When a Pet Dies in a Catholic Family

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When a Pet Dies in a Catholic Family

When a Pet Dies in a Catholic Family

One of the hardest things to happen in a family with small children is the death of a family pet. As Catholics we know that we have immortal souls and that we can someday be with our Lord and our loved ones in heaven. But the family pet doesn’t have the same guarantees and it can be difficult to comfort our bereaved little ones with stories of doggy and kitty heaven when our Catholic faith doesn’t teach that.

I’ve had some experience with this as a child and as an adult.

When I was a little girl, my beloved cat, Shadow, was hit by a car. For many days my folks would not tell me what happened to her and so I continued to call and search for her. When they couldn’t stand it any more, my grandfather finally lead me to a little spot in the garden with a neat little grave and a pretty white cross that he had made especially for it. Then he just let me cry and cry on his shoulder for as long as I wanted – I knew that this was my cat’s grave, and I never questioned the symbolism of the white cross. I knew that when people died they got pretty grave sites with crosses or other religious symbols and so I didn’t question the Christian Cross on my cat’s grave, put there by my Christian grandfather! At that age I simply considered my cat to be a Christian too! The little grave with all the trimmings brought me some comfort.

A few years ago our beloved dog, Pepper, got sick and died. When we got the news from the vet we were all shocked and saddened. In the midst of all the sobs, 7-year-old son Noah asked, “Shouldn’t we pray the rosary or something mom?”

And so we did. Pepper lived in our Catholic household, so we prayed for our Catholic Dog. We started out with the joyful mysteries and I did some improvisation. The first mystery we prayed to thank God for the gift of having Pepper for a pet. The second mystery was a prayer that she didn’t suffer too much. The third mystery we asked for the intercession of Old Testament Noah and St. Francis, because they loved animals and know that they are God’s creatures too. The fourth mystery I reminded the children that they could ask for their little brother’s intercession too. My little daughter said that perhaps Pepper could be his dog now, to which I simply replied that we could have hope in God’s mercy and love. The fifth mystery we prayed for our veterinarian, and gave thanks for all of the good care he has given our pets over the years and for the comfort and care he gave Pepper.

I’ve had pets all of my life, and I am always amazed at how much losing them hurts. And yet with the companionship and joy they bring to the home, we never seem to go long without one. But not right away, and sometimes not for a while. It is good to feel the loss for at least a little bit, even if it does make our domestic church seem just a little emptier.

Copyright 2013 Elena LaVictoire

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About Author

Elena LaVictoire has been married to her high school sweet heart for over 30 years. They have six children (from 26 to 10) who were all homeschooled. When she's not homeschooling or playing with her 2-year-old granddaughter, she blogs regularly about her issues and events that affect her family at mydomesticchurch.com.

23 Comments

  1. Thank you! Losing a pet is always surprisingly tough. I do love your Catholic Spin.

    • I believe that all animals go directly to heaven because there is no disorder ,therefore incapable of sin. I am a catholic and this is what I strongly believe.

  2. I’m a bit confused by this. At many Catholic parishes, there is the Blessing of the Animal (family pets) for the Feast of St. Francis. I have always heard from those priests that animals are included in God’s plan for salvation – thus the reason for the animal in the Garden of Eden, Noah’s arc, etc. There are many stories involving animals – so why wouldn’t they be allowed? Maybe there isn’t a species-specific heaven, but why would God make all these amazing creatures if they weren’t part of the grand plan? I do know that Protestants (maybe not all) believe that animals have no place in heaven. I guess they will have a great surprise when they arrive at those gates.

    Quote: “Catholic teaching and other sources showing that God desires the whole family of creation—both humans and animals—to be saved and to live happily with God in the life to come. ”

    Source: http://www.americancatholic.org/e-news/friarjack/Newlayout.aspx?id=1

      • It amazes me how Americans refer to the Catechism as if that’s the only authority and end all on all matters. Reminds me so much of hardline sola scriptura Protestants. Doesn’t Catholicism teach us to follow traditions too? I will look to the lives of saints and also the Bible.

