We sat down with Michael Zadoorian, an accomplished writer and published author who shares the reasons why he hid his deep grief after his beloved cat, Bongo, died.
“My cat died, and I miss my cat, but I was embarrassed to admit it,” says Zadoorian. “The loss of a cat, and the grief that follows, is not something we’re good at talking about.”
In this article, Zadoorian shares his deeply personal journey of loss after the death of his cat, Bongo. He also shares some practical advice for what to do when your cat dies.
My Cat Died, But I Can’t Express My Grief
“As a huge animal lover, I was really touched by the article that you wrote for the Huffington Post in which you share your grief after your cat, Bongo, died” shares our interviewer, Courtney Murdock.
“Would you share your story with our viewers?” asks Murdock.
“Sure. At around the end of last year, we found out that my cat, Bongo, was seriously ill, and he ultimately passed away,” replies Zadoorian.
“Afterwards, I found myself having a really hard time dealing with his death and I went through a long period of grieving very hard.
“I noticed that I was kind of hiding my grief as if I wasn’t allowed to have grief for my cat. It was a strange sort of thing.
“I had noticed at one of my vet visits leading up to Bongo’s death that there was a man there who was kind of ashamed of the grief that he had for his cat that just died.
“It started getting me thinking about men and cats and how we are perhaps allowed to grieve more for certain creatures than we are for other ones.
“So this is how I got the idea for the essay. I also wrote it as a kind of catharsis as well,” states Zadoorian.
“Yes, it must have been very therapeutic,” responds Murdock.
“Absolutely,” affirms Zadoorian.
“So that is really where it started and I just wanted to examine the idea of men and cats and grief and the ideas about how much people are allowed to grieve for a particular creature [after they have died].”
I Miss My Cat Enormously, but it Seems Absurd
“What were some of the different emotions that you struggled with when you were grieving Bongo?” asks Murdock.
“Well, I think it was just sort of a grief. I mentioned one thing in the essay about weeping over his litter pan,” laughs Zadoorian.
“My other cat was there at the time and she was looking at the storage space where he usually sat, and it was strange just because I couldn’t help but see the absurdity of this.
“She was yowling because she didn’t get any closure or anything like that either. He [my cat Bongo] just disappeared one day.
So, this was just one of the kinds of things I kept noticing over and over again and I did notice myself sort of hiding my grief.
“I was also going through a lot of other things in my life at this particular time, so I think that that also contributed to this very, very intense reaction that I had.
“But, like I say in my essay, none of which is to diminish my love for my cat because I was crazy about him,” shares Zadoorian.
Grief After the Loss of a Cat is not Validated by Society
“In your essay, you wrote that you felt like you had what many would consider an ‘inappropriate’ amount of grief for a cat’. Why do you think that society doesn’t validate deep grief after the death of a cat?” asks Murdock.
“You know, I’m not entirely sure and that is something that I at least wanted to examine or talk about in the essay,” explains Zadoorian.
“I talk about in my essay, you know—’How much is a 200-pound man allowed to grieve the death of a 10-pound tabby?'” laughs Zadoorian.
“It felt like I wasn’t allowed [to grieve] much. It was the sort of thing where people would just seem to have this attitude like, ‘Okay man, that’s enough. Shake it off. I don’t want to hear about [how your cat died]. It’s just a cat’.
“This is one of those things where in reactions after the article, I had a bunch of people come to me with similar stories like, ‘My husband was really upset about our cat dying and his friends are just saying things like, “Shake it off dude, it’s just a cat!”’
“It just seemed like, ‘Why do we do this? Why are you not allowed to feel what you’re feeling?’
“So I definitely think that, especially men, are not allowed to feel that much, or we think that we aren’t allowed to feel that much.
“And this is also one of those stupid things that men do to each other as well. One of the many stupid things men do!” jokes Zadoorian.
“Let’s not get started on that!” laughs Murdock.
“Exactly!” smiles Zadoorian.
Cat Death Not Recognized Like Dog Death
“Do you think that we as a society value some pets more than others and does this translate into a greater understanding of grief for that type of animal?
“For example, do we understand grief after a dog dies more than we would understand grief after a cat, goldfish or a hamster dies?” asks Murdock.
“Yeah, I think that the world is more accepting of people grieving for a dog and I don’t know why that is.
“People love dogs and I don’t know if it has anything to do with size or weight. That is something that pops up a lot in [my essay] and why that is.
“But it is also about an emotional connection, and I do think that sure, you can have an emotional connection with a goldfish or a hamster.
“But with all of us and all of our pets, it’s about what we project onto them as well.
“But, dogs are king here in America and people love their dogs, which is wonderful and they should! But I think that there is more of an acceptance in grieving for a larger creature than a smaller one.
“It may tie into the whole [idea of] why we eat certain animals and why we don’t [eat others].”
“Oh absolutely!” affirms Murdock.
“‘Oh those are cute! Those are ugly—let’s eat those. It’s crazy—it makes no sense!” laughs Zadoorian.
Death of a Cat Hurts Just as Much as the Death of a Relative
“How would you explain to someone that the loss of a pet can hurt just as much as the loss of a relative, for example?” asks Murdock.
“You know, again, I think it’s about that emotional connection,” says Zadoorian. “You know there are people out there who love their animals more than they love their family.
“That can be a somewhat sad situation, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. You’re with your pets a lot.”
“Right, you care for them, you invest in them,” says Murdock.
“You care for them, they rely on you and they sense things in you,” says Zadoorian.
