Losing a Pet

Updated on June 30, 2011
T.B. asks from Newton, IA
14 answers

My husband had a cat long before I met him. I was never a cat fan but figured the cat came with the man so I had to "deal" with it. That was 13 years ago. We have since been married and had two children (10 year old girl & a 7 year old son). My husband and children LOVE Kitty (cleaver name huh), me not so much. She never comes near me except to nibble on my hair at times or when she needs fresh water in her water dish.

Kitty is getting on in years and recently developed a thyroid problem. My husband has been medicating her but it just doesn't seem to be helping. It is time to put her down and the appointment is for thursday.

I AM DEVASTATED. I cannot image the grief that will come over my poor children. They have not yet experienced death of a loved one so this will be new for all of us. I was wondering the best way for me to help them get through this.

The vet is coming to our house to put her down. We have a coffin made and a spot picked out to bury her. I have not yet told the kids. I just don't know when and how to tell them and how to deal with their pain when it is done.

Any suggestions you can give would be greatly appreciated.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Phoenix on

Set them down and be open and honest with them. Let them share their feelings. They may not show the sadness right away as they process this and get over the shock. They may later show their feelings. Let them grieve the way they need to no matter how long it takes. Let them know that it's okay to feel sad and cry. I'm so sorry about Kitty. Good luck to you!!

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Atlanta on

My heart goes out to you and your family. We live on a horse farm and therefore have the wonderful opportunity to have a rich life filled with many different animals of varying sizes over the years.

Our girls are 12 and 15 now, but have been challenged by different losses throughout their young lives. We have always embraced death, whether it was unexpected or anticipated, with the emotional understanding that it is a sad but natural part of life and love.

You and your family have a sorrowful task ahead, but are really fortunate to have the time to prepare your children and to have a vet that will come to the house. I would encourage you to explain Kitty's medical condition to them both, and the compassionate but difficult decision that must be made. I would allow them to feel every bit of their sadness, along with you and your husband, without the feeling that they need to be "protected" from the emotion, or from seeing your or your husband's grief, as this will reinforce the natural and healthy side of the grief process for them at an early age.

Encourage your children to spend special time with Kitty between now and Thursday, sharing aloud what each feels have been the good, funny and or hard times. I would give them the opportunity to make a card with drawn pictures to be placed in Kitty's coffin, to assist in their expressions, especially if they have difficulty verbalizing their feelings.

Although it is a personal choice, we have always allowed our children to be present whenever possible (including a beloved pony) when euthanasia was the only alternative. Although many vets will try and dissuade this, reporting that it can be disturbing to watch, it has always been peaceful, and leaves no wonder in young imaginative minds about suffering. Of course I would recommend educating your children about what medications are used and how they will effect Kitty as they begin to work.

Our thoughts are with you.



4 moms found this helpful


answers from Buffalo on

I am so sorry for your upcoming loss. Wow you have a great vet. I would explain to the kids about death and that poor kitty is hurting and very sick, and the lord is calling her home. We cannot be selfish and make her suffer so we must let her go. Each person handles it differently, my kids cry, but once they do and then they get over it. Just listen to them and be there for them.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I just had to have my sweet dog put to sleep last week. My daughter is five, and this was her first pet (we adopted him as an older dog). I was very honest with her about what was happening. She knew he was very sick and could not walk well on his own. I explained that everything and everyone dies at some point, and told her what was going to happen. In my case, I took the dog to the vet after she went to school, and she was aware that he would not come home. The day before, we both pampered him - he had burgers and fries for lunch and dinner, and got lots of pats and hugs and kisses.

I talked to my daughter beforehand about what we would do with the dog's body. She wanted to bury him in the yard so he could be close to us, so we will bury his ashes in the yard and make a little grave marker for him - a stepping stone kit decorated with pretty marbles and rocks.

I also read a couple of books with her a few days before. These may be a little young for your kids, but they do a good job of explaining in a simple way what is happening and how the kids may feel about it (especially Mr. Rogers' book).
When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers)
Goodbye, Mousie by Robie H. Harris

I'm so sorry about your Kitty. We adopted two kittens a few months ago, so I honestly think that has had a lot to do with how easily my daughter has handled the loss of the dog. But I feel better knowing that she understood what was happening and had a chance to say goodbye in her special way, and she is glad to be part of planning the "funeral" and making the marker.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Your kids are likely to deal with this and to get over it sooner than you and your husband will. Kids are resilient.

This is a time to teach about death and dying. To share your beliefs or to educate about different beliefs. Mainly, I would stick to how Kitty is not feeling well and/or is in pain. I would be direct and not be afraid to use the word "die". I would give them a day's notice so that they can say "good-bye". Let them plan what type of burial they want to have.

When our daughter was 7, her dad got a puppy. Within a short time, puppy ran into the street and was run over by our daughter's school bus. He and I were traumatized. Our daughter recovered fairly quickly. We had one sad evening and then, for her, life went on.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Madison on

We had to put our cat down last fall. My kids are the same age as yours, only opposite sexes. I was surprised, actually, on how well they handled it. Beforehand, we had talked about how sick he was getting and that we had to have the vet put him to sleep to keep him from suffering. We had a funeral for him, including a prayer thanking God for the time we had with him, etc. My husband helped them build a cross as a grave marker, then they painted it with his name. I think including them in the process helped them a lot.

