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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

  • We keep ducks. When we moved recently there was some kind of poison in our new yard that kept killing them. It was awful, it took us awhile to get their pen to a safe size where they couldn’t get into it. We were never able to figure out what it was and it still freaks me out that they might get out of their pen and get into it. Anyway, all that to say, my 2.5 almost 3 year old daughter has had to deal with the flock members dying. She hasn’t really said much. We just explained that “Daddy” duck died. She has mentioned a few times that maybe when “he gets done dying” she can feed him or something like that. And I just have to reiterate that nobody “gets done dying” it’s a permanent state. I’m not looking forward to the day when our 11 year old Border Collie to whom she is very attached dies either. I guess though, I feel that this is really good training for the day when she looses her Grandparents and other important relatives. Grief is a process and we all will have to deal with it during our lifetimes. I hope that even in these “small” moments we are helping her learn how to cope through that process.

    Jutta Pearce on
  • We had a 13 yr old cat that got sick last year and was too old to survive. We decided to put him down. My son was 7 and my daughter was 2. We decided to arrange it so that the whole family could be with the cat in his last moments. We took the kids to the vet so they were able to say goodbye. We explained that he was very sick and old and not going to get better. Then we told them that the vet would give him a shot and he would die. We said our goodbyes and one last kiss and cuddle. I gave my son the cat’s collar. Then the kids went out to the waiting room for a few minutes when it was time to give the meds. My son cried pretty hard. But, every one at the office was so caring. That helped. We decided to go to Chuck E Cheese to take our minds off the sadness. My son understands that the cat died. And he’s ok with it now. My daughter on the other hand doesn’t understand. She still says “Sebastian’s sick”. My guess is that over time she will forget. It surprises me that after 6 months she still talks about it.

    J on
  • I luckily have not had to explain this to my kiddos yet. My oldest is 2 1/2 and we have 3 pets, a dog and 2 cats. She loves our pets so I know when the day comes that one asses away it will be hard for our her!

    Bekah Kuczenski on
  • Such a hard thing to deal with. I have worked at an animal shelter and have had a lot of pets in my life, but nothing can fully prepare you for it. My daughter is only 18 months old and we’ve had some pet rats pass away, but none of our dogs or cats (thank goodness). We have 5 and 7 year old indoor cats and two dogs (ages 4.5 and almost 3) so I am hoping that they have nice long lives and that my daughter will be old enough to process when the time comes for her beloved furry friends. My husband always says, in about 10 years, these animals are all going to break her heart. I love to believe in the Rainbow Bridge where our pets go and will meet us again someday.

    Ashley F on
  • When our 4 year old’s fish died we just told him he got really sick and had to come back. He seemed ok with it. He watched his father flush him and was sad but got over it fairly quickly. But it was just a fish. I don’t know what would happen if another pet passed.

    Caitlin Gramley on

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