Putting Our Cat Down :(

Updated on December 03, 2013
H.P. asks from Culpeper, VA
21 answers

Hi All,

After nearly 15 years with my cat, it is nearing the time for us to euthanize her. It saddens me to write this, but I am seeking advice on how to break the news to our 6 year old son. I have been explaining that she is getting older and is sick and that she may not make it too much longer; however, when the time comes to visit the vet, do we ask our son if he wants to go? Or...do we let him say goodbye and do this ourselves? I don't want to traumatize him, and I don't want Rigby to just disappear and have our son wonder...

Just so you are all aware...Rigby's health is failing, and we have exhausted all our options. We are trying to keep her comfortable, but this may not last much longer :( We're trying to prepare for the sad day...

Thank you all in advance for your words of wisdom!


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So What Happened?

I can't thank you all enough for your wisdom and empathy. This is truly tough, but I've been talking with my son about Rigby and her illness. We are talking with him every day and preparing him (and ourselves) for the next phase for our family. He is sharing his feelings (and crying some), but we will be using your posts to help us through. I'll be dropping by the library today, and we are planning to take some more pictures of our family, with Rigby as the feature. Hubby and I will take Rigby to the vet next week, after letting our little guy have some closure by giving cuddles and love to Rigby before he goes to school that day. This is definitely the best way, as I'm not sure how I'll hold up myself.

You all have helped me immensely! Getting teary-eyed right now, in fact, but Rigby has brought our family great joy (and she'll be free from her pain soon).


More Answers



answers from Chattanooga on

I would get the rainbow bridge book.

I think whether your son says goodbye at home or comes to the vet depends on his personality. As a child, we had to have our elderly dog put down. I have always been an extremely softhearted person, so my dad knew watching it happen would be too much for me. My brother though, was very worried about the entire thing so he went to the vet so he could see how peaceful and easy it was.

I would be honest in explaining the situation; not try to gloss over the death like many parents tend to. I imagine there are several books explaining the concept of death at an age-appropriate level. Make sure kiddo know that it is because she is in pain and not enjoying life any more, and she will be happier in kitty heaven.

Sorry about your Rigby. :( it's always hard.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi, there,
So sorry to hear about this. I lost my 17 year old cat some years ago and it still makes me sad. A classic book on losing a pet is by Judith Viorst(she's a well-known children's author). It's called The Tenth Good Thing about Barney. You can check out the summary of the book and the reviews using the link below. This book is still widely available and should be at your library. You're wise not to let your cat just disappear-that would be even harder, I think.
Thinking of you...


6 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I suggest that he doesn't go to the vet with you. Try to be sure he understands he is saying goodbye. When we put our Rott down last year, our daughter would talk about her as if she were gone and she missed her and as if she were coming back again. She was 7 at the time.

I guess she believed what she wanted to, when she wanted to.


6 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Definitely let him say goodbye to your cat. It is part of his family and it will be harder for him if she just disappears. I would not take him with you... he's just too young.

It will take a while and your house will be sad for a while. We have unfortunately had to go through this twice. One of our cats was like your Rigby... in failing health and we knew that the time would come. The kids were able to say goodbye to her... but the other one was an acute problem. One we also knew about (heart condition) and he died suddenly, so they were not able to say goodbye to him living. We did bury him in the yard and they were able to say goodbye to him in our little ceremony. They still miss them and talk about them often.

Frame a picture of Rigby for your son, If you have a photo of them together that's even better.

I'm so so sorry. It is such difficult thing to say goodbye to our furry family friends. Remember that by euthanizing her before she begins to suffer too much, you are doing the last compassionate and good thing you can for her, and she will thank you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My boys were 8 and 5 when we had to out our beloved Obi down. We put him down 5 years ago today. We woke up the day after Thanksgiving to an awful smell and our 15.5 year old dog NOT acting normal.

We took him to the vet. The vet did a lot of tests and found out our beloved Obi had cancer. We were not ready to put him down. The doctor gave us "feel good" medicine for him and we kept him comfortable until Monday. The boys made wonderful memories with him during that weekend....we've got a great picture from the park too..

We took him to the vet on Monday. We took our boys to our friends house. We told them that even though the Veterinarian had given Obi some good medicine, it wasn't enough and would NOT be coming home with us after the vet visit. They gave him lots of love, said good-bye.

Tell them the truth...he's old and the vet can no longer help him. We are going to do the humane thing and love him and care for him as he has for us....they accepted that. we never said "we're putting him down" or that we were going to put him to sleep. We told them how old he was. How loyal he had been to us...

I'm sorry. I am REALLY sorry!!

Read the Rainbow Bridge...it will help!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I'm sorry. This is tough. Losing a beloved family pet is never easy.

I would personally not take a 6 year old with me to put an animal down. I would let him say good-bye.

It would be much easier to euthanize him instead of having your son wake up and find Rigby dead. That might be more traumatizing.

I'm truly sorry.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Hi H., I am so sorry you are facing this moment.

