Pet Loss Support

At Coastal Cat Clinic we understand that your cats are like your family and losing one of your beloved pets can be very difficult. That is why we have gathered information to help make the decision and loss a little bit easier for you. If you have any questions about the information on these pages, the euthanasia procedure, or your pet’s quality of life please give us a call at 650-359-5770. Our dedicated receptionists and technicians would be happy to help answer any questions you have and help you through this process. You can also schedule a quality of life assessment appointment with a doctor who can help you discuss all your options, including hospice care or at home euthanasia.

Coastal Cat Clinic

(650) 735-3733

1290 Danmann Avenue Pacifica, CA 94044

Euthanasia – When is it time to let go?

The hardest question for every cat lover is: “When is it time to say goodbye?” Making the decision to let go of a beloved friend is never easy and there are several things to consider that will help you make an informed and caring choice for your ill or aged cat.

  • Does your cat have an appetite? Eating or at least an interest in food is a basic quality of life. If simply eating has become exhausting and stressful your cat may have lost interest in life.
  • How is your cat’s mobility? Is there constant pain and exhaustion that medications can no longer manage?
  • Is your cat responsive and interested in family and surroundings? Can s/he sleep comfortably? Does s/he enjoy resting in a favorite spot and the company of family?
  • Are there more good days than bad?
  • Has the difficulty of caring for a sick or old cat become too much of a strain on the family?

Many times these questions do not have clear answers, and this is where your veterinarian can help. Your veterinarian can discuss your cat’s condition in a more objective manner and can help you decide what is best for your cat. Delaying the decision is not merciful and will just prolong your cat’s suffering. Making an informed choice by considering your cat’s needs first will help you make a decision you can live with. You must ask yourself, “Is my cat truly getting enjoyment out of life, or am I delaying the inevitable because I am unable to let go?” Many people try to avoid this decision by having their cat die quietly ay home, but this can mean needless misery for your cat. Discussing your cat’s condition with your veterinarian might even result in treatment options that could make your cat comfortable longer, so you can prepare yourself emotionally and be better equipped to recognize when it is time to say goodbye.

Once you have decided the time is near, another question to ask yourself is, “Do I want to be present?” Some people feel that the last loving act they can perform for their cat is to be with them at the end, whereas others are not up to it emotionally and this may not be how they want to remember their cat. Each situation is different and no one will think badly of you no matter what choice you make. If you decide against being present, be assured that the veterinary staff will treat your cat with the utmost care and respect.

Should other family members, such as children, be present? Very young children generally do not understand what is happening and may be too confused by the situation to gain anything by being there. Some older children may derive some comfort from being present depending on their personality and maturity level, but if you think your child may become too upset or be traumatized it is important not to force them to be in the room. You know your children best, and should decide what is best for them. Please also see our section on Children and Pet Loss for more information on helping your children cope with the loss of their pet.

Remember, each person approaches this kind of decision a little differently and there’s no absolute rule. Knowing that your decision was guided by love and respect for your cat will help you through this process and you’ll know you’ve done what’s best for you and your cherished companion.

Children and Pet Loss

It is a fact of life that most pets have a much shorter lifespan than do their human guardians. Only parrots and tortoises, under ideal conditions, have lifespans similar to (or longer than) their caretakers. Losing a pet to illness, injury, or old age – no matter how devastating and sad the loss – is normal.

Many cats are considered members of the family. They are significant companions, not only to their adult guardians, but also to children in the immediate family. They may also be important to children of ‘extended’ families – relatives, neighbors, and friends.

This page is a reminder and aid to prepare and involve children when your cat is dying or has died. The death of a pet is oftentimes the first personal experience with death a child has.

