Pets Don’t Live Forever

by Patrice on April 12, 2011 · 5 comments

in Pets

A family pet can mean companionship and love. A home with both children and pets can be a rewarding experience for the single mom as she sees the bonds grow between her child and the animal. The child learns responsibility while caring for the well chosen pet, and it seems to be a winning proposition for all.

We don’t tend to enter relationships thinking about death, but in some cases discussing the eventuality just makes sense. Some types of pets have longer life spans than others. While many dogs and cats may be around for over a decade, pets like goldfish and hamsters have a shorter life expectancy. If the child does not understand and accept death, the loss of a beloved pet may be devastating and confusing.

During the process of choosing the ideal pet to bring into the home, the life expectancy of the potential additions should be discussed at some point. It should be done in a matter of fact manner. The short life expectancy of a goldfish doesn’t mean that it is not the best fit with your family. There is no guarantee on the duration of the life of any living thing, after all.

If and when a pet dies, break the news to your family gently, as you would break any other bad news. Be understanding of the child’s grief, and try to answer questions in a way the child understands. Don’t minimize the child’s sense of loss by playing down the importance of the loss of the life. The pet wasn’t “just a hamster”; it was an important part of the home. Bonds are made with pets, no matter if the pet lives in a cage, a bowl of water, or has the run of the house.

Don’t lie to the child. Sooner or later, he will come to realize that his beloved dog or cat didn’t move to the farm. Telling the child that the pet ran away is not a good option, either, as the child may think that it means that the pet was unhappy living in your home. The child may also hold onto the hope that the pet will somehow find his way back home.

If your child has never experienced death of a loved one before, he may become frightened that others that he loves will be taken away from him. Let him voice his fears and respond to his questions with patience. Let the child share his own feelings of grief so that he knows that what he is feeling is normal.

If there are other pets in the home, keep in mind that animals, too, can recognize a loss. Watch out for any changes in behavior from them as well.


About Patrice

Patrice Campbell is a freelance writer working from the Denver area. Campbell started her writing career in the 1980’s, working for several Wisconsin local papers as a news, human interest and features writer, as well as a photographer.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Elena April 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm

It is funny how every child is different my little neices goldfish died and she was very sad for a while. And then my nephews betta died and he wasn’t sad in the least bit.


Savannah April 21, 2011 at 8:42 am

It can vary greatly depending on the child … you just have to what’s right for the particular kid!


Heide April 27, 2011 at 4:47 am

My daughter just lost her puppy. She named it snowy since its white and it was very cute dog. One day it got killed by an accident. Of course as expected she become very sad but after few weeks she recovered with the help of the entire family. It is very fun thing to see your child express her concern to animals because she learned to be responsible. For all mothers out there, one most important thing we should not forget when sad things like this strike our children…just always be there with them, make them feel that there is someone they can lean on even if it means sitting with them while they weep and of course teaching them that everything don’t last that is why we should pay love and attention to every single thing and person in our life.


Savannah April 28, 2011 at 8:57 am

Great lesson!


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