I am still fresh in the process of grieving my cat, Zoloft. Part of working through grief is finding a way to remember him so I am sharing a special project that I have been working on in the hopes that you may also find it helpful as a way of memorializing your cat. It’s been a nice distraction, gets my creative juices going (I do enjoy making things), and has helped me remember Zoloft in a more positive light rather than being overwhelmed with sadness.
You may or may not be ready for this project depending on where you are at in the grieving process and that’s totally okay. Feel free to bookmark this page to come back to it later. However, you will want to gather some things or collect some things during the grieving process so I encourage you to at least read the first section now if you think it may help.
What is the project I’m talking about? I’m making a scrapbook.
Now I am not a scrapbooker normally so this is totally new to me, but there are a lot of really great scrapbooking supplies out there. You can also look at it as a memory book, a photo book, or a journal if you want to call it something else. It’s your way of memorializing your cat so it’s ultimately about celebrating your relationship with them. This is a guide with ideas, but make it your own.
Gathering Special Items
Let’s get started with the first of two supply-gathering steps. I am purposefully separating them as one may need to be done before you’re ready to start the project itself and the other can be done later. This step could also be the first step for another memorial for your cat such as a memory box so if you ultimately decide to go a different route, you’ve gotten yourself started.
Start by gathering things that are important from your cat’s life and your time together. This may include anything from the time immediately after they passed as, while painful, you may want to hold onto parts of it. You never know what you’ll wish you had kept or included so you can always dispose of them later if desired.
For scrapbooking, you’ll want to focus on things that are flat, flat-ish, or can be flattened. Anything else can still be included, but you may need to do a photo of them and store the actual items elsewhere.
Some suggested items that I kept to include in my memory book:
- Veterinary records that came with Zoloft. I adopted him from his older owner so I didn’t have adoption records, but you can also include adoption records. A variation of this would be any significant vet records such as your cat’s first exam.
- Paw prints or pieces of fur. If you are able to get a paw print from your cat (I suggest using a one-way ink pad if your cat is still around) or happen to have one, this is a great item to include. I got two ink paw prints with Zoloft before he was cremated and I also took a few clippings of his fur after he had passed. The cremation place took better ones because I was a mess and had no idea what I was doing when he had passed, but regardless I included them in a little bag in my book. If you have a clay paw print: You can make an impression of the print by putting a piece of paper over it and rubbing a pencil on it.
- Cards, certificates, and awards. I kept a lot of the birthday and holiday cards I got from Chewy through the years. I also had extras of the Christmas card I sent out the first year I got Zoloft. If your cat won any awards or had any special certificates, gather them.
- Sympathy cards and receipts. I have some amazing people who sent me some lovely cards and memorial gifts when Zoloft passed. I kept the messages on a few gift receipts and all the cards I got to include in my book. I also included his certificate of cremation.
- Microchip tags. I had Zoloft’s tag from when he was microchipped along with the USB codes for it (I felt like I might need it one day because I’m a neurotic cat dad). I included those along with a little print out of his case number from his vet.
- Things from a celebration of life. I had a celebration of life for Zoloft as his birthday was less than two weeks from when he died. Roses are my favorite flower so I am currently drying them to make into a small wreath to keep near his ashes. I took a petal from one of the drier ones and put it in his memory book. If you have anything else, maybe a copy of a poem or passage, you can include that.
- Anything else that is meaningful to you. Seriously, it doesn’t need to be something that means anything to anyone else. Maybe you find a receipt from your cat’s first toy or a particular crumped up piece of paper they loved to play with. Set it aside in case you want to include it.
Supplies For The Book
You’ll need a few basic supplies for the actual memory book itself. Depending on how much effort you want to put into it, there are many extras you could get. I am assuming you will be including at least a few special items listed above and some photos for your book. Here are the basic requirements:
- A scrapbook, photo album, or journal. Any of these could function to store memories or special items. If you want your book to be just a memory book and you only want to write as a way of memorializing your cat, then a journal is a great choice. A scrapbook is nice as they have big pages with lots of flexibility, especially if you want to include larger items.
- A pen or pens in different colors. Depending on the colors of the paper you will be writing on, you may need pens in different colors. I have black ink and white ink pens as my book has both black, white, and colored pages. If you just want to include white pages, just do basic black ink.
- Photo corners. Photo corners are great ways to keep photos, certificates, or other items in place without using an adhesive. This is especially helpful for things that you can’t replicate again that you don’t want to risk damaging. You can get them in multiple colors like I used or clear ones.
- Photo-safe adhesives. You don’t want anything to damage your photos so make sure whatever adhesives you use won’t hurt any pictures you include. There are many different adhesives out there, but I find adhesive tapes or dots to be easiest to use in case you need to adhere anything small.
- Photos. Photos of your cat! Print as many as you want to include. You can always order more later if needed but definitely pick your favorite ones. Order them in different sizes so you have a lot of options to choose from. You can also get a photo cutter to cut them later (or just use scissors).
The following aren’t required but do make your project more fun. Pick and choose which ones appeal to you based on how you feel is the most appropriate way of memorializing your cat and the type of relationship you two had.
- Different types of paper. This could be colored paper, glittery paper, or patterned paper. You can find scrapbooking paper for different holidays and yes, with cats on it. I didn’t realize how seriously scrapbookers took their craft, but I have a new level of respect for them.
