Helping Your Kids Through The Death Of A Pet

The beautiful feline above is named Daniel Tiger. He's been with me for ten years-through breakups, moves, job losses, you name it. Since I've only been married eight years, I guess you could say that he's the longest relationship I've ever had! He's twelve years old, but you'd never know it. That is, up until three weeks ago.

Out of nowhere, he started having problems with his balance. He stopped eating, was unable to walk and wasn't always aware of his surroundings. The vet thought it could be a rare brain infection, so we started treating him for that. Ten days later, he was still in a lot of pain and was only getting worse. As much as we hated to do it, we took him back to the vet to be euthanized. He's buried at my in-laws' house in the country, along with some of their old cats.

That was a couple of months ago, and I still miss him. Hopefully your pets won't have to be put down because of pain but, unfortunately, the death of a pet is something every family has to deal with. It can be particularly tough on children, who may have known the pet their entire lives. It's never going to be easy, but here are some suggestions on how you can make things as smooth as possible.

-Keep mementos. Keep your pet's collars, tags, etc in one place so they won't get lost. This may sound strange, but we kept a tuft of Daniel's fur. My husband joked about doing that so he can clone a new one, but it's wrapped in some tissue in a keepsake glass upstairs. If you can, 'retire' your pet's favorite toy or blanket. If possible, make use of them. For instance, our vet made an imprint of Daniel Tiger's paw on a piece of clay. Depending on the size, you can use it as a Christmas ornament.

-If your kids want to have a funeral for the pet, go ahead. Have them share memories and talk about what the pet meant to them. If you want, mark a grave or sprinkle ashes in your pet's favorite spot in the yard. It might feel strange to go to all that effort, but activities like this are a good way for your children to gain closure.

-You may not want to get another pet right away, but leave the option open. If they ask or you decide you want to get a new one, have your kids pick him out. You will, of course, have 'veto power', but this will help ensure that the new pet will fit in well with your family.

For many of us, pets are members of the family. Hopefully these tips will help you and your kids adjust when these family members eventually pass away.

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