blog post as I figure out how to tell my kids…

    1. ah, i hope you don’t have to, but i hope this helps. xx

  14. I am so so sorry for your loss, Emily. It is heartbreaking to lose a pet, especially when it feels unexpected.
    Your approach seems so appropriate for their ages, and kids say really weird things and process things in ways we can’t control – totally not a parenting fail. Don’t be too hard on yourself for Charlie’s connecting the two – he might not really think of them as replacements, but just close in time. And thank you for sharing the glove technique – that is a really lovely way to help them think about it.
    Also – what I learned back when my 2nd grader was 4, is that they often get obsessed with death, full stop. And sometimes it happens for a year or two, or longer. I found the Longest Shortest Time podcast around that time, and Hillary’s daughter was going through the same thing so they did a few shows about it. It’s a really interesting listen, if you don’t already. https://longestshortesttime.com/search?q=death
    Hugs all around for you and your family.

    1. OH that is so interesting. we have a friend who’s child is obsessed with death (and she is lovely and normal, too) and we wondered why. It’s like why are boys obsessed with guns (just read about that the other day which made me feel better). Charlie is entering the ‘death’ stage a little bit with his grandparents…asking them when they are going to die, asking us, etc, and that’s why we were so ‘oh no!! now he’s going to worry even more!!!’. I’m going to listen to that. thank you! xx

  15. so sorry!! you’re in my thoughts.

  16. Ugh Emily I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine. They were such lucky cats to have a loving home. Prayers for you and your littles!

  17. Emily – I’m sorry for the family’s loss. We have a mentally challenged 12 year old and have lost a couple of cats over the last 6 years. No matter how you break the news, you can’t control how a child will react or process the loss. We’ve done what we can in the presentation, in much the same way you have, but kids are both unpredictable and have their own ways of moving through grief. You just have to sit with them through all the questions and sadness until they find their own resolution (and hopefully you nudge them in positive/healthy ways). You are good parents.

    Or, in our case, in spite of all that, your kid asks their 90 and 100 year old grandparents if they are going to die this year because they are even older than the cats that died. Obviously I did an awesome job…

    1. OMG. 90 and 100! amazing. yes, that is what our kids just started doing – asking when they are going to die because they have said themselves that they are ‘old’.. And by the way we have eliminated the word ‘old’ unless spoken about in a positive way in our house. its up there with the word ‘fat’ and ‘skinny’ – we just emphasize being healthy. See … i told you we are conservative 🙂

  18. I’m so sorry, Emily. A similar thing happened to my perfect, amazing cat, Binky. He was found on my neighbors front lawn and we will never know what happened. I feel guilty that he died outside, but he was so much happier being indoor/outdoor.

    We had a little memorial service for him and my brother-in-law, drove almost an hour each way on a school night to bring his kids. They were older, maybe 6 and 9, but he wanted them to experience it since their dog was getting older and he wanted to start preparing them. They got to share their favorite memories of Binky with us. I thought my brother-in-law was crazy, but now that I’m a mom it seems like it was a pretty solid parenting move on his part!

    1. ah, thats so sweet! growing up with did a memorial, too, and buried them but I guess you can’t in a city (we looked it up). Looking through old photos kinda felt like one though … but if they were older I think thats a GREAT thing to do.

  19. Ohhh, Emily. I’m sorry.

    We have to put our 9yo Great Dane down in about a week and I can’t thank you enough for sharing all that you did – the grief, the guilt, the mistakes, everything. We have the benefit of knowing and preparing ahead of time; we can give our 2 and 3 year olds a heads up and let them say goodbye (which is going to be the hardest part).

    Harley has a great life for the first six or seven years, and then we had our kids and I never loved him any less than before, but there was less time for him and he slept a lot. The vet says he has cancer and dementia and he’s dying/in some pain. We’re giving him lots of cuddles and love and treats in the last week of his life. He’s the best dog I’ve ever known.

    1. ah, i’m so sorry. so so sorry. thinking of you and your kiddos. xx

  20. This breaks my heart. Losing a pet is one of the hardest things to go through, I still remember losing my first dog when I was young. It never gets any easier with any other pet BUT I think the pain is worth all the good memories and happiness that pets bring to our lives. It just comes at such an awful cost. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Rest in Peace Bearcat and Mimi <3

  21. I’m so sorry for the loss of Bearcat and Mimi. It hurts no matter how long you have them. I know when our cat Possum died my eldest son had to ask to be excused from his science class because he was so upset, and he was a teenager. We lasted a whole 6 days without a cat (we got one from the RSPCA on the Saturday after Possum had died on Monday). When you’re up to looking for another cat, can I suggest you go here: https://www.facebook.com/SarahsKittenCuddleRoom/. Sarah fosters for Kitten Rescue in LA, and raises the most affectionate, snuggly kittens.

    1. oh thats so sweet RE Sara. I will definitely recommend. xx

  22. Thank you for sharing and opening up what is of course a really painful topic to lots and lots of people. I am holding my breath before reading the comments hoping no one is a jerk. But I wanted to tell you that you helped this mom.

  23. I am so sorry for your loss Emily! I lost my cat, Capri, in the Spring and it is always devastating to lose a pet. I struggled with guilt too, I think most people do. Your kiddos are lucky to have two parents so invested in their emotional wellbeing. Take care!

  24. Dear Emily,
    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your cats, Bear especially. Some relationships we experience are so rare. As for Mimi? Well we can’t always choose our family! But gosh I think you gave her a real gift by releasing her from her pain. And you know what else? I just can’t believe that Bear choked on the chicken. They were lucky to be part of your family. You take good care and please get yourself a copy of Cynthia Rylant’s Cat Heaven. I think it might help you feel better and the kids will like it too. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  25. I’m so sorry, Emily. Truly. I cried as I read this because I’ve been there, and it is so hard. We’ve had two cats pass away, both of whom were our babies. For what it’s worth, I think you and Brian did a wonderful job handling the situation with your kids. You were thoughtful and intentional and focused on their needs and what was right for your family. That’s as much as any parent could hope to do in any situation, and I think you handled it beautifully. 💕

    1. ah, thank you very very very very much. xx

  26. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad you found a productive way to talk about the loss of your pets to your children, but my one comment is I hope you can come to feel more comfortable talking about the potential for bad things to happen more easily. I understand you want to protect your children from negativity, but as someone who lost a parent and grandparent young, I really wish someone would have told me what was going on. Everyone tried to shelter me and what I actually needed was honesty. Knowing that something could happen to you or elderly relatives at any time makes it’s possibility less..I don’t know, shocking? It’s obviously not something you need to talk about all the time but discussing death doesn’t have to be a negativity to protect them from. It happens, and being prepared for that makes everything easier to process in my opinion. I hope you find solace in your grief.

    1. Erica, from a different perspective– my family is Italian and I’m not sure if it’s cultural (which I’ve always thought) or just us, but we are slightly obsessed with the idea of dying despite the fact that everyone in my family pretty much reaches 100. I remember the idea that “my grandmother might die any minute, and every holiday might be our last” lasting for literally decades. My grandmother will be celebrating her 100th birthday next month, and while death will happen when it happens, as it does for all of us, I can’t help feeling like this dark guilty cloud hung over the past 3 decades of her life and really feel like worrying about it won’t stop the inevitable from happening. But, maybe this is just one of those situations where there’s really no right answer- death is just a difficult reality of all life, and despite that, there’s not really a great way to prepare for the inevitability of it- especially in an age when we think we can make everything better somehow.

    2. Erica,

      I’m so sorry for the losses you experienced when you were young, no matter the circumstances, experiencing loss at a young age is incredibly difficult. I worked with pediatric hospice patients and their siblings (in the setting of bereavement). From this I’ve learned the importance of teaching children about death and to use concrete language, “died” rather than “passed away” and NEVER “they’re sleeping.” It’s also important to be honest when prognosis for a loved one isn’t good and not to shield them from all of your own tears. Children can tell when adults are sad/suffering, it’s good to show them that emotions are normal and okay (obviously with sensitivity to their developmental age).

      Using the death of a pet (or even a bug) is a great way to teach children about the concept of death. It’s much more difficult for us as adults/protectors but it is very helpful when done with sensitivity (as Emily was/is clearly trying to do).

      For anyone who knows a grieving child or who has a loved one with a serious illness, The Dougy Center is an excellent resource. There’s even a tip sheet on talking to preschoolers about death among many other excellent resources. http://www.dougy.org

      1. I love this conversation, it was just hard since it was the first time talking about death at all. I KNOW that when/if someone close to us dies that we won’t shield it from our kids, I promise. Sure we may act stronger in front of them just to make sure that they feel safe and secure (and not watching parenting bawling all day long as they wonder WTF is up with the world) but I totally agree – we shelter against unnecessary negatives, but when a loved one dies its SO important to talk (they just don’t need to hear us talk about the Yemen refugee crisis at the dinner table YET, unless we are doing it in a productive way talking about how to help other kids). But when they are 8 and 10, they’ll get involved 🙂 Meanwhile, they know that tuesday is election day 🙂

  27. i appreciate this post so much. It is hard losing pets. Thinking of you and your family! And thank you for the great advice on how to talk about death with kids.

  28. So sorry for your loss of two beloved kittys. Thank you for sharing the struggle and turmoil of “what ifs” and sharing the truth with your children.

  29. I’m so sorry for your loss!

    I know how it feels, truly. The guilt is just part of the process, but I hope with time you’ll be able to move past it and realize that sometimes circumstances just are what they are and life just sucks hard sometimes.

    We sure miss our furry babies though. And now I’m crying. Anyway, thank you for sharing with us.

  30. So sorry for your loss. We had to put down our 12 year old dog a few months ago, and it is soooooo hard. The house still feels off. Thank you for sharing.

  31. I’m very sorry for your loss. Very sorry. It is never easy, especially when you have an animal so long and through so many big life experiences. Obviously, you won’t ever know for sure, but please don’t feel guilty about the chicken being left outside. My husband is a veterinarian and chicken is often ‘prescribed’ for sick cats or picky cats b/c cats are naturally carnivorous and chicken is easy on their stomachs. Even if you didn’t cut the pieces small enough, your cat with her sharp teeth could easily have shredded the chicken smaller. Please let go of that guilt!
    Advice I was given when my mother died (I was pregnant and had a few young children who were really close to her – in fact, we lived with her that summer b/c my husband was doing a veterinary internship in the area.) was to speak of her often to my kids. Force it… “Bearcat would have loved that toy. Bearcat would have layed right there in the sunshine. Mimi would have gobbled up that chicken and then snuggled on dad’s lap.” When you don’t speak of your loved one, it becomes harder and harder to speak about them later – it becomes incredibly awkward. When you speak of them, it gives the child the opportunity down the road to easily mention them and express sadness or frustration or even just share a cute memory. It really does help and it also helps keep the memories alive. My son who was in utero when my mother dies actually thinks he remembers her b/c of the stories!

    1. Yes I totally agree! I tried to not talk about losing my dog this past summer with my 6 year old son. We told him our dog Vader died but I didn’t want to traumatize him with all of my tears. And then after about a week, he started saying things like “remember how soft Vader’s ears were?” or “remember how much he loved to swim in the pool?”. It helped us both move past the sadness and remember what he was like when he wasn’t old and sick. It was wonderful to bring back those memories!

      1. I LOVE THIS. I brought her up the other day and realized I hadn’t in a week or so and felt bad. It does make them and you feel kinda bad for a second but this advice reminds me that its necessary work to process it properly. xx

  32. So sorry to hear this.

    The glove analogy is awesome. Also, I’ll never forget how for like the first six months I was reading your blog, I thought Bearcat was your husband. 😂😂

    1. OMG. that seriously made me laugh SO HARD OUT LOUD. just the comic relief I needed. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. xx

  33. You are such a wonderful person. Thank you for sharing something so personal and meaningful.

  34. Oh Emily Brian and kiddos, I’m so sorry! It’s awful to lose a pet — they are constant sources of unconditional love and they hold a piece of our family story. It’s so hard to create a new normal without them as part of the regular day.

