Today is World Pet Memorial Day, a day to acknowledge and honour our pets who have crossed the rainbow bridge but continue to leave a lasting impact on our lives. Letting go is something all pet owners must eventually experience. As an animal rescue with over 20 years of experience, MEOW Foundation is familiar with grief and loss.
Because we are a no-kill organization, we do not euthanize any cat with potential for a good quality of life, no matter how much time they have remaining. Our focus is on giving all cats safety, comfort and love no matter how much time they may have, and this holds especially true when they come to us near the end of their life.
Even in a short time, cats can make a huge impact on us and leave us with lasting memories. We’re lucky to have foster home and adopters who spoil their cats with love and give them the best life possible! Here are a few stories of MEOW adopters and fosters and the cats who have touched their lives.
When a cat comes in with a poor prognosis, we place him or her with a palliative foster family to give them love and care. Of course all our foster homes are selfless and have to be strong when they send their fosters to their adoptive homes, but our palliative fosters have an incredibly high level of strength and resilience. Chris has been volunteering with MEOW for 21 years and has taken in countless palliative cats.
“They just act like normal cats,” she says. “You can’t tell until the end that they’re really going downhill. Making the last visit is hard, but with a palliative cat, I already know it’s coming. I make the end nice and give them lots of love, treats – whatever they want.” She is grateful for the opportunity to shower cats with love and attention for as long as she can.
Chris has taken care of so many cats in her years of volunteering with MEOW! From Ol’ Darling, found among the garbage in a rural area; to Oliver Twist, who Chris named because he was always asking for more food; to Bel, who would snuggle up for a nap with Chris on the couch; to Sander, a sweet senior who loved to be showered with attention, Chris has seen it all.
Adopting the “Un-Adoptable”
Jake is a MEOW founder and is well known for her enthusiasm and willingness to do what it takes to get a job done. This willingness to give so much of herself to help cats in need extends to the cats she chooses to adopt. “The MEOW cats I adopt are based on my decision to bring the sick, elderly or otherwise ‘un-adoptable’ into my home and spoil them rotten.” Rattler was one of these cats.
Rattler had been one of MEOW’s TNR cats in southeast Calgary for about 10 years. When his caregiver noticed some health issues, Rattler was trapped and brought to MEOW, where we discovered he had stomatitis and needed all his teeth removed. Being a toothless feral cat is not ideal, so he stayed at MEOW.
Jake says: “He was named Rattler because he was an angry, grumpy guy who struck out. He did not like the indoors or other cats. When my resident cat passed away, I took Rattler home. We took it slow as he settled in. He loved his food and would accept some pats as he ate, so he became known as Chubsteak (yes, I beefed him up!).”
Chubsteak took over Jake’s living room and just wanted to be left alone for months. “But as he was with me longer, we developed a close friendship. He never sat on my lap or lay on my bed but he would occasionally rub up on my legs and would greet me at the front door with a squawk (he had no meow – just a squawk or yell). He sat on top of his scratching post at night for head and chin rubs. But most of his life consisted of eating, sleeping, lounging, cooking himself in front of the fireplace or finding a sunbeam at the front door.”
In March 2022, Rattler passed away of oral cancer. Jake says of course making the last visit to the vet is incredibly sad, but it’s an honour to be able to give a cat some wonderful last months or years, especially when they’ve had a tough life. “I had the honour of living with him for four years and loved spoiling him and watching him enjoy life in his own way. I’m adopting my next MEOW cat shortly, who sounds very much like Rattler. I look forward to having a new cat companion.”
Chestermere the Gentle Giant
After staying at MEOW for months due to various health issues that required surgery, Chestermere was adopted along with a fellow MEOW cat. His family says: “The day we went to meet him, MEOW posted a photo of him with Sugar on Facebook. The photo of the two of them, snoozing and cuddling with Chestermere’s paw around Sugar… We knew they had bonded and there was no way we would break them up! We named them Akela and Kona, Hawaiian names based on our love for the islands.
“Akela was such a wonderful personality. He helped Kona adjust to her new home and integrate with our other resident cats. We had two other males in our clan at the time and she loved each of them but Akela was clearly her favourite! There were so many special things I will remember and miss about our boy! Hanging in the “Mancave” watching sports, having coffee on Saturday morning, basking with the warmth of the morning sun or snoozing the cool shade.”
Akela passed in 2021 after enjoying the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic at home with his family. “Working from home provided us with the wonderful blessing of spending lots of time with our cats. In hindsight we’d like to think Akela had his best year with us being at home! He may be gone from our home but he lives fur-ever in our hearts and is never far from mind.”
Living Forever in our Hearts
No matter how long our cats are with us, it never feels long enough. Each cat is an individual and will leave an imprint on our heart. But their limited time with us makes it that much more precious! Rather than focus on the grief that comes with loss, World Pet Memorial Day is a great opportunity for us to reflect on all that our pets have given us and how lucky we are to have their companionship.
If you’re struggling with the loss of a pet, contact the Alberta Mental Health Help Line. Or, these are a few Calgary-area therapists who offer counselling specific to pet loss: