How Soon Is Too Soon? (Pet Question)

Updated on March 11, 2011
E.T. asks from Stafford, VA
18 answers

Our darling cat Charlie is gone. Its a very sad time in our house but he's been missing for over a week. He got out one afternoon and didn't come back. I've called shelters and vets, I've posted on CL, I've run a lost pet ad in the paper, we've posted flyers and twice gone to the shelter hoping the cat pictured on their site was him-- no luck. We live in a suburban area backed up against country/mountains and we have coyotes and foxes and mountain lions. Chances are by this point, the cat is gone gone gone. Needless to say, my kids are devastated. We have another cat and a dog, but the cat is a grump and only likes me, and Charlie would let the kids carry him around, dress him up, cuddle with him. He was an amazing friend for them. My 4 year old daughter is very upset by his absence and so my husband sat down with her and told her the cat was gone and probably dead. PLEASE don't comment on that-- its a completely different argument between him and I entirely, but whats done is done. Besidees, he probably is dead. :(

We need another cat. My daughter misses having that playmate and so does the other grumpy cat-- he howls at night and is driving my husband and I crazy. Is it too soon to start looking? We don't want to replace Charlie as in replace him and his personality in our hearts, but we do need to replace the gap his absence has left in our family. If we got another cat and Charlie miraculously reappeared we'd be thrilled and just have three cats, but I'm thinking the chances of him coming home, of finding him alive after ten days being gone are slim. So I'm asking, how soon in too soon to get another cat?

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answers from Detroit on

There's no right or wrong answer here - it's different for everyone. What if you sat down with the kids and asked THEM how they would feel about getting another cat right now? Would it help them move on, or would it just feel like they are "replacing" a beloved friend?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boise on

Never to soon...It is totally up to you. I have waited a month before and just couldn't make it. My cats are my best friends. What is also fun is to see the personality of the new cat come forth. I have a grumpy cat also and the hardest part was getting my grumpy cat to accept the new one. He would leave for a month and we would have to go find him. Found the best way to deal with him was lock him in the house with the new one and make him get over his anger. Don't know if that will be an issue but expect a bit of hissing from the old one. Kids are very accepting and will fall in love with the new one. Which in no way makes them forget their old friend. Give hugs at the thoughts of the old one and giggles at the new ones antics!

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answers from Chicago on

I think you should involve your kids in this decision. If you just one day show up with a new cat, they may reject it because they are still holding out for Charlie to return. Ask them what they think, and take them with you to the shelter to pick one out if everyone is on board with that. It's also not a bad idea to hold a memorial for Charlie, so that the kids can have a little closure. You could plant a special tree or something so the kids can remember him when they look at it. Maybe take a picture of Charlie and have it framed for your kids as a keepsake. Hugs and good luck, losing a pet is tough, but a new pet can help take the sting out of it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

There is no rule as to how long you should wait. It's time to get another pet when your heart says it's time.
Some people need to wait years. Some people don't know how to live without an animal in the house, and wait a few days.
Follow your heart.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

If you feel like you need another cat, then you are ready. My dad is a vet, so I will pass along one of his standard pieces of advice- either choose or try to guide your children to choose a cat that has a different physical appearance from Charlie. If Charlie was black, get an orange, white, gray, etc., maybe even go from short to long hair or vice versa. This can help the kids understand that this is not another Charlie, but a whole new family member.
I really feel for you. We just lost one of our dogs, and talking to my 3 year old about it has been heartbreaking. We were painting a picture for a get-well for his aunt and Max said "If I make a picture for Thor, will he feel all better and come home?" Killed me :(
I hope you find the perfect new friend for your children!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