    But THANK GOD for moms. Brilliant, Emily’s mom, thank you for that glove example. Today is the 8 year anniversary of my dad’s sudden passing and though we talk about him and heaven often, it’s hard to explain to a 3 and a half and 1 year old. At dinner we do a mad/sad/glad game where we each talk about one thing from our day that made us feel each (thank you Jenny Rosenstrach and Dinner: A Love Story for that one). Last night I wanted to be honest about my sad in missing my dad, but want to keep it age appropriate as we too are in the protecting them camp. So our 3 year old was asking a bunch of questions and the glove analogy would come in so handy – pun very much intended.

    We call this my dads Feast Day (I grew up catholic and all of the saints have Feast Days where you celebrate them). It helps us focus on all of the amazing parts of having him and not dwell so much on what we can’t change — you know, the part where we would do anything to have him back. Maybe one day when you’re ready, you might like to adopt a Bearcat and Mimi Feast Day.

    Thank you so much for sharing this story and your pain with us. I really think when we can each hold a little bit for each other, it eases the pain for us all.

    Thinking of you and your kittys and will every time I share the glove wisdom. ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Such a thoughtful comment. THANK YOU. Yes to mad/sad/glad – we try it but the kids are still a bit young. tHey basically just say the last thing that happened to them (Charlie is getting better). But yes to bearcat and mimi feast day!!! What a great idea. and you KNOW i love any reason to celebrate ANYTHING. So yes, we’ll do that 🙂

  35. Oh Emily, I’m so sorry for your loss. Unfortunately I know how this feels. Exactly one year ago we had to put our cat down, two weeks after bringing our newborn daughter home from the hospital. He was the best boy, and sounds so much like Bear, but had been sick for a long time and his quality of life had diminished considerably. It broke me and I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing him. Sending you hugs. Xo

  36. I’m so sorry Emily! I’ve been through the same loss-2 cats (litter mates) and one died of kidney disease and the other was so sick I couldn’t afford the treatments and had to put him down. I still miss them and think about them and their purring all the time! Don’t be so hard on yourselves! You’re doing a great job and being so caring with your children. And it’s ok to cry and for them to see you cry. It’s only natural-kids cry all the time! My thoughts are with you.

  37. So sorry about the sudden loss of your fur babies. Thanks for sharing and being so honest about your experience. I hope any remaining guilt you have will release its hold on you. 💙

  38. I’m sorry Emily. I can’t imagine how hard that was for you to write. I started crying almost immediately while reading it.

  39. We said goodbye to our senior dog a year and a half ago. I never understood until that season how heart wrenching it is to say goodbye to a pet. I sobbed for months. The best thing a friend of mine did for me was getting me a “pet portrait”. I am so glad to have a cool piece of art with our little dog’s face. 🙂 So sorry for your loss. It is the worst. Glad that Bearcat and Mimi spent so many years feeling loved and cared for by your family.

  40. Thank you for sharing about how your relationship with your cats changed after you had kids. This really reasonated with me. I struggle with this guilt DAILY as my pomeranian used to be my furbaby and best furiend but now with a 2 year old it’s just not the same. I know he feels neglected and it pains me to think I’m not giving him the love and attention he deserves. I appreciate you sharing about dead too as I know that conversation is coming as well with aging parents. Sending you big hugs!

    1. the only reason I felt brave enough to write it is because literally every single family I know that was in a similar position felt the same way. so i was like, I KNOW this might have a backlash but more people will relate to it than not. xx

  41. Sending you and your family warm thoughts and internet hugs. Our 4 & 6 year old daughters are also in the phase of being very curious about death and it really feels like a parenting booby-trap sometimes. We are all winging it and doing our best.

    xoxo.

  42. Emily – I’m so very sorry. Over the years we have lost many dogs and a couple of cats – most thankfully from old age – but still the pain is real and not easily overcome. When we lost our last dog – he was 16 years old and we’d been taking him to the vet every month as he had multiple health issues. We’d told ourselves that as long as he seemed happy & not in pain, we would not do anything differently and thankfully our vet agreed with this. My greatest fear was that he would pass away when I was alone and somehow I believe he knew this as he passed away when my husband was at home and we could both be with him. We are hoping this gave him comfort as well. Now this dog was very special – our child is grown but we entertain many friends and co-workers that have young children. Several of the children were afraid of dogs and many had never been around dogs before, so it was especially nerve wracking when young children were around. But Shadow was up for the challenge – he allowed all these children to chase him around the house, hug him and sit with him – always without incident and with a vigorous tail wag. When we lost Shadow, our first rational thought was to the children who called our house “Shadow’s house”. They were all young and most had never lost anyone or anything – so how to tell them? How could our love for this dog put all our friends in a position to have to explain death to children. But they all did, and all had uplifting stories to share with us about how their children responded. My favorite by far was one little girl, Ava who told her mom she had renamed her stuffed dog Shadow so that he’d always be with her. As you can imagine, I broke down when I heard that story, but it also showed me that out of the mouths of babes comes true love and sweetness. I’m happy to know that Shadow touched not only my family’s lives over his 16 years on earth, but he gave so many children their first experience with a pet. You’ve done the same in sharing your cats’ lives with all of us and your stories of your children.

    1. ah, shadow sounds VERY sweet. I’m sorry for your loss. xx

  43. I’m so sorry Emily. This is the worst part of having pets. Bearcat, Mimi, and you were all lucky to have each other.

  44. Our beautiful, awesome, fluffy, 18 year old, Star-kitty died when our son was 5. We read a book that the vet recommended. He had a similar reaction to Charlie with immediate sadness, and talked about it at school right after (we did give the teacher a heads up.) Then, within a couple days he seemed “over it,” much more so than myself & my husband. After all, she had been our baby for a long time before our son arrived. Weeks, months & even years later, my now 13 year old son, out of the blue will get sad and say, “I sure miss Star-kitty.” Think about how you want to respond to that, because surprisingly it may be a similar response to how you respond to the same comment about other loved ones that are lost. Our response is something along the lines of “it’s ok to miss her and be sad, also remember how happy she made us.” Then, it prompts us to recall a funny or sweet memory about her, and we move on, feeling a little bit better. What surprised me is that years later when we lost our beloved sister in-law (kiddo’s Aunt) and we’d have our sad days, that the same response helped us all. “It’s ok to miss her and be sad, but remember how happy she made us,” followed by a sweet or funny memory about her. Love to your family.

    1. I love that. recognize the sadness but shift it to positivity. GREAT. doing that from now on. xx

  45. I’m so sorry for your loss! I held my cat in my arms and cried the whole time while reading this.
    Truely the worst part of owning a pet is knowing you will live with them and love them for 10-20 years and then they will die.

  46. I’m so sorry for your loss, Emily. Pets have a way of burrowing (or snuggling) into our hearts so deeply. It hurts so much to lose them. This was a wonderful tribute. Love to you and your family.

  47. Laughing, crying, choking on my coffee. I’m sorry for your loss, Emily, but love that you’re sharing your story here. It sounds like Charlie is processing the situation just like a 5 year old. Maybe a little blunt to our elder ears, but it is what it is. My DIL introduced the concept of the Rainbow Bridge to her children very early. They entered the world over it and the wildlife they’ve found dead returned on the very same bridge. One day the children were playing with a bunch of balloons at my house. I corralled them into a closet for the next day. The five year old opened the closet in the morning, pulled out a deflated balloon and said, “Uh-oh, this one’s going over the Rainbow Bridge.” It makes me happy to know they will be ready to accept my journey when that day comes.

    1. Oh i love that and i’m going to google that and learn more about ‘rainbow bridge’. thank you!

  48. I’m so sorry for your losses 🙁 We lost one of our cats unexpectedly and I was honestly shocked at how much it hurt. You never realize how integrated pets become into the fabric of your life until you lose one.

    Your words on pet parenting after baby really, REALLY resonated with me. We have two cats and a toddler, and after a 5am wake up from a cat locked in a closet (yes, of course he peed) I found myself exactly the same way you described. So annoyed with the responsibility of pets, and so guilty for feeling annoyed.

  49. Thanks for sharing. We lost our childhood dog as an adult and I was so, so sad. We recently got a puppy and as I watched my three year old play with him my heart stung for what’s to come – hopefully many, many years down the road. Lucky are those who love.

  50. Losing a pet is so hard, at every age. We lost one of our cats, Dick, when our daughters were 5 and 7. Our 7 year old cried every night for almost four months. She was fine during the day but was sad at bedtime. On Christmas Day she opened a letter from Santa. He explained that Dick was in Heaven now and he enjoyed watching the girls play in the back yard, with the neighbour’s dog, and other anecdotal things our daughters could relate to. He reminded the girls that Dick’s spirit will live on in our hearts. It was a beautiful letter my husband wrote and our neighbour penned to disguise the penmanship. Our daughter read the letter to herself as we all sat around the tree (trying not to cry) and then she looked up and said ‘Dick’s in Heaven and he’s happy’. She was no longer sad, nor did she cry about him at night. She is almost 18 now and we still miss Dick but we remember him fondly.

  51. I’m so sorry for your loss, we lost two dogs and a cat in one year a few years ago…it was awful. My kids we’re older so we didn’t have that “how should we tell the kids” moment, but we had them cremated and placed their ashes under some new trees that we planted in the yard. They are “their” trees now. Something else we did was build an Ofrenda for them for the day of the dead. Here in Tucson, we have a really large parade here called the All Souls Parade (this weekend!) and everyone dresses up like skeletons and walks with pictures of loved ones they have lost. It’s really a lovely community driven event and gives a bit of closure.

  52. I am so sorry for your loss, Emily. Our fiur babies prepare us for our human babies in profound and important ways.

    I have no advice about telling young children, it seems you did a good job, and were deliberate about it.

    I do have advice about involving older children, thoufh. In the last number of months my children (aged 10 and 13) lost both grandfathers and our 16 year old dog. All three succumbed to old age. In all instances my children held their hands (and paws), talked to them, told them how loved they were, and stuck with them to the very end. While sad, this allowed my children to feel as though they had played a meaningful, important role. They grasped the inevitability of death, and saw it was part of the natural continuum of life. It was an oddly beautiful experience for them.

    I know sudden deaths, like your Bearcat, don’t afford this luxury, unfortunately.

    But in efforts to shield children from sadness and unpleasantness, we may Rob our children of unexpectedly important learning.

  53. Nodding my head emphatically….

    We were at the hospital with our son (then 3 years old) in outpatient surgery (tubes, adenoids) when our neighbor called last year with the news that our cat (Ollie) had been hit by a car. We were so distracted by the surgery we didn’t even really process the loss of the cat for a few days. Our sweet neighbor had taken care of his remains for us. After a few days our son asked where the cat was. My grandmother had passed away a couple of months before so the first thing that came to mind was “he’s in heaven with Memon.” And that was good enough for him. It’s been over a year and every once in a while he will bring it up, “I miss Ollie. He was a good cat. He loved me.” but then he says “He’s in heaven and Memon is loving on him now.” About six months after Ollie died there was an episode of Daniel Tiger where his fish died. You might want to check that out.

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  54. I’m very sorry for your loss Emily! The first time in my adult life I had to make the difficult decision to put down my 18 1/2 year old dachshund 3 weeks ago. It’s never easy. And that’s coming from the daughter of a veterinarian. Also, don’t blame yourself… as easy as that sounds. Bear knew she was loved.

  55. Aww, so sorry. Rest in peace and love Mimi & Bearcat.

  56. I am so, so sorry, I’m crying actual tears for you. It’s so hard to lose one, and to lose two so close together is just not fair. I hope you are able to find it in you to rescue more kitties in the future. When our Shadow died, he was 17 years old, and we waited three months to get another. We didn’t want to feel guilty, like we were “replacing” him, even though that would be impossible because he was so special. But we also really missed having a cat. We made a point of getting two females this time, and ones that looked nothing like him to make it easier. I hope you are feeling a little better now that some time has passed. Hugs.

  57. I’m very sorry for your loss. It was obvious how much Bearcat and Mimi meant to your family through your many loving references over the years. I like to think that those two were happy to watch you become a loving mama, and enjoyed the snuggles from Charlie and Birdie. When our 14 year old dog died, we reminded our 3 and 5 year old about the movie Coco, and that as long as we remember our pet, he can be with us. Sending your family positive energy!

