Death of Pets

Updated on May 13, 2010
E.W. asks from Santa Fe, NM
9 answers

Our little family lost 2 pets this week and I'm not sure how to handle this with my 2 1/2 year old son. I'm wondering how parents have handled this, what they have said to their children and what the results were. I do realize the concept of death is much too abstract for my son at his age. We did ask the vet if there was any correlation between the two deaths (in case there was something in the house etc that had done this), but he said there was none. Just a crazy coincidence. Any thoughts or stories would be helpful. Thanks!!!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Explain that all lives have a beginning, a middle and an end. When the life of a living thing is over, it dies. You do need to keep it very simple for a 2 yo to grasp. Sorry for the loss of your pets. (We just lost our 2 yo goldfish a few weeks ago and we buried him in our yard.)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

We told our daughter that the kitty died and went to heaven. We do not mince words and we are pretty matter-of-fact. Then after the ikds get helium balloons we send thim up to any one of the cats, dogs, or grandparents.
Sometimes you might have to say a couple times that kittty has died and in heaven. After a couple days he will move on.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

I think you should tell your son that they went to live with other doggies or whatever they were.............That sometimes pets do that, even if we don't want them too.............And that they knew he loved them and will miss him..............and leave it at that.............

I didn't hide the truth from my kids, but I didn't at that age explain it much either........just that they had to go.......they knew we loved them, and that they will miss us like we will miss them...........and it's ok to be upset.

I'm sorry about the loss of your pets, it's very hard.........they are so sweet and loving, and here for such a short time.

Take care.....



answers from Mansfield on

DO NOT LIE! Don't make up a story about them running away or going to live with other pets. This is not a got a good idea ever! I'm sorry for your lose I feel your pain, I really do. Tell him the truth. We lost 3 pets this past summer. My 3 (at the time) year olds bunny then her 10 (at time) year old brothers bunny. Then we lost our 6 month old puppy (who also belonged to the 3 year old). She was very upset and cried and it was along time before she would even look at a puppy and she loves all animals but she wanted nothing to do with them for awhile while she grieved but she got over it and although she still remembers it in detail she is ok with it. Don't lie about it because eventually he will want to know why your pets are not coming home. Kids are resilient and also very intuitive. They can sense your grief and will want to know what is wrong so you might as well tell them. Try to be specific about why the pets died (for example... our puppy had a hernia, had surgery, got a blood clot and died.. I had to explain that not all pets or people will die from surgery or even blood clot and for sure not from a hernia but something went wrong) she asked alot of questions knowing that my grandmother has had bloodclots and surgeries, also the new puppy was spayed and so we went through a little bit of panic during that time as well. Your son is younger and death is abstract but it is something that he needs to be taught about and in a way he understands. The cat got hurt by the car, the doctor couldn't fix her and she died. She is gone, will not come back (my daughters bunny was names tulip and when we buried her, we had to explain that another tulip bunny would not grow like when we plant tulips bulbs). When the puppy died my youngest wanted to see her, my oldest daughter did not and my son was out of town and didn't know anything. The youngest was able to understand alittle because she saw her (looked like sleeping, but wouldn't wake up and was cold). They both watched as my FIL dug a hole and we buried her. Marking her graze with a stone and planting flowers. If you believe in heaven and believe pets go there, share that believe with your son.
Kids need to learn about death and pets make great teachers in all things including this subject. Also it is ok and even good to let your child know you are sad too, let him see you cry about this. Talk about it, grieve with him. That way he will learn that these feelings are ok. My parents always told me my pet had run away or got lost. I was searching forever for those beloved pets, then when my grandfather died I didn't know that what I was feeling was ok. Grieving is ok and healthy and it is ok to share with your children no matter what age. I do not mind talking to you more about this if you want send me a private message. I have answered this question more than once before, some with alot more detail, etc. My youngest is not much older than your son so I think they are thinking pretty similar and the understanding would be close as well. Like I said she was 3 when we lost 3 pets.
Again I am so sorry for your lose. Hope this helps:)



answers from Phoenix on

I am so sorry for your loss!
Our daughter was just under 3 when one of our cats died and I was very worried for her. I tried to explain that he was sick and that his body stopped working. Turned out that she did not get it at all. For about a year she would ask occasionally when he would come back. I would give her the same answer and now she has not said anything in a while. She seems to have accepted that he is not coming back and is ok even if she sees a picture of him.
Some time before all this, she had gone with my husband and his father to the cemetary to look after grandfather's grave. Over the course of the conversation about where they were going and why, they talked about the cemetary as a "memory garden". So, at this point she is fine knowing that Galen and Great-Grandpa are at a memory garden and that we remember them.
I liked Margie and Denise P's answers! Just be straight with him without too much detail!
Hope this helps!
All the best!



answers from Huntsville on

My parents lost a hamster & 2 dogs during the time my daughter was about your sons age. We didn't address the idea of death with her. We didn't tell her that they died. When she asked where they were, we just said they went to live somewhere else. She was ok with that answer & just moved on.

This may not work out as easily with your son since these were pets in his own house (not grandparents' house). My parents still had 2 other dogs, so there were still dogs to play with. The 2 we lost were very old & didn't play with her much anyways.

If your son was really close to these pets, you may want to try a book written for this. I don't know of any, but I'm sure other moms do! Or you could try to simplify your family's beliefs about death. Tell him that they went to live in a special place called Heaven, etc.

Sorry for your loss. It's so hard to lose pets!



answers from Miami on

First of all- so sorry for your loss! Losing a pet is so hard because they become a part of the family!
There are lots of online articles about this subject- here's a link to one that might help:

A two and a half year old might not understand death- but I've always been honest about what happened to them- but always tried to keep it age-appropriate without too much information for really young ones.
Also- my kids were always comforted by the idea that all dogs and cats go to Heaven. Of course they do!!!!



answers from St. Louis on

My son is also 2 1/2. I agree that kids his age won't understand death. His dad's dog passed away recently and his dad came to me to see what I thought he should tell him. I told him that I thought it would be bad to say the dog got sick and died. I figured our son would always think that when someone or he got sick that they/he could die--which in his mind would mean going away and not coming back. I didn't want to scare him. So I just told my ex to tell him that the dog went away and won't be coming back--not to mention that he got sick. Technically the dog and your pets DID go away and AREN'T coming back. So it's not actually a lie. Just omitting the scary details for someone so young. I definitely think kids need to learn about death, just not at 2 years old. Now my son sometimes mentions the dog. He'll say "Butchie went bye bye." Not in a scared or sad tone. Just says it like it's a fact. Good luck! I don't think there's one good way to handle it. Just whatever will work for your family.


answers from Philadelphia on

I appreciate this question, too. I'm afraid we'll need to put one of our cats down soon. My son is also 2-1/2. I will tell him that "Salem" went bye-bye. She was one of our cats that let him snuggle her, so I do think he'll notice that she's gone, but I think he'll accept that answer at this age. Best of luck and I'm sorry for your losses this week.

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