We didn’t expect Izzy the Cat to stick it like a Romanian gymnast. She wasn’t all that intelligent, and her sense of balance was lacking. She welcomed belly rubs and ensuing spins on the carpet with chirps. There was no room in Izzy’s odd little heart for anger.

Delivery men found Izzy behind their feet; salesmen discovered her in their open briefcases. She was aggressive in her socialization and made it known that you would acknowledge her presence. She wanted contact with anyone that would acquiesce to chin scratches, coos, and conversation.

cat lying on woman

When I moved overseas, Izzy dedicated her persistent head-butts and nose kisses to my parents. She was taken care of by people who understood her immeasurably sweet personality.

man holding a kitty

This week--after suffering from an inoperable tumor--my mother and stepfather made the heartbreaking decision to put her down.

They did the right thing. Izzy had grown distant, and over the last few weeks of her life, had disappeared for days on end. She snarled at people when approached. Iz just wasn’t Iz anymore: she was on the rapid decline.

For every person who’s had those feelings of self-doubt and absolute distress: you probably did everything that you could have. You loved that little furball with purity and kindness, and you were not wrong.

I've experienced a few phenomenal and not-so-phenomenal reactions to Izzy, and I'd like to give readers a few tips on positive and negative responses to pet death.

What you should never say to friends or family:

  • “You’ll get another pet (when you’re ready).”
    There is no replacement. For most people, losing this animal is like losing a family member. Could you replace your grandmother with another woman of equal proportions and temperament?

  • “I know how you feel.”
    Even if you think that you have an inkling, keep it to yourself: everyone grieves differently. We all know what happens when we "assume" things, right?

  • Any cliché like “think about the good times,” “life goes on,” “they’re in a better place,” or any other pet sympathy cards is straight-up dumb schlock.

What you should say or do:

  • “Your _____ was so lucky to have you.”
    Because yes, yes ______ was.

  • Share a memory of the animal. (Because, yeah: Izzy was a complete nutbag for pasta, and that slaps a smile on my face.)

  • Listen. Even if it’s completely silent in the room, pour a glass of wine for your friend and wait for them to speak.

  • If you’re not good with words or emotions, make donations to local animal shelters or have the late animal’s photo framed. Leave flowers in their favorite spot for the owner to find.

  • If you’re searching for something to say, “I’m so sorry” goes a long, long way.

Losing a pet is never easy, and every person grieves in their own way. Each animal has a unique personality that has wiggled its way into the hearts, and having a friend's support is an unbelievably crucial step in the mourning process.

cat with closed eyes

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