  58. I am so sorry for your loss. I highly doubt that the chicken would have been the cause. Cats are able to eat larger pieces of meat. And I’m sure that having children around them made the cats happy even if they didn’t get as much undivided attention from you. I hope this helps to alleviate your guilt a little.

  59. It’s a special kind of pain, isn’t it? I’m so sorry that you have to feel it. As another CA resident I can assure you that it was not your chicken, and I’m sure Brian agrees. I remember reading once that although pets are a small part of our lives, we are their whole life. I think that’s so beautiful and brings me comfort when I think of the pets I have lost. They knew love, comfort, family, they had fun romps in the grass and the feeling of warm sunshine on their faces, deep sleeps in cozy beds and big hugs from small children. You gave them that. Good for you. ❤️

  60. oh emily, i’m so so sorry. as a cat mom of two i so understand the special connection with one of them. it made me tear up just thinking of not having teddy in our life. sending you hugs and so grateful you were able to give bearcat the best life ever.

  61. Thank you so so much for sharing!! I am a major cat person. We have three kitties (ages 16, 14 and 8) and one 7 year old girl. She knows pets can die and for a while we thought we were going to have to put the oldest one down. IT’s hardddddddd. I am frigged when they actually do pass. Thank you for giving me neutral language and letting them also come to their own decision about what happens (i.e. we don’t know where souls go).

    In the end, I am so very sorry you miss your favourite kitty. I have one too. He got lost for a while and I was heartbroken. They can provide us with so much unconditional love and attention. Take care !!!

  62. I’m so sorry for your loss. We lost our cat last week in a horrible way that was my fault and I don’t think I will ever be over it.

    Regarding the fish. Beta fish are really very interesting and I bet Charlie might be interested to learn about where they come from. Most pet stores tell you they just need a small container of water, but you can do a lot of things that improve their environment and quality of life, even for a single little fish. The kids might enjoy enriching their environment to make the experience more interactive and improve the quality of life for the fish.

    Creating a wonderful life for these new creatures in their care could provide a nice distraction during this awful time of loss. I’m so sorry, to lose two at once is unbelievably hard.

  63. Hugs to your family for the loss of your furry member.

    When our cat died I actually consulted a child psychologist about what to say because I was so concerned about the impact on my two year old daughter (her first word was “cat”), especially since she was going to have a new little brother the following day.

    After all our worries, it didn’t end up phasing her at all! 😂 Kids are so much more resilient than we give them credit for…

  64. Oh Emily I’m so sorry. I lost our 13 year old family dog and the next day my 18 year old cat. I held his paw as we said good bye for now. It’s very hard. I felt a lot of guilt, JJ had kidney failure and we knew bringing him in that this was his last move. His sister died in February and I had so much guilt about her passing because I tried to get her into the vet so many times but she didn’t make it.

    The best thing we can do is give them all the love and care we can and know we didn’t fail them as much as our brains tell us other wise. Excuse me while I go find out who is cutting onions ahah

  65. I am so, so sorry for your loss. I lost one of my cats 3 years ago and the other in February, and it still hurts.

  66. So sorry for your loss! I’m glad you posted this. My dog is nearing the end of his life, and we are struggling to explain what is happening to my three year old. I wanted to share with you something a person I know who owns an animal rescue told me when I mentioned feeling guilty about not spending as much time with my pets as before I became a parent. She explained for most pets, they don’t really mind. Not that they love you less, but things have changed and they are actually okay with it. All they really want in life is to continue to be apart of the family. Changing the litter box, feeding them, and any attention you can give is really all they need to feel secure, and know they still belong to you. They see the baby and how busy you are, and in a way they understand. Hope that helps.

  67. Emily, thank you for writing this and being so honest. It made me very emotional! I lost my own Bear Cat 3 weeks ago, due to old age. His name was Porter and he even looked just like her. Black cats are the best. He was my pal and had been my companion for 17 years. My kids also took the news rather well but it is a very tough conversation. Thanks for letting me mourn with you for a few minutes today.

  68. I’m so sorry, Emily and family. Losing a family member of any number of legs is so difficult.

    We found the book “Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children” really helpful as we struggled with loss in our family. From their description “Lifetimes tells us about beginnings. And about endings. And about living in between.” I love that it talked about death in the context of living. It did so gently but without any need for religious beliefs, touching on plants, animals, and people. It is something we return to discussing fairly often with my sensitive 7 year old though we first read it when he was around 3.

  69. I’m really sorry for your loss. My kitties are aging and I dread losing them. Cats are the best.

  70. Been there on almost all of this. We had to put our very old and sick cat down a few months ago, and the guilt about the quality of her life since we’ve had kids is/was awful. 😢

  71. Oh, Emily. I am so sorry for your loss. I totally teared up reading this, but thank you SO MUCH for sharing because one day our first child (our 4 year old dog) will pass, and we will need to tell our kids.
    I always tell myself I should spend more time and give more attention to our dog, but it has been so hard with a 2 year old tearing through the house now, but I get wracked with guilt thinking about how ignored he is now!

    You were a GREAT cat mom, to have loved those cats through your allergies really says something. Both Bearcat and Mimi were so lucky to have been rescued by you and Brian.

  72. I remember I watched a YouTube video of a lady reading Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) book ‘When a Pet Dies’. I had thought it would be good for my kids (and it probably was), but it helped me more than I expected!

  73. I’ve just been missing my cats this morning when their photos pop up on Facebook memories. It never really leaves you but new memories push them back a little.
    We haven’t replaced our cat because we travel so much. Hope you heal and find peace.

  74. I’m so sorry. Losing a pet is devastating. Our kids were little when our beloved dog, Atticus, died unexpectedly. And like you, we struggled with how to best tell them on a level they would understand. We decided to tell them that Atticus’ soul lives in the stars. That way when they are sad and missing him, they can always look up at the stars and see him. xoxo.

  75. So, so very sorry for your loss. Losing pets is soooo hard. Being a major cat lover, I always enjoyed when Bearcat made it into your pictures.

    I’m sitting here reading this with my own super-most-specialest-cat-I’ve-ever-had purring on my lap. (I call her my soul cat.) My heart goes out to you. My two cats are my kids, and I so dread the day I have to go through this either of them, but with her in particular. Thank you for sharing your grief with us and know that even though we are internet strangers, many of us understand and care and are tearing up with/for you. <3

  76. Oh, goodness. I’m so sorry to read this! I have two cats too and just dread thinking about saying goodbye to them. It sounds like you gave them a wonderful home and navigated the tricky situation explaining what happened to your kids as best as anyone could hope to.

    So sorry for your loss…

  77. Oh I am so sorry to hear this! My heart goes out to you. My ca, Asia, looked just like BearCat and she passed away after having breast cancer twice (2 surgeries to remove) and then the cancer sadly spread to her lungs which then there is nothing left to do to heal it. She was 18 years old and I had her since she was 2 weeks old. Putting her down was awful and I have to shake my head sometimes when I go to bed at night to get the thought out of my mind when I think about that night at the vets office. After much thought, we decided to adopt another cat and he is so awesome and it is different than my sweet girl, Asia, but he is so sweet and lovable and simply loves love! We don’t have children so getting another cat helped fill our home of the silence we felt after Asia passed. I never know if its good to share a similar heartbreaking story when someone else does, but it helped me to relate to others during that time so thought I would share my story as I understand how you feel. I will be sending lots of good vibes your way! Thanks for sharing this personal story!

  78. Emily, I’m so sorry for your losses. We lost our cat of 5 years (she was 10) unexpectedly this year. Although I don’t have kids yet, I know how hard it was to deal with life just knowing our fur baby was gone and the fact that it was unexpected made the pain so much worse. The constant phone reminders (of the pictures you took on this day last year) don’t make it much better. Please don’t blame yourself for what happened to Bearcat. I also thought if we had taken ours to the vet maybe they would’ve caught something but with 0 symptoms it was impossible to know something was going to happen at all. Our friends donated to the ASPCA in her name and we’ve now decided to do the same for our friends who have lost their fur babies. It makes a terrible thing a tiny bit better.

  79. So very sorry to hear about the passing of your kitties. One would be hard enough, let alone two. I have to comment though because this scenario sounds all to familiar. When my sister and I were younger, my parents put our beloved cat to rest. It wasn’t until my sister had to do her pet badge at Girl Scouts (months later) that she asked me dad “By the way, where’s Patches?” they sat us down that night and informed us she was not longer… we bawled our eyes out.

    Good news is they’re young and their hearts will heal. You on the other hand, take the time you need and remember its okay to not be okay.

  80. So so sorry for you all. My kitties are getting older and I’m on the verge of trying for kids and I worry about this all the time because right now they are our spoiled rotten children and I don’t want that to change and I also worry about them dying suddenly and what that would do to me. We also have a black kitty that sounds just like Bearcat, the loudest purrs and the longest cuddles; she made my husband into a cat person when he barely tolerated my other kitty. Just wanted to say that I feel your loss and I will miss catching glimpses of Bearcat on the blog. I hope (whenever the time is right) you end up with another little design kitty to keep your throw pillows warm. <3

  81. I think you handled it beautifully, Emily. You were a great kitty-Mama and you’re an even better human-Mama! 💕

  82. Thank you for sharing this. I also have 2 cats. One who is very affectionate and another who keeps to herself most of the time. They were our babies until we started having kids five years ago. We now have 3 kids and no time to care for them. I hardly even pet them. I miss getting them groomed every month also. I feel your guilt because I feel the same way. Now I know i still have time to show them love and affection.

  83. Emily, I’m so sorry for your loss. I just lost my beloved 13 year old dog, Lulu. We had the same kind of relationship that it sounds like you had with Bearcat. Thank you so much for this post. I am a new mom and losing Lulu made me think about how I am going to explain hard things like this to my daughter one day. I think you handled it beautifully. And for what it’s worth, I really don’t think the piece of chicken could have done it. Please don’t feel guilty. It sounds like you gave your cats a very good life.

  84. Losing a pet is a hard thing! I still vividly remember the death of my two dogs as a kid.

    I have a two year old and a four year old, and have taught them about death much earlier than most people would, I think. In part, this was my choice. My mother died when I was 25, but I still want my kids to know all about their “Gigi Catherine” (a name she had already picked out decades before I had kids!), for her to be part of their lives in some way, and also for them to understand why they only have one grandma. The idea of not mentioning her or not explaining why she’s not with them is completely unthinkable – so I explained it to them as best I could, and tell them how much she would have loved them. This started very early, since I would inadvertently talk about her even when they were babies (“your Gigi must be laughing so hard right now to see you do that”, etc.). They seem to get it, and love hearing stories about her. This is bittersweet, obviously, but – it keeps my mom present, human, and her memory positive in a way that I think is important not just for me but for them.

    Strangely enough, introducing the concept of my mom’s death was in many ways easier than with the death of our chickens. We free range our birds and my kids saw one attacked and killed by a hawk, and my son unfortunately was first to find one of the chickens after it had been killed by a fox. Somehow, them seeing these bodies has bothered me more than anything. But kids are resilient! They actually seem to understand it when we explain the circle of life, and weren’t disturbed by seeing the chickens dead – my son said it’s only the body, the chicken is gone. Which is a great way to put it! The chicken, indeed, was no longer our chicken. They were sad, they talk about the chickens we lost, but they’re okay with it, insomuch as anyone can be. These experiences have also made them understand better than most adults what it means to choose to eat meat, and they’ve said plenty about the importance of their chickens’ lives to them that has actually made me re-think eating meat myself!

    I have to remind myself that for most of human history children were exposed to death very early. They can process it, and grieve in their own way, and have it be a healthy, growing experience.

  85. I’m so sorry! Losing a beloved pet is SO hard, because they are more than pets. They are family members. I just want to say that Bear Cat did not choke on that chicken. My cat eats entire mice and full cans of tuna without choking. They know how to do that. It wasn’t your fault. And it sounds like you told your kids in the most beautiful way. I’m proud of you and Brian. This is a difficult parenting rite of passage.

  86. Hi Emily,
    As a clinical psychologist and director of a preschool, I like parents to use the following language:
    “(Pet Name, grandma, etc.,’s) body did not work anymore. ”

    We use this language because “old” is something they think of when they think of their parents–or even themselves as people message, “You are getting older”. Also, sick is something they have an experience of as well, so equating sickness and dying is often problematic because we and they get sick often.

