27 answers

Putting Our 17Yrold Cat to Sleep

My daughter is 5 years old and this cat is her BEST FRIEND...we have to put her to sleep SOON and I am not sure how to deal with this where my daughter is concerned...should I have a funeral? Should I let her see the cat after the fact? I am torn up about this and very stressed out...she loves this cat more than anything!! help...

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I'm a 54 year old grandmother. Put the cat down and afterwards have a little funeral and let your daughter say goodbye. After you bury the cat get a plant and put it over the cats grave site and tell your daughter the cat will now become part of the plant. The cats body is good fertilizer and the plant will feed off it.I hope this will help her understand it is all part of lifes cycle.

1 mom found this helpful

T., my heart goes out to you truly. I had to put to sleep my 17 year old cat when I was pregnant with my first, he was my best friend. When our others go I don't know how my sons will handle it either.

Hi T.

Is it possible to get a kitten before the funeral? This will maybe help ease the pain knowing there is another cat to take care of. Maybe you can explain it that the other cat is old and has to go kitty heaven but the new cat needs your daughter's help. She will need to teach her all of the things the old cat used to do? Just a thought. Good luck!

Hi T.,
I know this a hard one! I dread the day when we will have to do the same thing. I would definatly have a funeral. The cat is a part of your family and his life should be honored in some type of closer event. I agree with the photo book for a keepsake. She will remember this kitty, I know I remember my animals as a child. My parents had a burial for each of them when the time came and it really helped me to just say goodbye. I dont think I would let her see him after. Perhaps let her pick out a really nice box for him and event write messages on it but explain to her that once he is in it, it cant be opened again. I really think this will help her make the separation a little better to handle. I would also explain to her why the kitty has to be put down, organs not working, in pain, etc... She will understand. Tell her she can look up to heaven at night and pick out which star is his. Little things will help the healing. I know its not easy for you either! Best of luck to you guys. I'll keep you in my prayers:)

I know I am responding to this late, but I can give you some advice from both a veterinarian's as well as a mom's perspective. You have to discuss how sick the cat is and that this is the best thing for her. I would NOT let her see the cat after the fact. They don't look the same and she really needs to have a good mental picture as a strong memory of the cat, not an image of a cat that has already passed away. The best thing to do is make a scrapbook or just get out all the old pictures of the cat and celebrate the good times. If you get the cat cremated, you may want to plant a tree and scatter the ashes in the hole before planting it. Then you have a good memorial without having a grave there. Good luck, and you may be suprised- children are very resilient!

I can't speak for someone else I can only share my experience and you knowing your own family need to ponder what may be best for them. I had two cat that died within 6 months of each other one was 14 yrs old and the other 15 yrs old. The first one named Lacey had gotten out (thanks to my 17 yr old nephew)who wanted to party with some friends and left the door open. She was found one month later thanks to the micro chip the shelter told me she was very sick, we spent lots of money trying to get her well. She died anyway 14 days later. I wanted to, I don't know all I can say is she lasted longer then either one of my other two husbands did and she was a better friend. We had a funeral at my sister house on the patio all three children understood heaven and that her soul went there, yes I made a choice to let them see her they agreed she looked asleep (I wanted to take the curious out of it) she was in a box we put material in it silk we played some soft music in the back ground and all said something about her. We said a prayer we took candles and flash lights out (it was dusk) my sister closed the box took her up on the hill and buried her. We visit the grave site and take flowers on holidays. Do my kids remember her and nursing her or trying back to health? yes. did they cry? yes, we all did alot. They were ages 3, 4 and 6. We did they same 6 months later for Molly she became ill was in very much pain. No we didn't tell them about putting an animal to sleep. We had another funeral the same way. Every spring summer and fall we plant some flowers in our yard (we rent) and it's in honor of them, we pick out flowers (colors) that the cats loved and name the flower area after them. These gold ones are usual Lacey's and the dark purple are Molly's. I remember and felt lost when my Dad never came back with our cat from the vet when I was 7. I had questions I had no closure to this day I still feel a void. That's just me. I felt I wanted my children to experience what is real. Why? for one my husband isn't all that well and it's easier to explain a cat then a person and sadly if it comes to it and I have to explain about Dad one day in the next few years the understanding will be there. I know it's different from an animal but I'm talking taking the curious out of it the wonderment to be able to ask questions in private and understand, to bring up what we don't talk about everyday. I wouldn't say anything about a new cat I would follow her lead. You maybe surprised she may handle this better then what you think. I do want to say I am so sorry I know this is very difficult and even more so for you if you've had the cat the entire 17 yrs. I know there are books at the library about animals going to heaven maybe that can help. If you have to do this maybe a weekend would be best so there's no school the next day and she can have a chance to understand everything and spend time with you. I took my boys to the park and then we all got into bed together and watched a movie. My prayers are with you.


