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Two days before Christmas, my wife phoned me at work. Our cat had been run over and killed outside our house. It was the second time he’d been hit on that stretch of road; a few years ago he survived but lost the sight in one eye. This time he died instantly, he did not suffer and for that I’m thankful but I was not prepared for the effect this news had on me.
We’d had him since 2007, a one year old kitten from Battersea. He’d lived with us in London, seen us buy our first house, get married, move to the countryside and he’d endured 2 children. Looking back he’d been the one constant as our lives had evolved, he was our first pet as a family and still our only pet. With the chaos of a young family, he’d increasingly become my cat. When everyone else had gone to bed, he’d sit quietly with me in the evenings. When I worked in the garden he’d always be there 10 yards away, no further, watching and just enjoying the company.
He was aloof (as cats can be), he was affectionate and he was feisty. I knew I’d miss him but I really didn’t realise how much. Folded clothes on the bed – look like my cat, the wind blowing the cat flap open – sound like my cat. There seem reminders everywhere at the moment. I’d looked forward to looking after him, giving him the best medical care as he got older and I can’t help feeling he’d had barely half his life.
As a vet, I’ve supported many clients through similar situations, losing pets through illness, injury and old age. This is never easy but certainly gets harder the better you know the pet and pet owners. As much as I sympathised, my recent experience has certainly given me a greater understanding of grief.
I suppose in time we may look at a new pet but not yet and in time things will be easier and I can contemplate over fonder memories.
To those who’ve not had a pet, this bond is a difficult one to understand but I would urge everyone to experience it. Although losing pets is difficult, the memories I now have, like him will never be forgotten.