    A great book for children is “The 10th Good Thing About Barney” by Judith Viorst. The site twigtale.com allows you to make a special memory book about a loved one. This is nice if children are having “missing cat, grandma, etc, feelings”: we can look at some pictures and remember how much we loved them.

    Best,
    Jane Rosen, PsyD

  87. Oh Emily – we went through a very similar situation this spring. Our 13 year old kitty Bobo suddenly was skinny and listless – he was our Bear Cat, had him before the kids, he was just THE BEST cat ever. Within two weeks he was gone from tumors in his kidneys. It was heartbreaking to tell our 8 year old, but she saw him decline and kissed him goodbye before we went to the vet the last time.

    Less than a month later, we came home to our 12 year old dog motionless on the floor (she suffered from a tumor in her spleen that exploded) and what followed was an awful, dramatic, chaotic hour that the 8 yr old was fully involved in. We all went to the vet and sobbed over her together, the baby had no idea what was going on, but cried because her sissy was crying.

    It was terrible, and the guilt – oh the guilt. But I’m of the mindset that these experiences are what teach kids about death and grief and joy. Sounds like you guys handled it the best way you knew how, beta fish or not. 🙂

  88. I’m so sorry to hear this! We have a 10 year old pup and an 9 month old baby who is starting to really notice the dog and want to be around her. I know at some point in the not too distant future she is no longer going to be with us and our son is going to wonder where she is. I think you handled talking to your children about loss in such a beautiful way. You were honest but also kind in the way you spoke to them. Thank you for sharing.

  89. Emily, I feel your pain. In 3 days I am putting down my cat I have had 14 years. Her brother died from diabetes last year. Its heartbreaking and I wish you peace.

  90. Really, really sorry for your loss. My thought is don’t be hard on yourself about the betas (other than cursing the fact you have to change them now!). Everyone-young and old-processes death different and the kids will more likely remember your honesty and great glove metaphor than the fish.

    My families cats passed when I was a freshman in college-at 30, I still choke up thinking about them.

  91. I am very sorry for your loss! It is a very sad and difficult thing for a family to loose a beloved family pet.

  92. I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is heart-wrenching, and I appreciate your honesty about losing Mimi vs losing Bearcat, who sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime pet.
    I just came across this book last night, and teared up just reading the description. It’s not available until June, but I think it could be great for Birdie and Charlie.
    https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Cat-Kevan-Atteberry/dp/0823442837/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

  93. So sorry to hear about Bearcat and Mimi! I always loved seeing Bearcat as one of the special characters in your blog throughout multiple homes! My mom and dad did something similar and we got a gold fish, named, you guessed it, Goldie. We ended up with that fish for 12 years! Then when she died, gave her a proper burial in an elizabeth arden perfume box in our backyard. ha! Pets are family, and I will be thinking of you as you adjust to a new normal without their sweet presence in your home.

  94. So so sorry Emily. The loss of a beloved pet is profoundly sad. I understand and send positive vibes your way.

  95. Emily, I’m so sorry for your loss. I am a huge lover of cats and have two right now that I am very close to, as you were with Bearcat. I just wanted to ease your mind about the cause of Bear’s death. Feral cats can eat large chunks of meat with no problem. Their teeth are designed to tear it apart easily. It’s more likely that Bear was attacked or died naturally or of disease. I don’t think you caused her death in any way. Don’t beat yourself up about it! By the way, I’m new to your blog, but I love your interiors and design style! God bless.

  96. I’m so sorry for your loss. We had four cats and they all died within a couple years (three of them died in the same year). It was hard. We had to deal with the death of my dad a year before that, so my boys (ages 5 & 3 at the time) were around death a lot and it didn’t seem to phase them when our cats died. We read Badger’s Parting Gifts, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, and Lifetimes which are all children’s books that deal with death that were good. This past year we had one of our family dogs die and my boys (now 10 & 8) were a lot more affected by it. The part that they had a hard time with was knowing that someone was going to kill their pet. We told them the reasons why euthanasia was good for animals when they are sick and dying, but using the word “kill” seemed so harsh, even though that was what was happening. I was a wreck, but I didn’t hide it from my boys and told them it was ok for them to be really upset and cry too. Hugs to you!!

  97. Thank you for sharing and so sorry for your loss. We lost our wonderful kitty, Oscar (looked a lot like bearcat), suddenly three years ago this month. I was so distraught that I stayed home with our dog while my then fiancé went to his parents out of state for thanksgiving. I pushed him to go without me. Oscar had been mine before we met and had traveled more places with me than most humans do. I just cried the other day telling the story of his last few days.
    I can say that while he will always hold a very special place in my (our) heart(s), it does get better. About 8 mos after we lost him, we decided to foster for a local rescue because we weren’t ready yet but wanted to help. We’ve fostered 10 since then, but that very first one was a foster fail. All it took wasn’t her rubbing up against our 93 lb dog for our hearts to melt. She’s very different than my boy, but she is a great loyal lovey kitty (beautiful, sassy, and independent too). You’ll be able to open your hearts again…give it time.

  98. I’m sorry for your losses.

    About the time we found out I was pregnant with my first child, my parents made the tough decision to put my childhood cat to sleep. She was my rock, and helped me through so much of my depressed teenage years. She was my shadow and I had hoped for her to meet one of my kids before it was her time. She was 18. Which is extraordinary for an indoor/outdoor cat. My sister’s cat made it to meet 3 of 4 grandbabies, and the pictures we have of him with my newborn daughter bring me to tears. He was put to sleep a couple months after she was born.

    Last summer a good friend of mine had to put down one of her backyard chickens. These girls are like her cats. It all happened in a whirlwind that her 3 year old son was witness to. She told me that he said the most poetic thing as they left the vet office with an empty box they took Queen Mary in with “Her fire went out.” And that is how we’ve been trying to explain death to our now 4 year old when she asks about it.

  99. I grew up with a plethora of pets. Dogs. Cats. Horses. Sheep. Calves. In my experience it is SO good for kids to learn about death from the loss of pets rather than the loss of loved ones. By the time someone I was close to died, I had lost a couple pets and therefore had a better understanding of death and I think that made it less scary to my child self.
    The good news for you is that beta fish don’t live terribly long. ; )

    I am sad for the loss of your kitties, but they had good long lives and were well loved!

  100. O.k. I’m crying again. I was only just able to explain to some of our neighbors at our community Dog Halloween party Wednesday night who didn’t know that we had had to euthanize our Shanni that she was gone. First time I could do it without crying, Fortunately, we were able to take her to the vet (she had a seizure disorder & her meds weren’t working any more) and be with her and pet her and talk to her as she left us. I can’t imagine finding her dead (even though she was almost snatched by a coyote a year and a half ago) — the guilt would overwhelm me.

    We have no small children to break the news to, so we were spared that.

    I know it’s totally sappy and sentimental, but that damn rainbow bridge poem ALWAYS makes me cry. It’s what I want to believe, even if I really don’t.

    Big hugs!

  101. So very sorry.
    When our daughter was young our dog died. We were all grieving and did our best to comfort a five-year-old. The mistake we made was not having a service of some sort to say farewell. Much too late, I finally understood the importance of funerals. It would have been a way for her to turn the page in a very positive way.

  102. oh my gosh i relate to this so completely! i have had my two sister cats for 13 years, and have been married to my husband for 4, and we have a 2 year old daughter. ever since i moved in with my husband (who hates cats) i joke that he has turned me against them. then when my daughter was born, it was like, what cats? i have little to no interest in them anymore! i love them of course and i care for them because they are animals who i’ve had forever, but i just see so much more what a pain cats are now (UGH LITTER BOXES) and feel like a horrible cat mom.
    it makes me feel so much better to hear a similar story. i try and tell myself, we can still provide a loving home for pets without being OBSESSED with them! my daughter adores one of the cats and the other one hides until she goes to bed, but generally could probably care less because she’s so young.
    also, i wouldn’t for a second doubt the decision you made about mimi. it sounds like she was very very ready and needed a comfortable path. she would have suffered on for longer and might have had an upsetting end had you let her go on. i would 100% have made this same decision.
    i’m so so sorry about bearcat and i imagine it must be so strange in the house without BOTH cats, but hopefully this will all lead to a new and fulfilling pet relationship sometime in the future. (sounds like i’m consoling a friend about a breakup, but really!)

  103. Thank you for the helpful hints on how to speak with a to younger kiddo about death. We had a semi-distant aunt die and our 3 year old had spent time with her over the summer. Explaining her death was very difficult and I worry about how reactions in the future when our pets die too. My thoughts are with you and the family for your losses. Take care,

  104. So sorry for your loss. We have two cats 3 years old and now are taking care of our son’s cat that is 4 years for a year since our son is now working in China. I tell you those cats are like our grandkids. We are older 50+ and we do have one grandchild that we love with all our hearts, but these cats are spoiled!!! If anything happened to the grandfurbabies – we would just be heartbroken. Take care and I do love the way you told your kids.

  105. Sending you lots of love for your loss, there are so many points I can relate to.. we have fur baby’s too, now only two as my own fur baby went missing when we moved house… litter tray issues, scratched furniture, vet bills, pet insurance and now two children who live with our 16 year old cats… if you haven’t got a pet then you won’t understand that they are more than part of your family they ARE your family, I get it, again lots of love 💕 PS love the analogy too ❤️❤️

  106. I think the loss of a pet is a great opportunity for kids to learn about death, everyone does die after all and death is a part of life. Sorry for your loss and sorry you committed to a fish during your time of grief.

  107. Oh goodness, we had to let go of our 13 year old lab last night, and feeling a bit numb this morning. She was such a part of our daughters’ lives – who are now 27 and 25 years old. They played soccer with Daisy, cuddled through heartache with her and introduced their boyfriends to her. Having to call them with this news was the hardest thing as a parent. Our daughter who is a social worker in a Portland hospital was on her way to work, she didn’t make it through the her shift and our other daughter was traveling home to D.C. from work in Rwanda so we had to tell her the news as she stood alone in the Amsterdam airport. It is hard to be a parent however old the children.

    Sending you and your family love – be kind to yourself as you are only human.

  108. I’m so sorry, losing a pet is truly devastating, and two losses in such a short span is incredibly hard.
    When we lost a cat while my kids were little, we held a backyard memorial service, where they could draw or write a happy thought or memory about the cat, and then we lit the papers on fire to send our happy thoughts and love out into the world to be with the kitty.
    A funny aftermath: our middle child was a toddler at the time and understood that the death of our cat was a Momentous Thing, but didn’t really understand why. So he would randomly tell strangers about it, but of course he didn’t know that her silly name needed clarification. Any time a kindly soul would smile at him, he would solemnly announce, “And Lunch…DIIIIED.” So many mystified faces.

  109. So sorry for your loss. So tough. I just want you to know i grew up with a lot of pets and a lot of deaths (we loved on an acreage and my parents tried every animal known to man) and to be honest, i think it gave me a really healthy outlook on life and death. You did a great job explaining it to them.

  110. I am sooo sorry! Loosing a pet spontaneous or otherwise is never easy! I like your explanation also. My husband and I both still had grandparents when our son was born. He had 7 out of 8 great grandparents when he was born (I can’t tell you how much we as parents appreciate this for him), but we have very sadly lost 3 in the last few years, he is 6 now. I haven’t wanted to make promises I couldn’t keep, but tried to explain what happens when people get older as they have passed away. Bless his heart he began randomly asking elderly people “are you old? are you going to die?” (total parenting fail). Now I try to keep the focus on the good, spend as much time as you can with the people you love and don’t grieve before you have to. It sounds like the cats had a wonderful life, so don’t forget to focus on the good 🙂

  111. So sorry. These things are truly heartbreaking. XOXO

  112. I am so sorry for your loss and my heart aches for your two kitties. I received an email last week from my ex that my dog was dying (he kept her after we split… a decision that was far more trying than leaving the relationship). I sat at my computer screen and simply cried, as I’m currently doing writing this. I find animals are like the best sidekicks – they celebrate the good and cushion the bad, act as a marker for time, and dedicate all their energy and love into you. We are lucky to have them in our lives and to be the human they chose to spend their short time on earth with.

