What to Say to Someone Who Lost a Pet

family mother and child look out window on rainy autumn


Help Him Deal With the Loss of His Pet

Those hairy, furry, fluffy, feathered and even scaly friends become members of the family. Of course, any child will be sad and grieving upon the death of a favorite pet. But as a parent or trusted adult, how do you comfort him in his time of grief?

Be Supportive About the Loss of Her Pet

Especially for a child experiencing her first brush with death, pet loss can be extremely difficult. The words you say are important, but so are your actions. Let the child know that you are available to talk or listen. Offer extra hugs and tenderness. Be supportive and attentive.

Be Honest About What Happened

Do not make up stories to lessen the blow. The dog didn’t go to live on a farm, and the cat didn’t just run away. Lies can create confusion, guilt and false hope. Provide as much information as you feel appropriate for the age of the child, without details that could be traumatic. Although young children do not fully understand the permanence of death, by the time a child is between and 6 and 8 years old, she usually understands that death is forever. Make sure she knows her pet is gone, and also that there was nothing she did to cause it.

Say It’s Okay to Cry When A Pet Dies

We cry when we’re sad. Let him know it’s okay. Encourage him to express his feelings, and share your own. Give him an example of how you were sad when you lost a pet. You may want to have a pet funeral so he can say goodbye one last time. Follow his lead here. Some children need this kind of closure, but it’s not right for everyone.

Talk About the Pet

As sad as she is, talking about happy memories of her pet may make her feel better. Share a funny story that may make her smile, and encourage her to do the same. You can start with, “Do you remember the time when…” and continue by asking her about a favorite memory. She may even feel better if she draws a picture or writes a story about the pet.

Answer Questions About Pets and Dying

After about 9 years old, children tend to know that death is permanent and that it can touch anyone—even them and their family. Losing a pet may open a barrage of questions and “what if” thoughts. Answer them all, but don’t provide more information than your child asks for. If you believe in heaven, tell her that's where the pet is. Be as gentle as you can, all the while reassuring her that death is infrequent and usually only happens after people and animals have lived long and full lives.