Putting Our Cat down - How Do I Tell My 4 Year Olds?

Updated on July 12, 2008
A.P. asks from South Londonderry, VT
34 answers

Our cat is 20 years old and it's time. He's been with my husband for this entire time (and me for 16 years) so it's obviously an emotional time for Dad, as well as the rest of us. I've prepared the girls that he's sick and we've discussed that he may die soon. They have never experienced a death, thankfully, so this will be the first death in their lives. I'm just not quite sure how to handle it. I'm pretty sure I don't want them to know that it's our choice to put him down. Will they think that people have the same choice? How do I prepare them for it without making it into a huge emotional production of good-byes that we adults need? Does anyone have any experience with this? Dad is not fit in these circumstances to spearhead how his kids are going to react so I need to own this experience for them, but I'm sad and lost. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I feel the need to add that I'm not at all religious (though open to all opinions) and though I'm not completely averse to the mention of heaven (they've heard it at school), I'm not sure that's a concept that I'm comfortable introducing unless it is necessary and easier for them to accept this, simply because I'm not sure how to explain what the concept of heaven means.

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H.K.

answers from New York on

I've always found the best way to explain death to little ones is that the person/animal's body died so their soul went back to where it was before they were born.

I don't think you need to mention that it's a choice to put him down, just say that he was very sick and died at the vet's.

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N.B.

answers from Jamestown on

I've told my children, and believe, that their pets go to Heaven where they are needed more by the children there to play with.

Nanc

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J.H.

answers from Syracuse on

Hi A.,

My sympathies to you...losing a pet is hard at any age.

I may be in the minority here, but I always tell the truth, in age appropriate terms, of course.

The vet is going to help kitty not hurt any longer. That's pretty basic, and completely the truth. I don't know how to explain death without mentioning Heaven, but if your girls aren't familiar with Heaven, explain it simply as perfection...no one gets hurt and no one is sick or sad...at 4, it's probably all you need to say.

My best friends husband suddenly passed away (at 40) in April, our 4 and 5 year olds saw us cry and we simply explained we were sad because we were going to miss Uncle Wayne, but were happy for him that he wasn't sick any longer. The kids seem to have grasped that. I hope yours will as well.

Best wishes to you and your family, it is indeed, a sad time.

J.

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M.M.

answers from New York on

There is an absolutely wonderful book called 'Saying Goodbye to Lulu' about the death of a pet. Lulu is a dog. Another (if you want to deal with the euthanazia part) is Barney's Last Day. I personally prefer the Lulu one, but either may be helpful. I'd also add that there is nothing wrong with letting them see your sorrow--it affirms their feelings.

M.

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K.N.

answers from New York on

Hello A.,

I am so sorry for what you are going through. I feel for you - my husband and I are also facing having to put our dog to sleep. She is going on 17 and has been with us for almost 9 years. It is heartbreaking, but she is not doing well and we know it's the right thing to do for her.

I don't have any advice to give on telling the kids, as my daughter is only 5 months old, but agree with the posts that say that the kids don't really need to know the details. They are just too young to understand anyway, so the best thing to do is deal simply with the loss. I am not religious either, but do find comfort in some spirituality and the belief that there is something greater than us that is part of the grand scheme of things.

When I was 7, I lost my (then) only cousin died when she was jut a few months old. My mother bought me the book "The Fall of Freddie the Leaf", which deals with death in terms of seasons, following the life of Freddie the leaf and his friends over the course of the year - from "birth" to "death". The book was instrumental in helping me understand that death is a part of life, no matter how unfair it is. I loved the book so much, that it is already a part of my daughter's book collection.

It's also a great book for adults!

My heart goes out to you. Good luck.

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L.S.

answers from Buffalo on

Hi A.,
At some point kids need to learn about death. When my kids were in first and fourth grade their substitute teacher - who everyone loved - suddenly died. Almost everyone from that school went to her funeral. I mention this because ceremony seems to be very important to give closure to someone disappearing. The same is true with beloved animals. We buried our deceased animals in a shoebox in the backyard.

