It is one of the most difficult decisions that pet owners have to face, especially when forced with life circumstances that eventually lead to surrender their pet.
One of the most common reasons for surrendering pets is moving, especially in rented spaces where the landlord does not allow pets for certain reasons like noise or cleanliness issues.
Additionally, most pet owners surrender the offspring of their pets to other or new pet owners in case additional pet maintenance doesn’t fit their budget or lifestyle. Some are forced to give their pet away due to allergy problems that arise among family members.
Whatever the reason is, surrendering a pet can also feel like losing a pet for most pet owners, especially those who have years of invested emotional attachment. The more years you spend with your pet, the more difficult it will be to give them away.
Here are some advice and tips on how you can deal with grief after you surrender your cat:
Keep a Positive Mindset
Preparing your mindset during the early days of your grieving is the most important part of healthy coping and healing because people who surrender their pets often experience prejudice from other pet owners. Giving your cat away can look like you are an irresponsible pet owner for not giving your pet the best living condition but keep in mind that the opposite is always true.
Surrendering your pet means choosing what is best for them.
Surrendering your pet to a different home or owner is always the best decision to give your pet a better living condition. Of course, it is perfectly normal to feel guilt whenever you surrender your pet. You are not turning your back against them by giving them away.
In fact, by acknowledging that you can’t provide a tenable life to your pet because of moving, behavior issues, or other serious personal problems, surrendering them to adoption homes or aspiring pet owners is the best decision to make, albeit the hardest one.
And yes, we know, that cats do miss their owners:
Select the Best Home for Your Cat
In most cases, rehoming your cat or finding your cat’s next owner can be a pre-emptive coping mechanism because you can choose the best future home for your pet. In other words, becoming more involved with the experience of surrendering your cat can help your remove all doubts and worries about its future well-being since, as a cat owner, you would only want the best for your cat.
You can play an active role in rehoming your cat by crowdsourcing through social media or asking your friends or colleagues if they know someone who may be interested in adopting your cat.
This way, you can judge if the person adopting your cat is a decent and capable person that would save you future worries whenever you think about your cat once you parted ways.
Knowing that your cat’s future owner has the means and can give it the best living condition that you can think of, you can rest assured that your cat is in a better place.
Similarly, if your social network is quite small, deciding to rehome your cat through a trusted local animal shelter can help you avoid overthinking about your cat’s well-being.
Animal shelters are usually affiliated with rescuers and veterinarians who can provide temporary professional care until your cat gets adopted by another person looking for a pet.
Moving on without doubts about your cat’s well-being can help you cope with pet separation.
Write a Letter to Your Cat
Try to unpack your emotions by putting all of them into words and writing all the things you want to say and what you may have forgotten to say before you parted ways. Doing so can help you take your own time to grieve, and it can be a symbolic act to start moving on at your own pace. Don’t worry if it takes you more than a day or even a week to finish your letter. Everyone has their own way of moving on.
As pet owners, we would always find ourselves talking to our pets. This is one way we actively communicate with them even if we don’t speak the same language.
On the other hand, writing a letter can give you this familiar feeling of communicating you’re your former pet in the form of writing. This way, writing a letter to pour out all of your emotions can really help you cope with grief.
Taking this further, you can probably start a journal or diary where your cat is your addressee. It can contain everything you’ve done in a day, every strange thought that passes through your head, your secrets, etc.
It can be anything you want to, and your former cat can be your best confidant. In this way, you can practice open communication about your own feelings and deal with them simultaneously, which is a very healthy type of coping. It might be strange at first, but you can trust that it will become more natural with each day that passes.
Learn to Forgive Yourself
Surrendering your cat can make you feel like a failure but you need to forgive yourself to free yourself from the guilt that you’re feeling. Guilt and grief go hand in hand when surrendering your cat. Do not blame yourself for surrendering your pet because it can only make it more difficult for you to move on. Sometimes, things just don’t work out in the end.
Life circumstances often change, and there are just some instances where you might really need to let go of your cat. Among the most common reason for surrendering your cat is because someone in your household is allergic and, therefore, cannot keep your pet anymore. Some moving issues can cause some behavioral problems to your cat.
There are just some cats that experience a difficult time adjusting to new surroundings. Cats are highly territorial, so they are susceptible to experience high levels of stress when it comes to geographical changes. However, your decision to move might have been due to career or personal family reasons, and your cat’s unchanging behavior can affect your decision whether or not to surrender it for adoption.
These changes sometimes happen suddenly, and you might not have control over the things that are happening. It is not your fault, and it will take you anywhere to blame yourself over the things that are not under your control. Be gentle with yourself as you grieve.
Join Online Pet Support Group
Reading stories of people who have gone through the same experience as you can help you accept that your cat is now doing well with its new owner. They can give tips and teach you how to cope with pet separation based on their own experiences.
Online support groups are common nowadays. Various online support groups can help you deal with your feelings as a pet owner. After all, only other pet owners who have lost their own can fully understand how you feel.
Additionally, it can also help you give advice to others who might still be deciding if they should surrender their pet or not. What is important is you are starting to receive support from people who have gone through a similar loss, and by giving other people emotional support, grief becomes shared and less of a burden to bear.
