What does it mean to create familial bonds between humans and animals? Do love, mourning, and empathy matter less if they are directed toward nonhuman animals? This narrative-driven essay explores the nuances of loss during a widely precarious year, and the ways families are created and dissolved through mourning, while also addressing the socially fraught history of the “witchy cat lady.” The author, a full-spectrum doula who had previously specialized in stillbirth support, argues that empathy may offer a heightened version of itself when it demands communicating across a species difference.

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