Last President's Day our 13 year old cat (who we had been giving IV fluids to because of kidney disease) had to be put down. It was very traumatic for us. The vet gave us this poem to consider and read at our ceremonial burial:
This pet shared our lives.
In subtle ways she lets us know her spirit still survives. Old habits still can make us think we hear her at the door, or glance back quickly when we drop a tasty morsel on the floor. Our feet still go around the place where the food dish used to be. And, sometimes coming home at night, we'll miss her terribly. And although time may bring new friends and a new food dish to fill, there's one place in our hearts that belongs to her and forever always will.

I hope this helps.
L.

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N.M.

answers from New York on

I would let her know that Kitty is dying and will go to kitty heaven. Have a little ceremony where she can tell the cat she loves it and say good bye and let her know that one day she might come home and kitty will be in heaven already. Please do not have them there when you are leaving to take the cat to the vet, don't use the phrases that it will be put down or to sleep. These phrases can mean so many other things that it can worry little ones. Even knowing the cat is sick might be too scary because they can worry they will die when they are sick too. This raised alot of questions for my son when his frog died, he continues to talk about death and it is hard for me to alwyas know what to say. I try to be honest that everything has a life cycle and will someday die, but that I hope the people he loves will live for a long time. Sorry for your loss, I know it's like losing a member of the family.

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R.C.

answers from New York on

Sorry you are experiencing this....It's hard, I know.

I tend to think your husband should take the children out for the day, while you take the cat to the vet...
Or have a friend or Grandma take the children out for the day while you and your husband take the cat to the vet together...
When the children come home tell them gently the cat died while they were away. Yeah, I do understand how you feel about heaven but it might be helpful and easier when the children need comforting to go up that road with them. Children I think need to hear their pet or loved one is safe, is not alone, and not suffering anymore...and knowing their pet is in a good place such as heaven will help them get through this....
Allow the family to mourn....When I lost my pet it was helpful and is my suggestion to place a picture of the cat, along with it's favorite toy... along with a lit candle on a table with your husband and children gathered and say a little something.....a way of saying good-bye and putting some closure to the passing...Maybe you and your husband can say a little sweet something or funny story about the cat which might help....

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R.W.

answers from Albany on

Hi, I had to do this to my 11year old dog when daughter was four. Unfortunately she still tells me she misses Daisy and its been over a year. I took the dog to the vet and had her put to sleep. I explained to my daughter that she passed away while she was at school and I took her to the vet so they could bury her. I don't know about you, but I didn't want to drag out the saddess with bring home the body or ashes and burying them or planting a tree or anything like that. My daughter wanted a picture of Daisy so I put one in a silver frame on the end table in the living room. My daughter Eve also put a school picture of herself in it. She carried it around and looked at it alot at first. Now she just mentions Daisy once in awhile. Good luck, I had my dog since she was six weeks old and it was very hard to have her put down. I don't think there is anything that makes that easier.

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J.B.

answers from New York on

A. -
When my dog died unexpectantly 2 years ago a friend gave me the book "Dog Heaven". It's a kid book because I have kids, but it was so reassuring and kind even for me, an adult and unitarian. I have since given it to 2 separate friends when their dogs died. I believe there is a "Cat Heaven" out here. Check your local book store or Amazon. I'm sorry to hear about your cat. One of mine died 5 years ago of old age and she was the first death for my kids too. We buried her in the backyard and they drew pictures to bury with her ashes.
With sympathy,
Fran

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E.P.

answers from New York on

So sorry about your cat. I should start by saying that, like another responder, we aren't "religious", but we are Christians who persue a relationship with God on a daily basis. When my daughter was about 6 we put my husband's beloved Lab down as he was suffering with cancer. We prepared my daughter ahead of time by talking about Samson being old and sick and in pain. We talked about the possibility that he might die as all living things do. We talked about how he would go to heaven and be able to run again. We talked about how we will all be in heaven with God some day. We did NOT tell her we put him down - we thought it would be too much to understand at that age.