I'm so sorry for your kitty and your family! About 4 years ago, I had to put down my 16 year old cat (Arlo)approximately 6 weeks after my dog (Biscuit) died of cancer (it was a slow death, but he ate steak and burgers everyday for about 8 months!). Luckily, my daughter had not been born yet. I loved Arlo so much as he was my only "child" at the time! Arlo ran away for 2 years after I got Biscuit, but came home about a year before he died of kidney failure. I had Biscuit cremated and scattered his ashes on Morris Island where he loved to run and play (I still talk to him when we visit the island!). I had Arlo put to sleep and buried him in the backyard. However, I prepared a lovely box for Arlo to be buried in...my suggestion is this, have your daughters help decorate the box after you tell them the cat is very sick and will probably not live much longer. I put some of Arlo's favorite toys in the box and a comfy towel for him to lay on. I also planted flowers on Arlo's grave. You might let your girls help prepare your cats box for burial, have the vet put the cat in the box for you, and have a little funeral for the cat. It'll be easier for everyone knowing that she will rest comfortably and have toys to play with in heaven. I hope my experiences with the death of my pets has provided you with a few ideas for your family. D. H.

yes have a funeral. No, don't let her see the cat after its gone. Too young. Be careful about using the wording 'putting to sleep', could frighten a child about their own sleeping. I lied to my kids when they were 3 & 5. Took cat to the vet and put it to sleep, brought it home but left it in the car (I know, ugh). the next morning had a friend call and I pretended it was the vet. said the cat died overnight. It was plausible, the cat had been awfully sick. But i prepped the kids that night that the cat might not make it but that the vet was doing everything possible. When my hubby came back from his errands in the a.m., we took the cat out of my car and buried it. Me a chicken? Yes. But it allowed me the opportunity to discuss death with the kids and i didn't feel they were old enought to understand the whole euthanasia thing.

I had to do this with my 18 year old cat a week before my son was born. I am so sorry that you have to do it AND deal with your child's/children's reactions too. I think it is a rite of passage for our kids though when that first pet passes away. I WOULD have a funeral/ceremony for kitty but I would not let her see the cat after you put it to sleep. Not to freak you out, but they look really different. I know most people don't believe animals have souls, but a spirit and light and, I don't know -being -if you will went out of my cat's eyes and face when he was put down, so don't let her see kitty that way at this age.

I would read a copy of the Rainbow Bridge, which I think is fantastic for everyone who ever loses a pet, and in accordance with your beliefs explain to her that kitty has gone to a better place or isn't sick feeling anymore. Cry and let her know it's not only ok to cry but perfectly normal when a loved one is gone. If keeping a framed picture of kitty or getting a stuffed animal that reminds her of kitty is something she says she would like to do, I would do that.

ONE THING -PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't rush out and get her another cat. I think most people who suggest that have never had a pet near and dear to them because it took me the better part of a year to even want to be around another cat, and I know other people in the same situation have not wanted to get another cat or dog for a little while. If your family wants to have another cat, let your daughter choose when that time should be. Good Luck and I'm sorry your family is losing an old friend.


I Don't really know. But if it was me I would tell her that the cat has been with you this long. But it is time for the cat has to go to heaven so it,can be able to watch her all the time. When she gets sad or something the cat will be there for her. Plus I would think about getting a new young cat so it would not be a total loss to her and her sister. Good luck with your girls.

P.S. My daughter says (I would have the cat look and have the same coloring of the old one, only if you get a new one. Also have the same name. From Joan McCracken.) XOXOXOX

We had to make the decision after we took our dog to the vet, so my daughter did not get to say good-bye. She was 7 at the time. At that age, I think it would be traumatic to watch or see the pet afterwards. It's probably better that they remember them alive. I told my daughter that the dog was very old and in pain and he was going to a better place. You may want to let her say good bye. A simple ceremony afterwards would be nice. Let your daughter decide what she wants to do or say afterwards. My daughter used to write letters to our dog after he passed and we would burn them in the fireplace so they would go up to heaven. It sounds corny, but it worked for us. (I did this a child too.)

Good luck. I know this is hard.

