Should I tell the children when our pet passes away

Pet Passing Away – Should I Tell The Children?

As many of you, my childhood has been marked by its fair share of family pets passing away. As I got older, although I never got accustomed to the loss (as one never truly does), I was better equipped to deal with it, because I had an understanding of death overall. When you are 5 or 6 however, death is a tricky subject, often too abstract to understand. If you are a parent, you may have had the difficult task of telling your child that your pet had passed away; not an easy conversation to have.

There is obviously no right or wrong way to do this: every family is different, every child understands difficult matters in their own way, and more importantly, every parent will have their own view on how they chose to handle the situation. So instead of telling you what should or shouldn’t be done, we have asked some staff members to share with you their own experiences (good and bad) of being either a child, a parent or a vet in this situation. We would also like for you to share your own experiences, so that any parent out there finding themselves in a similar situation and at a loss as to how to handle it may find some help in reading this post.

D.V, Social Media Manager: “Our family’s German Shepherd, Gipsy, came to pass when I was 5 years old. All that was said to me was that she had ‘left’. Seeing my dad crying (he never had in front of me before) and a stranger coming in (the vet) coupled with the news that our dog, as I understood it, had left the house, was challenging to comprehend for my 5-year-old brain. It’s hard to tell if my parents made the right choice by not telling me (maybe I was indeed too young to understand) but it did teach me that whether you tell your children or not, they do pick up on emotions and feelings which can stick with them for a very long time afterwards.’

F.B, Customer Care Manager: “I had two rabbits when I was about 6 or 7. They both went missing one day and my parents told me that they had given them to a man, met the previous day, who owned a rabbit farm. They said they simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give our rabbits such a good life and encouraged me that this was the right choice. I totally agreed and went on believing this until I was 22…often laughing at others who believed similar lies from their own parents.”

E.F, Veterinarian: “I once had to go and euthanise a cat at someone’s house while the kids were at school. The owners requested that we do the injection without shaving the leg and then leave the cat on the porch in a sleeping position so the kids would think it had died naturally. Although I felt it was maybe slightly peculiar a request, I understood that it meant not having to explain why we had to put the cat to sleep, as this is often very hard to comprehend when you are a child and parents/vets end up being the ‘bad guys’.”

H.P, SQP/Product specialist: “I had a hamster named toffee, as he was a creamy toffee colour. He died of old age and my mum thought she would replace him while I was at school, and thought I wouldn’t notice. Unfortunately, Toffee’s replacement was a female, brown and white and, clearly, I noticed. Nevertheless, I loved her all the same.”

J.L, Digital Content Administrator: “I was 14 when my dog died (hit by a car), and my parents explained to me what happened, without any metaphor. It was the first “drama” of my life, but I think it helped me thinking about death. 6 months later my granddad passed away and I feel somehow that it did help me deal with the situation as a result.”

We hope you found those anecdotes useful or insightful, but we would like to hear from your own experience on the matter, so make sure to share them with us below!

Andrew and the Blog team

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  1. In 1995 our family pet a lovely Jack Russell lady, had liver cancer, as the end drew nearer, to ease her pain, all the family gathered the night before the Vet`s visit, to cuddle her, tell her how they loved her , our sons dug her grave, in her favorite spot in the garden, hubby built her coffin, and when the end came she was laid to rest with all her blankets and toys and lead. We all missed her even to this day , but the grandchildren knew from the last night she would not be there anymore, this helped them go to school , both infants & primary, They would sit in the garden and remember all the good times and now they have their own homes and dogs , cats hamsters etc, but know there is a time to say goodbye, no matter how painful.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this heartfelt story with us and our readers Linda. It sounds like Lady had the prefect last day with her family, and we agree with you, the pets we have lost (or the family members, as we like to call them) are never truly gone and always truly missed.

  2. when i was a child we had a dog who we all loved very much. He grew old and his back legs went.he couldnt get up from his bed but to me he was still there.One day when i came back from school he was not on his bed and his bed was gone,worried i asked my mother where he was, she told me he had been put to sleep and wasnt coming back.I spent days crying in my room, i hadnt been given the opportunity to cuddle him and say goodbye. Tears come to my eyes now when i think of the terrible pain of losing him.We were not given another pet which today some sixty years on i think was a big mistake. We
    had a lot of love to give which went to waste.As i grew up and had my own pets over the years i believe that whatever age its important to allow ourselves and children to see the whole caring through to the burial and the grief,as a family.

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