It is important to take time to organize a celebration of the cat’s life, as the end of its life nears, or to make preparations to meet the needs of a child after the loss of the pet. Memorializing the life of a beloved cat may help to ease the grief that both you and your child will feel. The fullness of preparations surrounding death can be a final gift your cat offers a child through you – a source of emotional strength they will have for a lifetime. Things to do:

  • Tell your children if your cat’s health is poor. Use simple language to explain the medical problem (arthritis, kidney disease, or simply ‘old age.’) Let them know if the health problem will eventually result in the death of the cat. “Fluffy is very sick, and though we are trying everything we can to make him comfortable, he will die soon.” Then ask what kind of life their cat would not enjoy – the inability to eat or drink, to get outside on their own, to walk without pain. Let members of the family decide what quality of life is necessary for your cat to continue living happily.
  • Organize a family meeting to discuss the health of your cat. Ask members of the family to describe what s/he has enjoyed most in life – going for walks, chasing gophers, sleeping in the sunlight, etc.
  • Make a family decision that all members can support. Draw a line beyond which your cat’s life is no longer considered ‘quality’ – if the cat refuses to eat for 2 days in a row or if s/he vomits when s/he tries; if s/he can’t get outside to go to the bathroom 2 days in a row. By drawing a line ahead of time you commit to recognizing and enjoying each day your cat’s basic necessities are met; and you commit to euthanasia at a time dictated entirely by your love and understanding of your cat, not by emotions and grief.
  • Teach your children about your philosophy and religious beliefs. The death of a pet can be a time to examine your own beliefs about death – your child can only benefit from being included in discussions about your faith.
  • Don’t tell your child the cat will be ‘put to sleep.’ This can cause your child to have difficulty sleeping themselves for fear they will also leave this world forever.
  • Don’t tell your child the cat has ‘gone away.’ Children can interpret this to mean that somehow their love was inadequate to make the cat stay, and they may feel guilty and responsible.
  • Be honest. It has been shown that using words and phrases like ‘died’, ‘dead’, and ‘helped to die’ (euthanasia) – however painful and harsh – help children clearly understand and accept the reality of the cat’s death without negatively impacting their sense of self-worth and security.

 

Ways to Celebrate Your Pet

Poem Samples

  • The Fragile Circle
  • The Rainbow Bridge

 

  • Make a photo album of your favorite cat pictures. Include pictures that include each member of your family. Add photos of the animal at all stages of its life – young, at its prime, in old age.
  • Have your children write letters to their cat – or draw pictures. These can become part of the cat’s photo album or they can be buried or cremated with the remains of the cat. They are a means to let your children voice, into the unknown, the importance of this animal.
  • Make an impression of your cat’s foot in clay or concrete. Kits can be purchased online, or if you’d prefer our technicians at Coastal Cat Clinic can create one for you after the euthanasia that you and your children can decorate at home.
  • Clip some hair from your cat – put it in a special ‘keepsake.’
  • Light candles.
  • Plan a special ceremony at the death of the cat. Invite all the people who knew the cat and who might have had a special attachment to him. Invite them to express feelings, tell stories about the cat that includes their history and experiences with the cat.
  • Have a ‘burial’ – this can be the remains (or cremains) of the cat – or it can just be the burial of the symbols of the love the cat experienced in the way of poems, pictures or photos.

 

The loss of a beloved pet is always impossibly difficult. To teach a child the enormity of this loss and the necessary acceptance of it is to teach them love of life; and offers them an honest and healthy means to confront all future love-losses.

Commemorating Your Pet

The grief of losing a beloved pet can be overwhelming, and when the time comes that we must let go we are faced with the dilemma of what to do with our cherished animal friend. It is important to consider your options and select the one that feels right for you and your family.

Coastal Cat Clinic works closely with Bubbling Well Pet Memorial Park to provide our clients with several alternatives for commemorating the special relationship they have shared with their pet. We offer the following options:

Country Burial

This service entails a respectful group cremation and burial at Bubbling Well Pet Memorial Park in Napa, California.

