Adopting After Losing A Pet -When Is The Right Time?

When is the right time to get a cat?

In the interest of transparency, this article is an opinion piece, as as far as I am aware, there is no data on when pet parents should bring a new pet into the home after a loss. We all know the devastation of losing a beloved cat, they leave such a huge hole in our lives and it is natural for us to feel a huge sense of loss. Therapists are starting to recognise the depth of grief pet owners experience when faced with the loss of a pet. Cats give us so much, they give us love, attention, warmth, comfort, companionship and a sense of purpose (they rely on us to care for them). No wonder they leave such a hole in our lives when we lose them.

Many people who have lost a beloved want to know when it is the right time to bring a new cat (or pet) into the family. There is no right or wrong answer, but common concerns include the following:

  • Is it disloyal to the pet who has passed to get another pet?
  • What if I don’t bond with the new pet in the same way I did with the one who I have lost?
  • How long should I wait?
  • How will my other pets cope?

No timeline exists, we do what we do when the time is right. Some people need to get a new pet as soon as possible, others can’t bear to experience the grief associated with losing a pet and never adopt again. My parents fell into the latter category after the loss of our two Siamese cats over a short period of time. They never adopted again because they couldn’t go through that grief.

My own experience: 



Last year, we lost our beloved family cat, Levi. He was loved by us all and never played favourites, he adored everyone. His death was sudden and unexpected, it hit us hard. At the time, I told my children that I was not ready to bring a new cat into the home, the right cat(s) would come along when we were ready.

Three weeks later, while browsing Facebook, a local RSPCA advertised two male Tonkinese cats (Calvin and Norman) who were looking for a home together. The following morning my children and I raced down there and adopted them. It was the first day since Levi’s death that any of us had smiled. The hour long car trip home with the boys was such a happy time. They settled right in from day one.

Calvin and Norman

Calvin and Norman

Levi used to help train assistance dogs all things cat (we also share our home with two dogs, so the cats are dog-friendly). A friend who works in the field would sometimes bring a dog or two around to meet Levi. Since his loss, Norman has taken over the role of dog trainer.

Levi and Norman

Will I get a cat who is the same as the one I have lost?

Every single cat I have shared my life with has had their own unique personality. Levi really did love everybody, he was sweet and funny, not overly naughty, and a fantastic cat to have around my toddlers. He would follow us around the house, or get shut up cupboards and sit there until we opened the door (never complaining to get out).

Norman is laid back, but super naughty, he is his own man, not a lap cat, but still friendly. He likes to lie on his back in the middle of the floor and will look you in the eye as he knocks your water off the table, every single morning he jumps on my bed when I am making it, to get belly rubs. Calvin is sweet and friendly, but reserved. He is particularly fond of my daughter. Their personalities are vastly different to Levi, and I am glad of that. When we adopted Calvin and Norman we didn’t want to replace Levi, no cat could ever do that. We wanted to fill the hole he had left in our lives.

Is it disrespectful to the cat who I have lost? 

I want to make one thing clear when adopting a new cat after loss, you are not replacing the cat. Cats who have passed will always be a part of us, and will live forever in our hearts and mind.

Feeling guilty is a natural emotion but please don’t. Animal lovers have such a huge supply of love for their beloved pets, it is natural to want to share that love with another. A new cat won’t take away the love you felt for the cat who has passed away.

I lost my first cats 40 years ago, I still think about them, many cats have followed in their footsteps, but none have replaced those I have lost.

How long should I wait? 

That is impossible to answer as we are all different. I personally don’t get another cat immediately, but allow myself to get over the shock and raw grief.

I always feel sad when I think about cats who I have lost, even those from years ago, but it’s a different feeling to those early days where you are completely absorbed in grief.

Some people will never be ready, many others need have another cat to love and hold as soon as possible. Nobody is right or wrong, we all have our own timeline. I do suggest you wait until you are able to focus your love and attention on a new addition.

