My ex and I adopted two sibling kittens together.
We agreed that if we ever broke up, he would keep the cats.
After I ended the relationship, I learned that it can be harder to leave behind pets than exes.
Despite the tribulation of treating their diarrhea for the first two weeks of their life, I miss my ex's cats more than I miss him. There's a special and unconditional love we reserve for pets and animals, unlike the love we have for other humans.
I had been living with my boyfriend for two months when we decided to adopt two sibling kittens. He had always wanted cats of his own and agreed to pay the adoption fees and cover the initial supplies.
On the day of the adoption, we agreed that the cats would be his to make separation easier if we ever broke up. We wanted to keep the cats together, and I didn't want to fight over it if and when it got to the point of splitting up. When we broke up 10 months later, he rightfully took the cats and a piece of my heart.
I love those cats and think about them on a regular basis. I hope they're living their best lives, getting enough playtime each day, up-to-date on their vaccinations, and would know who I was if I ever saw them again. As I write this in a coffee shop and struggle to fend off welling tears, I wish I could move on from them. I can't even bring myself to type their names.
Missing pets just feels different
In recent years, the pet parenting subculture has rapidly grown. People pamper their cats, dogs, and other animals as if they were their children.
Beyond the physical and mental health benefits pets provide us, they also help owners feel less lonely and isolated. We assume we have their unconditional love. Even on our sad days, when we don't feel like our best selves, they're there for us. Not only that, they're excited to see us. They are quirky and loving, through and through.
Falling in love with another person is a beautiful experience, but it's one that can make it easy to ignore incompatibility at first. Over time, human flaws, differences, and disagreements pile up, and lead to breakups and heartbreak; however, the few flaws our pets have are more easily forgiven. Said another way, humans will poop on your heart, while pets only poop on your carpet, and it's easier to clean flooring than to detox our psyches.
I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with my grief
When I broke up with my ex, I cried because of the guilt I had over hurting him and leaving after he lost his job. When I saw his cats for the last time, I cried because I would miss them. I still miss them, and on and off, I contemplate whether to get new cats or even a dog.
Six months after our breakup, I still wish the best for my ex and hope he's healthy and happy. I also find myself brainstorming ways to contact him and get an update on the cats, but then I talk myself out of it. It wouldn't be the end of the world if I texted him, but I don't want to chance dredging up the past. If only I could directly text the cats.
I don't know how to move on from them, and so far, attempts have been difficult. I've tried to distract myself with community theatre, TV, and online dating, and have had wavering success. Since nothing else has worked perfectly, I've treated this a bit like a hangover and tried to convince myself that waiting it out is the remedy, but it has not helped much. Maybe it just hasn't been long enough. Will new pets fill the void? I'll keep trying different coping mechanisms until something works, or maybe I need to accept I'll never move on.
Even if my grief isn't obvious or at the surface, it's always there. Sometimes I'm managing my feelings the best I can, and then out of nowhere, sad memories bubble up and spill over. I'll accidentally scroll through old photos of the cats and have to toss my phone far away from me.
I'll drive past an animal welfare shelter and compare all the cats to them. It's like they will be in my system forever, dormant. They'll pop up here and there. I'll acknowledge them, remember my gratitude for Jack and Peppers — yes, those are their names — and keep living.
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