Could you find a Compassionate Care agency would would come to your home and euthanize your cat there? That might be more helpful for both the humans and kitty. Then, your son could choose to stay in the room or go do something else.

I have had a few friends who have chosen this route; one said that it was a beautiful preparation for when her own father died; her daughter was about the same age and knew more what to expect. Our cat is very old and we will choose to have him euthanized at home and to give our son the choice of sticking around or going to play.

I think every child is different. What sort of sense do you get from your son? I do think that, as much as kids do know, they don't know what they haven't experienced. If you are doing it at the vet, I think it's okay to ask how *he's* feeling about things. Sometimes, dropping them off for a playtime at a friend's house may be a preferable choice for everyone, too. Ask yourself if you will be able to be emotionally available for your son in those circumstances. Some parents are, some aren't.... it all depends.

Hugs to you. I'm so very sorry. The loss of a pet is a bit of our heart, isn't it?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Let the boys say goodbye at home. And take the cat in yourself. I would not take the boys with you. They will forever associate the vet with killing the cat. Which sounds harsh but it is how kids minds work.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I wouldn't take him with you. We had to put our dog down last year and it was the saddest thing in the world, I felt bad for anyone outside the room who heard my husband sobbing. I wouldn't have wanted my daughter to see that. We had been talking about her being sick, and when she woke up paralyzed we all knew that might be the end. We talked to our daughter and she said good bye, we dropped her off at her uncle's house where he said goodbye, then we took her to the vet. It sucked balls that there wasn't anything they could do (besides and exploratory surgery that had a 30% chance of helping, less for our dog because she was so old) and when we got home, we talked about how we were all sad and it was ok to be sad. She took it better than we thought she would, but even a year and a half later still talks about missing her dog sometimes.

I'm sorry you have to go through this.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

For my son (he was around that age for our dog), we told him that she was very old and was going to die soon. We took pictures (we had some already, of course, but wanted more), and we all went to the vet together. We went into the room and loved on her but then he had I left before she was actually put down. He kept a piece of her blanket that she always slept on (we kept the rest with her and she was wrapped up in it.) I told him that it was o.k. to be sad and we all cried. I told him that even though she was gone he would always feel her love in his heart. We would also just look at pictures from time to time.

I was around that age when we had to put my childhood dog down. I remember lying in bed one night about a week later and just crying. My dad heard me and got me out of bed and we sat on the couch and looked at pictures of good old Prince.

If your cat is in pain, I would put him down. We hesitated with our dog, but then realized we were hesitating because we wanted her with us, but we were being selfish. She was in pain and we had to put her needs first, as hard as it was.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

We opted not to take our then 5 year old son with us to euthanize our beloved 14 year old cat. We just told him that our cat was very, very sick and we were going to be taking him to the vet. Of course, we already knew it was time when we called the vet, but I was so upset and I didn't want to worry him about what was going to happen.
Since we live out in the country, our vet was wonderful and let us bring our cat home to bury- which we did before my son got home. After explaining what happened, my son helped us plant a mum by his grave, and I let him write a note to our cat on a large rock by his grave. I had also taken a picture of the two of them together, and let him have a copy to put in his room.
My son is 7 now, and still remembers our cat. Just the other day he drew me a picture of our cat and what he would look like in cat heaven. Talk about waterworks! We still miss him so much. And after two years, the mum blooms beautifully every year since we planted it. I tell my son that's how I know he's happy and safe in cat heaven.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My husband and I took our dog to the vet knowing that putting her down may be an option. We were in a similar situation to what you describe. My son was out of town at the time and I was concerned about not giving him the chance to say goodbye.

In all honesty, he handled the news of our dog dying so much better than i expected. The topic came up a few times over the course of a few weeks, but he surprised me in how well he managed his feelings about her dying.

Whatever way you choose, will be just fine. Just keep in mind, that it's best if you keep your explanation very simple. Kids don't need a drawn out explanation. Just that Rigby got very old and that she died while you were at the vet. Your son can write a poem or a card to her, if he wants. He may want to talk about his feelings or it may come up at a later time.

There is no wrong way to grieve, so allow yourself to do that and allow him to grieve how needs to.

Big hugs to you. I know how tough this is. The emotional pain lessens over time.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I would be careful about saying your dog is old as the reason you euthanized her. My grandson was more concerned about my age and me dying after we had to put our dog down. I reassured him by reminding him that even tho I'm old, I'm not sick. I suggest explaining both old and sick to a child as well as how we do this because the animal is in pain and unable to live any longer. This may not be a concern for your son. Just be aware.

I think you are handling this well. Whether or not your son goes with you will be ok either way. And you will have options at the vet. They can administer the shot in your presence or in another room and either bring the body to you or not.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I'm so sorry for what you are going thru. It is very sad to lose a beloved companion animal.
I faced these same questions a month ago. Our dog was 15 years old and failing. Like you, we had done everything medically that was an option and it was time to let him go. For a couple weeks, I had talked to my 7 yr. old son that our dog was not going to live much longer. We chose to put him down when my son was at school. When I picked my son up from school, I told him I had some bad news, that our dog had died. He took it well and said, "well he was old and sick, Mom."

He only asked where he died and I told him at the vets office. He had no more questions for me since we had prepared him for this. Also, our dog was not a playmate to my son and they were not really close. ( I on the other hand , was devestated).

So that's what we chose to do and it worked well for our family. It is a tough time. Good luck and my sympathies to you.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi H.,

So sorry to hear this. We went through this 3 yrs ago when we had to put our 9 yr old calico down due to kidney failure.

We didn't have the kids go with us, but had them say goodbye to her. Even that was extremely traumatic. If I had it to do over, I would have not even had them say goodbye. I would have had my husband take her, then just told them that when he got to the vet's office, kitty was very sick and she died. My SIL took this approach when she had her cat put down a year after ours, and it seemed to me much less traumatic for her kids.

Best wishes!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We had to put our 6 year old dog down a few months ago. He was young but we had to do it. I posted on here the whole story. In the end we had told the girls he probably wouldn't make it. They did not know it was a choice to euthanize. The night before we put him down we talked about him being really sick and I asked the girls if they wanted to take pictures with him. They totally did. The next day grandma picked them up from school and hubby went to put him down when I was at work. When I got home we told them that our sweet doggy didn't make it. They bawled. They came up with tthe idea to write notes to him. My mom had taken them to a craft store and bought a heart shaped box the decorated. Over the next few days they wrote notes or drew pictures of the dog every day. I thought it would be months before we got another dog but an opportunity came after a few days to rescue a puppy. Even though we couldn't save our doggy we knew we could save the life of another one. I wouldn't take your son to the vet but do be there to comfort him and pay tribute to him how he wishes. I wish you the best.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

So sorry you are going through this. It's so hard - our pets are so dear to us. I'm even getting teary now over our golden who passed away over 6 years ago. My kids were 6 (same as yours) and 3 at the time. I got several children's books from the library that dealt with the passing of a pet. I believe there was a good one by Mr. Rogers - as in PBS show from the 70s! Our kids knew he was sick as he had stopped eating and was barely moving about the house and he'd had multiple vet visits in a short period. We sat with him on the floor, snuggling and petting him while we read the books. Actually, my 6 yo read the books - which I was grateful for because I couldn't have gotten through them w/o crying. We talked about how sick he was and that there probably wasn't anything more the vet could do to help, and his time might be near but we'd be taking him to the vet the next day to see if the vet could make him more comfortable (though we knew the vet would be putting him down). So essentially they had a chance to say good-bye that night. We took him while they were at school/daycare, and told them that evening that he died while he was at the vet. They were sad of course, but dealt with it well - the 6 yo better than the younger one.

I would not take your son with you. I'd be concerned that your son might be afraid of future immunizations after he sees what the shots the vet gives do for your beloved cat. It could be hard to differentiate the shots needed to be healthy from the shots that euthanize.

Big hugs to your your family and condolences.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Richmond on

I'm sorry - it is very difficult to deal with a family pet coming to the end of their life. My condolences.

I would not take your son to the vet. I think that's too much to handle at his age. When we put our dog down at 14, my husband and I were crying like babies and had a hard time dealing with the process ourselves. Again, too much for a little one to deal with. I would explain the concept of kitties and doggies age much quicker than us and that Rigby, at 15, is really 90 years old (human years). So it is time for Rigby to go to heaven. If you don't believe in heaven, I know that can be a struggle. We dealt with that with our 4 yo when our dog died. I wanted to give him a more "scientific" answer but finally just gave in. Our son could wrap his head around "heaven" where our dog is well and happy!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

oh, i'm so sorry. this is SO hard. damn.
i wouldn't take him to see her go. there's certainly a time for this, but he's pretty young. your simple explanation is perfect, and when it's time, just have him kiss her goodbye, and allow him to grieve however his personality dictates.
my heart goes out to you all.

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answers from Washington DC on


I am so sorry you are having to deal with this. The loss of a pet is difficult for all.

You may want to consider in home euthanasia. Google it for your area... there are vets who will come to your house and euthanize the pet there so that you don't have to worry about traumatizing it by putting it in a carrier, taking it to the vet, etc. They will follow your wishes and work on your timeline and can even provide some assistance and counseling for you and your family during the event. They often create keepsakes as well and can assist with disposal of the body, cremation, etc.

There are some great books that you can get for your son as well. My MIL died from a long illness when my daughter was turning 4. There was a book called "Lifetimes" that we got for her that explained death in a way that did not frighten her and made her understand that it is just a part of life. To quote the book: "Everything has a lifetime. Some are short, some are long. It is the same with every living thing; plants, animals, and people." These words gave her so much comfort and perspective and she has used them to soothe her friends and even me when I lost my Mother suddenly to a heart attack a few months ago. I highly recommend it.

My heart hurts for you and your family and I wish you peace in this time of loss. God bless.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Hi, H.:

Ask your son what he thinks about the cat being sick.
Ask him questions about how he feels about the cat going to

Are there any children's books on losing a favorite animal.

Yes, it is sad to endure losses.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful
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