“This isn’t always the case for everyone with their family. You choose your pet, but you don’t choose your family.
“I really think that you feel what you feel, and it’s okay to grieve for your pet—your cat, your dog, your goldfish.
“And as far as people go, you know hopefully, if you’re lucky, you have a wonderful connection with your family. But, that is not always the case.
“So it is all about how and what you feel,” explains Zadoorian.
“Grief is such a personal experience and everyone grieves differently,” says Murdock.
“Absolutely!” affirms Zadoorian.
My Cat Died. When Does the Grief End?
“How long, in your experience, did it take you to feel a little better about the loss a beloved cat?
“When does the sadness go away? Does it go away? Should it go away?” asks Murdock.
“For me, it took a few months. We’re still missing him very much—he was a very special cat,” says Zadoorian.
“Whenever you read about grieving, a lot of people say you never really stop grieving you learn to live with your grief and I think that that is very true.
“You just sort of figure it out, and if you’re lucky, the things that used to make you cry will make you smile.”
“Well, just in anticipation of this interview last night, I was thinking of the family dog that I grew up with [that died].
“And those emotions of grief came back and I thought, ‘Wow, I haven’t just sat and thought about him in a long time,'” shares Murdock.
“I have a picture of the two of us on my dresser always, but I really started feeling those emotions of grief again.
“So, it really is true that grief never really goes away, you just learn to live with it and integrate it into your life,” says Murdock.
“Yeah, I think that’s absolutely true,” agrees Zadoorian.
What to do When Your Cat Dies?
“What is your best advice for someone out there who is grieving the loss of a cat or other pet?
“If I had to give one piece of advice, it would be to not go out and get a pet right away,” emphasizes Zadoorian.
“I have a friend whose dog died and his wife was really broken up about it and he, as men often do, just wanted to fix things.
“So he wound up getting them another dog right away. The dog is very sweet, but he is not that dog [that died].
“I think that [the new] dog still has a little bit of a taint on it as being the replacement instead of the original.
“I think that it hurts a little bit to just be bereaved like that for however long it takes, but I do think that it helps ultimately.
“My wife and I hadn’t planned on getting another cat for a long time, but in our case, after about 4 months, our other cat was acting so sad and lost—I think that she was so used to always having another cat in the house,” explains Zadoorian.
“A companion,” says Murdock.
“Exactly,” replies Zadoorian.
“So we ended up getting a new cat earlier than we would have normally. We ended up adopting another cat after about four and a half months. It’s been working out really well.
“Our cat that we had before [Bongo died] is so much better now—much happier and healthier.
“Often annoyed and moving around a lot more,” laughs Zadoorian.
Is Adopting Another Cat Disloyal?
“This feeds nicely into my next question: ‘When you should consider adopting another pet?'” asks Murdock.
“I completely agree with you that you should not go out and get a new pet right away,” states Murdock.
“You might feel like you’re missing something and that getting a new pet will fix your feelings of grief, but it really won’t because it doesn’t replace that pet that [died] and you have to feel those feelings of grief.
“So, at what point do you consider adopting a new pet and what should you do if you have feelings like, ‘Am I being disloyal to the one that [died]?'”asks Murdock.
“I think that, like I said, you shouldn’t do something like that right away, it’s not going to be the same” says Zadoorian.
“You need to give yourself time.
“I think everyone requires a different amount of time, but if you still feel like you want to fill some kind of cat-shaped hole in your life, it might not be the right time yet.
“You’ll know when you’re ready I think and be open to it. I also don’t think that there is any kind of disloyalty about it.
“A few people wrote me after the article came out and just said that there is no shame in going out and adopting another animal.
“You’re helping another cat or dog or some other animal, and this is a great way to honour the pet [that died] as well,” shares Zadoorian.
Cherishing Memories After the Loss of a Cat
“Here at Love Lives On, we believe in celebrating our loved one’s lives, now and forever,” says Murdock.
“You did something really great to ensure that Bongo’s memory lives on in your heart with the list that you created, and I thought it was a fantastic idea!
“Do you mind sharing a bit about this list you created about your cat?” asks Murdock.
“Sure, sure. It was when he was still around and not feeling well and I kind of knew that I was going to lose him, so I started writing down some things about him that I loved,” shares Zadoorian.
“It was nice.
“It was a good thing for me to do and every once in a while I can look back on the list and remember things.
“Like the weird way he used to walk into a room and meow with a little question mark at end, as if he was saying, ‘What’s up?'” shares Zadoorian.
“I love the one about him curling into your sweater,” says Murdock.
“Yes!” laughs Zadoorian. “I’m at my writing desk right now. That’s something else I touched on in the article about cats and writers.
“He would jump up on the desk and nudge me until I would unzip my hoodie and he would climb in and sit there.
“And I would forget that he was in there because he was so comfortable until I would get up for a cup of coffee and realize I still had a cat in my sweatshirt.
“So I have a whole list of those things and it helped me. I wound up using a few of them in that essay as well.
“For me especially, but I think for people who might not even be professional writers, sometimes just writing a few of these things down and going through your feelings in that way and seeing them on a page or on a computer screen can be cathartic and really helpful,” shares Zadoorian.
Share Your Thoughts About Cat Loss
We appreciate Michael Zadoorian sharing his personal story with us. “My cat died, and I mourned him intensely. But now I cherish my memories,” he says. We hope that you find his insights on grief after a beloved cat has died helpful.
Have you ever grieved the loss of a special cat or another beloved pet? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below.
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