The Right Way Versus The Wrong Way to Respond When a Person’s Cat Dies

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Perhaps the only debate that gets folks more riled up than the PRO-LIFE VERSUS PRO-CHOICE argument is one of equal importance: CATS VERSUS DOGS!  This is no surprise, considering we’re encouraged to side with one animal or the other from an early age.  Many of us grew up in a house with either a dog or a cat — rarely both — thereby giving us a one-sided perspective as to which is the “best” pet.  Not to mention all of the Disney movies portraying cats as evil villains ultimately foiled by the dumb-but-sweet dogs.  To wit:

Clearly, a cat puked in Walt Disney’s loafers and he never got over it.

Me…?  I’m just an animal lover who even tries to save spiders and crickets that infiltrate the house, much to the chagrin of Mr. Candy who prefers a less kind welcome involving the sole of his shoe.  I founded a “Save the Whales” group in sixth grade, stopped wearing leather when I was 16 and started wearing leather again when I was 16-and-a-half (my concern for animals only extends so far, apparently).  If I had to label myself, I suppose I am a “cat person,” given I grew up with cats and currently have three rescue Persians — and have zero desire for a dog.  This doesn’t mean I don’t like dogs or that I don’t lavish them with the expected pat on the head when greeted by one.  Cats just complement my personality more.  They crap in a box, clean themselves, cuddle with me for a few minutes, then give me my space while they nap for hours on-end.

If only I could get my kids to do that.

Dogs, well, I understand their appeal; they are just too high-maintenance for me.  However, if your beloved dog were to pass away…?   Please know I would never, EVER respond with:

“Oh.  I’m not a dog person, so…”

Then leave it hanging there awkwardly, as if I, being a CAT PERSON and all, couldn’t possibly relate to why you would mourn a CANINE.  Good riddance, I say!

I feel inclined to note this because more than a handful of self-identifying Dog People said this to me when our cat, Marcy, died last year.  As loyal followers (and bless your hearts for being so) of this here blog know, we didn’t have the best of luck during the holidays of  ’10 and ’12, with our two long-time pets dying right before Christmas each year.  We welcomed two children, then soon thereafter said good-bye to our beloved cats.  It was a sad and emotional time, with me breaking down at the mere mention of their names.  And when I shared the news of their passing with friends and teachers, a jarring number of people dismissed it with:

“Oh.  I’m not a cat person, so…”

That’s IT.  No “I’m sorry.”  No “That sucks.”  Just altogether dismissing the animal as not worthy of their sympathies.

Look, I’m not telling people to get a cat.  Why would I?  I don’t even tell people to have kids.  (Although eating in restaurants with a cat is way easier.)  I’m not even asking them to like cats.  (Although, really?  You don’t like ANY cats?  That’s a little weird.  I can only assume a cat puked in your loafers, too.)  I’m just asking that, when presented with a person who is on the verge of sobbing because her cat died in her the arms the night before, that you at least manage more than “I’m not a cat person.”

Don’t worry.  A display of sympathy will not brand you a — GASP! — cat lover by association.  We won’t start tagging you on stupid cat memes on Facebook.  Seriously, though, don’t even preface your condolences with “I’m not a cat person…”  It just makes the already sensitive mourner even sadder (unless that is your intention, in which case, carry on!) and perhaps mad enough to puke in your loafer.  If you’re still not sure what an appropriate response is and, more importantly, would like to avoid bodily fluids in your shoes, here is a handy-dandy guide:


RIGHT:  What a shame.
WRONG:  What a shame the car didn’t run over it AND back up for good measure!

RIGHT: I’m sorry.
WRONG:  I’m sorry, but I don’t care.

RIGHT:  You must be heartbroken.
WRONG:  You must be heartbroken this didn’t happen sooner.

RIGHT:  Oh no.  How did s/he pass away?
WRONG:  Oh no.  How did it come to pass that you got a cat instead of a GOOD pet?

RIGHT:  That reminds me of the time I lost a dear pet…
WRONG:  That reminds me of the joke about the cat in a blender…

Take that advice for what it’s worth.  If “I’m not a cat person” is still all you can muster, well, so be it.  In the interest of mending fences between CAT and DOG people, I extend this peace offering — an offering I wholeheartedly believe could even end the Israeli–Palestinian conflict — that I like to call: RIDICULOUSLY CUTE PICTURES OF DOGS AND CATS (cue the “Thank You for Being a Friend” background music):

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Because sharing is caring, as I tell my kids. (Except my wine. Never my wine.)
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Candy Kirby

Candy Kirby is the founder of The Laughing Stork and a professional fun-maker who will never stop chasing her lifelong dream: to find the Pomeranian or porn star after whom her parents must have named her. A humor columnist for Disney, Nickelodeon, Scary Mommy, Reductress and Redbook, she also used to be a staff writer for the soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful, where she penned many scripts featuring prolonged heated stares and countless “Who’s the Daddy?” story lines. Candy lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two young kids and three rescue Persian cats, the latter of whom are the real brains behind this operation (so send all complaints to them).

11 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Great post… so true! As Grandma used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”

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