Recently, my family just lost our cat. He was there when we left to go to the store and when we returned, he never came home. Days later, we found him in the neighbor’s backyard, he had been attacked by their two pit bull dogs. My kids and husband were heartbroken. We had had this cat for years. He was old and grumpy and would snap at everyone that got in his way, but when it was bedtime, Mr. Cat was the sweetest and most snuggly cat in all the world. He would curl up next to you in the bed and purr and purr until you both fell asleep. How was I going to tell my kids that their cat was no more? Helping my children deal with their pet loss was going to be an incredible feat considering my husband couldn’t keep it together long enough to even look at his cat’s things. Here are some things I recently learned about helping children deal with pet loss.
Have a Funeral
Even if there is no body to bury, it is important for your children to see that death is final. Have a funeral for your pet so that there will be no delusions that their pet will be coming back. This was hard for my husband even after seeing the grave marker that the kids made for Mr. Cat. For a long while, each cat noise would send him running to the backdoor in search of him.
My husband taught the kids that it is more than okay to show your emotions when you lose someone that you love. By sharing your emotions over your loss, the grieving process is made easier and the good times can be remembered for what they were. Happy memories are what you want to remember of your pet, and although Mr. Cat was an old, cantankerous cuss of a cat, there were plenty good and funny memories of him.
Get a Pet Urn
We allowed the children to pick out a photo pet urn that we could keep on the mantel of all our favorite Mr. Cat photos. We had the box engraved to say everything the kids wanted about their beloved animal and filled it with their favorite photos. Because we didn’t have a body to cremate, we filled the urn with Mr. Cat items such as his collar, favorite mouse toy and an empty package of his kitty treats. This photo urn was the perfect way to help the kids and my husband be reminded of him but also to move on from the traumatic experience of their pet loss.
It’s okay to get a replacement pet, just don’t make it too soon. The kids were at a loss without Mr. Cat so we went to the pet shelter to pick them out a new cat. They were resentful of him and the cat had to be rehomed because they didn’t like him and weren’t taking care of him the way that they did Mr. Cat. Make sure that you give the kids plenty of time to get over the loss of their first pet before getting them another. They are not like goldfish that you can flush and replace before they come home and never notice. Talk about getting another pet before you do and make sure that you allow the kids to be apart of the process of picking a new pet out.