What if you’re not ready or unable to adopt but desperately miss your cat: 

Consider volunteering for an animal shelter so that you are still around and engaging with cats, but don’t have the full-time responsibility of a pet in the home. Cats (and dogs) in shelters are desperate for company and socialisation, it is a win-win situation.

What about other pets? 

We definitely have to consider resident pets when bringing a new cat into the house. Bear in mind that if the current cat was bonded to the cat you have lost, it will feel grief too. Calvin and Norman are incredibly bonded and I think Calvin would have an especially hard time if he lost his brother.

Signs of grief in cats who have lost a companion include:

  • Crying
  • Looking for the lost cat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hiding
  • Social withdrawal

If you notice any of the above symptoms, speak to your veterinarian.

Factors to consider include the age of resident pets, their own health status and how they may respond to a newcomer. It is important to take things slowly when introducing a new cat. Some cats will immediately bond, while others can live alongside each other, but will never bond. Our Oriental cat is his own man and prefers his human family over the cats.

Should I get a cat for my grieving cat? 

Sometimes it can help, but not always. A grieving cat can take months to get over the loss of a feline companion, and I personally would be reluctant in the very early days to bring in a companion for a grieving cat. But, with time and patience it can in many cases help.

Should I get a pet that looks like the one I have lost?

That is up to you, I personally prefer not to, but there is no right or wrong. Just remember that the new cat will have a different personality. I knew I didn’t want another cat who looked like Levi. Our Tonkinese boys look and behave nothing like Levi, and my love and relationship with them is completely different. Their adoption was a new beginning for our family.

Fear of the pain of losing a cat again: 

I thought long and hard when I was considering adopting my first cat as an adult. Remembering how painful it had been to lose our Siamese cats when I was a child. I had to seriously ask myself if I was prepared to go through that again. In the end, I decided it was worth it, I adopted a beautiful tuxedo girl called Eliot and enjoyed 9 happy years with her. Her death to cancer was extremely painful, and I did grieve her loss in the weeks after she had passed away. Fifteen years later, I still think of her often and how happy she made me.

Once I am over the initial grief of the loss of a cat, I try not to focus on the trauma, but honour the many happy years we shared together. It is the price we pay if we are to enjoy the love and companionship a pet cat brings us. We must accept that we will outlive them, and there will come a time we must say goodbye. But it is important not to let their death shadow their life and the great joy a cat can bring.

Key points

  • The new cat will not have the same personality as the one you have lost
  • You are not dishonouring the memory of the cat you lost by adopting a new one
  • There is no set time on when to adopt after a loss, you will know when you are ready
  • Consider other family members and pets and how they will react to a new cat in the home

Final words: 

One of the members on our Facebook group and a sweet lady who runs her own pet rescue group said it perfectly…

You can never replace, but you can always and should always love again.

3 comments on “Adopting After Losing A Pet -When Is The Right Time?

  1. M Russell Hade

    Thank you. Much of this is what I tell ppl. I’ve rescued cats for 40 years, I have 7 left, from a high of 16. My latest loss was a ginger polydactyl that died in 2 mos of finding out her had cancer (he was 16). Tho I miss him terribly, I did have 7 left to help. My oldest who I adopted at 7 mos., turned 20 last month. She’s doing great. I always tell ppl too, that it’s not a replacement, but there are so so many cats that need loving homes, from youngsters to adult kitties. I try and get ppl to adopt adopt older cats that may languish in a shelter or may be euthanized even if their 8-10 for being “old”. Since most of my cats have lived into their 20s, anything less is not old to me.

    1. Julia Wilson Post author

      Thank you for your kind comments. I’m really sorry to hear about your ginger polydactyl. It always hurts, no matter how old or young. 20 years is amazing, you are clearly doing something right 🙂
      I actually like older cats, for the reasons you mention, but they’re calmer too. Three out of my four cats, and both dogs were adopted as adults. Two are failed fosters, two came from the shelter, one was a failed assistance dog, and just one was adopted as a kitten. I don’t think I’ll ever adopt another kitten or puppy, I prefer the older ones.