Private Cremation

Bubbling Well offers a private cremation service wherein cremains are returned to our hospital in a small wooden urn and labeled with a message of the client’s choice. If a client wishes, our staff can arrange for their pet’s cremains to be scattered at Bubbling Well’s St. Francis of Assisi Garden in lieu of having the cremains returned to our hospital. Cremains are generally returned to our hospital two to four weeks after arrangements are made.

NEW – Bubbling Well now offers scatter tubes for the same cost as a regular private cremation. Rather than getting the ashes back in a cedar box, you receive your pet’s ashes in an easily opened tube so that you may scatter the ashes at your convenience. Please let us know if you would prefer to have your cat’s ashes returned in a scatter tube.

VIP Private Cremation

If a client prefers, our staff can arrange for a more ornate “Very Important Pet” wooden urn from Bubbling Well which features a scroll work carving on the top and a brass plaque or engraving in the wood with a message of the client’s choice. A picture of your pet and/or their paw print can also be engraved on the box at an additional charge.

Independent Arrangement Options

In addition to the services that our staff can arrange for our clients, the following alternatives are available to clients who wish to make independent arrangements with Bubbling Well Pet Memorial Park (telephone (707) 255-3456) or Pet’s Rest (located in Colma, telephone (650) 755-2201).

Private Burial

Both Bubbling Well and Pet’s Rest offer a traditional private burial by special arrangement. Their staff will assist pet owners in making casket and headstone selections.

Specialty Urns

Bubbling Well offers a wide variety of specialty urns, including stone and photograph urns, viewable at their website. (http://www.bubbling-well.com/products) Their staff will assist pet owners in photograph and inscription submission.

Memory Glass

Bubbling Well now works with Memory Glass, a company that offers the unique service of incorporating a small portion of a pet’s cremains into a completely customized glass keepsake or pendant. The wide arrays of customization options are viewable at the Memory Glass website. (www.memoryglass.com) The downloadable order form must be completed and faxed to Bubbling Well at (707) 255-0612. Bubbling Well will ensure that your design specifications and the necessary cremains are provided to Memory Glass.

Witnessed Cremation

Pet’s Rest offers clients the option to witness the private cremation of their pet and receive cremains at that time. Clients may also prefer to use Pet’s Rest private cremation service without witnessing the process; in this event cremains are generally returned to our hospital approximately one week after arrangements are made. Pet’s Rest staff will assist clients in making all necessary arrangements.

BioUrn

BioUrn is a handmade, biodegradable cremation urn that is designed to hold your pet’s cremated remains along with soil and the seed of a tree. BioUrn comes in a kit that includes everything you need to grow a memorial tree or flowering shrub with your pet’s ashes. For more information, check out their website at http://www.myeternalfamilytree.com/.

Pet Loss Support Groups and Resources

The death of a cherished animal companion often leaves pet owners feeling isolated or misunderstood in their grief. However, there are many resources available to help pet owners through this difficult time. Below is a listing of some of the support groups, hotlines, counselors, books, and websites that are locally available.

Pet Loss Support Groups

  • Peninsula Humane Society Pet Loss Support Group Meets on the second Thursday of every month from 7-8:30pm. No need to sign up. (650) 340-7022 x344
  • San Francisco SPCA Pet Loss Support Group Meets on the first Tuesday of every month from 7:30-9pm. No need to sign up. (415) 554-3050
  • VCA San Francisco Veterinary Specialists has a support group for pet parents who are dealing with seriously ill pets. This group meets on the second Thursday of every month from 6:30-8:00pm.

Pet Loss Support Hotlines

  • Pet Loss Support Hotline: (800)565-1526 or (530)752-4200 Monday-Friday 6:30-9:30pm
  • Grief Recovery Hotline: (800)445-4808

Companion Animal Loss Counselors

  • Betty Carmack, R.N., Ed.D. San Francisco (415) 334-5036
  • Cecilia Soares, D.V.M. Walnut Creek (415) 932-0607
  • Christine Kenworthy, R.N., Ph.D. San Mateo (650) 737-1883
  • Ferol Larsen, Ph.D. Palo Alto (650) 326-6896

Pet Loss Books for Children

  • When A Pet Dies Fred Rogers, 1998
  • Helping Children to Cope with Separation & Loss Claudia Jewitt, 1992
  • Cat Heaven Cynthia Rylant, 1997
  • Angel Pawprints ed. Laurel Hunt, 1998
  • Angel Whiskers ed. Laurel Hunt, 2001
  • Snowflake in My Hand Samantha Mooney, 1983
  • The Fall of Freddy the Leaf Leo Buscaglia
  • The Tenth Good Thing About Barney Judith Viorst, 1975
  • I Mellonie & R. Ingpen, 1991
  • I Gary Kowalski, 1997
  • “Oh, Where Has My Pet Gone?” Sally Sibbet, 1991

Pet Loss Books for Adults

  • Grieving the Death of a Pet Betty Carmack, R.N., Ed.D., 2003
  • Preparing for the Loss of a Pet Myrna Milani, 1998
  • Blessing the Bridge Rita Reynolds, 2001
  • The Loss of a Pet Wallace Sife, 1999
  • Grief Recovery Handbook John James
  • Pet Loss and Human Emotion Cheri Ross & Jane Baron-Sorenson, 1998
  • Losing A Best Friend A collection of articles compiled by the San Francisco SPCA, 415-554-3050
  • Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children Herbert A. Nieburg & Arlene Fischer, 1982
  • When Your Pet Dies: How To Cope With Your Feelings James E. Quackenbush & D. Graveline, 1985
  • Maya’s First Rose Martin Scott Kosins, 1992
  • Coping with the Loss of a Pet Christina M. Lemieux, 1992
  • Living Through Personal Crisis Ann Kaiser Stearns, 1984
  • Companion Animal Loss and Pet Owner Grief M.A. Rosenberg
  • Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet Moira Anderson, M.Ed., 1996
  • On Death and Dying E. Kubler-Ross
  • How to Survive the Loss of A Love Harold Bloomfield
  • When Only Love Remains: The Pain of Pet Loss Emily Sturparyk
  • Goodbye My Friend, Your Aging Pet, and A Final Act of Caring all by Mary & Herb Montgomery

Web Sites

www.petloss.com
www.pet-loss.net
www.cvma.net
www.veterinarywisdom.com/petparents
www.cvmbs.colostate.edu/changes

House Call Veterinarians (Hospice and Euthanasia Services)

Many of our clients prefer not having to bring their cats into the hospital when it is time to let them go. Unfortunately Dr. Glahn is unable to leave the hospital during business hours to be able to provide euthanasia services in your home. That is why we have curated a list of other wonderful veterinarians whose job it is to provide that service for our clients. Please let us know if you have any questions.

**The veterinarians in bold and starred are Dr. Glahn’s preferred providers for at home euthanasia services. She knows both of these veterinarians and has worked with them many times. Our clients all have good things to say about Dr. Allegra and Dr. Amy. If you have any questions about the referrals please feel free to give us a call at 650-359-5770**

A Gentle Rest (Dr. Ari Rozycki)
Phone: 415-729-5435
Email: agentlerest@gmail.com

Peaceful Pathways In-Home Pet Hospice and Euthanasia Service (Dr. Jenn Winnick)
Phone: 650-316-5069
Website: http://www.peacefulpathways.com
Email: info@peacefulpathways.com

**Pet Loss At Home (Dr. Allegra Liu)**
Phone: 877-219-4811
Website: http://www.petlossathome.com
Note: Available 8:00 am to 8:00 pm seven days a week, within 1 to 3 hours notice

**St. Francis Animal Hospice (Dr. Amy de Lorimer)**
Phone: 650-718-5077
Email: care@sfahospice.com
Website: http://www.sfahospice.com