View Full Version : Little kids and dead pets

Roguish Lawyer
07-01-2004, 13:51
I have two boys, ages 4 and 2. I think I'm going to have to put one of our cats to sleep pretty soon. The kids have dealt with dead goldfish, but this cat sleeps with them and they are close to it.

Anyone have suggestions for explaining the death of a pet to two little boys?

BTW -- Teaching them to shoot the cat is not an option, OK? ;)

07-01-2004, 14:19
Originally posted by Roguish Lawyer
BTW -- Teaching them to shoot the cat is not an option, OK? ;)

Tough thing to teach the little ones...

but on a lighter note- NICE preemptive strike, I bet there were a few ideas beeing squashed when they read that at the end. LOL

The Reaper
07-01-2004, 14:33

I have been pretty blunt with my kids about death.

As my father was dying, I explained to them that we all eventually die, and it was just his time to leave us to go on to Heaven.

He was terminal with cancer, and was suffering pretty badly, so his passing was seen as a relief.

They seems to take that better then I did, and had a chance to say goodbye to him, but they understand that we are all mortal, to include our pets.



07-01-2004, 15:18
When I was young my Grandfather, who I was very close to, passed away from cancer. I recently asked how my dad explained it to me, and he told me that he made it clear that Farfar was in great pain, and that when he died the pain would be gone. This explanation worked for me.

Hope that helps, this is a tough situation.


07-01-2004, 15:22
Death happens, little ones should be made aware of this.

Good luck, it won't be easy.


07-01-2004, 20:39
Just a few thoughts and suggestions, as a BTDT many times Mom:

AS others have suggested, after you have spoken with them as to what and why it is going to happen, I am sure you know that it helps children if there can be some closure. Just some things we have done - have them paint a small 'memory stone' that you can place in a corner of your backyard ; depending on your beliefs, at this age you can have them write ( or dictate) a letter to heaven so heaven knows all the things the kitty likes and does not like and thus be prepared for kitty's arrival, and then they know kitty will be well taken care of in heaven; if they would feel better,perhaps they would like to have a picture of themselves taken with kitty before kitty leaves and they can help pick out one of those photo frames with a cat theme to put on their dresser; etc.

One personal story :
We have always had cats (and rabbits, and hermit crabs,and fish, and...). When my daughter was about 10 yo - of course, well beyond what your boys will be going thru - she wanted to come in with me to help hold one of our cats when the Vet gave it the injection. The vet wouldn't let her. So, she wanted to make sure I stayed with kitty while the vet put her down. Then, she was waiting in the waiting room with a box and a blanket, placed deceased kitty in it, closed the lid, and she held the box while we drove to the farm of a relative. He let her pick the spot and then we all dug the grave, buried kitty in her 'coffin' and had a 'painted stone' marker. I had braced myself for the worst, as she had had this particular pet for many years. The whole process helped her more than I could have anticipated. The grieving process, and the traditions that go with it, are as important for kids as it is for adults...just tailored to their age and sensitivities that you know best for your boys.


Another "catwoman",

QRQ 30
07-01-2004, 21:21
Raycroft has a good system. We always had a simple memorial service. I had a 14 yearl old poodle just pass away. He was older than my grand children. We buried him in the back yard with his favorite stuffed bunny and a bag of sacrete to make sure no animals dig him up.

07-01-2004, 22:38
Timely topic. Roycorft has hit it 100% on target in that kids need closure of some sort. Hubby & I are still in the dog house as I write because we got rid of a hermit crab that died last week when the not-so-wee One was out on a date. Princess Diva, even at age 17, went ballistic on us (complete with tears through the recriminations) because she didn't get to do the burial or last rites.

Roycroft's experience is very similar to mine as a Mom whose nursed the Diva through the loss of many beloved pets over the years. I'll take it a step further though:

Kids aren't callous, they're resiliant. One of the best ways to salve their pain is a trip to the pound or the pet store to let them pick, pet and name their new companion as soon as reasonably possible after the death of a pet.

Radar Rider
07-01-2004, 22:46
Good information already posted! The key is to be honest. Letting the kids know that the passing of the animal sometimes happens, and that it is natural.

A "ceremony" always helps with the closure issue. Whether you actually bury your pet in the yard or simply establish a memorial is up to you. Either way, it is important to emphasize that you can still remember your pet, even when it's gone.

Sorry that you have to let your cat go. I grew up with cats myself, and have always liked having them as animal companions.

07-02-2004, 16:05
BTDT several times with my boys and their pets. All good info posted here, but primarily, honesty and allowing the children to be as much a part of the closure as they seem to be ready for. Usually, children will give you some indication by asking or insisting on doing certain things, but at ages 2 and 4, yours may not. This is a great teaching opportunity and I know you and Catwoman will handle it well.


07-02-2004, 19:09
When I was about 4, our cat Smokey became ill and it became apparent that he couldn't go on. My parents told me he was sick and us kids were careful with him and had some time to tell him we loved him and wanted him to get well. When it came time to put him down, Dad took him to the vet without great fanfare. Then Dad brought him back home and we gathered around him in the living room. Smokey was wrapped up in a towel and we all pet him and cried because we understood then that he was gone and couldn't come back. Then Dad and my brother wrapped him up and put him in a box, took him to the back yard and buried him under the peach tree - in a snow storm, no less. My sister and I watched from the window.

I can still see every image clearly in my mind's eye, but I wasn't overwhelmed with it. We were upset, but my parents paced it and kept moving with what had to be done. Our whole family misses that cat 'til yet, but it may be where I learned that the death of a pet is survivable. I happened to go back to Va Bch 15 years later and was happy to see the peach tree intact and know Smokey is still resting there.

I wish you the best with your kids, RL. Lots of love and a good plan will help them get thru this.

07-03-2004, 08:26
We have had to do this now for 6 pets of my sons (2 cats, 1 hamster, 2 birds, 1 dog) and it has never been easy. We ended up explaining what death was about and that in the end it is not something we can avoid. In the dogs case we ended up having to put him down as he was just to sick to take care of any more. That was probably the easiest one to explain to him as he was aware that shadow had been ill and that we were doing all we could.