Child’s Grief Over the Loss of A Pet

This is Willie, he was fat, house cat. He was annoying, as he’d flop down in front of you as you walked so you’d trip, but you couldn’t find a better cat for children. All three of my kids have pulled him around by the tail, laid on him, as did countless other children that I babysat, and he never did anything other than love it. Love the attention.

child grieving loss of pet

Last night, suddenly, at almost nine years old he died. We are thinking a heart attack as he wasn’t in the best shape, despite dieting. (The picture above is very old, close to when we first got him.)

Now I need to let my children know, and this saddens me more than the loss of our cat. I had never experienced the death of an animal, my cat as a child lived to be 19 years old and only recently died. Because of that I did some searching to help me.

Child Grief Over the Loss of A Pet

If the pet’s death is more sudden, calmly explain what has happened. Be brief, and let your child’s questions guide how much information you provide.

Help kids understand that it’s natural to feel all of those emotions, that it’s OK to not want to talk about them at first, and that you’re there when they are ready to talk.

It’s okay, even helpful to cry about the loss and sadness that they, and you, feel.

Let other people in your child’s life know about the loss, a teacher for instance, friends, childcare provider. Your child may confide in them and they need to be on the same page as you in what happened to your pet.

If you notice that your child is acting out, if may be their way of working through their grief, or a way to let you know that they need to talk about it some more.

I can’t tell you what to say to your child, no one can because you know them better than anyone else.

Think about their age, their ability to understand and any experience they have had with previous deaths in your family. Younger than five years children often don’t think of death as being permanent.

Some other tips for helping your child through their grief that may help you as they have helped us:

Six Ways to Help Children Deal with Death

10 Things Grieving Children Want You to Know

Life’s Hardest Lesson: Losing a Pet

My Yellow Balloon – on Grief and Kids

Helping Children Cope with the Loss of a Family Pet

Questions my child (almost 5) asked:

Why did it happen?

Where was he now?

Where was he when it happened?

Would her heart stop beating?

Could see she him?