My sister recently lost one of her kitties to old age and disease. The elderly cat, named “Carmel”, had reached the crazy age of 17 or 18, which is ancient for a cat. Her hearing was mostly gone, and her eyes were riddled with cataracts. Her hips and legs were starting to give out on her, and she would randomly fall. The vet determined she had a lot of issues and was suffering, so my sister made the difficult choice that so many of us who love our furry allies have to face from time to time.
If you look closely at the recent photo of my ancestral shrine, you’ll see a few photos or reminders of furry friends past. I didn’t have a photo of Carmel, so I just offered some cat food. I will honor her again at my Samhain ritual.
Some people do not view deceased pets as ancestors, and indeed they do not share our blood… but we can honor ancestors of blood, place, and heart – the later referring to those outside of our families who inspired or guided us. Yes, our pets are literally nature spirits, but I’ve found that the Three Kindreds are not black and white categories. For example there are many Gods who take on the appearance of animals or plants. There are also ancestors who have been deified. Finally, there are stories in IE myth suggesting that different groups of people can claim plants or animals as ancestors. While I will never tell someone that they are wrong for not including their dead furry companions in their ancestral workings, it certainly feels appropriate to me. When Samhain comes, I always invite members of my protogrove to bring mementos of those who have died since the previous Samhain – and I make sure to remind them that representations of fallen pets are welcomed.