From experience..
A couple years ago we took in 3 cats (mama and her 2 kittens) 5 months before our oldest cat at the time died (he was almost 15 and terminally ill at the time, we were keeping him comfortable until he was ready to leave us). She showed up at our door pregnant and we rescued her and her 2 kittens within a couple days of their birth(we tried to get her before she had them but failed). It just seemed right somehow. We knew we were going to loose our oldest sooner rather than later and they showed up. We still had his companion who would miss the company.
Just a couple weeks ago we found ourselves adopting a new kitten when we went to Petco for supplies. Usually we just look at the kitties the rescue group has and move on. But this one we just somehow knew needed to come home with us. We noticed our oldest (she was to turn 15 next month) was "looking old" and we knew we were going to loose her very soon. Exactly a week later she was diagnosed with a failed kidney and untreatable aggressive cancer and we lost her.
So for us we "replaced" them before they were gone. But we had advanced notice so to speak. That was the right time for us. Some people wait months. Really it depends on you and your family's needs and desires. This is one of those "no one answer" kind of questions.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Glens Falls on

Whenever you're ready is the right time. But I did want to tell you that if Charlie was an indoor cat who just 'escaped' one day, chances are that he would hide out very close to your house. Cats are all about their territory so if he lived indoors, he likely would not have gone far. Of course, cats don't come when they are called but you could go outside, try to think like a cat about where a good hiding place would be (under a deck, through a crack in a shed, etc) and check your yard and neighbors yards very thoroughly. If Charlie is still alive, he is probably very nearby. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

There is no hard and fast rule. Hopefully Charlie found a new home and didn't get attacked by the wild animals. I would talk to your kids and see if they would like to go to the shelter and look for a new cat. It might take more than one trip to find your cat. I know I picked one up several years ago off 'death row' he was due to be put down the next day. I have always been happy I got him.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

When you and the kids are ready it is the "right" time. I do agree with the Mama's here suggesting that having time to grieve is important. It is hard to watch your children sad and grieving but it is important. Maybe drawing pictures of the "lost" kitty or some kind of "bye-bye" service would help your 4 yr old. I think that closing the chapter on Charlie before getting another cat would be helpful in letting her know that animals are not disposable or interchangeable.....also, it lets her know that it is ok to be sad, really sad, even devastated and that she has the strength to get through it. Good byes are hard on everyone in different ways and you will know what would work best for her. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope that the future new family member is a joy! Good luck!



answers from Austin on

I normally disagree with replacement pets, but in this case, sounds like everyone needs it. If Charlie comes back, well-the more the merrier!

I would hit the shelters asap with the kids and try and find the new family member. Sometimes the best pets just wander into your life, but sounds like you don't have time to wait for that.



answers from Columbus on

I don't see anything wrong with beginning the search for another cat. How soon you do that is entirely within your family's comfort range, and it sounds like everyone might do better with a new friend now rather than waiting.

Once suggestion I have, though, is to go through an adoption program that does personality testing on the cats. That way, they can pair you up with a cat that will do well in your family---instead of "my neighbor Sally has kittens" where you just hope that the new kitten is one of those "loves to cuddle, loves other cats, dogs & kids" kinds of cats.


answers from Tampa on

It's not too early - but make sure you never say to your daughter that the new cat is a replacement cat - that will give her the impression of animals being disposable. I'd recommend getting a cat at least 2 years old, and known to be friendly with other cats and children. Most shelters would have this information about the animals.

You never know - Charlie may come back home!! Was he microchipped?



answers from Chattanooga on

We had the same situation. My Callie dissapeared too. I got her when the kitten's mother died, so she had to be bottle fed and everything. I used to come home from school and take naps with her, she was more loyal and 'better trained' than any dog I have ever owned. She slept with me almost every night, and even insisted that her kittens (she had 2 litters before I had her spayed) sleep in my bed with us. She was my companion for 9 great years. I loved that darn cat. She loved being outside, and it wasn't uncommon for her to dissapear for a day or two. When she dissapeared, I assumed she was just out exploring the mountain. When 3 days passed, I started to really worry. After a week, still no sign. We had a huge snowstorm, and that's when I had to face the reality that my beloved Callie probably hadn't survived. I was pretty devastated. I still haven't gotten another cat as 'mine'... but I have adopted several of the outdoor cats roaming around the area. They are my 'not my cats'. I keep an eye on the lost posters, and so far have been able to return 3 cats to owners that thought they were gone forever. Since then I have moved states, but I have found a 'not my cat' where I am living now... who is quickly becoming MY cat. When I move on from here, he is coming with me. (We know he doesn't actually belong to anyone, the previous tennants of the place we live told us he has been here since he was a kitten, and we have posted found cat posters and run an ad.) I think I would get another cat if I was you, because your kids need something to love after losing this cat.