First, I think you need to inform your daughter that the cat is sick and that sometimes when a cat is old and sick that they die. I am sure that there are some good books out there that deal with the death of a pet. You definitely need to talk to her about what a great life the cat has had. A funeral is a great way to provide closure. It can be just a simple chat about the cat and how much the cat meant to the family.
It will be hard, but including your daughters in the discussion about the cat's illness and death will really help them heal. Plus, giving them a sense of closure will help them feel secure.
I will be thinking about you, the cat, and your family!

Talk to her about what is upcoming and let her know her best friend (cat) does not want to leave her but she is getting very sick and in pain and when you take her to the vet she may not "make it" back home alive. I would definitely let her see her and do her own grieving and have a funeral. You might let her help you write the funeral Eulogy prior to having the cat put down. You cannot nor would you want to stop her from grieving this loss as there is a special healing in being able to cry and grieve when a loved one dies. Do be supportive of her and allow her to talk to you about how badly she feels. DO NOT tell her she "should not feel this way" because these are her feelings and she has the right to them. You don't just turn off your feelings. When the grief has subsided she may want another cat. There are many available from Rescue organications and they have been temperament tested, are spayed/neutered and had all their shots. I am an animal lover and there is no forgetting ever a beloved pet. V.

When my daughter's granny died she had to go to the funeral, see her, and even help bury her. When her cat got hit by a car my husband buried him before he told her but had to dig him back up to show her. My daughter, who is also 5, has always needed the closure of seeing the dead cat or granny. It seems to help her deal with it. I wouldn't recommend it for all children, but I think some sort of funeral would be nice. I would recommend talking to your daughter about what is going to happen, help her understand that the cat will feel no pain and will move on to a better place, and let her help plan the funeral. After you have the cat put down see how she reacts. If it seems like she needs to see the cat to give her peace of mind let her, if you think it would hurt her worse don't. Also, don't be alarmed if your child starts playing "death". My daughter would get in a box and pretend it was a coffin long after her granny passed. I also had a child in my Pre-K class (I'm a teacher)whose father had died. She spent many months digging graves on the playground. It is perfectly normal for children to play in that manner after something like this happens and it helps them cope.


I am so sorry it is "the" time for your cat. My cat was 20 and I was surprisingly at peace with it because he was on borrowed time from the day we adopted him from the shelter as a kitten. Anyway... My girls were about your girls ages (they are now 7 and 9) when Lynx was put down. I told them I was taking him to the vet to see if there was anything the vet could do for him, but that they should be sure to tell him that they loved him and say goodbye, just in case. I went alone with Lynx to the vet and brought to bring Lynx home in (it was an old Samsonite/Tourister make-up hard-case that I had lined in satin). My oldest daughter is very much like me and has to "see" things. When I got home, she needed to see Lynx's body and she needed to touch it. She needed to know he wasn't in pain. We had a funeral outside and we buried him. The girls both helped with their little shovels to put dirt over his box. It really helped with their grief.

When our dog, Gizmo died, we handled it differently. The idea of digging a hole at least 3 feet deep for a pit bull/aussie mix in Georgia Clay did not sound like much of an option! Our girls were 5 & 7. We still had the girls say goodbye and then sent them to our neighbors to play. Since, our dog had been to the vet so many times for surgeries, that even going down the street that the vet was on would make him shake, it was much more comforting to Gizmo to have the vet come to the house. We had the vet take Gizmo after putting him to sleep and he was cremated. Gizmo's ashes were then spread in a memory garden at the Humane Society. My 5 yr old (now 7 yr old) still misses him and occasionally cries out for him. I wonder if I had handled the dog's death the way I did the cat's if it would have been different. She was very close to both.

I have a piece of Lynx's and Gizmo's fur that was shaved off. It may sound freaky, because it was actually very comforting to my girls. I would let see the fur and gently touch it.

My prayers are with your family and cat.

T.: We have had a few animals that we had to put to sleep and here are the things we have done for my (now 5) year old daughter. Our vet comes to the house which makes things easier on everyone (including our beloved pet). My daughter was not home during the actual process, however, I let her say goodbye when she returned home. Luckily animals have fur so the look like they are sleeping. Although extremely sad, it was very comforting to us all. It also helped with her seeing me cry. She understood. We decided to have Josie cremated and joined her ashes with her furry friend that died a year earlier.

I also read "The Rainbow Bridge" to her and explained that we would see her again when it was our time to go to heaven. She still mentions that she feels Josie's presence and it comforts us both. Who knows, maybe our little fur ball is watching over us. A picture or two in a bedroom also helped as we'd talk about stories that made us smile or laugh.

Good luck to you!