Actively Deal With Your Emotions
Allow yourself to feel sad when you do because bottling your emotions can only hurt you and heal you in the long run. Cry if you need to and don’t be ashamed to express your grief. It is crucial to deal with your grief and process your emotions during this period.
Expect to have some random outbursts of sadness in the first few weeks because your moments spent with your cat are still fresh in your memory. Doing so can allow you to recover much faster because feelings of sadness and grief can be fleeting in most cases. You can cry it out as much as you want, as it can also be cathartic.
Know that this is just a normal human reaction and part of the process of healing. If you can’t function normally, try to take a day off and rest.
Keep Your Other Pets Healthy
If you have surrendered your cat while you still have some pets left for you to take care of, don’t let your grief or sadness to get in the way of taking care of yourself and the pets that you still have.
You might surrender some of your cats because of pet maintenance issues, especially if your cat has given birth to another batch of kittens, don’t beat yourself to it. It is natural to give away some of your cat’s offspring, especially if you don’t have space and means to sustain more cat lives.
Granted that cats usually give birth to four up to 12 kittens, most owners surrender some kittens to others who would like to foster a pet cat. Keep in mind that this is just normal as a cat owner. It is always possible that a time may come when you need to give away your cat’s kittens.
When that happens, redirect your grief into taking care of your pets. Always take the effort of channeling negative emotion into a positive one.
Of course, it can’t be helped to always wonder how your surrendered pets are doing, but if you give yourself enough time to distance yourself away from the feeling of losing your pet, you only have to remember that the pets that you have are grateful that you are still taking care of them, which is what matters the most.
Avoid Dwelling on the Past
You must control yourself to snap out of dwelling on the past whenever you catch yourself dwelling on your memories of your cat. Dwelling too much can be a source of mental and emotional fatigue if you fall into the trap of doing it.
Dwelling on the past can be tempting, especially during the first few weeks of being separated from your cat. Expect that it can become your initial reaction whenever you might see a stray cat on the street or overhear someone randomly talking about cats. It is fine since you won’t always be able to control it.
At some point, if your dwelling becomes much more frequent, the stress can take a toll on you mentally and emotionally.
Moving on still requires discipline despite how stoic it may sound. As pet owners, sometimes there are just moments when we should also learn to take care of ourselves. Take this as a lesson to learn how to let go and accept that you may not be able to see your cat again.
It can be a long process, and it will surely take a lot of time. But this is a very crucial time to focus on yourself and help yourself move on, and never lose that willpower to just keep on moving forward. Trust the process that everything will be okay.
Keep a Memento
You would need something symbolic to concretize your grief. It can be anything from your former pet’s most favorite plaything or a piece of clothing or accessory like a collar. Something to remember your cat can help you to your path to healing and letting go after going through the experience of surrendering your pet.
Moving on from a loss does not mean absolute forgetfulness. It does not mean that you should completely forget your cat straight away. You can take this opportunity to move on by being at peace with the absence of your pet, and we know that it will never be that easy.
When you keep a memento, it is entirely up to you how you would like it to help you move on. You can treat it as a personification of your former cat guiding you towards your path in healing. You may also speak to it as if you are talking to your cat to express and let your grief be felt.
You would probably prefer to store it where you won’t be able to see it often. Since every single one of us has different ways of coping with grief, you can treat your memento as a physical symbol to distance yourself away from.
Develop a New Hobby
Immerse yourself into different physical activities to keep yourself healthy and active. Socialize with some friends more often or invite them to your place. Go out and exercise in your free time by running some laps around your neighborhood.
This way, you can help yourself to physically and mentally recover from grief. The important thing is to keep yourself from being stationary. Keeping still for more than a few minutes can invite stray thoughts that might potentially lead to dwelling or grief.
However, you should not mistake doing physical activities as a distraction from feeling the pain of separating from your cat. You should do activities that are productive and helpful to your health. Resorting to self-destructive behaviors is not an option and will not help you heal. It is much more important to take care and watch over yourself while you are grieving.
As a final note…
No pet owner ever wants to part ways with their pet, and it will almost always be heartbreaking for an owner to surrender their beloved pets.
However, as pet owners, we might arrive at that point where we might need to surrender ours to better ourselves and our pets. It would mean to choose a hard decision that we are facing in our own lives.
For some pet owners, cats may not be as playful compared to dogs, but they can always express their affection to their owners in the most surprising ways. They are also one of the most difficult animals to let go of because of how much individual personality they can present.
On the other hand, we can all agree that cats can adapt to any situation, and they are one of the most independent animals in the world.
Most of the time, they can survive on their own without human care.
So, for cat owners who have surrendered their cats for serious reasons, always think that your cat will always be okay. To whom you may have given the responsibility of taking care of your cat, trust them and let them express the love you have once given to your beloved pet.
Just know that you have been a good owner up to the very last moments you shared with your cat, for choosing the best for them and thinking about their future in the hands of fellow cat-lovers.
Brush away the judgment you may hear from others about giving your cat away because, in the end, you did not abandon them by giving them another home to belong. Remember that the path to healing can be a long journey, but you will eventually get there.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.