answers from Boca Raton on

First, I'm SO sorry to hear about your cat :0(
Second, there is NO right/wrong answer.... If you could go to a shelter/rescue and save another cats life, do it!!!!!



answers from New York on

Cats can be very resilient...that's why they say they have 9 lives! We had a cat go missing for almost a month one time - he was emaciated and dehydrated when he returned, and we were able to nurse him back to health. If I were you, I wouldn't give up just yet, just be prepared for the possibility that it might not happen. That being said, if your kids are ok with the idea, I don't see any reason not to get a new cat as soon as you are ready. And if Charlie does end up coming home, all the better! I will keep my fingers crossed for you!



answers from Denver on

I am sorry to hear about your cat. We had a similar situation over the summer, and came to the same conclusion after a couple weeks went by and we had exhausted all options looking for him. I agree that when you feel you want to get another cat, its the right time. We got a new one after about a month, because I needed to fill the void, but I still think about and miss the one that got away all the time. I also figured if he came back, we would just have 2 cats! I dont think you are replacing him so much as opening your home to another animal in need. I think as long as you children understand that a new cat is not a "replacement", and will possibly behave differently and have a different personality, it should be fine. I agree about getting an adult cat as well, the shelters usually have some good information into their personalities and homes they are likely to fit into. Good luck!


answers from Denver on

I agree with involving your kids in the decision, but I also think it's important that they understand that they can take time to grieve and be sad.

We went through 2 fish FAST and my oldest was all for going out and getting another. I said, "No, clearly we don't know what we are doing and we need to give ourselves time to get used to missing PaPu PaPu 2".

When our tortoise unexpectedly died (she was only 7 and should have lived to be 60+), we spent a good bit of time working on "how to grieve." When the cats or dog dies, I'll encourage my kids to honor what they are feeling then as well. It will be hard (for all of us) and there will be lots of comforting, but we'll go through the process.

The kids have all ready lost some loved ones (people) and the oldest is old enough (age 6) to have felt it (I think he was 4 the first time). I think dealing with the loss of pets helped him to let himself grieve and to honor that process.

While you should do what seems right for your family, I'd suggest giving the kids some time to BE upset and sad. This IS upsetting. It IS sad, and it's healthy for all of us to allow ourselves those emotions when they are appropriate.

Of course, we hate seeing our kids sad, and it's good to comfort them. But dealing with sadness is something we all need to learn how to do. If I felt I was mostly trying to cheer up my children (or me), I'd wait.

Anyway....I hope it all becomes moot. I hope Charlie is wilier than the coyotes and will be surprise you. Good luck to you.


answers from Rochester on

I don't think there is a "too soon" time frame. I'm a cat lover and was just talking to my husband about how much I would love another cat. We're waiting until we buy a house since we're having our third baby in a 2 bedroom apartment (hopefully any day now) and have one cat now. So if you don't look at it as replacing since you would welcome three, you could look any time. It might help the other cat as well.

About the pet being gone, though, I did have a cat who disappeared in the country for at least two months before randomly showing up asleep on a hay bale. We had another cat who was gone for at least five months before she jumped up on our back door crying at the window to be let back in the house. While I try not to be hopeful about lost pets, you are right they are usually gone because something's happened, they do sometimes come back after a long absence. Stranger things have happened, including someone taking a cat in that was injured and just not realizing someone is looking for it.

So I would go ahead and look into getting another kitty, just make sure it and/or its mommy have been vet checked (including feline leukemia and AIDS) so you don't accidently mix illness with your healthy kitty.

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