You may be surprised at how easily your daughter will take the news. We had a pet ferret for nearly 8 years and my daughter was about 5 when the ferret was dying of old age. (When we got the ferret, it was already full-grown, so we don't know how old it really was, but 7 years is about the average lifespan of a ferret.) Anyway, my entire family was devastated about the ferret and very afraid of our 5-year-old and our 1-year-old's reaction to the ferret's death. My favorite uncle was in the 4th stages of lung cancer and I knew we were going to have to deal with a much larger dose of grief in days to come. I opted to hold the ferret in my lap and we lavished her with petting and telling her how much we would always love her and that we were very happy she had made our lives so much brighter. My daughter and I cried together and we sat in the recliner together and just rocked the ferret to sleep. She's been gone for 5 years and we still miss her, but my daughter felt better because she got to tell Farrah how much she meant to us and she knew the ferret was happy to be held close in those last moments. We had a small funeral and buried her close to the front door because she would always be waiting on us to come home at the front door. We would be unlocking the door and hear her scampering up the hall to be there when we opened the door. I wish you luck and may God bless your family and your cat.

Losing a pet is always hard, especially one you have had for so long. We have always had funerals for the pets we have lost, and it is a good idea for you to do so, so that your daughter can understand what has happened. It will mean a lot to her if she has a chance to say goodbye to your cat, and it will help her also gain a basic understanding that death is a natural event, not something to be hidden or feared. On the other hand, if you don't let her know what has happened to the cat, she will be more upset, because it would have just disappeared. However, when you are explaining it to her, don't use the words "put to sleep" because that may cause her to be afraid to go to sleep. You should just tell her the cat died because it was very old and sick, and then explain a little bit about death, whatever you feel like she can understand. If you have Christian beliefs, you can tell her that the cat went to Heaven. I would not let her go to the vet's office with you to have your kitty put down, because that could cause her to be afraid to go to the vet, or even to the doctor because after all, the vet is an animal doctor.

I'm sorry for your loss, and good luck with whatever you decide to do in regards to explaining to your daughter what is going on.

Sorry to hear about your kitty, T.. We have 4 cats now--we had to put one to sleep in May. We'd had her for 12 years, and she was suffering from a long term illness (docs think it was probably cancer). That meant that I had time to prepare my daughters, ages 7 & 5 yrs, for what was coming. Like the others have said, I simply explained to them that Samantha was old and ill and that while we loved her very, very much, it was time for us to let her go be at peace. We discussed how we'd always remember her and that she'd have a special place in our family's heart forever. My girls took it surprisingly well--I had a much harder time with it than they did. She was the first pet my hubby and I adopted together back in the old day, when we lived in an apartment and had no kids. It was a difficult time for me, but again, my daughters were sad but generally okay. As far as body/funeral arrangements, what we did was hire Pet Dreams Memorial in Kennesaw, and they came to the vets office to pick up the body for us. Samantha was cremated, and the memorial center made a plaster paw print, and took a lock of fur. Those, along with her ashes, were returned to us in a tasteful box. They also had a memorial page for her on their website (kind of like how a person funeral home does) so our friends and family could offer condolences if they wish. They made a sad time for us just a little bit easier. Nice people over there. Anyway, whatever you choose, I hope it works out and that your daughter can accept it without too much difficulty. I am sorry again about your cat.

I am a teacher of Deaf children and my class of 4 students had a pet rat for awhile. Well, as rats aren't known for being particularly long-lived, Maddie eventually died (She had to be put to sleep because of tumors). I took her back to school in a box and told the kids that Maddie had passed and that we would be having a funeral. We found a large rock and I painted "Here lies Maddie. Loved by...". Then I had the kids each paint their names on it. Then we gathered wildflowers and made small bouquets for each student. We buried her in our school's nature habitat and had a funeral for her. The funniest thing about it was that my 4-year-old student gave the eulogy because, apparently, he was the only one who had ever been to a funeral. He basically babbled in a very serious voice. The other kids nodded their heads respectfully as he spoke (which is a funny picture when you consider that they were all Deaf and couldn't hear a thing the toddler was saying). Then they all laid their flowers on the grave and held a moment of silence.

It was a good experience for all the kids because it gave me an opportunity to teach my students about death/grief. They all dealt with it in different ways. The toddler had obviously had a chance to experience death before, but my 4th grader had a difficult time with it. She was crabby all day and not very cooperative. After the funeral I asked her, "Do you feel sad?" She looked embarrased and admitted she did. I told her it was okay to feel sad and that I felt sad, too. That surprised her and she seemed to feel better after that.