Just another 2 cents about dealing with death:
Since that time, we have lost several family members including a 44-year old cousin of mine and a great-grandmother to my daughter who she was pretty close to as well as a few small pets. At the suggestion of my best friend, we have taken our daughter to wake services for short periods of time. We have had discussions ahead of time about what she would see/do and how the body she would see would just be the earthly shell that's left after a person dies. She understands that heaven has been promised to all believers in Christ and that all of our departed friends/family will be together with Him some day.

I can honestly say that even as an 8-year old, she is fine with all of this. Yes, we're sad and we grieve together but there's no fear of death because we know our final resting place is not on this earth. She has had no trouble with nightmares or after-effects (as my mother thought she would). She knows that death is a part of life and it's much easier to accept when you see the bigger picture. I hope and pray that you'll seek God as he's seeking you. Blessings to you and your family.

Elaina

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H.M.

answers from New York on

Hi A.,

We just recently had to put my daughter's cat (she is 6) down & it was tramatic. We talked about Warf (the cat) going into the vets & that he probably would have to be put to sleep. She asked why would we do that & I asked her right back if it would be the right thing to keep him alive with him being in so much pain & not being able to eat. She understood that. When we went to the vet she came along. She was asked if she wanted to stay in the room while the cat was put down & she said yes. The vet was wonderful & told her what was going to happen. The vet let her talk to him & pet him before she started the process. We did cry but I didn't want to hide the fact that this is sad & you do feel sad when a pet or someone you love dies. We did take him home to bury him. She chose the spot. Her tears were abundant but normal. The questions of where did he go & why did he have to die came up & we answered as we felt appropriate. I do think that being as honest as possible & being true to your beliefs are important. There is the book "The tenth best thing about Barney". It talks about heaven but also the fact of being in the ground & then helping flowers & trees grow. I didn't explain the last part right but the concept of the "circle of life" is presented which I did like since it really is up in the air as to what happens after we pass (I am not all that religious either).
Important thing is take your cue from the girls. If you do not have an answer it is ok to say "I don't know" or to ask the girls what they think. Cry when you need to, again, this is sad & showing the girls that pets are important & are missed is ok.
I'm sorry that you have to go through this.
H.

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W.C.

answers from New York on

Funny how life works... I don't always read this newsletter, but today I did and I can definitely relate to your situation... Two days ago, my husband and I had to put down our beautiful Russian blue who we had for 19 years. He was a sweet, smart, gentle cat who seemed more human-like than cat-like. We have two daughters, one is 11 and the other is 7, we also have 2 other cats who are young and healthy.
My husband feels like he just lost his best friend so he is having a very hard time dealing with the loss. My girls are older so they obviously had a lot of questions and really knew what was happening. We did not exactly tell them that we made the final decision (too many ethics involved) but we did talk a lot about how he was suffering and his body wasn't working anymore and it was his time to go. We are not overly religious either, but I feel like kids need something concrete to believe in so since the idea of heaven is present we talked about how he is in heaven and he is our angel now. I don't have a strong belief one way or the other but every now and then I do get freaked out by things that happen...just to share with you two things-
1) The moment after I told my daughters (right after I had picked them up at camp), the song came on the radio, "In the arms of an Angel" the timing was incredible and we took it as a comforting sign from our kitty that he was OK
2) I read and responded to this letter...

Tell your girls the basics about what happened and then answer their questions very straight forwardly...kids that age are VERY literal so try not to say that he "went to sleep" or "we lost him" because they might take those words true to heart. Just explain that all living things will die someday and he was old and his body wasn't working anymore so it was his time to die. You will all always love him and miss him.

My girls are coming up with all kinds of special ways to memorialize him...my older daughter wrote a poem and drew a picture. My younger daughter wants to write a story and paint a ceramic tile for him. When we get his ashes, we will place them in a special box with his name and picture. The girls want to have a little ceremony and then release a helium balloon up to him ( he used to love to chew on the strings of the balloons they would bring home from bday parties) I think this is a wonderful idea..

