Belittling The Loss Of A Pet By Saying ‘It’s Not A Child’ Is Pointless And Mean

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cat-and-dogI was sitting in my living room one night years ago, when I heard the sounds of a speeding car and a cat screeching. I had an indoor/outdoor cat at that time, and immediately my stomach dropped. Seconds later someone was banging at my door. It was a neighbor telling me my cat Otis had been hit and that she had seen him run into an adjoining yard.

I was a nervous pet owner, just like I’m a nervous mother. I hated that my cat was not content to stay inside; I’d heard the warnings from the shelter where I adopted him and I agreed that it was safer to keep him in. But he was already four months old when I got him, and used to being outside. He loved it. I couldn’t keep him in and I always hoped that his street-smarts would keep him safe.

When I found Otis, he was laying on his side and still breathing. I scooped him up and put him in my lap, and my sister tried to rush us to the cat hospital. He started to purr when he looked up and saw me – God, I loved that cat. Seeing my face still made him purr even though he was dying in my arms. By the time we got to the hospital, he was gone. I lay in my bed crying for most of that week. I still cry when I think about it.

I thought about Otis today because of this Reddit post: Apparently I’m not allowed to mourn my cat’s death, because babies. This poster just lost a cat, and one of her friends said, “it’s just a cat, my sister lost her own child, imagine how that feels.” I’m not sure how I would have reacted to someone telling me to “get over it” because Otis wasn’t a child. I don’t think that comparison ever needs to be made when we are talking about someone losing a pet.

I’ve written before about how animals and children simply do not take the same effort to keep alive. It’s based on my own experience first raising animals, then raising children. There’s no comparison — children are way harder. But emotionally? People bond to their animals as if they were their children. It really doesn’t matter if that’s not something you can wrap your brain around — it happens. And people have every right to mourn the death of something they adore without being reminded about The Suffering Olympics.

You know The Suffering Olympics — we’ve all experienced someone who insists we compete. There is always someone who has had it worse. And there is always someone content to remind you that someone has had it worse. It’s what made this poster’s friend think it was a totally okay idea to belittle her suffering to remind her that her cat is not a child.

Comparing the love someone feels for a pet to the love someone feels for a child is a pointless activity — and impossible to do. I would never tell my sister who is nursing her sick 14-year-old Labrador right now, “at least Henry’s not a child!” That’s absurd. It’s mean. And it’s pointless.

If someone loses a pet, the appropriate response is, “I am so sorry.” You don’t need to say anything else — and you certainly don’t need to diminish their pain by reminding them a pet is not a child.

(photo: Getty Images)