When Should You Adopt A New Cat After Yours Dies?

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This blog is part of a series as I process my grief over the loss of my cat, Zoloft, in the hope of helping others process their grief. I am sharing a new blog post every month for the first year on different topics related to grieving a pet. While my focus is on cats, the advice is applicable to dogs, birds, or any other pet you love.

When you lose a cat, it changes your whole life. Your routines get thrown off, your source of comfort is gone, and the silence. When Zoloft was gone, the silence was completely unbearable to me. I didn’t realize how much I had gotten used to random noises and things being knocked over.

One of the things people said to me repeatedly after they heard Zoloft had passed was that I would one day be ready for another cat. I take some issue with this as it was kind of dismissive of how distressing losing Zoloft specifically was as he can’t just be replaced with any other cat, but that’s a separate topic entirely. I want to share some thoughts and suggestions to consider when it comes to deciding when is right for you to bring another furry friend home.

Note that this blog is entirely from the perspective of you, the human. Deciding if you should get another cat for your cat when their sibling dies is an entirely different topic and I have a full blog discussing the considerations there.

Waiting To Get Another Cat

Many people find the loss of their cat incredibly painful, myself included. It’s understandable that you may not want to immediately jump into adopting another cat. While not having a furry friend around is going to be challenging, there are a lot of advantages to waiting.

You Will Be Ready To Love

When you lose your cat, you may not immediately be ready to accept another cat into your life. It may hurt or sting to see the new cat so happy when you are thinking of the absence of your precious friend. You may also not be fully ready to get to know your new cat for who they are.

One of the risks of getting a cat too soon is that you may subconsciously see them as a replacement for your cat. You may expect them to act exactly like your old cat when really, no cat will ever be exactly like them. That’s why they were so special! Having the unfair expectation for the new cat to be too much like your old buddy will lead to disappointment, a damaged relationship, and potentially even anger toward your cat.

You Can Grieve

Waiting also gives you time to really grieve your cat. You can take all the time you need to find healing in whatever way you need to whether it be by creating a memorial for them, holding a celebration of life, getting a special memorial item, or just adapting to your changed routines. This time allows you to be fully ready to bring a new cat into your life.

Additionally, it allows you to get past the trauma of your cat being gone. If you get the new cat too soon, you may be trying to fill a void in a way that ends up not being healthy. It may set you back in your grieving. Plus, bringing home a new cat can be stressful in itself. You are likely already stressed out and the new cat might add to that stress. This is especially true if the new cat has behavior concerns you weren’t aware of when they were adopted.

You Can Pick Out The Right Cat

Getting a cat too soon may result in you getting a cat that looks like your old cat simply because they seem similar. Really, you want to make sure you get a cat that is a good match for what you need in a companion. Now you may be like me and have a type of cat you like (I have a thing for Siamese cats, what can I say?) so that may not be a bad thing, but even within the same breeds there is a lot of variation with personality.

Zoloft the Siamese cat wearing a bowtie and sitting next to a sign that says "Zoloft is the Birthday Cat."
No cat will ever quite have this guy’s personality!

Waiting allows you time to meet a few cats and see who fits the best with your life and your needs. If you need a cat that is outgoing, it prevents you from getting a shy and scared cat. If you want a cat that is low maintenance, you won’t end up deciding to get a Bengal. You can take your time to meet the right cat and bring them home when they wander into your life.

Getting Another Cat Right Away

I’ll be completely up front that this was the approach I took, though it was somewhat unintentional. I’ll get into my reasons for doing so later, but I see nothing wrong with getting a new cat quickly after your cat dies if done for the right reasons. In fact, it may have some advantages!

It Helps Keep Things Normal

As I mentioned in the introduction, the silence after losing Zoloft was terrible. By getting Prozac, it added back that noise (especially since he is a Siamese dude and they are known for being chatty) and helped keep my daily routine somewhat closer to what it was like before. It also gave me a reason to get out of bed. I’ll be very up front and vulnerable and share that my mental health suffered greatly when Zoloft died. It was hard to get out of bed, but it was even harder to stay in bed when I had a hungry dude demanding I feed him.

Sure, the new cat and you will develop a different routine. They will like different toys and they may prefer a different flavor of Churu. It will be more similar to your old routine and allow you to ease the transition into life without your cat.

You Can Focus On The New Cat

Getting a new cat also gives you something to focus on outside of your grief. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be writing this series of posts if I didn’t think processing grief is an absolutely critical thing to do following the death of a cat. That said, you will need a break from the grief. It is so painful and can be overwhelming. This allows you to get a bit of a break from the intense feelings even for a little while.

It also is very fun to get to know a new cat. You get to discover their personality and, if you’re interested in training cats like I obviously am, you get to see them progress as they learn the magic of training. I’ve LOVED seeing Prozac learn how fun clicker training is and getting to know him has been a light in a very dark situation. I also got him a new cat memory book to fill with memories of our life that has been fun to add to. It may not take away all the pain, but it gives you moments of joy.

It may also help with the holidays or other important days following the loss. Getting Prozac and Poutine (who came two months later) helped me have something to focus on during Christmas. The first Christmas without Zoloft was very hard and I cried quite a bit, but there were moments of peace and joy watching my new dudes share a Churu in honor of Zoloft and play on their new cat tower. It was very helpful having my new dudes there and I still had space to grieve.

Poutine, a lynx point Siamese cat, sits behind a box with a cat tower and a ragdoll cat on it. There are two stockings with the letter P in the background.
Poutine was very helpful in assembling presents.

You Already Have Stuff For A Cat

Chances are your cat had a lot of stuff already. While there are some things you may want to replace such as a litter box, generally you’ll be fine reusing most of the things your previous cat used. It brings me a lot of comfort seeing Prozac curl up in some of Zoloft’s favorite resting spots and I’m sure Z would want another cat to be enjoying his toys! Plus, unless the new cat is on the extreme end of being territorial, you really don’t need to worry about reusing their stuff.

In other words, you won’t have quite as much stress when it comes to setting up the environment for your cat. The transition won’t be as challenging as if you were bringing home a cat for the first time.

You’ll Save A Life

While this one isn’t the top concern from a mental health standpoint, it is important and honestly may help you feel better. There are a lot of cats that need homes. If you have a home that can house those cats, you’ll open up a space for another cat to get into the shelter. You may also prevent a cat from being euthanized due to space limitations. I think you old cat would want you to help another cat, don’t you?

Side note: If you’re not ready to adopt a new cat yet, don’t feel guilty about this one. You’ll still save a life when you are ready!

When Should You Adopt A New Cat?

If you’re hoping for me to tell you whether waiting or adopting a cat right away after your cat dies is the best choice, you’re about to be sorely disappointed as the answer ultimately depends on you. For some people, it would be a terrible choice to get a new cat immediately. For others, it actually is a good choice. The best thing you can do is think about any decisions before you make them.

I want to explain my choice to get Prozac very quickly after losing Zoloft as it illustrates a third option. When Zoloft died, I wanted to go get my cat fix right away. I was also hoping I could pet another Siamese cat (I ALREADY ACKNOWLEDGED I HAVE A TYPE, OKAY?!) and found a really sad looking dude online that I wanted to visit in the shelter just to make sure someone loved him a bit. I didn’t intend to adopt a cat immediately when I set out to visit him.

When I got to the shelter, he was hiding in his litter box. I asked to spend time with him in one of the adoption rooms and he slinked along looking so very scared. He was so reactive to any noise and he was very thin. Leaving him there felt wrong, especially when I had space in my home for a cat.

Anyway, you can probably figure out what happened. Here’s a photo of him a few weeks later:

Prozac, a flame point Siamese cat, sits with his paws out front by a yellow chair with two kicker toys sitting near him. He is staring at the camera.
Prozac seemed to settle in well to living with me!

I won’t pretend there weren’t challenges to having him there, especially as he didn’t want to snuggle with me which was something I loved that Zoloft did. However, it felt right and I honestly felt like Zoloft had guided me to him in a way so I was doing what he would have wanted.

Plus, him not being snuggly led me to swing by the local cat cafe a few months later to get my cat snuggle fix. That’s how I met another scared Siamese boy who ended up coming home with me a few weeks later.

Poutine, a lynx point Siamese cat, lays on a purple, blue, and white tie-dye blanket with his eyes half opened.
Poutine is a snuggle bug.

You don’t have to make a decision about getting a cat right after your cat dies. You can always just kind of see what happens. You may end up meeting a cat and have them tug at your heartstrings. A cat may show up on your doorstep or you may see someone looking to rehome a sweet, sweet cat. The correct timeline may be thrown out the window as soon as you meet a cat. That’s exactly what happened to me as while I knew I’d adopt another cat quickly (Zoloft ruined me and I can’t live without a cat for too long) I figured I’d wait at least two weeks.

Did getting a new cat quickly make my relationship with Zoloft less or diminish how much I wish he was still around? Not in the least. I was, and still am, doing the full grieving process. But it was right for me. You may feel differently and decide to wait. There are no wrong answers as long as you’re doing what’s best for you.

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Joey Lusvardi

Joey Lusvardi CCBC is an IAABC Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and professional cat trainer based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He runs a behavior consultation and cat training service, Class Act Cats, where he helps cat parents address a variety of unwanted behaviors. Joey is available for in home sessions locally or virtual sessions wherever you are located!