    Bonsoir j’ai perdu Charity ma chatte tigrée il y a 1 an et demi , d’un cancer généralisé en moins de 2 mois un cancer du pancréas ; Un matin elle a vomit du sang trés clair c’était la 1er fois que je voyais une tache de sang dans son vomit de suite j’ai ressentie une sorte de peur ma tête me disait tu vas la perdre elle n’a jamais vomit du sang et voila qu’elle refuse de boire et manger j’ai tout fait pour la soigner mais rien à faire le vétérinaire m’a dit n’attendait pas trop longtemps elle souffre ! OUI je suis d’accord pour l’euthanasie, et on a fait cette maudite euthanasie elle c’est endormie dans mes bras et après la piqûre d’euthanasie j”ai vue ses yeux vitreux et la mes larmes ont coulées sur mes joues et je n’arrivais plus à arrêter de pleurer c’était des saccades tellement javais mal, mais un mal comme ça jamais mon cœur était serré mes mains tremblaient elle avait 12 ans et je l’avais adopté à 5 ans à la SPA je me rappellerai toujours de ce grand chat tigré qui miaulait si fort des que j’ai ouvert la porte de la SPA que c’était celui qui viendrais avec moi et c’était une fille sans nom que j’ai appelé Charity non tu ne fais pas la charité c’est notre jour de chance à toi et moi et de suite elle a dormit avec moi sur le lit à côté de moi et des l’hiver arrivant dans le lit carrément alors je me serrais à côté d’elle et ont se tenait chaud ont étaient très fusionnelle et sur tout collés serrées ce qui faisait notre lien et quand je l’ai perdu , c’est mon monde qui partait et pourtant j’avais une famille mais tous les jours je pensais ! à ce même moment une amie Anglaise me disait qu’elle avait adopté un chien de 6 mois un mélange de Pitt et d’un autre gros chien de garde le plus le chat ne s’entendait pas avec le chien qui à 6 mois était déjà gros et grand et faisait 3 fois le chat qui n’avait que 11 mois de suite j’ai posé des question sur le chat son nom et que c’était un chat noir qu’elle avait adopté car abandonné tout petit je l”ai sentit vulnérable et de suite j’ai demandé quand mon amie était en congé ont c’est mit d’accord je venais pendant sa semaine de congé en juin je suis resté une semaine pour que le chat qui répondait au nom d’Alfie Oscars s’habitue à moi il m’ignorait la journée et le soir surprise je me suis aperçue qu’il dormait sur la moquette à côté de mon côté de lit j’ai de suite pensait ça sera facile de l’adopter en fait il m’a fallut 1 bonne année pour l’habituer à l(appartement de ma famille je vis avec ma famille mais rien de facile car c’était un jeune chat de 11 mois qui mordait pas du tout comme Charity il ne miaulait pas il parlait plutôt et pendant 1 an il s’est habituer avec ses nouveaux lieu d’habitation son nouveau territoire la j’ai compris que les chats male ou femelle n’avait pas le même caractère chacun est différents l’un de l’autre … Mais ce que je peux dire avec le recul le chat est l’animal fait pour moi !!! je n’oublierais jamais Charity mais m’occuper d’Alfie ma aider beaucoup mon Coeur a eu moins mal et j’ai éviter la depression je ne peux pas vivre sans chats c’est comme ça dans ma vie j’en ai besoin comme avant mon handicap j’avais besoin de chien et surtout des chiens loup comme husky ou berger Allemand … Apres mes problèmes de santé je savais que je n’aurais plus la force d’avoir un chien ! Mais mon médecin quand je vivais à Nîmes m’a parlée des chats j’en avait jamais eu mais pourquoi pas je vivais seule ds mon studio alors je suis allée voir la SPA et des que je suis entrée j’ai su que les chats étaient fait pour moi et le seront toute ma vie .


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *