How to Explain the Death of Our Beloved Kitty to Our 2-And-a-half Year Old?

Updated on November 07, 2010
M.B. asks from Milwaukee, WI
10 answers

Hi fellow mamas, many thanks for the good advice I've received from you already. Today has been an awful day. My hubby called me midday to grab our daughter from daycare and meet at the animal hospital. He came home to find our beloved 16-year-old kitty gravely ill. We met him at the hospital and we decided after talking to the vet that it was best to put her to sleep. My husband took our daughter out of the room with him and I held our sweet kitty as she passed away. I feel she went gently but it was so hard for me I held her little body and cried for about an hour. My husband kept our daughter in the play area for that time. Our daughter petted our kitty right before then, and afterward she and hubby came in and petted her too. I didn't know how to tell her our kitty died. We told her that our kitty was very very sick and would not be coming home. We went back to daycare and work for the last few hours of the day then came home. Our daughter hasn't asked about our kitty yet but I know she'll notice that kitty isn't here and will miss her (she and kitty loved each other a lot and spent time together every day)... How do I talk about this with her? I am so messed up by my own grief that I can't even think about kitty without crying. Do I tell her that kitty went to Heaven? We do believe in God (I tell my daughter every night that she is Heaven Sent and that she is a gift from God)... I don't want her to fear hospitals, doctors, or getting sick. I'm a mess... anybody have any good advice for me? Many many thanks... *peace*.

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answers from Des Moines on

We went through this exact same thing at the exact same age and struggled. We had the same worries (didn't want her to worry that God would take Mommy or Daddy away, or that hospitals/doctors were scary).

We ended up telling her that Kitty was so sick that the vet couldn't help her anymore and so the Vet gave the Kitty to God and that kitty was happy now in a place where she didn't hurt and had lots of other friends to play with. We said that the place was too far away for us to ever go visit, but that while I missed kitty terribly, I was so happy kitty wasn't hurting anymore. She accepted it very well and no issues since!! (she's 3.5 now)

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answers from Cleveland on

Dear Melissa,

So sorry about your kitty! Brought tears to my eyes just reading about it. Our 2 cats are 14 and 15......

We lost a wonderful kitty (O.C.) when my oldest son was 1.5 yo, but O.C. wasn't living with us when he died--we had just moved from Indiana to Arkansas, and hadn't yet been able to move him down. He was also old, and had cancer. We told Ben (son) that O.C. died and went to heaven, and (years) later that Auntie Lisa (good friend who was watching O.C. for us) buried him in her friends' yard. I'm not sure how much he understood. I don't remember him asking too many questions (it was a while ago, Ben is 19 now), but that may vary from child to child; also because he hadn't seen O.C. for a few weeks, while your daughter saw your cat right up until the end.

There is a nice book by Cynthia Rylant called Cat Heaven (yes, you will cry); also one called The 10th Good thing about Barney (I forget the author). Those may help.

I think it is OK to say that kitty went to heaven, since you believe in God and heaven. I too believe that pets go there! There is a wonderful "story" called The Rainbow Bridge" that talks about how your pets wait in a meadow for you until you are ready to go to heaven, and you cross the rainbow bridge together into heaven. I also think it OK for you to admit you are sad about kitty's death too, and to cry, and to let your daughter see you cry.

If she has known any other creature that has died, you may be able to draw a parallel to that.

Sorry I haven't been much help, I'll keep you in my prayers. Hang in there, and many hugs to you!

K. Z.

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answers from Colorado Springs on

It's so hard to lose a beloved four-footed member of the family. Your daughter is very little, so you can tell her that kitties and people don't stay alive forever. People (usually) live a lot longer than kitties do. But when people and kitties stop living, they die. God is the boss of living and dying, and He does it in the best way. (Even the nasty deaths are not out of His control, but you won't need to go into that at her age.) Her kitty is safe in God's care. Mama and Daddy are not planning to die or go away from their little girl for a long time, but kitty is happy being in God's hands. Some time in the future, perhaps God will send across your path another kitty who needs your love and care.

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answers from Rapid City on

I am sorry for your loss. I think you have handled things with your daughter really well. She was told before that the kitty wasn't coming home so she didn't expect to see her. You explained about her going to heaven and that helps with understanding. You let her pet her after she is gone and that gives her closure. Now you just need to answer honestly when she asks questions but in simple terms that will explain but not scare her.

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answers from Atlanta on

I am very sorry for your loss! On Sunday it will be 1 yr that we put our daddy cat Moschino down, he was 11.5 & I had him from 4 weeks old. We still have the mommy Chanel & daughter Leda in addition to a Black Lab, Sammy. My son was extremely attached to Moschino the last 2 weeks of his life. I explained to my son that Moschino was very sick, died & went to Heaven with God. He understood, although he did ask many questions. He has handled better than me and seems to be ok. He will cry if I say something wrong - he wants another Daddy cat, I tell him we can't have any more cats with our cats & that Moschino was the Daddy, that we can't get anymore till our cats are in Heaven - then I kick myself for saying that last part & that's the part he cries about! I have't repeated that mistake.
I think if you just keep telling her that he is in Heaven and is always with her that soon she will understand and accept it. Just be honest with her and she will understand.
I am sorry again, it is extremely hard to lose a member of our family!

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answers from Las Vegas on

I am so sorry to hear about your beloved kitty. I had to put my 17-year old cat to sleep a couple of years ago and it took me a long time to recover from it. My children were 3 and 4 at the time and I just told them that Jock Meister (my cat) went to heaven which is a place were cats are not sick anymore. And then I also told them that heaven is like the air -- you can't see it but you feel it and you know it is always there, near to us. They seemed to accept this explanation pretty well. To tell you the truth, both of my children handled my cat passing away better than I did. No sooner did I give them the explanation about heaven, than they were asking for another cat or dog!

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answers from Washington DC on

I am so sorry. This brought tears to my eyes. Right now we have three kitties, they are a part of our family.
Your child is very young. She will soon not remember the kitty, especially if you get another sometime in the future.
Like the other moms said tell her kitty is in God's hands now and went to heaven. We told our two year old that one of our cats, 7 year ago, went to heaven and he really didn't have any questions. We have since gotten other cats and he doesn't even remember that kitty.
If she sees you crying, you can tell her that you are very sad that kitty can no longer live with you anymore and that you miss kitty.
I wouldn't go into too much detail.

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answers from San Francisco on

Tell her what you believe (kitty heaven, whatever), if you don't believe in kitty heaven just tell her she died. These are the deaths that prepare our children for the huge losses (parents, etc.) they will have later in life.

Tell her the truth. Our kitty was sick and she died. Tell her in the appropriate language for a 2 year old. If she sees you cry that is FINE. You are sad, and sad people cry. That is reality.

The truth, mom. Crying is truth. Grief is truth. Death is truth.

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answers from Minneapolis on

We told our daughter that kitty's body stopped working, and the doctors and we couldn't do anything more to heal it, so kitty's spirit left its body and doesn't feel sick anymore. We explained that we all have spirits inside our bodies, and if our body stops working and can't be healed, our spirit can leave the body and be with God.

I'm sorry for your loss. I cried for several days when we had to help our beloved Boo pass on.

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answers from Casper on

We too have just put down a cat and it was hard for us. I explained to our children that the kitty was sick and that she couldn't get better. I told them that she went to heaven and that she is now living with God. I explained to them that she wasn't sick any more and that she wasn't hurting. For my children that was the most comforting, knowing that she wasn't hurting anymore.

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