So sorry for your family. Losing a pet is always devastating!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

THey are old enough and probably already know the end is near.
Be honest, tell them soon, let them see the coffin, listen to them.
Don't run out and get another kitty for while, let the children and especially your husband grieve.
I am so sorry for your loss. Kitty was a part of your family.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Be open and up front about what's going on. Your children are old enough to understand the process so involve them in it. Let them pick out a special toy to put in the coffin or decorate the coffin or write a special rememberance of kitty to put in there. Let them know that it's ok to be sad when something you've loved so much isn't going to be with you anymore.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Joplin on

Read them the poem The Rainbow Bridge...



answers from Minneapolis on

I'm very sorry. From our experience in putting down the dog - tell the kids NOW so they can start to process the idea and have a chance to say goodbye and spend time with Kitty while she is still alive. I told my kids a few days in advance and while it was still hard for everyone, they were able to spend time with Buddy (also a creative name...lol) and enjoy him as he was.

And remember, it is FAST. I am always surprised how fast they're gone once injected. My Mom's cat was only 7 pounds and she died immediately. We were a little surprised. And her eyes didn't stay closed, which is normal, but a little disconcerting. The 70# dog took about 10 seconds. He seemed to fight it a bit, but it was also unexpectedly fast. I'm tearing up now, thinking about it.



answers from Eau Claire on

My first bit of advice is pictures. Make sure the kids each have a nice picture of themselves with the cat and some nice ones of just the cat. Like pictures of the cat in its favorite place to sleep. Then you can frame them for the kids rooms and when they get sad you can pull out the picture of the cat sleeping in its favorite spot and say now Kitty has an even softer cloud in heaven or something (depending on your beliefs) and she isn't in any more pain and she doesn't have to take any more of medication. For a little while there will be discussions on where Kitty is and stuff so make sure you and your husband discuss before hand so that you aren't upsetting each other or confusing the kids with how you explain it to them. Their grief can be eased or increased by your reactions to the death. They may have an aversion to the spot where the vet puts her down for a while so be careful where you pick for that. To be honest when our pet had to be put down I had more trouble with the grief than the kids. I think you should be more worried about your husband. Men are supposed to be strong according to society so they often stuff their feelings and it comes out as hostility. He had her for a long time so you might want to think of something you can do for him to let him know you understand how much she meant to him and its ok to show sadness. Maybe you could make Kitty's collar tags into a keychain or something for him. It would be manly and not seen by everyone, but a keepsake. Another thing is prepare your husband for the possibility that the kids might mention getting another pet. Them saying that might be upsetting that Kitty could be replaced. And make sure you and your husband are in agreement on how to handle such a request. From what I have seen from others if you would be for that idea it is still best to wait several months or a year or you may regret the decision either because you aren't ready or are disappointed by the behavior or personality of the new animal. Be prepared that the house will seem empty at first but after a little while it won't seem that way.


answers from Omaha on

This is an online pet memorial site. Perhaps you and your family can set up a place for Kitty with her picture.




answers from Sioux City on

For many of us, our pets are part of our family. Loss of a treasured family member, the family pet, is profoundly heart-breaking. And explaining the death to your kids can be quite difficult as well. Death is a complex subject to process intellectually . . . add a deep layer of grief on top of that, and you have a tricky situation. How can you tell your kids that your beloved Fido or Felix has passed away?

1. Inform your kids as soon after the death as is practical. You don’t want your kids to hear about the death from a neighbor or other third party.
2. Select a private, quiet, familiar setting in which to speak with your kids about the death. Your home is a good place to hold this discussion. You won’t want the environment to be distracting; so, minimize the number of people and activities in your home as you embark on this discussion.
3. When speaking with your kids, be as calm as possible. It’s ok to be tearful: you want your kids to understand that it’s acceptable to express grief through open expressions of sadness. However, panic and trauma should not be displayed in front of your kids. If your kids see you panic or experience trauma, they will likely experience panic and trauma as well.
4. Provide your kids with only basic information initially. For example, you may say, “Fluffy got off his leash this morning, ran out into the street, and was struck by a car. He died instantly.” Then, ask them if they have any questions. Encourage them to speak to you about what they are thinking and feeling and share whatever questions they may have. Provide them with the additional information that they seek. This question-and-answer period may take weeks or months as your kids sort through the logic and emotions of the death. By allowing the “Q&A” approach, your kids will not be given more information than they want. Be aware, however, that your kids may seek information because they think they need to know, but they may still struggle with the information once it’s received.
5. If your kids ask you a question to which you do not know the answer, it’s ok to say that you don’t know. Spiritual and medical questions, in particular, can be difficult to answer. If practical, you can promise to research the question and get an answer for them within a period of time that you specify. (”That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer, but we can check with Pastor Smith/Doctor Johnson this weekend. Ok?”) Some answers may be impossible to ascertain, however. For example, if your kids ask you why bad things happen to good people (or pets), the answer may not be clear cut even with reasonable research into the matter. You can tell your kids that no one knows the answer with certainty, but your perspective is _______.
6. Ensure that you are especially attentive to your kids during this difficult time. Provide them with extra time to talk things over, to cuddle, and even to sit in silence together if that’s what they need. Expect that your kids may act out their grief by throwing tantrums, having trouble concentrating in school, having trouble understanding and remembering things, wetting their beds when they have already mastered waking up dry, not being able to get to sleep or stay asleep, experiencing lethargy and/or loss of appetite, and other signs of distress.
7. Hold a family funeral to pay your respects for your lost loved one. Allow your kids the opportunity to help plan and participate in the funeral.
By following these seven steps, you can help your kids understand and cope when your family experiences the loss of a beloved family pet.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions