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How to cope with a pet’s death 

For many of us, our pets are a huge part of our family. So, it’s natural to experience grief when losing a cat, dog or any other pet. The death of a pet is an upsetting time, and saying goodbye can feel like the hardest thing to do.

If you find yourself in this situation, rest assured that there is support and advice out there to help with your bereavement.

Coping with the loss of a pet

A pet death is often compared to losing a family member. They become our companion and best friend, having brought countless hours of joy to our lives. Not only do we love spending time with our pets, but a dog or cat brings a sense of structure to your day – with their feeding and walking routines. This means that we feel that loss even more greatly when they pass away.

Feeling emotions of loss, sadness and grief is very normal when you mourn the passing of a cherished pet. It can be very difficult to come to terms with – especially if the pet death is unexpected. 

It can help to speak to your friends or family about the loss of your pet. Voicing your feelings may help you to come to terms with the loss and help comfort others including children in the family.

Preparing for the loss of a pet

In some cases, you may have time to prepare for the death of the pet. If your pet is very old, unwell or has been in an accident, you may need to make a difficult decision on if it’s possible to maintain their quality of life.

Putting a pet to sleep is one of the hardest decisions you may have to face while owning a pet. There’s often not a clear answer on when it’s the right time to say goodbye to your pet. Your vet should talk you through your options to make their passing as peaceful and as painless as possible.

It’s a good idea to be realistic with their health condition and quality of life while you’re making this decision. It can help to talk it through with younger family members too to prepare them for when your pet is no longer with you.

Coming to terms with a pet’s death 

It’s never easy to come to terms with losing a cat, dog or any other pet. It may take some time and there isn’t a set period you should feel sad for – it can take weeks, months or years to process a loss – and this is normal. But when you’re ready, it may help you and your family grieve by having a memorial for them.

To help with a cat or dog bereavement, you may decide to spread their ashes in your garden or your pet’s favourite place, such as the park or a nearby walk you used to take together. You may want to bury them, their collar or their favourite toy to help come to terms with their passing. Or take the family to places where you liked spending time with them to share your favourite memories.

The financial loss of losing a pet

If your pet dies from a terminal illness or accident, it can be a huge financial burden to bear on top of the loss if you don’t have insurance.

Most insurers won’t cover pets for pre-existing health conditions, so it may be a good financial decision to insure your pet while they’re still young and in their prime. This means you’ll be covered if they do develop health conditions as they age, as well as for any unexpected injuries or accidents.

Depending on your policy and subject to conditions, Sainsbury’s Bank Pet Insurance may cover you up to £2,000 for a pet death as a result of an accident or illness.

Getting another animal after a pet death

It’s hard to know when the right time is to get another pet, and there is no right or wrong answer. Make sure that you allow yourself as much time as you need to grieve, and do not rush the process.

It can help to talk to other family members during this time to make sure that everyone is ready to introduce another furry friend into their lives.

If you’re not sure if you're ready, you may decide to spend some time around other friends pets or volunteering at a local animal rescue. This may help to shed some light on how you would feel being around a pet again.

Some pet owners choose to get a second pet while the first is still with them. This way the older animal has a companion in their later years, and the family still has a four-legged companion after the elder one passes. This can help maintain a routine and prevent children from feeling the loss too keenly. Many insurers also offer multi-pet insurance so the cost of insuring a second furry friend is more manageable.

Support if you need it

If you’re struggling to come to terms with a pet death, you don’t need to suffer alone. There are multiple places to turn to for supportive networks that may be able to help you through this distressing time. 

You may decide to reach out to:

Frequently asked questions 

Why is losing a pet so painful?

Losing a pet is so difficult as they often become such a big part of family life. Having a pet forms a routine, from feeding and grooming to walking and playing with them. This means that not only do you miss their presence when they are no longer around, but your time feels emptier without them there.

What to do when your pet dies?

It’s hard to know what to do when your pet dies, especially if it comes as a result of an unexpected illness or accident. If your pet dies at home, you may want to contact your vet to help with the next steps. Speak to your family and friends for support or seek further help from pet bereavement specialists.

How do I cope with losing a pet suddenly?

You may find it helpful to speak to your family, friends, or a pet bereavement support service to help navigate this painful time. It’s important not to rush the grieving process.

Is the grief of losing a pet real?

Yes, the grief of a pet is valid and the same as experiencing any loss. There is no ‘right’ amount of time to grieve for, and you should allow yourself to feel sad.