  113. Emily, I’m so sorry Bearcat and Mimi passed away. I understand that sadness and experienced the same when my girls were little. It’s a scary thing when you’re a parent, you don’t want to see your kids in pain. You want to protect them from the harsh realities of life and we can/should to some extent. We lived in Los Angeles at the time and my girls went to this AMAZING preschool called Children’s Circle. They taught me so many things on how to parent and help kids through the issues of life. Two books they recommended are : The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown and The tenth good thing about Barney by Judith Viorst. They also suggested you watch this with your children. https://youtu.be/LDnDs1Rz4ZQ
    What they taught me is that our job as parents is to help our kids be sad. We are setting the foundation for life by learning to handle life’s ups and downs in a healthy way. If we always protect them from life’s issues they won’t know how to handle when they grow up. Kids are more resilient than we give them credit for. We help them by acknowledging the feeling, being with them when they’re sad, moving through the pain, talking about it and moving on. They also said it helps if you ask them to draw pictures about what happened. Then you put words to each picture and read it as a book until they tell you they are done reading the book. Hope this helps. ♥️

    1. I just reread my comment and realize I TOTALLY messed up! I did NOT mean to say that our only job as parents is to help our kids be sad…CLEARLY, that’s not it! But it IS our jobs as parents to help our kids recognize feelings, whether it be happiness, sadness, anger, confusion, etc. understand it and work through it in a healthy way. Sorry for any confusion!

  114. I am so terribly sorry Emily. Just looking at Bearcat, I can tell she was an amazing soul. She knew she was loved, as did Mimi. That won’t help with the stone you’re carrying, but please know that it is extremely unlikely that she choked.

    I understand your heartbreak completely having lost three treasured kitty-brothers (in succession, to cancer..) when my kids were quite little. I wondered if the stress of having two boys forever screaming, lunging after one another and being insanely loud might have contributed to them being sick. I remember crying for days at the loss of losing them, though I had nursed them and taken them to and fro from the vet, it was still so present, muddled with the guilt of their kid-altered environment. Their lives had changed when I had the kids, and as sweetly adaptive as they were, they had come to me for love in every quiet moment. They had sought me out when they could- warmed my heart. They are still with me.

    (I do know that after we recently foster-failed with two kittens – and now that my kids are seven and eleven, they bonded with them in a whole different way, and they are literally like their babies. Independent, affectionate fuss free and coddled. It is a beautiful thing to witness.)

    Your mum’s glove analogy was beyond lovely, it was perfect. Maybe the kids can draw a picture of the kitties and you can frame it? Something about seeing the kid’s interpretation helped us with the sorrow – those goofily giant eyes, olympic whiskers, skinny legs. Under our drawings, we wrote “forever loved..” And they will be.

  115. Oh, I’m so sorry! We’ve been there, with dogs, not cats cats, but not matter the species losing a pet is hard. We had to put down our older dog, Mr. Goodbar or “Goobs” last year (cancer, ugh) and I felt such immense guilt about it. Like Mimi, he’s been sick for a while and had always generally been a cranky old man, but he was our first dog and we loved him dearly, especially me. Our kids were even younger so we never really addressed it with them, but come to find out our older daughter still talks about him all the time at daycare. I feel guilt with our remaining dog because like you and Brian, we worry that we aren’t spending enough time with her because we’re so busy with our kids.
    One thing – when Goobs died I was a wreck for days. Thank goodness for maternity leave or I would have been sobbing at my desk at work. I found this article about the loss of a pet and it made me feel justified in my grief: https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/2016/7/11/12109786/dog-death-research
    There are other similar articles but they really get at the heart of why we feel such grief at the loss of a pet, even more so sometimes than at hr loss of a friend or family member. All this to say – I’m sorry 🙁

  116. I am so sorry.

    Reading your post made me cry. We had to put my 14 year old cat to sleep last month due to kidney failure. We held out as long as we could because we had just moved and had our third child, so my two older kids (around your kids ages) has been through a lot. But she was suffering too much. My husband took her to the vet because I could not do it. She was with me before my husband, and through several moves, three kids and two dogs (and her brother cat who died at age 5 from leukemia). I miss her, and my 3 yo daughter asks about her all the time. I tell her one day we will get a kitten. And then she comes up with silly names for it, and we got her a stuffed animal cat for the meantime that she named after our cat.

    Just love and support your kids with their feelings, that’s all you can do.

  117. I’m so sorry about your cats.

    I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing. I just put my 14 yo dog to sleep this morning (after losing our 13 yo dog last Dec, I got them 3 mos apart as puppies) and have been struggling around how to approach with my almost 3 year old daughter. She had just turned 2 when our other dog passed and she just seems to understand so much more now than she did then. I sat down and suddenly this email pops up- thank you!

  118. congratulations on all the wonderful memories you shared with both cats. Remember all the good times, snuggles and lessons learned especially with your children… and most of all thank you for rescuing 2 beautiful souls. Rescue pets are the absolute best.

  119. This is heartbreaking. You gave the kitties a wonderful, comfortable, happy life, and I hope that gives you some comfort.

  120. So so sad to hear these news… I’ve been following you for a long time, and remember that time when you lost Bearcat and you were looking everywhere for her. That kitty was loved so hard. Stay strong., I also have 4(!) cats and them growing older is a tough pill. Sending loving thoughts ❤️

  121. Hi Emily. I am so sorry for your loss. We had to tell our kids that our puppy had passed away last year and it was just the worst thing we ever had to do. It actually has scared me off any more pets. Our kids have had hermit crabs before so we used that as analogy. That the shell is like the body -there to protect all the good stuff like your soul and your soul is made up of all the stuff that makes you special. We bury the shell and the good stuff goes to heaven. This analogy worked well when a couple of months later their great grandmother passed away. We still talk a lot about the puppy and their great grandmother. I think that it is really important to answer all their questions. Much love to you and your family

  122. So sorry to hear all that you went through there at once! We went through something similar in losing our dog, but she didn’t die she went to live with a friend. So we consciously ‘replaced’ her with a Beta fish. After a few weeks we too were tired of feeding and changing the water in the bowl. Maybe 2 months after getting the fish it started to look very sick, we prepped our daughter telling her he looked sick, and eventually he died. Which was sad because she was loving being a fish mama and cared for him so much. We then replaced the fish with a bird feeder outside of the living room and now “all of the birds are our pets”. This way we’ll never have to worry about losing a pet, or caring for a pet (Fish) that isn’t one we really care about. So we shall have a bird feeder out front until we are ready for something different. I just wanted to pass this on in case it was a helpful idea to someone. It has worked great for us!

  123. I’m so sorry for your loss Emily. This is just what I needed. My cat Ollie unexpectedly passed away on Saturday. My heart hurts so bad, I fear the pain will never go away. He was similar to your Bearcat- he was the best cuddler, had the loudest purr, & followed me everywhere. I was out of town visiting family when I got a call from my neighbor/cat sitter. I’m just hating myself for not being there for him as he died. I keep questioning what would have happened if I was home, maybe he would still be here. His life was stolen from me & I just want him back.
    I hope our hearts heal & we eventually find another Ollie and Bearcat to love us like they did.

  124. I am so extremely sad for your family’s loss. The analogy of the soul, the hand and the glove was perfect. Two weeks ago, we had to put my Mom’s little Yorkie of 17 years down, and suffice it to say, it did not go smoothly. My poor Mom.What did I do, but go out and get a little dog , which she wasn’t ready for and now I have five rescue cats, a rescue dog, and a Pomeranian puppy that I adore, but it is like having a newborn. I am up every two hours to let him out, with Winter fast approaching. My life is so disrupted and my schedule is as well. I am exhausted.Training him is a challenge as he is stubborn and willful.Did I say he is adorable?(that is his saving grace). If you get another pet, it will be all you, but I am sure that you know that.Even if the kids get older, you will still be the one stuck with all of the responsibility, and Hubby and the kids will have the fun parts. That’s usually just the way it goes, unless you insist that they walk it, clean up after it, etc. I never give unasked for advice, but I don’t want you to be in the same pickle that I put myself in. There is plenty of time for that. I understand how you feel about Bearcat because although I have five cats, L.B is my heart. As I am writing this, Tazzy Bear is chewing a whole in the Sheetrock. Just wait until your kids ask about sex for the first time. My daughter came home and said she had heard “rumors” of how babies are made, so I took out a library book to explain it to her. It was well done, and pretty detailed and honest, and when I was done, me and her father asked her if she had any questions. She looked at us both and said,”Only one-you did that with each other TWICE?” (she has a brother). My hubby turned red, left the room and left me to explain. Explaining death was much easier believe it or not. I think it’s wonderful that you explained it to them.We are the only country who acts like death isn’t a normal part of life, and I believe that can ultimately cause death anxiety, instead of acceptance. Considering they had feline Aids, they had a nice, long life.(I used to be a vet tech). I have seen my animals eat whole mice, birds:bones and all. I promise you, it wasn’t the shredded chicken., and a coyote would have dragged them off. I’ll bet it was the FIV. You gave them love, a good home, and a good life.You should feel so good about that. If you want to see my Tasmanian devil puppy, Tazzy Bear, I am on Instagram…. smallhouseinthecountry.

  125. So sorry for your loss…. I lost my beloved cat a few weeks ago and I perfectly understand your sorrow. My daughter miss her a lot and it’s such difficult times. Thanks for sharing. They will always be part of your heart

  126. Of course I cried reading this. Hugs, Emily! Hope you take the time for your own grief and not focus on any “fails” (which I dont agree it was a fail) you may feel you had.

  127. I’m sorry that you lost your first babies. I totally get how sad that is. They become animal parts of our family but members of the family, nonetheless and losing them is so hard. The pics of Charlie with Bearcat are adorable. Little kids and pets go together like bread and butter and your children were lucky to have such a sweet kitty for as long as they did.

  128. My heart aches for your loss and I’m so very sorry. Hugs. <3

  129. I am so sorry for the loss of your cats. There needs to be a word to describe the acute, painful sadness that comes from losing a pet. It IS hard but there is this sense that people won’t REALLY get it. We do. XOXO

  130. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  131. We lost our first pet this summer. A very affectionate, young kitty we called Boo. She was an outdoor cat and I found her laying along our long driveway one morning when I was on my walk. We, likewise, had no idea what happened to her, and started to blame our neighbors who often rode horses through our land (she was lying right next to the trail). I reached out to a friend who happens to be a pet communicator and she shared that Boo believes she was poisoned. Which could mean that she got into something, or ate a mouse who got into something, or ate some mushrooms (which grow rampantly) but that she held no blame. She was sad to leave us and had some beautiful things to say.

    My friend Betsy doesn’t charge for readings of pets that have passed. If you feel up to it, maybe reach out to her:) I would think you could message her here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/betsy-schneyer-16922a8/

  132. Hi Emily. I couldn’t finish reading the entire post. My furbaby Basil died a few months ago. He was 15 and was very ill and dying. I had to make the difficult decision to put him down when he could he could barely walk.

    Sorry for the loss of both your kitties.

  133. So sorry about the loss of your precious kitties. We’ve had to put down 3 due to cancer. We currently have 7 wonderful cats we’ve adopted from the shelter. The way my husband and I see it..although it’s tragic when we lose a fur baby, it’s an opportunity to give another shelter animal a permanent home. Something to consider.

  134. I am so sorry about your kitties. You are so lucky to have rescued (yes, you did) them. Their life with your family was so good for them and you. You have also taught your kids how to care for and love animals, they have learned compassion and some responsibility. That is the special thing about our animals. It was a tough parenting moment and I think you and your husband did an amazing job.

  135. I am so sorry for your loss Emily. We lost our Boxer-Lab mix “Dolly” a couple of months ago and it was and still is devastating. Our fur babies are such a big part of our lives and they leave a such huge void when they are gone.

