Kids and Pets: When a Pet Dies

By Christina Elston

One of the sadder life lessons - for parents and kids alike - comes when a pet dies. David Jamieson, now a father of two, still remembers his childhood hamster dying of heat stroke during a family vacation.
Learn More about Kids and Pets

Bringing a New Pet into the Family
Making introductions
Beyond Cats and Dogs
Dealing with Death

"I was immediately mad at my dad for letting us take him. He was the grown-up, and I was thinking, 'You're not supposed to let me do stuff like that,'" Jamieson recalls.

"The death of a pet is another learning lesson," says psychologist Patricia Farrell, Ph.D. "It's a time to help the child understand that it's OK to cry and feel sad, but that concentrating on the happiness that the pet brought and the fun things they did can help."

Longtime dog trainer and mom Kathy Santo urges parents to give honest, age-appropriate answers to their children's questions about the death of a pet. Children's books on the subject can certainly help.

Farrell adds that pet "funerals" are fine for those who want them. "Adults attend memorials where they remember the good times and the good qualities of their relatives and friends and, perhaps, the child may want to do that, too." Also remember that the death of a much-beloved pet doesn't mean that a child or adult family member will emotionally recover with the immediate purchase of a new pet. Give yourselves time to grieve before launching into a search for a new animal addition to your family.

Related Reading:

  • Choosing a Dog: The Best Breeds for Families
  • How to Prevent Dog Bites
  • Quick Tips for Introducing Your Baby to the Family Pet

    Christina Elston is a health writer and senior editor for Dominion Parenting Media.