My advice? Don't let the animal suffer. I don't know as I'd show her the body, but this is such a good opportunity to show her how to handle grief. Having a formal ceremony lets kids know that you take their sadness seriously and you have enough respect for the love they have for their pet that you're willing to spend this special time with them.

Hi T.,
I know an animal communicator here in Cumming that may be able to consult with you...helping pet owners through their pets transition is one of his services. He communicates telepathically with pets. He can ask questions you have to your pet and respond to you with the answers from your cat. If you are curious about it, go to www.wagging-tales.com. (I represent him for PR).

It's so hard putting a cat to sleep. I've been there and it is soooo sad. Hang in there.

I'm not sure letting her see the cat after the fact is a good idea. My sister did that with our cat, who she loved dearly. She was 13 at the time and she recommended to me when I had to put my dog down, not to be in the room and not to see her afterward. It is never easy, but I know when I was a child, my parents did bury our animals in our yard, we lived in the country. We kept their tags, but as kids, we move on more quickly then adults. I would explain it to her, and let her grieve.

Your daughter is five -- old enough to understand death. Have you already talked to her about euthanizing the cat? If not, I would hesitate to do so. But she does understand that the cat is old and not well, yes? I might instead just say that the cat died peacefully while she was away at school and have a nice funeral for it.

If you have, explain to her (as I'm sure you already have) that the cat is suffering and that what you are doing is a kindness -- the loving thing. I would NOT have her see the cat after it is put to sleep. I would not tell her the date and time -- just discuss that it's so sad to see the cat hurting so badly. And then, even then, maybe say, "Wasn't it nice that God took little Fluffy to heaven to be an angel today? She will be watching you forever, I think." Buy her a little ceramic cat that looks like your cat and let her keep it by her bed. She will grieve her loss. That can't be prevented. It is normal and healthy and has to be experienced. Maybe in a few weeks/months, "Fluffy" can send her a heavenly message suggesting she give her love to a new kitten...

i have a 4 year old little girl who loved our family dog that died last month so we got a puppy just like him and i told her that god call rusty home and sent this one to take his place it work she name the new one bebo we didnt let her see rusty as she is just to young to understand death hope this helps

I would have to say that what you do depends on the personality of the child. All kids are different. At that age, I would avoid telling her that you are having the cat euthanized. You may just want to sit her down and explain that kitty is very old and sick and will be leaving for "kitty heaven" soon. (Or something along those lines.) You may want to talk about what she would like to do for kitty when that time comes (ie. funeral, etc.) Should you decide to have a funeral, I would NOT recommend letting her see the body. Pet Smart and some other places have nice memorial stones. This is going to sound horribly crass, but I have seen dogs dig up the shallow graves of animals, so please do buy a stone if you're going to bury the cat in your yard and make sure you dig a deep grave. You could also choose to let the vet keep the body and just buy a stone for memories sake. Sometimes kids get a little fixated on death when it is their first experience dealing with it. Try not to let her obsess about it, but DO encourage her to talk about her feelings, express her greif, and encourage her to ask questions. When the time is right, you can mention the idea of getting a new cat, but don't push the issue. She'll tell you when she's ready. Chances are, you already know what to do, but if you've had that cat 17 years I imagine this is hard for you too. My heart goes out to you. That's about the best advice I can offer based on my experiences. I hope it helps. Good luck to you both.

Hi T.,

The last time we had to put an animal to sleep, my youngest was 6. We told her that the dog was sick and it needed to go to sleep AND she wouldn't be able to see him anymore. She cried for a while but understood that it was the best thing for the dog. We did not try or mean to deceive her but she literally thought the dog was sleeping. She figured it out a few years later but before we really knew that she misunderstood us. Children at 5 are very concrete in their thinking. If you have a funeral for the cat she will completely understand that the cat is dead. That may be too much for her to handle.

Sorry there's no solution, but it was my 2 cents!

God bless!


I would definitely not let her see the cat after the fact. That is not a good visual memory for her to hold on to and can make things worse. I would explain to her that animals don't live as long as people do and that means that we have to say good-bye to them. Explain to her that the cat is very old and sick and that it's time for the cat to go to heaven. Let her take the lead as to whether or not to have a funeral. Perhaps she could draw pictures of the cat before she is put to sleep so that she can remember it. You could take photos of her and the cat and make a memory book for her (before the fact). You can start now helping her understand that the cat is getting old (etc) and then mention it off and on between now and the time the cat is put to sleep to help her adjust to the idea gradually. Ask her what things she would like to do before the cat goes to heaven so she can have good memories, etc. Good luck.

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