It's not easy but it's a life lesson...wishing you luck and comfort as you deal with this difficult time. I hope this helps... W. C

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A.H.

answers from New York on

Tell them after.. that the cat was getting really old and sick.. so he went to animal heaven to be with God. Tell them how the cat can now run, and jump.. and because he is up with God.. he is now better.. like a young cat. Tell them they can wave up to the clouds.. and that the cat can see them. Make it a good thing for them.... and maybe later on... a few months from now .. you can get a new pet..

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M.T.

answers from New York on

A.,
We had to put our cat down a year ago because she was sick with cancer. My daughter was 2 at the time and I did tell her that Brandy was sick and went to Heaven. It seemed to comfort her that Heaven is a place that people/animals go when they're sick and that it is a place where they feel better and run around and play. Even though she was only 2 at the time, she will still say that she misses Brandy and that Brandy is up in Heaven. My mom also passed away when I was only 11 and I have a framed picture of her in my house. My daughter will point to her and say Grandma is in Heaven playing with Brandy. It does seem to be of comfort to her. Hope that helps!

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M.G.

answers from New York on

Hi A.,
Do you have to put your cat to sleep? My bunny expired one day after he stopped eating-old age (mini-lop-my children's Twin Girls crisis pet!) when his teeth were abcessed and after one surgery that took more out of him also. We decided to make him as comfortable as possible and kept telling him what a good "soul": and friend he was. Knowing that he had to be in some pain, we talked about how he would be out of this pain when he passed on out of this physical body. Believe what you want to, however, energy can not be created or destroyed therefore, his soul will go back to the energy source and be happier, and not be in this painful old body anymore. I do not believe in pulling the plug on any animal. My Sister decided to do that with her dog because she could not stand to see him suffer. Well that all depends upon how the animal is actually suffering. She brought her dog home and buried him in the back yard as advised by her vet. I too buried the little bunny in our back yard and feel that a small goodbye memory ceremony was good for us all. Our bunny , Snuggles was 8 1/2 half years old lived as a Prince in our home free, was potty trained into his hutch and was like a cat or dog pet. WE will miss him, however we understand that he is a "free spirit" now whom we can talk to and be p art of our memories and life in a different way. I do not know if this helps you, but children do understand pain and no pain and this may help them at their young age. In many opinions, Life and Death are cycles and only the beginning of the soul's journey. I am not religious, however very spiritual and understand that energy can not be destroyed and we are that energy, we are NOT the body. Trees live here longer than we do! And part of life cycle is passing on to the next level. You can call it a "happy Place" without the pain to your twins. You would be surprised how BRILLIANT children are-they are closer to the "source" from which we all come from! We must give our children credit for this first and respect them. We are only the caretakers of our children and our pets too.So we need to take good care of them. Love and they will understand anyway that you need to tell them about that. I hope this helped a little at least. M. G

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M.K.

answers from New York on

Well I would definately NOT tell them YOU put him down,
BUt i would say he went to heaven ( even tho your not religious) Reason is because it makes it easier for them to think he went some place other than in the dirt.its a much gentler way to think he is bouncing around with his playmates on clouds, chasing birds ECT...also to know one day they will see him again. This will also prepare them for when an adult passes.

When kids are adults they will decide whether they believe in God or not, ect..

Until them its your job to try and ease them into adult life.

lets face it, the days of throwing your kids into the pool and say swim are over,
now days we teach our kids HOW to swim, when its safe to swim. ect..

Same goes or kitty cat heaven.
Just because someone or something is not with you anymore, doesn't mean you stop loving them.

Its best you create a place for them to feel the kitty is safe and happy, rather than simply say he is dead, all living things die, everytime we pick flowers they wilt and die, ect..

In my opinion, I would rather my kids believe I was in heaven waiting to be with them,missing them, ect.. than to kinda coldly state the facts. ( cause really there is no easy way to be honest about what happens to the body after death ect.)

Hope this hlps.

