Talking to your children about the loss of a pet

Posted by iChild, March 31, 2021 10:25 AM

By Next Best Thing to Mummy

I believe that children can benefit from having a pet. A pet encourages children to care for another creature and can help teach them responsibility. Some pets can also be a great incentive to get children out and about! 


However, when a pet dies or has to be put down, the pain can be almost too much to bear.

My first experience of death was the loss of my pet rabbit, Bambi, when I was about five. I can remember having to stay home from school because I was so upset.


When we had to have our German shepherd dog, Max, put to sleep the whole family were devastated. We buried him in the garden and my 12 year old son would go outside in his pyjamas every evening to blow him a kiss before going to bed. This was heart breaking to witness, but it was what he needed to do to handle the situation.


I remember coming home from school as a teenager and asking mum where the cat was, as usually he was sat in front of the fire. We were told that he had been put to sleep. At first my sisters and I were angry with our parents because we thought they had needlessly had the cat killed, but later when it was explained that he was very unwell and in pain, we understood that it was the right thing to do.


When you have to talk to children about the loss of a pet pick an appropriate time; before going to bed or  to school are obviously not the right times. Talk calmly and honestly about what has happened and why. If a beloved pet had to be put down, explain that the vet did all he could and the animal would not have recovered.

When I lost my beloved Max I was working as a registered child minder. One boy asked where he was, when I told him that my dog had died and was in heaven, he asked “did a dinosaur kill him?” I presumed that because my dog was a large breed, the child thought that something even bigger must have killed him. Although I was very sad, it did make me smile.


When my granddaughter discovered her hamster was deceased, she told her mum that her grandad would look after it for her as he had also recently passed.

By Next Best Thing to Mummy

You can read her further posts on pets for children

She has written a moving post on helping children cope with the loss of a parent (either through family break-up or bereavement): absent parents 

If a child loses a grandparent, read her review: Grandpa is in Heaven


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It's just dreadful losing any pet especially a dog. I remember crying at work when we lost our first dog and people thinking I was stupid as in their words it was Only a Dog . The welcome you get when you've been out and come home and get such a welcome it's just dreaeful and is so missed. Years later you still miss your pet and the loss never really goes away.

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