Looking for some advice from parents who have had to talk to their children about their pet death.

Our cat Miss Peaches has cancer and is nearing the end of her life. I'm looking for ways to start talking to my almost 3 year old about what's going to happen. He knows she's old and we've talked about her being sick, so at least we're there already. He's very gentle with her and loves her very much. Now she probably only has about 2 months left and we're planning on putting her to sleep at home before she suffers too much. How do we introduce that and let him say goodbye? How do I stay strong for him and not cry?

  • Destinee
    Mar 12

    I haven’t experienced this with my child yet but I figured I could give you some stuff to think about anyway. I don’t think you necessarily need to stay strong and not cry. I think he probably needs to know that it’s ok to be sad and cry. Death is sad, and there’s really no getting around that. I also think it’s really important to be as truthful as possible with kids about death, obviously being age appropriate. That her body was old and sick, and it didn’t work anymore. And making it clear that she won’t be coming back. I k ow that part can be confusing for kids. Maybe you could do something to remember her by? Like a ink print or salt dough mold of her paw? I’m sorry that your family is losing a furry member. Good luck

  • Andrea
    Mar 12

    I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. Losing a pet is so incredibly difficult. Some things I would say - Be truthful, but choose your words wisely. Don’t say that kitty had to “go to sleep” or else you risk your child being scared of going to sleep. It’s probably a good idea to clarify “sick” so that he doesn’t think that if he gets sick or you get sick, that you will die. Also, definitely ok to cry. Cry together. You are losing a member of your family. It’s sad and it’s ok to show that. Let him experience it in his way. It will probably take some time for him to process it. He may ask about kitty months after the fact, asking something like “why did kitty die”. I think it’s just a part of them growing up and comprehending things more.

  • Joanna
    Mar 12

    There's a Daniel Tiger episode where the pet dies. Very age appropriate.

  • Shane
    Mar 13

    So, I am a vet tech. I have helped many people talk to their kids about pet loss. I find it’s all about your belief. Depends on if you want them to know about heaven - we would say “fluffy had an amazing life and knew how much you loved her. Now she’s going to go up to heaven and watch down over us. Her body will be here but the rest of her goes to heaven. She won’t be coming home with us but when we go to heaven much later in our lives we will see her again” Crying is ok. It’s ok to be sad - it may actually be better bc then they feel comfortable releasing their feelings

  • Elle
    Mar 13

    I am so sorry for your loss. We are in this same exact situation, monitoring our beloved kitty for signs of discomfort as she nears the end of her life due to cancer.

  • Moniker
    Mar 14

    Crying is okay. There’s a book called “Saying Goodbye to Lulu” that I enjoyed reading to my child, years before any impending death of our furry family members was on the horizon. It still made me cry, then, but I think it helped prepare my child for the idea of death, when it eventually came to several of our four-legged friends. Saying goodbye is hard. But the rituals we develop to understand a life lived and passed beyond help provide important closure and grounding for our own lives. Share a little funeral service where each of you remember your little friend. Create a statue or something artistic to place in the home to remember. Etc. Saying goodbye is hard, but a necessity for this life—think if it as a teachable moment. And, again, crying is A-Ok. ❤️

  • Anne
    Mar 14

    I don’t have much to add to the very good advice in here but I just want to say I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is so hard. Wishing your family love and peace ❤️

  • Stacey
    Mar 14

    I’m so sorry that you’re going through this right now. We went through this with our cat last year (kidney failure) and our (then) 2 year old. We had spent months giving him medicine and fluids until he reached his end so she knew he was very sick and he had to go to the vet to get frequent check ups. When we finally had to say good bye we told her that he had been very sick for a long time and medicine couldn’t help him anymore. His body stopped working and he died. I did cry in front of her and explained that we would miss him very much and that was ok and it was ok to be sad and that she could talk about him with us whenever she wanted. We also made sure to let her day care know what was going on and how we were talking about it with her so that if she brought it up with them they could use the same language so as not to confuse her. She wouldn’t really talk too much about it until a couple of months later and then she started parroting back a lot of what we had told her. It took her a while to process and we still hear her mention him every once in a while. Kids process these things in their own time and way. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  • Elizabeth
    Wednesday

    First of all, I am so sorry. Second, if you are religious you could tell your child(ren) that the cat went to Jesus/Heaven. You could also distract them with a fish or hamster or other small pet.

  • Elle
    Wednesday

    Ditto Stacey's advice. 1000%. It's best to use clear and honest and factual explanations of what happened. It's best to let them know both verbally and by displaying the range of emotions that they might feel, that is it OK and normal to feel feelings of sadness, loss, and grief. There are some things people do to that are well-meaning but ultimately detrimental... Making up stories, using metaphors, or telling them that this bad/sad thing is actually not so bad or really a good thing, etc. All of this negates--rather than supports and normalizes--feelings. It's also really confusing to a child and is really unfair to him/her. Suggest avoiding these sorts of things, no matter how well-intentioned. Let them understand that this is something that happens, answer all of their questions openly and honestly, and give permission for them to feel sad, angry, confused about the loss, to grieve... Even if comes weeks or months later. It may take your child a while to react. The most important is to let him/her see you feeling sad. They learn by modeling our behavior. It's sooo important to teach them early to not feel shame or the need to repress sadness.