Good Luck

M

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J.P.

answers from Buffalo on

Hi A.
Try your Libaray, they have many books for helping to deal with this situation for children. I think you will be able to find one that is right for you.There is a poem called the rainbow bridge (you could prob. Google it) that does a nice job also. I would let the girls spend sometime with the cat before hand. I also would not tell them it is your choice to have the cat put to sleep, they prob. won't understand. Don't tell them the cat is sleeping, they say that is a big source for nightmares and makes kids scared. My daughter was Just 3 when my beloved cat had to be put to sleep. I used this as a good oppertunity to open a conversation about death. I didn't give to much info., just what is necessary and then answered her questions honestly. She really didn't ask anything that was too hard to answer. Good luck, and I'm sorry for your loss.

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P.N.

answers from Syracuse on

My cat just died on Easter morning - he was 17. I knew for about a week that it was coming, so I told all the children (4,6,8,10) that he was very old and was going to go to heaven any day now. We don't attend services often or anything, but we've talked about heaven a little bit off and on. They all took turns holding him and spending time with him before he died & we had a funeral for him after and buried him in the woods. Now, the 10 year old didn't really want to be a part of the ceremony because he was pretty upset, but the girls and my youngest son did. We let them choose as far as that went. Since my youngest is also 4 he didn't really grasp entirely what was happening, but he wanted to help dig the hole with Daddy. The next morning he woke up all mad because Max was in the dirt, but we explained that he's not out there anymore, but that he's in the sky and he's happy. The concept of heaven really isn't one he can grasp yet, so now and then he talks about Max being in the sky with the clouds, and he's just fine with it. Believe me, at their age they will most likely get over the loss pretty quickly.

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D.C.

answers from Utica on

Kids get as upset as they see the grown-ups around do.

I'd take the cat to the vet and have the cat put down. Then tell the children that the cat died (very matter of fact). I would get another cat as soon as possible. Obviously, you all loved this cat and you probably would love another one as well. I suggest you don't leave the void very long.

D.
I'm 60 years old, been married to the same man for 38 years, have two grown sons and one daughter-in-law.

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D.A.

answers from New York on

Hi A.,

There is an excellent children's book called "Cat Heaven", I can't remember the author and there is another one called "Dog Heaven". I discovered them because my daughter randomly checked them out at her school libarary. They are really neat books, not really religious, just more spirtual. I would highly recommend that book.

Also, I would examine my own beleifs if I were you, and that of your husband's and decide how to use this as an opportunity to edcuate them about it. For example, the idea of life after death, even if you're not religious about it you may want to examine different belief systems and see what fits you!

I talk very openly to my kids about my beliefs and about death and dieing and what I think happens, and where the church's postion is and where I would disagree, and why I am more spiritual than religious, etc. etc.

I've taught them to meditate too. They love it. They have said some pretty profound things to me at pivitol moments in life so I know they are a gift from the universe to me!!! They've helped me be a better person and to love in a whole way!

There are many spirtual beliefs out there that cater to a wide-audience and keep right and wrong in perspective while teaching the basics like; the golden rule and the 10 commandments even if they call it something different.

Good Luck so sorry to hear of your loss. I am sure Kitty will do just fine on the other side, even though it is so tough to say goodbye. You have my condolences.

Love, Light and Learning to you and yours,

D.

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P.B.

answers from New York on

Unfortunately, our beautiful cat was eaten by coyotes. I was honest and told my young children what I believed happened (nature). My then 4 and 2 year olds needed to know "what happens to Spot now?" that is when I said that Spot is now in heaven with God. They still talk about missing Spot and I keep it really simple saying things like I miss him too, remember when he used to..., and I bet he's happy with God. I'm not religious either but I do want my children to know there is definetly something more powerful and perfect than me. => I'll leave the definition of their personal God up to them. For dying and death questions I keep it real simple, show my saddness, and then re-direct to something different. They are smart enough to grasp the fact that Spot is no longer here, so admitting sadness (allowing their feelings), keeping it light-hearted, and moving onto something else works for now. I'm hoping that my children will understand that death is a part of life, it is sad, but we remember, smile, cry, etc, then move on with our lives.

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S.W.

answers from Buffalo on

Hi A., I am not religious at all we do not go to church nor do my children but,when our dog was hit by a car last Jan. I told my kids that he went to heaven and is with other dogs having a great time(fill in the blank with anything you think will make your children happy to hear their cat is doing) This seemed to work. It has been six months and my children still talk about him, but at least we can do it with laughter and cry a little less. Good luck. Sorry to hear about your cat. Ive been there before and I know it hurts..

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E.S.

answers from Albany on

Well

It IS your choice to put the cat down. As caretakers of animals it is the owners responsibility to have their best interest at heart. The need to know that.

If the cat is not in pain you could let it die at home. We have done that. Depending on the illness. You an tell them its time for the cats life force to move on to the realm of spirit. His body is breaking down and he has to move out because it is no longer a good place for him to live.

Our cat summer had heart failure. The vet said he wasnt in pain but essentially just closed down shop. He died in my daughters lap. She was 17 at the time. My son who is developmentally disabled coped well with it. We took him in his towel and buried him under his favorite tree. Our other cat lucky lived to 18 he just wound down and went to sleep.

To take the cat and put it down is easier though if you keep ithome you will be on death watch as it were and that is very draining but will give ample opportunity for continued discussion of life and death with your children. A guess a kind of Kitty Hospice. We have also put animals down. Euthanasia is less emotionally gruelling and if the animal is in pain thats reasonable.

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K.B.

answers from New York on

Since you are not "religious" my answer may not help, BUT....our 19 year old cat passed last August...(we have several cats & a dog) I actually "prayed" that she would go quietly in her sleep & be at home. We didn't feel like we wanted to play "God" & decide when her life was over. Having said that, I do believe IF an animal is suffering, then they are better off...you know how the cat is feeling/doing. Yes, my cat did die peacefully in our home, in her sleep...we were prepared & ready to accept it. Infact, to take it a step further, my daughter "knew" the night of it (she is 24 by the way) she said God let her know to say goodbye to her, this was it & sure enough that was true! Don't mean to blow your mind, but this IS how it happened.
Heaven is always a VERY comforting place for ALL those that have passed & it is our great hope. We KNOW we will be reunited with all one day....by the way we actually are not "religious" we left "religion" many years ago & have grown & now have a great "relationship" with God....Hope you & your family find that too.
Losing an animal is very hard though, they become like members of your family. No need for them to be forgotten. Down the road you probably will want to add another family member, there are many "rescue" cats & dogs that would love a good home such as yours!
~ K.

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P.C.

answers from New York on

There is a book called "Cat Heaven" (there's also one for dogs). It's very simple, designed for children but also comforting for adults. Your libray may have it, or something similar to it. If not, any book store will. I've found it helpful as we have had to say goodbye to the pet members of our family. It's not easy, whether they have been with you for many years or just a few.

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M.T.

answers from New York on

Hi A.,

I am so sorry to hear about your beloved cat, I know how hard it is to make that choice. With kids as young as 4, I would not tell them that you are putting the cat down, simply because they are not old enough to really understand why it's the best choice and how it's just for animals and not for people. When we did it, my son was 4 and I just told him that Domino had died. My daughter was 8, and I did tell her and she understood the concept and why we needed to do this. I would just tell the kids that kitty died. If heaven and such concepts are not a part of your spiritual upbringing of your kids, I would not bring this into the discussion. By the time the kids are 4, they should already know what your family's spiritual identity is, and the death of a pet isn't the time to find one or to tell them things that aren't a part of your normal spiritual upbringing of the kids.
Good luck in getting through this. The death of a pet is so hard, and I know it's a tough decision when you have to make the choice, but your cat would thank you if he could.

