Why isn’t grieving the death/illness of a pet taken more seriously?
My little Giuseppe would have been 3 years old today. It has been 6 months since we lost him to FIP and I still find it hard to talk about. Throughout my life I have lost 11 pets, 10 rats and 1 cat. I’ve dealt with my (un)fair share of grief and I wanted to write this blog because each and every time I’ve lost a pet, I’ve been made to feel like my greif wasn’t valid. I feel that because of this we feel uncomfortable talking about grieving our pets.
I’ve always loved animals. My pets are members of my family. They are a source of companionship and unconditional love. We might not be able to communicate with them but they are always there for you and make you feel better in their own little ways. I’ve always found it hard to explain why my pets are so important to me, I feel they are a security blanket, the only time I’ve been hurt by an animal is when they’ve passed. When you start to think about it, Giuseppe was the member of my family that I spent the most time with. He was a huge part of our home.
Like I said, I’ve always loved animals, they fascinate me. I get an instant feeling of happiness when I see a little bird in my garden or watching a spider make its web! When I was little, I used to beg my mum and dad for a pet, my mum was allergic to fur so we could never have one but they finally gave in and bought me 2 rats when I was about 10. If you’ve been with me since the start of Sioux Alice you might remember some of my rats, I had them as pets for years. Unfortunately rats don’t live very long, they live until they’re about 2 and in the end it just got too hard to go through the loss every 2 years. Whenever I would talk about my rats passing away, peoples immediate response was “they’re only rats…” and some people even laughed about it. It’s so hurtful to get this response to something you love so much passing away, I know a lot of people don’t like rats and now whenever I bring them up, I feel the need to explain what amazing pets they are. Imagine someone laughing about a human passing, it just wouldn’t happen.
We decided to add a cat to our family in 2016 when Luke and I bought our own house. I was SO excited to finally get a cat. We enquired about a kitten with a British Short Hair breeder and were so delighted when she got back to us to say a British blue had just been born and would be ready to leave in 3 months. We went to visit baby Giuseppe that weekend, he had just opened his eyes and he was so tiny, he fit in the palm of my hand. I was in love. Not only had my dream of having a cat had finally come true but I wouldn’t have the heartbreak of losing a fur-family member every 2 years. I don’t know how many times I must have said that.
In some ways I feel that I jinxed it. 1 month before Giuseppe turned 2, he became very lethargic and stopped eating. We had countless vet visits, blood tests, scans, medication, and trips to the animal hospital in Liverpool before they finally diagnosed him with FIP about 3 months later. They had suspected it for a while but there is no definite test for it. It was honestly one of the most stressful things I’ve ever been through and juggling vet appointments with work made it even worse. Pet illness and loss is not taken seriously in the workplace and that needs to changeie
Due to the negative comments I had in the past about my rats, I tried not to talk about Giuseppe’s illness too much or show that I wasn’t coping. I hid away at work when I couldn’t control my emotions. I suffered in silence a lot of the time but on occasion I would still be hit with comments such as “its only a cat”, “you can get another one” and I even had a vet say to me that they wouldn’t treat Giuseppe as they would with other cats because he was going to die anyway.
I really hate thinking back, the feeling of hopelessness was overwhelming. I felt SO lonely and no one seemed to understand the way I felt. I sobbed every single day, I didn’t sleep and I would get these awful waves of anxiety. My baby was going to die and there was nothing I could do about it. As you can imagine, I really struggled with this in work, trying to keep a professional, brave face, when inside I was completely broken.
Obviously, I always knew that one day I would lose Giuseppe but I always thought I would be in my 40’s before I did. I would feel comfortable asking for time off work to care for a sick human family member but I knew my workplace would not have understood this with an animal. Giuseppe needed medication throughout the day and he also had a few operations. It is not right that his needs would be neglected because he is “just a cat”.
It’s not just the workplace that pet grief isn’t understood. As I said before, I had hurtful comments from a vet, someone who you’re relying on to give your pet the best care! Responses to a pets death are always varied from person to person and I’m so thankfully for the people that try to understand how you’re feeling.
I miss the way Giuseppe ate his food so loudly, his purr and the way he would sleep between two cushions on the couch. I miss seeing him at the window when I would pull up in my car and he would wait behind the door for me. I miss him. I think about him every day and my heart aches so much.
FIP is a rare disease, which a lot of vets don’t know much about. I had intended on writing about his illness today but it’s so hard to look back on it, maybe another time.
Happy Birthday little man!