Sharing Your Cat’s Story As A Way To Heal

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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.

We’re nearing the end of my year-long series on grieving your cat. I can’t believe that in just two months, Zoloft will have been gone a full year. There will be more time to reflect on that in a different post, but it’s actually relevant to today’s topic.

We’ve already established that social connections are important in managing grief following the loss of a cat. One of the things that can be distressing for many folks, myself included, is that after the cat passes, they worry they will be forgotten. Even if you have new cats that have entered your life, it feels weird not talking about your cat as much as you used to. It might seem at times like the new cats are replacing the cat you lost, even though they absolutely aren’t.

As a way to reduce those feelings, I encourage you to consider sharing your cat’s story. If you don’t have a cat behavior blog or website where you can conveniently post about whatever strange, helpful, or personal topic you want, that’s completely okay as there are other ways to share what your life with your cat was like and how missed they are. Let’s brainstorm a few ideas together.

Share Your Cat’s Story Live

When I was in high school, I was on speech team. I offer workshops to small groups and am available for speaking engagements. I know this seems like a plug for myself, but my point is that I am very comfortable with public speaking. If you’re like me and could get up in front of a crowd on a whim, you can consider sharing your cat’s story at an event.

That event may be a memorial service or celebration of life for your cat or one held for a pet loss memorial event. If you don’t decide to have a memorial service for your cat, perhaps you can share your cat’s story somewhere else. Maybe there’s a way you can advocate for additional research into cancer treatments for cats. If your cat was declawed prior to you adopting them, keep an eye on the Paw Project or other sources for opportunities to talk to your representatives about a declawing ban.

I had a few speaking engagements scheduled less than a month after Zoloft passed including one that was less than two weeks later. While I was excited about the talks, Zoloft was such an important part of each of them that I ended up needing to redo parts of them last minute. Instead, I dedicated those talks to him and shared a bit about how much he impacted me professionally. That gave me a chance to share a bit about him.

Maybe it’s something totally unrelated to cats. Share your cat’s story in your wedding speech, especially if they were part of your relationship with your future spouse. If you have to talk about yourself for something professionally, find a way to share how your cat influenced your life. One thing about cat parents is we always manage to find ways to bring up our cats so I’m sure this won’t be that tough of a task.

Write About Your Cat

For those who aren’t into public speaking, you don’t have to worry as you can still share your cat’s story. Clearly, I also like writing (I like to talk a lot, apparently, which must be why I love Siamese cats so much) and have shared Zoloft’s story many times on my blog. Written word may be your medium of choice and again, you don’t need a blog to share your cat’s story.

Share On Social Media Or A Memorial Site

If you have a social media account, you can use that space as a way to share your cat’s story. Maybe it’s a post about their life with you or how much they loved you. Maybe you share a picture on an anniversary and write about how you two met. Maybe it’s just a random Tuesday that you feel you need to share something. Write something about them and share it away. Those who care about you will get it.

There are websites where you can post memorials to pets that have passed. I am not linking to any specific ones as there are a lot and I am not familiar with any to specifically recommend one over the other, but this may create a specific corner of the internet devoted to your cat. Depending on the webpage, you can share as much of their story as you’d like along with photos and memories.

Write Something Longer

If you’re really into writing, maybe you can incorporate your cat’s story into a short story or even a book. If you need some guidance, you can get a memory journal specifically designed to keep memories of your cat. There’s no reason you can’t fill it out after they are gone. Whatever your preferred length or style of writing is, there’s probably a way to share what they meant to you. Even if you share it with a single person or keep it entirely to yourself, it still matters much like how your cat’s life mattered.

Heck, every once in a while I see a longer piece in a newspaper or website about someone memorializing a special cat. Maybe there’s an opportunity there to share your cat’s story. Keep an eye out for any calls for submissions or essays. Even if you don’t get selected, you still put their story out there. That’s pretty cool.

Get Creative

If words aren’t your chosen medium, sharing your cat’s story is still possible. First, ask yourself what is your favorite way to communicate or what creative mediums you enjoy. Incorporate your cat’s story into there.

A few ideas: Paint a picture of your cat or of a scene from your time together. If you play an instrument, write a song (even one without words) that evokes how you feel about your cat or that matches their personality. Sculpt something with modeling clay that depicts a favorite sleeping position or something else you loved about them.

To get your creativity flowing, I’ll share an example of something creative I did before Zoloft passed that’s a little out there. In the winter of 2020, I participated in a mystery knit along. I had bought a kit with 4 colors, but the pattern was written so you could also do it with 12 colors. After I finished my original project, I was browsing a yarn sale and I noticed they had a lot of browns, creams, grays, and other tones that matched Zoloft’s fur. I found a few blues and one vibrant blue color that didn’t exactly match his eyes, but I figured it would be a good contrast.

Over the next few weeks, I knit the scarf in Zoloft’s colors. It was a very fun project. I finished it just before he was diagnosed with cancer and it is something I will always treasure.

A blue, gray, cream, brown, and black colored knit scarf sits on a rug. The colors are in stripes with differing textures.
The finished scarf I knit in various Zoloft colors.

While mine was done while Zoloft was still purring away on my lap (he loved sitting on my lap and purring while I knit), a project like this is a great way to create something special to remember your cat as a memorial project. Plus, when you wear it and someone asks about it, you get to talk about your cat. If you’re feeling really creative, you could even consider incorporating their fur into a project.

Why Share Your Cat’s Story?

There are many ways to share your cat’s story and I didn’t even take that deep of a dive into why you might find sharing their story healing yet. Beyond the social benefits, there are a lot of benefits directly to you and your grief from talking about your cat’s story.

It Helps Preserve Memories

If you’re worried that your memory of your cat will fade over time, creating something that incorporates their story is a way to preserve it. While the unfortunate reality is that you won’t be able to remember everything because human memory is pretty flawed, it will help you solidify the bigger memories you treasure the most. It gives you a chance for their memory and the special times that may have been reserved just for the two of you to exist somewhere outside your brain.

When I made Zoloft’s memorial scrapbook, I wrote down so many memories when they popped into my head. At first, it was frantic because I worried if I didn’t write them down they’d slip away. As I got more and more of them down, things felt less frantic. I have the big memories down. I have a lot of the small ones from our day-to-day life as well. I will remember him even as time does its thing.

Joey Lusvardi and Zoloft looking up in the same direction
There really will never be another cat like him and he will never be forgotten. Ever.

It Reframes Thinking

As I started writing down memories and writing about Zoloft, I started out feeling very distressed by them. Thinking of anything having anything to do with him hurt and even some of my favorite photos of him weren’t easy to look at. The more I wrote about him, I noticed I was actually laughing at some of the memories of silly things he did.

Joey Lusvardi and Zoloft, a lynx point Siamese cat, touch noses. Joey has a silly smile on his face
He filled my life with smiles and laughter!

There’s evidence that talking about grief can help with adapting to life after loss. I definitely experienced that as I wrote this blog series and continued to incorporate memories of Zoloft into my work. No longer was I just sad that I wasn’t able to train with him again. I was proud of the time I used brushing as a reinforcer to train him to go to a basket. He did so well with training and was so smart. Sure, it will ache, but I was able to enjoy the memories.

It Keeps Your Bond Alive

Spoiler alert that my next blog is about preserving the bond with your cat after they pass. That seems odd, but the truth is that your cat is still part of your life. They’re not physically here, but their memory and how they impacted your life isn’t gone. The bond still exists, but it changed. There’s nothing wrong with maintaining that different type of bond.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. You’ll need to check out the post once I’m done with it and it’s published next month to get all the details. Just know that sharing your cat’s story can help keep you connected to them. When you talk about the memory of your cat falling asleep with their face in your stinky running shoe in 15 years, that bond is still there.

What Parts Of Your Cat’s Story Should You Share?

Depending on how long your cat was in your life and how old they were, chances are you had a lot of time together. Their story is complex and filled with highs and deep lows that may span over a decade. Zoloft came to me when he was older and I only had five years with him.

Well, not only five years. They were five wonderful, special, incredible years. Even though I didn’t have him for his full 13 years and 50 weeks on this planet, the amount of memories and special moments we shared are too numerous to count and he was so very loved the entire time.

So how do you narrow down what to share when you share your cat’s story? That ends up being completely up to you. What do you want to share or what do you need to share? Is there something that you want to make a point about that’s relevant to a topic you’re discussing? You can share whatever you want.

At the same time, you don’t have to share anything you don’t want to. If you don’t feel like talking about the end of your cat’s life, you don’t need to share that or you don’t need to share the details of what happened. Even if someone asks, you can politely decline. You are the keeper of your cat’s story. It is the most precious set of memories you have. Anyone who gets to share that treasure is incredibly lucky.

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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!