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N.D.

answers from New York on

Adults are afraid of death and avoid the subject when it is a natural part of life. Explain in words they will understand that Kitty is very old and soon it will be time to let him go to rest, forever. Note the difference between LET and PUT. You are LETTING your Kitty find peace, NOT PUTTING him away. I dislike the term PUT your animal to sleep. It is not a nice concept. Heaven is a very comforting idea and might give your girls some sense of comfort, but you have to be careful, because I know of some children that missed their departed one so much they wanted to go to heaven to be with them. So if you mention heaven at all, you must explain that is where the animal go to WAIT for us to join them. Whatever you do don't skim over the subject of death. The death of a pet is a good time to learn about dying and to prepare for a human death, which eventually they will have to face.
Here is a nice poem.
Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

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T.W.

answers from New York on

Hi A.,
So sorry to hear about your cat. What we did with our kids at that age was told them our cat was sick and went to "cat heaven." We took the cat to the vet while they were not home, in our case school (my daughter kindergarten, son nursery school), this way they had no idea we were the ones who put the dog down; they thought the cat died when he got to the vet. Your daughters are too young to have to deal with death and putting an animal down, they won't understand and will have ill feelings for a long time. I have a friend who told her son she put their dog down because he was sick, her son never forgave them and to this day still mentions it. He is now in his 20's. I hope I was of some help.
Hugs,
T.

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J.O.

answers from New York on

Our cat , 21 years old, died a couple of years ago. I choose to let the cat die naturally, a personal choice, but thankfully had the help of a friend who was a homeopath and another who was a vet, and the cat had a very graceful decline and died quite peacefully. (That doesn't mean that at times I didn't have to clean up after her.) I talked often with my children as she was getting weaker and older. Death is a part of life and sad as we all were, they were able to see (and I think understand) what was happening. One of my children had many tears (as I did) and the other did not.

I explained to them my beliefs, not Christian, but we also discussed what others think. Your girls are just 4, so perhaps keep it simple and respond when they ask questions. I think this inevitable time of our cats death was a healthy time of growth for my children. Follow your own good instints about what your girls. need.

Good luck.

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L.P.

answers from New York on

Hi A..

I would not tell your children that you are putting the cat down. That is such a traumatic experience for an adult...making a decision to end a life. We put our dog down last year and it was just HORRIBLE. We were horrified as adults making this difficult but necessary decision and children just don't need to be in the loop about how it's all going to happen.

Maybe you could do a search online for a book about animals and heaven to give them some sort of an idea. The one thing that I think is necessary for children (and for us as well) is that we all need HOPE. I know you said you're not religious, but if I could encourage you to think on that a little. I was not raised in any kind of religion as a child and I have to say that I had some REAL intense fears of death because I had no hope given to me, nothing was ever explained. Thinking back my parents probably felt as confused about it as I did then. I do believe now...on my own I came to know God and He really did change my life. I have hope now and I have hope to pass onto my children. It's amazing how interested they are in the things of God. It's so simple and sincere...such a breath of fresh air after all of the "believers" we can come across in our own lives...hopefully you understand what I'm saying...I'm not trying to push you at all, but just sharing my experience.

I'm sorry for your loss...animals become such a real part of our families and we really do have to mourn them the way we would mourn a friend!!! You, your husband and your girls will be in my prayers. Hope you find a good way to break it to them.

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A.G.

answers from New York on

We had to put our dog down almost two years ago and then a horse this past Christmas day. My daughter was 5 and then 7yo for those two events and we chose not to tell her of the horrible choice we had to make. We explained that "Beast" (dog) was very sick and died. We gave her the option of seeing him before he was buried (in the yard) and she said no. "Scimitar" (horse) had to be put down in our yard and was buried there too so Sierra saw her from a distance. Again her choice.

As for what you tell them? I am a christian and know that God promised us that "not a sparrow does fall that God doesn't know and care about" (paraphrase) My children know that heaven is God's home and that is were our beloved pets are. A.

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V.S.

answers from Syracuse on

I had to put down my kitty a couple of months ago that had been with me for 12 years. I explained to my 3 1/2 year old that the kitty was sick and in order for her to be better she needed to be in heaven. After I put her down my son had asked about her and still does to this day but also says that she is doing well in heaven.
Good luck to your family... it is a VERY tough thing to do!

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