- Stickers. These could be basic stickers so you can include memories written on them, stickers you’ve collected over the years, or ones specific to scrapbooking. Obviously, you’ll want some cat stickers and paw print stickers, but consider some for birthdays and holidays as well. I also suggest a set of letter stickers so you can make the titles of your pages stand out if you include them. There are even pet loss specific stickers or you can order stickers of your cat if it feels right.
- Embellishments. These are fun extras that you can add to make your pages more decorative. They may be cutouts of shapes, 3D paper flowers, bows, washi tape,or jewel stickers. There are a lot of things you can include so get creative with what feels like it makes your project feel special.
- Paints and other decorations. Want to draw a picture of your cat? What about making a fancy design using puff paints on the cover of your scrapbook? Grab anything you’ll need to make this your own.
Making The Memory Book
Okay, now that you’ve got all your supplies you can begin! You can either barrel ahead and let the creative juices flow or plan pages based on themes. Totally up to you, but I suggest gathering at least a few photos that are somewhat related or are related to some of the special items listed above. Think about how you want to lay out the memory book, especially for the more special items as you can’t duplicate them.
I personally chose to have my special items mixed in through the book but kept the ones related to the end of Zoloft’s life toward the end. I made the pages with the special items first and saved the ones that were photo based for later because if I really didn’t like the page, I could get the photo reprinted and make a new one.
I suggest leaving room for writing out some of your favorite memories, adding comments, or the stickers you got for your book. You don’t have to cover up a favorite part of your photos later. You also want to make sure there is room for writing some of the longer memories. For those pages, you may want to pick a single photo or photos related to the memory to include rather than having a lot of photos.
On other pages, you may just have cute pictures of your cat groups together. You could group them by pose, time they were taken, or anything else that speaks to you. I chose to have a few pages of Zoloft just being a goofus and other ones of him sleeping.
I have plenty of pages dedicated to various holidays and special days to us. Don’t forget to include pages for your cat’s birthday and Gotcha Day! You could include adoption papers on a Gotcha Day page and the first photo you took of your cat. Write out the story of how you found them and what your first few days were like. I included my tradition of making Zoloft something special like marinating chicken in catnip for him for his birthday.
Assembling The Memory Book
When you have your layout ready, you can begin assembling the book. If you’re using a scrapbook like I did, you’ll likely have large pieces of paper in a sleeve. You can take those pages out and work on a flat surface. Create an initial layout and make sure you like how it looks without adhering anything yet.
If you plan on writing memories, I suggest waiting until after you’ve added photos to write them down directly on the page. Alternatively, you can do like I did where I took colorful paper and wrote some memories on the paper as I thought of them. I then cut the paper to an appropriate size and included them on whichever page they fit (either thematically or literally fit on the page) the best. That way, if I didn’t have a spot to write a memory yet I didn’t have to finish a page.
You may also want to consider a few pages that are just photos. I ordered 4″ x 6″ photos which fit perfectly in two rows on the 12″ square pages I got for my book. I have a few pages that are just six photos with some stickers or decorations on them.
Once you like your layout, you can use whatever adhesives or photo corners you want to attach them. If you have elements that will overlap, start with the back layer first and then add the overlapping elements.
Add Memories and Decorative Elements
Next, write out your memories or leave space to do so. If you want to add decorative elements, now is a great time to do so. You can put them between photos, on photos, or whatever speaks to you as you get going.
If you aren’t sure you want to add decorations yet, totally okay! You can go back and add more later. I did that with this page dedicated to Zoloft’s office chair. Yes, my cat had his own office chair. I will not be taking questions.
I had finished the page and had some empty space so I added the red box with the writing later to add some color. I also had the “catnap” stickers and was thinking of doing a whole page about him sleeping, but it felt right going on that photo on this page as he loved napping on that chair.
Putting It Together
Once your pages are done, you can return them to their sleeves if you are doing a scrapbook. The nice thing about scrapbooks is you can add more pages if needed (which I have done multiple times because I ordered a few too many pictures in an attempt to comfort myself). You can also rearrange them if, for example, you end up making another page devoted to a holiday later on.
If you’re using a more permanent option like a journal, you don’t have the choice to rearrange the pages. And you know what? That’s totally okay. Memory and remembering your cat isn’t a linear process much like grief isn’t a linear process. If you have five pages devoted to Halloween in three different parts, there’s nothing wrong with that. There is no wrong way to do this project.
Memorializing Your Cat On Your Own Timeline
This project, depending on how you do it, can take a long time. It may take weeks, months, or even years. Heck, at some random point a decade from now you may be looking through your book and decide to add a memory to it. That’s great! You’re still doing it correctly.
This is about you and your special relationship with your cat. That relationship may have changed, but your cat is never truly gone from your life. They’ll always have an impact on you. You may not be ready to think about certain memories today but are in a few months. You can make that page then. There is no deadline for when this needs to be completed.
You’ll be grieving for a while and having a place to return to when you need to work through that grief can help. Finding a special, unique memorial to your cat will help. Plus, one day it will feel better to think about your cat even if hurts now. I can tell you that as I’ve been making my book, the memories have at times made me smile rather than cry. I’m nowhere near a place of peace with the loss of my precious Zoloft, but making this special memorial book has pushed me in that direction. I hope yours does the same!