  136. On Monday, it will be a year since we lost our Foxy. I feel like your post reallt hit home. I got her when I was 27 years old, I am now 42. She was special. We went from being kids to being an adult. I got married, had a baby, etc and she was with me through it all. Saying goodbye to her was like a final goodbye to my youth. She passed at home. My son was 4 years old at the time. When he was born, Foxy also moved to “second place”. The adjustment was hard for her. She was old and wasn’t crazy about kids. But he still loved her. When she passed, we asked him if he wanted to say goodbye. He leaned over and gave her a big hug and kiss. He still asks questions to this day. I still miss her bad dog breath and how her fur smelled like stuffed animals. She was one in a million. Know you are not alone in your grief. We all cry with you today and cry for your own special pets that said goodbye too soon. ❤️

  137. I’m so sorry your family is going through this. And the guilt on top – I have just been feeling the exact same guilts, so don’t beat yourself up. We had two cats, siblings I found as 4 week old strays when I was 22. I’ve had them for 13 years. One cat is loving and friendly and engaged, but the other is skittish and stand-offish. He began peeing all over the house when we moved somewhere with stray cats outside. He was so stressed any time a window was open and he could smell the outsiders. Guilt for me, but also SUCH irritation. Then we had a kid. Less time for the cats (more guilt), more stress for him, more peeing, more irritation. More guilt. We had another baby this summer and his peeing and stress hit such a level that we finally realized he was begging us to give him a new home without kids or evil outside smells. Thankfully an uncle nearby has taken him in and they are falling in love, but I still deal with guilt for the lack of attention after the kids, for loving him less, for being mad,, even for being selfish by not re-homing him sooner. It’s hard. I’m sorry your situation has so much more loss and pain in it, but I think you’ve handled it with a lot of love. You were NOT a bad cat mom for struggling a little with Mimi.

  138. I am so sorry for your lost, Emily. Thank you for sharing your story and caring for your furry friends. I think you writing about your furry friends tells me you loved them very much. All the best.

  139. While I was spending time with my grandchildren that live in ND and I live in FL, my Jack Russell, Maggie, passed away. She was 18. Already in bad shape. But she died while I was gone. I have guilt that if I had been home she might have lived a wee bit longer. Your post brought me to tears even though that was back in April. Miss my Maggie so much.

  140. A teacher at the preschool I work for wrote an amazing blog post after the school’s guinea pig died. Here’s the link and an excerpt:
    http://albanypreschool.org/2018/04/rip-fluffy-talking-to-children-about-death/

    Young children deal with death quite differently than adults. For many, this was their first experience with death. Teacher Nancy explains, “Adults tend to project loss (‘could Fluffy have had a few more good years?’), or to feel relieved that he is no longer suffering. But preschool-age children live in the present. Having less of a concept of time, they don’t carry baggage from the past (‘I forgot to say hello to Fluffy last week’) and don’t project grief into the future (‘I won’t be able to play with him next year’).” This simplicity makes the preschool years a natural time to start talking about death and loss.

    Here are some suggestions for how to talk to your child about death.

    Prepare children for the possibility of death. If somebody is seriously ill, let children ask questions. Talk about what’s being done to help the sick person. In Fluffy’s case, teachers explained that Fluffy was taking medicine from the doctor, but that it stopped helping and “there was no more medicine to give him.”

    Keep answers short and simple.

    Use clear language. It’s recommended to use the words “died” or “death.” Trying to soften the blow by saying somebody has “gone to sleep,” “passed away,” or “been lost” can confuse a child and increase fears and anxieties (for example, of going to sleep). Young children often think that death is temporary. Try saying “(s)he has died, and that means we will no longer be able to see him (her).”

    Follow a child’s lead. Some children have difficulty finding the words to express their feelings or fears, and may instead play-act illness and death. Their thoughts and anxieties come out naturally in their process of play. Others have many questions. “If they are asking about the details of the pet’s death, it’s a sign that they want to talk about it. They are looking for your comfort.” -Dr. Abigail Marks, clinical psychologist

    Expect more questions. Young children often ask the same questions, like “what happened?” or “when will (s)he come back?” more than once. Continue to give clear answers. “Asking the same question again and again, gives a child another chance to test our answers and gradually come to their own understanding.” -Mr. Rogers

    Support their grieving. Remind children that though the loved one has died and will not return, the memories and the love we shared will last forever. Children may wish to write about their feelings or about the person, or to make cards or memorials.

    Resources for parents
    Saying goodbye: talking to kids about death. Parents.org. Accessed 4.20.2018.
    Dealing with death. FredRogers.org. Accessed 4.16.2018.
    When a pet dies, helping children through the “worst day of their lives.” NYTimes.com. Accessed 4.4.2018.
    How to talk to kids about the death of a pet. Childdevelopmentinfo.com. Accessed 4.20.2018.
    How children understand death and what you should say. Healthychildren.org, from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed 4.2.2018.

  141. Thank you for sharing this! We have an almost one year old daughter and a very very old, stinky, probably somewhat sick, dog. We have definitely not been as attentive to the dog since the baby was born and it feels terrible, I still love him so much, but obviously a new baby is automatically the priority. We know our dog could go any day for various reasons, but the baby is just starting to bond with him. I love love love your mom’s body and soul hand in glove analogy! It’s so lovely and perfect. I’ll definitely keep that in my back pocket for whenever we first have to have that rough conversation about death with our kid. Big love to you and your whole family. Losing a pet is so hard, harder than most people realize. Really, thank you so much for sharing. ❤️

  142. My heart goes out to you so!

  143. Emily, I’m so, so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing what you are going through — your honesty and thoughtfulness resonate so much. I (and probably so many of your readers) absolutely feel you on the mom guilt of neglecting your firstborn fur baby after kids, we have 3 and 1-year old boys, and a little Shih Tzu who’s 7. Please for whatever it’s worth try not to be too hard on yourself. We are all too hard on ourselves, and I get the impression from reading this blog that you are really an amazing mom. Thank you also for sharing your mom’s analogy of the hand and glove, I think it is wonderful.

  144. Emily, I am so sorry that you lost your two cats, especially at the same time. I will mention this in case you ever get another cat. If your kitty is FIV positive , or as you mentioned has kitty AIDS, you should never allow them outdoors!!! It is a transmittable disease, and if they are in contact with other animals they can spread it. Even in shelters, FIV positive cats are kept separate from other healthy cats. They can live a fairly long life, as yours did, but being allowed outdoors has probably done a huge diservice to other animals.

  145. Sorry about losing your cats- totally unexpected death is so much harder. I think you did a great job with the kids. When I was little my friend had a black cat named Jellybean. When she died her parents IMMEDIATELY bought another black cat & named it Jellybean. I think they are on Jellybean #7 now, so don’t be so hard on yourself! 💕

  146. I really appreciate the honesty about your guilt. We couldn’t devote as much time to our cats for the first few years of my daughter’s life, and I felt terrible about it. One of our cats died during that time, and I felt if I had been paying more attention to her I would have caught some warning signs. We were right at our wit’s end trying to hold everything together though. Still, I wish it hadn’t happened. I’m so sorry for your loss, and thanks for sharing.

  147. I’m so sorry for your loss. This stuff is so tough. Sounds like you did a fabulous job help your kids genuinely process this big loss. Thanks for sharing this part of your life with us.

  148. Hugs to you!! Bearcat had the best life and I know she is bragging to all her cat friends in Heaven about her coolest parents and the beautiful place she got to call home for so many years! We also lost our 14.5 year old Golden this month. He was my world and it hurts so much to know that beautiful unconditional love is no longer in my life. Looking at pictures helps me too! ❤️

  149. Oh, Emily I’m so sad for you. I had a big black boy cat for 17 years and when we had to put him down I cried for a month. Then 6 months later we lost our other cat too. It’s heartbreaking. And the guilt. I totally get it. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. 🙁

  150. Some cats are just the sweetest and it is a special rare gift when you get to have a relationship with one of them. I am so sorry for both losses.

  151. Hi Emily,

    So sorry for your loss. We just lost our two cats (18 and 16 yrs old!) with in weeks of each other. My son, 5 yrs, was quite upset- obviously- here is what we did. I hope it might help?
    1. Best book ever for hard convos- Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents by Betsy Brown Braun. Read the part about death.
    2. Made a little photo book for him of all the cat photos- one for each cat. Cvs/Walmart/Walgreens has a 1 hr for like $6.
    3. Talked about both cats more than we had in the past- remember when Jackie did X?!
    4. And finally, when he was having a really hard time about his favorite girl dying, bought him a stuffed cat from amazon that looked like her. $16.
    He did have questions about other pets and family members but the book gave us a script and we stood by it. It’s been four months and he’s doing good!
    Way to be a great mom (and dad) and be so kind and thoughtful with your kids. And anyone who says parents don’t have fail moments is a liar. We are all human and doing the best we can!

  152. Oh, I’m so sorry. That is so hard, it’s easily the hardest part of having a pet. My heart goes out to you.

  153. I’m so sorry you lost your sweet kitties! It’s always sad to say goodbye, especially when it’s so sudden. We had just moved to a farm when my dog, who was my shadow and bff, got hit by a car 10 feet in front of me, while my 3 girls were 100ft away and it was literally the most horrible scene for me to witness and so traumatizing for my kids. I was wailing, like full on sorrow bellowing while putting his body on a tarp and screaming at my children to go inside. I cried for weeks and my kids just had to watch the sadness. They were so sweet and we talked a lot about how I was just so heartbroken and that it’s okay to be this sad. It was so bad- I was hearing phantom dog sounds around me, which would then trigger more crying, and I did end up bringing home a puppy and 2 kittens and it was really good for my kids to have something to do besides watch mom crying every day (this also happened 10 days before Christmas, the timing couldn’t be worse). As it would turn out, farmlife is a life full of death and we’ve had to say goodbye to both the kittens, a stillborn foal and several chickens- as heartbreaking as it’s been it’s also reminded me how resilient and strong our kids are when faced with loss. I think the most important part from a parent is keeping the conversation going about those sweet pets, answering their questions as hard as they are (my 5 year old still asks about the dog Stanley, 2 years later). Grieving fully in front of my kids was hard, but I also know that the heinous scene they saw couldn’t be the only part of that journey I showed them.

  154. I am so, so sorry for your loss Emily! Thank you so much for sharing and for the truly wonderful parenting advice. I will definitely remember it for the future as my 4 and 6 year olds have a lot of questions about death.

  155. Losing a pet is a horrible thing to endure. It rips your heart out and at the same time you feel stupid mourning the loss of an animal. It feels heartbreaking and absurd at the same time. Our 2017 was a year we lost our dog and cat 6 months apart. It took us a year to get another pet. By that time we felt healed and ready to give our love to someone else. I have three girls, so as a parent, it was especially awful to deal with the grief of my children compounded with that of my own. It eventually passes and you can remember the wonderful memories. At that point you can make memories with another fur baby.

  156. Emily and family,
    I’m sorry for your loss. I lost a cat in a very traumatic way 6 years ago, so I can understand.

    My only advice to any parent working through this would be that children don’t fear death until we make them fear death. I was exposed to death twice at a very young age of about 4 and 5 yrs old (of people not animals) and wasn’t made to feel it was strange or particularly sad — while at the same time not being judged if I was sad.

    Fast forward, I’m a very “normal” adult and parent and we talk to our son (age 5) about death like it’s part of life – because it is. Maybe your mom who is less emotional about your beloved Bearcat can talk to them about how you are sad and that’s totally normal as a part of grief. She might be able to talk more matter of factly – which is helpful at their age.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Best wishes for peace.

  157. Ugh, i’m so sorry. It’s just so hard. I had two cats, 15 years old. Diego was phenomenal. He was actually sold as a pillow at Urban Outfitters. He also has a Facebook page, lol. I had to say goodbye in 2015, after his battle with kidney failure changed him 🙁 He was my first son.
    His sister Cailin disappeared in Fall 2016 after we moved. She definitely had a broken heart after Diego disappeared. She was old and thinning. But still my purring Baby girl. I still don’t know what happened. If she went to find a quiet place for herself to go in peace. If it was a coyote or if someone took her in (she was BEAUTIFUL) Not having closure is the worst and still hard, after all this time. 🙁
    My oldest son was four at that time and knows she may have been eaten, went to hide or just felt it was time to go adventure.
    Two big pieces of my heart are still missing.❤️

  158. Love your book, blog, and feed. Perfect timing as I’m in a parallel world. My 14 year old cat died this summer, I am traumatized over her death (subacute illness, dire prognosis-chose euthanasia when she had a “good day”) and guilty over not loving her as much as before I had kids. I knew her longer than I know my husband. She was a part of my life for over a 1/3 of my life. I am still grieving, and overall I’m better, but some days are easier. Her death was a shock mostly because I “forgot” she was mortal and “oh yeah the cat” wouldn’t be in conversation forever. Life changed so quickly. I had a hard time telling my children (5 and 2.5 yo) but they took it better than me, and immediately asked for a replacement kitten. We are waiting, however, to honor her memory. Agree with how “special”
    A cat can be- my cat was more like a dog, waiting for us to come home- following us on walks, always in the mix of what we were doing. A little analogy advice for when exposed to a dead body- “do not be afraid, it’s only a cocoon- the butterflies have flown away”. Sending healing hugs to you!

