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What to say when a beloved pet dies...

Recently, one of my parents' garage cats went missing. Now, they live in the country so their purpose for getting the cats was for rodent control plus, my mom is horribly allergic. Having the cats live indoors is just not an option.
What to say when a beloved pet dies
It's been a year since they brought the kitties home and  my son, Brennan, has been influential in taking care of the cats whenever we go to my parents'. He named the cats and loves them. He even likes to Skypes with them when we're apart. Naturally, I took to a few trusted resources on the subject: Unfortunately, the cat that was missing has been found. A neighbor discovered that she had been hit by a car in the morning last week. Not knowing that she belonged to my parents, he placed her in the ditch so when my dad asked him if he had seen her he was able to show him where she was. Everyone in the family is heartbroken but the person I know who will take it the hardest is my sweet boy. So now my husband and I have the daunting task of  telling him that his favorite cat is no longer alive. I mean how do you explain that to a five-year-old? The AACAP brings up the point that children who are between the ages of three and five-years-old will not understand the finality of death. It is because of this that we will most likely have to reiterate that the cat is not moving, cannot wake up and will not be able to play any more.  Click here to read more. An article on WebMD suggests being brief and not using euphemisms such as "passed away" or "went to sleep" because it makes no sense to a preschooler who doesn't have the developmental capability to understand the permanence of death. So that's the gist of everything out there.  Have you had to explain the death of a pet to your little one? What did you say?
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18 comments

  • Hmm… we’re expecting our first so we haven’t had to do this yet, but we do have two cats – one of which is a bit older, so we’ll have to think about what to say when the time comes.

    Anna on
  • Its such a sad topic to discuss death with children.

    Christina c on
  • Had to explain this to my daughter when she was 2. It was difficult, but MUCH easier than when we had to say good-bye to another cat when she was 7 and fully understood the situation.

    If memory serves, when she was 2, I did tell her the cat had died and wasn’t coming back but she of course didn’t really grasp it. I explained that the cat had been very sick and suffering and now she wasn’t in pain anymore, and that seemed to be the most helpful thing for her.

    It’s a difficult situation, whatever the age. Sad for us grown-ups too :-(

    Susanne on
  • I had thought about how I would tell my son something like that. He’s 2, and isn’t really attached to the animals we have here. We had a dog pass away a couple months ago, but I don’t think he even remembers her.
    I’m one to be honest with my child, though. I like him to know what’s going on, so I’m pretty sure I would just tell him straight up and let him know x that he won’t be able to pay with him/her anymore. I’d probably let him help bury him/her so he feels like he’s part of letting him/her go. Will see how that goes, though, if the tune ever comes.

    Christine on
  • My in-laws just put down their 18-year-old dog. Our daughter loved visiting her over there and she was part of the entire package of the house to her. At this age I’m grateful that we don’t have to have a big talk about it, and she’ll probably have completely forgotten within 6 weeks or so. In the meantime, it’s simply “The dog is gone. There’s no more dog.”

    Melanie on

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