By Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman - 18 January 1998
Let us tell you a little story about two feline members of our family, Nathan and Travelin, now both deceased. They truly loved each other. They had two other adopted siblings in the same age range, but these two had something special about their relationship with one another. They played with the others, but the same closeness wasn't there. They were very much like us humans.
Travelin was one of three female foundlings that came to us over a period of about a year in 1980 and 81. She was black and white, smaller than the other two, and sickly as a kitten. She seemed more of an "outsider", having come to us after Jessie and Tabby had already forged a friendship. When Jessie and Tabby would occasionally fight, Travelin would race across the room and get between them, but never took sides. She was a peacemaker.
In 1984 we attended the funeral of a family member who lived alone with Nathan, a black and white, neutered male cat. He was alone in the apartment where his human companion had died, an event which obviously traumatized him very much. We were relieved to hear that he was still in the apartment after the funeral. We both knew that Nathan would have to come to live with us.
Nathan turned out to be a combination of the Cowardly Lion of Oz and Garfield from the comic strip. During the long drive to bring him to our home, we tried to comfort and assure him of our love, but he kept trying to squeeze himself under the car seat. Upon arriving home, he hid behind the washer and dryer. It was Travelin who finally got him to associate with the rest of the family, and those two became inseparable.
Years later, Nathan got sick. He ate very little, but drank a lot of water. He lost about half his weight in about two months. Even with a special diet, he didn't improve, and his illness was having a noticeable effect on Travelin. She would rub her cheek against him and lick him. He acknowledged her love, but he didn't get any better.
At the age of 17, Nathan died of kidney disease in Mary's arms. Travelin was right there when Nathan died, and you could tell that she was very depressed. She hid herself in the corner of the basement, and wouldn't eat or drink anything. We would bring her out and hold her, but then she would go back to her corner. She wanted to die, too. On the third day, the odor of death was all over her, and we had to take her to the vet.
He gave Travelin some saline solution through an IV to rehydrate her, so much in fact, that she actually sloshed on the way home. We continued to pray with her and tell her that we loved her and that God loved her, and that He wanted her to live. And she responded, and lived several more years.
Sometimes, we humans fail to realize that non-humans can have the same emotional feelings that we do. They love as we do, and they feel a loss as we do. In certain ways, they may even feel more deeply. This mourning can be for either a human or a fellow member of their species or another. We need to recognize their feelings, especially if we are adopting such a companion, for in that type of situation he or she could have their mourning compounded by a change in their residence. He or she needs an extra dose of lovingkindness for an extended period of time. Our best advice is to treat them as we would a fellow human being, and they will respond in the same way, because God made us all as fellow living souls.