  159. So sorry for your loss Emily and family. It’s really hard to lose someone you love so much. What really helped me get through explaining death to my 4 year old (we lost my mom in July to cancer) was reevaluating my mindset around death. Like you suggested with the glove, there’s a physical us and a spiritual us and death is just a natural process that all things go through and while we are sad and miss the dead, it’s totally normal and ok. I’m sure most of what I said went over his head but it really helped me and I hope it helped frame death as a normal process for him. Best of luck navigating these challenging times.

  160. Sorry for your loss!

    As a former school psychologist I used to use “the 10th good thing about Barney” and then a grieving student would make their own “the ____ good thing about ___”.

  161. Just getting to read this now. I am so, so sorry. Losing a pet is a deep pain, and it takes awhile to move past it. I think you and Brian handled it so very well, and I wouldn’t beat yourself up about the fish thing; just the fact that you are worried about it in the first place shows you are a great parent. Sending you all healing vibes.

  162. Oh Emily. I am so sorry for your loss. This time last year I went through something similar. My sweet Opie boy of 10 years passed away in the middle of the night and we don’t know why. He wasn’t showing any signs of sickness or disease. Acted perfectly find the night before…. Bearcat was 13 and that’s an ‘average’ age for cats to pass. I would urge you to not think it’s your fault – sometimes their little hearts do just give out and then our hearts break 🙁

    She had a beautiful life and she died at home and you were able to lay her to rest. Here’s to your healing!

  163. It will pass, for you and for the children. We know when we get them that they will eventually go and we will hurt a lot, but the memories we have somehow make it all right in the end. The important thing is the love that we gave them and received from them – the pure, unconditional love that we crave. In order to know that I can give and receive that love, I will handle the pain. Repeatedly. Sending you good thoughts and memories.

  164. My son was 5 when we had to put our 17 year old cat down. I had a vet come to the house where I held my kitty as he passed away peacefully. I had told my son that the cat was very old and sick and in pain and that we were helping him move on and I gave my son the option of being there while we helped our kitty move beyond all his pain. My son opted to be in another room with my Mom but as the vets were leaving with the cat my son asked to see him. He looked at and petted the cat one last time and was so comforted because “he looked just the same but asleep.” To this day he sleeps with the ashes of that cat in his bedroom. We were brutally honest and wanted him to see that death is very much a part of life. It is very sad but not necessarily scary. Obviously, you could never have planned for the tragedy that happened to your kitty but perhaps you could plan a little service and make a small memorial in your yard for the cats with stones or sticks. It might help your children and you to feel as though their memory is meaningful and to give your son a place to go if he is missing them. It took us 2 years to replace our cat and when my son was 7 he picked out a new kitty for us and she is black and wonderful…she sounds much like your bearcat.

  165. I’m so sorry for your loss…pets become family and it’s so hard to not have them anymore. 13 years ago I adopted a dog that was lost, I couldn’t find the owner so I kept her. She was the most loving and tender and grateful dog ever. I had her for almost 10 yrs and died a couple of years ago and I still cry and miss her….I send you a big hug and never feel guilty about Bear or Mimi, they received nothing but love from all of your beautiful family!

  166. I am sorry for your loss. Our dog had congestive heart failure so we were able to prepare our kids a bit for her death. We try to be as honest as we can with them (age appropriate of course) about difficult issues. I’ve found kids are always more resilient than we think they are. After her death, we had them choose a favorite picture of her to keep framed in their room.

  167. Sorry for your loss, losing a pet is so hard, I can’t imagine losing to at the same time

  168. Thank you SO MUCH for writing this post. We lost our dog, Suni, to cancer last year and our cat, Brimley, died this spring. My kids are 3 and 1 currently (2 and in the womb when our dog died). I explained that they passed away and I’m not totally sure my daughter understands what that means.

    When our dog passed away, we got another dog shortly after and explained that this new dog needed a family and love. It was like a script my daughter would repeat for MONTHS, triggered almost every time when she even just looked our new dog. “Suni was sick. But we have Fara now, she needed a family.”

    With our cat, it was a little harder. We explained that he had been sick and had passed away. But because we haven’t yet gotten another cat (I so want one, but at the same time, dealing with 2 young kids and 2 dogs and then all the *stuff* that comes with owning a cat I am just not ready for) she will just mention to people how we don’t have a cat anymore and how some people don’t own cats at all.

    Ugh it is so tough because like you, I’m just avoiding the whole death thing as much as I can while she’s little. I want her to feel safe and secure for as long as possible. She asked on our dog walk today about squirrels and I explained that they are mammals just like whales! and people! And isn’t that neat?! And she was SO upset by the fact that we are animals and insisted that it wasn’t true. So I appeased her for the moment and agreed with her, realizing that she might be connecting the fact that animals die to people.

    I just wish I could protect both my kids from these scary facts forever.

  169. Oh my goodness, this is so sad and a traumatic way to find your sweet pet. Sounds like you did an amazing job handling it with the kids. Heather Shumker, author of It’s Ok Not to Share, wrote a chapter in her book on how to handle the topic of kids and death. She ends each chapter of the book (which covers a variety of situations with kids) with a section of “words to avoid” and “words to try” to give parents help on specific things to say. Her book has been an invaluable tool for me. Again, sounds like you handled it beautifully.

  170. I’m really sorry for your lost. I’m really am.
    But, please, don’t feel guilty because you are not. And let me tell you why I know it. One of my cat has a stomach disease (something that doesn’t let de food pass to the stomach sometimes) plus he likes to eat anything (from food to plastic bags) and he also eats really fast. You cannot imagine what that cat has vomited.
    I’ve had cats my entire life and, all you have told, remaind me to one of my cat that has a heart attach. So, please, don’t feel guilty, cause you don’t deserve it.

  171. Thanks for this. It was very timely as I had to make the hardest decision to put down my Missy two days ago and I’m contemplating wherher my 2ye old understands. I feel the exact same guilt you do about Missy and her brother getting increasingly less attention once our two babies were born. Guilt about bemoaning their very normal cat behavior like meowing to wake us up. And major guilt that the stress from our family changes (We had our 2nd child 2 months ago) made me not notice Missy (an indoor cat) was left outside and got into a cat fight that left her fur all over the grass. This stress surely contributed to her sudden downturn.
    And now, I tried to say something to my 2yr old. She seemed unfazed so I didn’t say much more, but I fear she will ask again since Missy was a huge part of our family and they had a connection.
    Beat of luck to your family. I know it’s incredibly hard to have family members suddenly be gone. Thanks again for Bearing your soul on this one. Muah

  172. I am so sorry for your loss. Our dog Dos Equis passed away almost 2 years ago and I still think about him daily. I don’t get quite as sad, but man I miss that little jerk 🙂 He left a pet sibling behind and it is sad because she still seems lost without him, and like you I don’t feel the same way about her. My daughter was younger than your kiddos when he passed, but she sees videos and pictures and we legit said he died, so not a soft opener to that convo at all I think then we said he was in heaven, even though I’m not religious because . . . Parenting is hard and I didn’t know what to say. I need a manual for how to speak to my toddler, the glove idea was awesome. However, the fact that you and I are cognizant of teaching our kids these hard lessons in an honest and caring way is better than what many children will experience. I try to tell myself that when I am feeling less than as a mom. We are all just doing our best.

  173. My explanation CAME from a little boy. I was debating weather to have my 9 year old , Sam there when we had to put down their dog. I asked him, as I was ok either way. My son said he wanted to be there to hold his paw in case he was scared.( great kid) after the dog was gone, Sam said, I know why Woody died younger than people, We are here to learn how to love each other and be happy, and dogs just do it faster. …amen.

  174. Oh Emily….my Baxter, soo much like Bear Cat, was all black and the lovey-doviest creature on earth. I’m not kidding, that cat would look deep into my eyes while he was purring on my lap. His contentment was palpable…almost like he was saying “thank you” every time he snuggled in. Alas, he was not to be an “indoor only” kitty, so we would let him out for a bit everyday. After 7 years of his love & undying affection, he went missing. We canvassed the neighborhood, talked to everyone, called every animal rescue organization in Portland. Despite the fact that he was chipped & had a collar with our phone number on it, he simply vanished with no trace. Three years later, I’m not sure if it wouldn’t have been better to know his fate. I still dream about him being trapped somewhere we can’t get to him and I feel guilty.
    I’m so very sorry for your loss, Emily. Losing our pets rips open a hole in our hearts. Even though I’d give anything to have Baxy back again, I’m oddly grateful now for the hole he left. It reminds me how deeply he was loved by my family and how lucky we are to be the giver & the recipient of love in our lifetime. Wishing you peace ❤️

  175. Hello Emily,
    So sorry for the loss of your two family members. Yes, I refer to them as family members because even though they were animals/pets, the profound love and attachment we develop for our “pets” is as strong (sometimes stronger) as our love and attachments are to our human family members/friends. As a pet owner and a mom, I can relate to your sadness and grief. I lost my mom when my children were 2 and 4 years old. One year later, we lost our beloved dog of 13 years and then 6 months after had to make the horrible decision to put our 2nd beloved dog down due to cancer. Needless-to-say, during these two years I felt at times like I was drowning in grief. I also worried profoundly how all of this back-to-back loss/grief was affecting my two young, sweet girls. I tried to compartmentalize my grief because I was desperately determined to not let these 3 profound losses interfere with my kids childhood “joy.” I know it might sound absurd to some for me to compare, or lump-in the loss of my mother with the loss of our pets, but the bottom line is, these three losses WERE similar in that we had lost 3 beloved members of our family and we missed, longed for and grieved for their presence in our lives.
    I want to commend you and your husband for your sensitivity and thoughtfulness as parents who, in the midst of your own sadness, took time to consider how best to share the loss with your children. As a therapist, I can tell you I think you handled the situation wonderfully, even the bumps in the road, because ultimately, we are all just learning as we go and hopefully doing the best we can as parents. The point is, loss and the subsequent sadness and grief that we feel when we lose someone/thing we love very much, is an unavoidable part of life. With loss comes suffering and even though our most powerful instinct as parents is to always protect our children from suffering, if we do so, we are ultimately depriving them of part of their humanity. Suffering hurts, but it’s not always a bad thing. Through suffering we grow and learn and hopefully realize our strength to persevere and go on. This was a very difficult, but teachable moment for your family, but you made/are making it through it and that’s the most important message your kids are receiving….I’d give you a gold star and a hug if I could:)

  176. The hand and glove analogy is from a talk by Elder Boyd K. Packer, in case anyone wants the original explanation.
    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1973/04/behold-your-little-ones?lang=eng

  177. Ugh, so sorry, but it’s good to hear that you guys are all processing and being kind to yourselves (even through parenting missteps). Parenting pets together is such an intense experience, and I just want to give Brian a shout out for his act of kindness in keeping you from having to go to engage with Bearcat post-soul. He’s a good one.

  178. I’m so sorry for your (and your family’s) loss. I’ve loved and lost many dogs and cats in my life…most recently (last month, actually!) was my parents’ super sweet dog dying. It has felt harder than any of the other losses because it was unexpected. She was on her nightly walk with my dad and she pulled out of her collar, running immediately into the street and being hit by a car. She died in my dad’s arms. I had to wait a couple of days before telling my kids (ages 8 & 4) because i was so upset. Yes, she was just my parents’ dog, but my kids loved her and loved playing with her at least once a week when we would be at their house.

