Death is a part of life amongst the clan cat. Even in a time of peace clan cats face constant danger in their territories. Most cats do not reach a state of great age. This familiarity with death leads to clan cats being, in general, unafraid of death. This is helped along by the physical proof they have of everlasting life via StarClan.
Because of the Clan Cat’s familiarity with death and the nature of the tribal society of the clan cats (in which the fight for survive takes most of a cats’ day to day time) deep sorrow is not common. Cats who let themselves be locked into an ‘unnatural’ loop of grief are not tolerated. Within about a quarter moon or so they are expected to have returned fully to their duties.
Loss of a Mate
Mating within the clans is informal and non-exclusive (See the Mates and Mating Document). This means that a cat is expected to move on when a cat they have mated with has died. Special allowances are not made, even for a bonded pair. Refusing to take another mate (Specifically refusing to beget offspring when asked and using the dead cat as a reason not to) would be considered inappropriate and a sign that a cat is not right and not doing their duty (providing new Warriors and propagating their bloodline for the clan) for the Clan.
The burial of the dead follows an overnight vigil in which the cats take a final opportunity to say goodbye and “share tongues” one last time before the body is interred. During the Vigil the Elders (and/or any other cats, typically apprentices or young warriors, assigned to the burial detail) select a location for the body to be buried. At sunrise they collect the body and transport it to this location where it is buried.
These places are not generally shared or honored following the burial. This is because, following the vigil the connection between body and spirit is considered null, rendering the body valueless beyond its ability to give itself back to nature. Honors from that point on should be directed to StarClan, not a bit of earth where that cat’s shell of a body was buried.
Within the clans death is a necessity of life and an inescapable expectation for all cats, even the leaders who will undertake the act nine times. The process of dying is one that is usually graceful and retiring to the Elder’s Den is rarely addressed as a dishonorable thing.
Typically dying is done with grace, but there are times when the process of dying gets messy, and a few of those situations are addressed in this document.
Medicine Cat Assisted Death
At times a Medicine Cat will be presented with a cat who is injured in a way that would never heal (an obviously broken spine or the like). In situations of grave injury a Medicine Cat might find it appropriate to forgo healing and take the life in an act of Mercy. Few warriors would deal well or gracefully with a life dragging their hind legs, never mind the burden they become to their clan. (See PSA #20 – The Cats World is NOT Equal Opportunity.) It should be kept in mind that such choices by a Medicine Cat can be construed as Murder, and are never made lightly. Only in the most dire of cases would such drastic measures be employed.
Infanticide & Deformed Kittens
The Medicine Cats of the clans have a right, prior to the announcement of a kit’s name to the clan, to humanely eliminate a kitten that was born without the ability to survive or contribute to clan life. Such situations are rare, but they help prevent cats that will be lifelong burdens to the clan from growing up and surviving into adulthood (“Burden” kits include those born missing limbs or other body parts). Also included in the category of kits that a Medicine Cat might eliminate are those who will not survive (such as kittens with a severe cleft pallet or similarly obvious fatal condition).
Mothers might call for the Medicine Cat to intervene in the litter, or request that he or she permit the kitten considered a candidate for infanticide to be permitted to live. Medicine Cats, and not the mother, have the final call as to the fate of such a kitten. Leaders might be called in to assist the Medicine Cat in enforcing a decision that constitutes the good of the clan if the mother does not concede to the will of the MC.
In situations where the kitten is to be killed, the Medicine Cat uses a humane method such as Poppy overdose. The kitten would be addressed as stillborn, because it was not named.