September 29, 2016 – A free confidential telephone helpline has been launched by the UK’s largest cat charity to support owners whose cats have died, been lost or whom they have become permanently separated from for health or other reasons.
The ‘Paws to Listen’ service was launched after a Cats Protection survey found 75% cat owners believed that the public underestimated the effect the death of a cat has on its owner. The July 2016 survey also found that most cat owners described themselves as being ‘ very’ or ‘extremely’ upset by the death of their cat with 25% of owners saying their grieving process after the loss of their cat took up to a year.
Owners can use the confidential line to speak to trained volunteers who can offer emotional and practical help in coping with the loss of a cat. There are also online guides and leaflets to help owners with issues such as euthanasia, how to help children deal with the death of a much-loved pet and practical advice on burial and cremation.
Vet Emma Milne welcomed the service and said it was good news for both owners and veterinary professionals.
She said: “As a vet and a lifelong pet owner I have experienced the loss of pets from both sides of the consulting table.
“People who don’t have pets often find it difficult to understand the level of grief that comes from losing a pet but to animal lovers they truly are part of the family.
“When I lost my last cat, Brian, at the age of 17, he had been with me through marriage, divorce and the births of both my children. He was a huge part of our lives. I think the new Cats Protection grief service will be a great source of comfort to many owners and help them through these difficult times.”
Manager of the service, Nick de Bruxelles, said: “Grieving for a pet is not necessarily just about death – quite often, the process begins when a cat reaches advanced old age or when their health begins to decline and euthanasia needs to be considered.
“Grief can also extend to owners whose cats have gone missing or to those who have been forced to rehome their cat. However it occurs, saying goodbye to a much-loved pet can be incredibly difficult for people of all ages.
“Cats are generally long-lived and cherished pets and the loss of one can bring significant challenges. There are many emotional hurdles, but owners also have many practical questions – such as what to do with the body of their pet, and this can compound their grief. Our service is designed to help owners move forward and find the best way to remember their pet.”
He added that the service is ‘non-judgemental’, citing that Cats Protection has seen an increase in the number of cats being given up by owner who moved home.
So far 80% of callers had been women, he added.
As well as the support line and information guides, Cats Protection also offers a memory wall on its website, where owners can pay tribute to their pets, and a page where people can offer support to other upset cat owners.
To find out more, please visit www.cats.org.uk/grief or to speak to a volunteer on the Paws to Listen phone line, call 0800 024 94 94. The line is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday excluding bank holidays. Nick said the charity is hoping to extend the helpline hours, but they need more volunteers to staff it.Volunteers are home-based and only need to commit four hours a week of their time, and will receive comprehensive training.
Photo: Nick with a cat that was re-homed by Cats Protection.