    I love your mom’s analogy with the glove and a hand. I’m mentally storing that for future discussions. Another thing that really helped my kids was checking out picture books from the library about pets dying. My kids were fascinated with each story and informational book.

    Don’t beat yourself up over the beta fish issue…you are trying your best. It will be ok.

  179. Hi Emily. I totally understand. We lost our 14.5 year old lab on the 23rd. My best friend and oldest of 5 kids! Sending love. Gina

  180. Cats are the best. I am a self-professed crazy cat lady and have never had less than 3 at once and currently have 5. I’ve always enjoyed seeing yours sneak in to the photos of your home so I’m sad to hear this. I wanted to reassure you that it is very unlikely that Bearcat choked on the chicken as their teeth are designed to handle meat as they are hunters in nature (I’ve given mine raw chicken plenty of times as a treat) so please don’t be too hard on yourself over the chicken. And I hear you on loving Mimi even with all the frustrations. We have a blind kitten, he’s 6 months old now, who was originally feral but was rescued and has neurological issues. I adore him and am not going to give up on him but he is definitely challenging and I can see him having some of his issues/personality quirks for the rest of his life. Saying goodbye is never easy whether it was expected or not and everyone deals with loss differently. ((hugs)) You will know when it’s the right time to add another feline (or canine) to your family.

  181. Hi Emily, my heart goes out to you. I’m so sorry to hear about your pets, they are members of the family and in their life with you, they would have felt loved and cherished, especially having come from a dubious breeder. I can sense how much you and your husband care about things so I’m sure the pets felt loved. I think the feelings of guilt are part of caring for dependant beings. When my dog died, peacefully at the vets, it was a beautiful but terrible day. I felt wracked with guilt that I didn’t know she had cancer or that she had probably been in pain for a long time. Then to make the awful decision to put her to sleep. All we can do is remember the love we gave them and know that it was reciprocated in your happy home. They must have known they were loved. You are always so open and honest, I love that quality in your writing.

  182. When my first cat died (technically put to sleep because of cancer) I made a photo book of all of the photos I had of her (which were tons). It helped, I mean it made my cry for months every time I flipped through it, but she’s not just a memory that might fade, or get replaced. And when I miss her I have something tangible to look easily look at.

  183. Oh Emily, I’m so so sorry and sending lots of love. My husband and I just lost our first cat in August after 11 years. Literally got her 2 months into our relationship. Thank you for sharing such a personal experience with us. I’ve been experiencing many of the same feelings you have had over such an awful and unexpected loss. I’ve been mad at myself, blamed myself, etc. I remind myself that the misery she was in was unfair to her and that we did the right thing, but some days those ‘what ifs’ start popping up in my head and I find myself balling. So just wanted to say that I totally get it, but also wanted to say that your way of telling the kids was beautiful. Having experienced the loss of our kitty, your explanation to the kids had me feeling better. I’m 29 and tearing up thinking about my old girl and her sweet soul. There’s not always a right or a wrong way for every situation, but after reading such an emotional experience I would say that you did everything right. You protected your children’s sweet innocence and you’re learning along the way too. Thank you again for sharing, but more importantly sending you, Brian, and the kids lots of love. ❤️

  184. Aw so sorry to hear 🙁 Bearcat sounds like the perfect cat (and she had such a great name!) If it’s any comfort I think it is very difficult for a cat to choke on anything because their swallow mechanism is so strong. If you’ve ever had to force feed a cat you’ll know what I mean, they can swallow a lot whole. I’m not a vet but just from my experience..

  185. Oh Emily (and Brian) I am so sorry. We just lost our beloved golden retriever, our first baby as well, suddenly about 3 1/2 weeks ago. Like you, we were absolutely shocked and devastated. Still today, I am overcome with sadness and emotion when I think of him. I miss everything about him and my god, your comments about the guilt were bang on. We also have a 3 year old and life changed dramatically for our dog when he was born. I have never felt more regret and guilt in my life, like I didn’t love him enough, I didn’t care for him enough. It’s amazing how you do this to yourself when something/someone is ripped away from you with no notice, like had you known, you would’ve been better. Anyways, thank you for sharing your story and your feelings because I can currently relate so much to them. Pets are more than just pets, they are very special, loyal, loving companions. Our son, like Birdie, hasn’t asked too many questions, he’s just accepted that our dog is not here anymore, but I LOVE the glove analogy, that is perfect. Take care xo

  186. the loss of our pets leaves such a hole it’s practically unbearable. love to all.

  187. This is going to be long, but I feel the need to get this out. I have had so much trouble sharing this news with friends because I feel no one understands the love I felt/still feel for my cats. Apologies in advance.

    We just moved over the summer from a .3 acre plot to a 6 acre plot, 4 of which is woods, with our 2 kids and 3 cats, Ella, Allen, and Poe. Ella and Poe were brother and sister, my first fur babies I too got when I was 25 (they are/were now about 10 years old this summer). Within the first few weeks, Poe and Allen, who we always said had a bro-mance for the ages, started whining to go out. We let them out, watched them in the yard, they seemed to clearly know where home was, and seemed overall happy. One weekend about a month in – don’t ask me how – we managed to leave our basement door ajar. For TWO DAYS without noticing. Sunday morning came and even though I had seen Poe at midnight on Saturday, I realized I couldn’t find him. The new house is bigger and we thought he had just found a new nook to sleep in. By Sunday evening we finally noticed the door and realized, crap he must’ve gone out overnight. We started searching the neighborhood and talking to neighbors. I wasn’t entirely worried, my parents have a cat that takes off for days at a time in the rural country, surely our 4 wooded acres in the middle of suburbia wouldn’t be enough for something bad to happen, predator-wise. For the next week, Allen, Poe’s partner in crime stopped wanting to go out, but Ella, the loner from the boys (and my equivalent of Bearcat) suddenly wanted to go outside (she was basically an indoor, max sit on the deck type of cat). We let her out, thinking maybe she could find Poe. We went away for the weekend, my parents watched our kids (ages 2 and 4) and a neighbor called to say they thought they saw Poe in their yard. Meanwhile, Ella was let out in the evening, and in the melee of bedtime, was never let back in overnight. By Sunday morning, Ella was not returning, and the cat the neighbor saw didn’t seem to be Poe. So within 7 days, we managed to lose 2 of 3 of our cats. Given Ella’s nature to be a homebody, I have to assume a predator got them. I am heartbroken, two months later, and still go for walks calling for them. We’ve done all the things you are supposed to do and I am just hoping some neighbor somewhere is now feeding a black cat or two. Our kids still ask where they are and we tell them we honestly don’t know, but there is a good chance they are dead, regardless, we will probably never see them again at this point (a little more softly, but this is already really long). We lost our brother-in-law to Cancer recently (I don’t know why I capitalized that, but I’m leaving it), so they are well aware of the permanence of death, we talk about it A LOT (Disney’s Coco has been great, honestly.) The most heartbreaking moment was finding our kids putting blankets on Allen, saying they had to hide him because we don’t know who is taking our pets. That’s the end of my story, with no closure I am still struggling with all of this and I just wanted to say I feel your pain, even going from 3 cats to 1 has been so awkward. I am angry, it’s awful to admit, but Poe was an outdoor cat and losing him in that way feels very …nature’s way? But Ella being a mostly indoor cat, did not deserve a death like that, if that is what happened. I miss them dearly and I can sympathize with missing Bearcat and Mimi. Hugs, hugs, hugs to you all.

  188. I just lost my cat of 16 years, almost a twin of your black cat!! It was kidney failure — same thing as your Mimi, peeing everywhere, stopped eating, would only lick food, became incredibly skinny. It’s so hard to lose them. Our other cat, the same age, is doing okay. Our two-year-old asked us the day after we put Bastet down, “Where Bastet? He go to his mama?” and we both lost it. It was so hard. I feel your pain, so much.

  189. So sorry, Emily. Thank you for sharing. It feels like you handled it so well. We never know how we’d deal with death until we face it ourselves. It helps to see examples though.

  190. So sorry for your loss Emily, how devastating to lose them both at once like that. Your husband is wise – you really can’t unsee that first dead furbaby image. You won’t really know what caused it, try not to blame yourself. X.

    It was definitely not a parenting fail to buy the fish – we’ve all been there! It’s good that the kids aren’t into the fish – it’ll make it easier one day if you decide the fish needs a new home.

    Take it easy.

  191. I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my 16 year old cat three weeks ago to kidney disease and it has been hard. Even though my head knows it was time to let him go and it was the right thing to do, that doesn’t make it easy. I can only imagine how hard it has been for your family to lose both cats so close together.

  192. Ahh, Emily. My heart aches for the loss of your beloved furbabies. I am reading this while at work (needed a mental break!), and tears surged to my eyes. My family continent-hopped frequently when I was growing up, so I didn’t have so much as a plant or fish to love on. I became a pet mama, quite by accident, for the first time last year, and I wholeheartedly empathize with how much love, connection, and guilt is intertwined into being a cat parent. I am so sorry that Mimi was in pain, that Bear passed away so suddenly, and that your home suddenly feels so empty of these two furbabies. It’s clear you and Brian did your best in being thoughtful, kind, and honest parents – to the cats and the kids. Bear and Mimi are no doubt together, prancing about happily. Sending you big hugs.

  193. Awww! So sorry about your fur kids. They really are part of the family and I truly don’t understand how people can just give animals away because they are inconvenient. Please please please try not to feel guilty, your kitties lived a very long and happy life and didn’t want for anything. Sending lots of loves and chirpy purrs!!

  194. So Many Tears. My husband and I just had the conversation that our dog is getting old and we both cried thinking about telling the kids when it comes time. We have an outdoor cat as well that I haven’t let myself get attached to for the same fear.

  195. I’m so sorry, Emily! The loss of a pet is such a huge, sad thing, and it also can be so complicated, especially once kids are in the picture. Our beloved dog, Daisy, got very sick when I was pregnant with my second kid and basically went from old but ok to organ failure in about a week. I felt so awful when we had to put her to sleep because I had been feeling really frustrated with her, probably just because I was pregnant and tired and not feeling great.

    We also did a bunch of research about telling our daughter, who was then 2.5 and very close to Daisy, and one thing we read was that it was important to be very direct and not use any metaphors like “put to sleep” or mention that Daisy had been sick, because it can make kids think that when they go to sleep or are sick, they might die. So we did that, and it all seemed like it went ok, until a few months later when M (our daughter) casually said something about how Daisy dived into the water. We were like, “what?” And she said, “you know, when Daisy went away she dived into the water, right?” So we had to explain all over again that Daisy had died! It was very sad but also kind of hilarious in the way of small children.

    One thing that really helped us, especially since I am pretty agnostic on the idea of a soul, was that when Mirabelle would bring up Daisy and how she missed her, I would say “It is really sad that she is gone, but we can always talk about her and tell stories about her and look at pictures of her. Just because she is gone doesn’t mean we stop loving her.” We made her a photo book of pictures of her and Daisy and she loves to look at it, and pretty quickly she went from seeming really confused about Daisy not being there, to bringing her up in really thoughtful loving ways, and talking about how she missed her and how much she loved her, which to me are signs of really healthfully processing her grief.

    Now it’s been almost three years and while we are starting to get intense dog crushes on cute dogs we meet, etc. we feel pretty strongly that we aren’t going to get another dog until our kids are teenagers who never want to hug us/talk to us. Then we’ can get an emotional support animal for the whole family 🙂

  196. We lost 4 pets in less than a year – 1 stroke, 2 old age, 1 liver failure. 2 dogs, 2 cats. I finally got use to not having a pet in the house, but around the 9th month I ended up with 3 new cats in the house. All 3 with totally different personalities than the 2 we lost. You’ll know when the time is right to get another family pet.
    It never gets any easier when a loved pet leaves your life.

  197. I put my dog of many years down when my kids had just turned 1. When they were 4, we got a rescue poodle we named Ricky Ricardo. His name had prompted the vet to call me Mrs. Ricardo. I could finally be Latina! When they were 18, were made that last trip with Ricky, and my sons said it was a lot harder than they had expected. That’s a life experience that kids should take part in, in an age appropriate way.

  198. And I am sorry for your loss

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