    • I was raised a Protestant and do believe there is a place in Heaven for pets, as do many Protestants. I am certainly looking forward to having a great reunion with my beloved fur babies.

  3. Taylor Gilfillan on

    I think there is a special place in heaven for all the souls we loved on earth. When you look at the noble role that dogs especially play in this world, from sniffer dogs that keep us safe, to guide dogs who help the disabled, to our sweet little terrier Mitzi who is so tolerant and loving to our crazy boys, you know what God gave us wonderful companions in them. So I don’t worry, and trust in the love of God. Just as he will take care of us in the end, I know he will take care of our furry loved ones. Though when our puppy got hit by a car, we told our oldest son that Odie went to heaven with his great granddad he quickly replied ‘Bid Dad stole my dog! I want him back!’ and he as told several people since.

  4. when our cat was about to die, our youngest asked if the priest could come pray for her. we lived across the street from the rectory, so i went and asked. one of them came over in his pjs and prayed for the cat and us. it was very touching.

  5. My 85 year old mom and I (both Catholics whose faith is our lifeline) are trying to prepare for the eventual passing of her beloved, incredibly feeble but still spunky otherwise healthy and very loving sixteen year old bichon Nicky. She/we had many dogs over the years but as a widow since 42 the bond with little Nicky is stronger than with any previous dog. While I absolutely do believe animals go to heaven because love is eternal (read Heaven Is for Real) it doesn’t make the loss much easier. I LOVE the idea of praying the rosary… Mom does everyday already and I try to do it in the car to and from work.We will definitely pray it together for Nicky …all the intentions on each of your mysteries are exactly the same as our experience. Thank you so much.

  6. Igancio Ruiz on

    When we are in heaven we are in a comfort zone. I believe that our pets will join us in heaven if we so desire. We can get almost anything we want except those who weren’t able to enter because of grave sin, but can meet once again with our beloved ones. With pets included….

  7. Dennis Hajek on

    Well looks like no clear cut answer as to when dogs / pets die and will we meet again.
    I will pray I will meet Max again in heaven
    when its my time. Max died 2 days ago at 12 yrs. old ,after an emergency room doctor said
    she could not save my Best Friend Max my dog I had since 6 weeks old. I will live the rest of my life believing God will reunite us .
    RIP MAXIMOS. You were such a Special companion that brought me so many good times and Love.

  8. Just hour ago I had to put my 15 year old best friend Ebony. It was so fast. Something was VERY BAD WRONG FAST. Holding and petting him in box..tomorrow I will take him back to vet for cremation. I will definitely pray rosary every day. I needed him much more than he needed me. In heaven I can’t imagine Jesus not allowing his children to have their beloved pets. He created them for us. GOD BLESS MY EBONY and all pets.

  9. I actually pray with my two birds. They were blessed by a priest two years ago. I am a single lay catholic so my two feathered friends are my family. They are 13 years old. We do the morning prayer from the liturgy of the hours together and sometimes I will do the Rosary with them. This is probably really weird to the average catholic but I do recall that Our Lord said to preach the gospel to all creation. I believe that the animals that come to know the love and care of humans definitely have a shot at heaven. I pray that my beloved non human brethren go to heaven not for my sake but for their sake so that may live in eternal piece with their greatest love of all – Our Lord Himsrlf.

  10. God bless our loyal pet dog of 17 years Pepper who left us today to join Gods other creatures in heaven. He was a cross pomeranian and shitzu.

  11. God Bless my beautiful long hair black and white kitty, Princeton who died yesterday in our home on his favorite recliner…dang renal failure!! Princeton was an incredible friend and companion of 16 years, he was so much a part of our lives. My wife and I are grieving so but take comfort in knowing he is pain free today…at some point we’ll journey to the local shelter and “rescue” another kitty but in reality he/she will be helping us…just not yet!

  12. Renee Peters on

    Our cat of 16 1/2 years died a week ago, and I miss her soo much. I have 3 boys and no girls, so strange as it may to others I called our cat Kit ‘my girl’. I am Catholic but talked to Kit as if she was a person. In time I would like to get a kitten from the animal shelter, but the only problem with that is that my husband wants to get a puppy at the same time. I am mainly a cat person and am not looking forward to having a puppy running around our trailer. I am afraid I am going to be the one – not my husband who wants the dog – be taking care of the dog; like I take care of mostly everything now because of my husband’s chronic pain. I think having another kitten/cat in our house will help me and my boys feel better over loosing our cat; especially my son who was the same age as our cat (born the same year and we acquired Kit the same year). When I was growing up; my family had more dogs than cats over the years, but I still became a cat person. I don’t know how I am going to deal with both a kitten and a rambunctious puppy. My husband is a stubborn person and will not change his mind about getting a puppy when we are ready to love another pet.

  13. Diane DiSandro on

    Our 11 1/2 yr. old Maltese died 4 days ago after a very bad/wrong fast hit him also. Our Benny had a little heart of love and up until right before he left us he was still giving kisses that night. My heart is aching and after Mass today, my husband asked our pastor if we could have Benny’s ashes blessed.
    His immediate response was that he could do a prayer service for our little guy that brought us so much joy, laughter, and contentment in our lives.
    I have to live with the hope that our all loving God who entrusted us to take care of his beautiful creature will reunite us once again with him where we will all be in eternal peace.

  14. I just lost my 11 year old kitty. Puddin, to cancer Jan. 2. I had kind of moved away from the church over the past couple of years, but these posts and Catholic prayers are giving me peace. Maybe God is using this event to draw my family closer to the church. We live close to a Catholic church, too. I wonder if the pastor would have prayed for Puddin in her final hours?

  15. I had to put my 8 month old kitten down on Tuesday. He was a little, black haired, skinny kitten. I adopted him when he was about a month, month and half, old. He was the tiniest little boy in the shelter and still probably needed his mom, he was so skinny and out of it. He snuggled with me everyday, always on my lap when I did school. I’d even be praying by my bed and he’d be watching me. He quickly developed FIP, a fatal disease in cats and had neurological ataxic walking. He stopped wanting to eat cat food, but still ate pumpkin puree and applesauce (his favorites). He could barely get into his litter box, and had a to sit in the litter because he couldn’t stand. On his last day he fell over by his water dish, and after every couple of steps he’d either fall on his butt, his back legs would splay out, or he’d slide and fall on his side. His eyes still looked so clear and he still, if he wasn’t walking, looked healthy to me, and on our way to the vet he was in my arms, in a blanket, with sunlight streaming through his golden eyes, watching the world go by with such wonder on his face. At eight months old, however, I was still able to pick him up easily by the scruff of his neck. When he was four months old, he was 4.86 lbs, and four months later, at his last appointment he was 4.96 lbs. He’d only gained .10 in four months. He was the sweetest, most loving cat. It hurts because there was nothing I could do to help him. I prayed an urgent novena and prayed to my confirmation Saint, St. Francis of Assisi and put Holy Water on his head. I’m even going into veterinary medicine as a career. It’s just horrible because I’m wracked by euthanasia guilt and regret, worried that I ended it for him too soon, worried that I should have gotten more blood work done (even though I trust my vet), worried because I just looked over his vet work-up and they didn’t give me one of his palliative medicines (would he have lived longer if I’d checked?). This morning I can’t remember what I was dreaming about but I woke up in a panic and started crying over him. Then, because I’m Catholic, I’m scared. I’ve always believed animals go to heaven, especially when I was little. Dealing with the loss of an animal was about sadness, not fear. But now, as an adult, when I do research, everyone says animals don’t have souls etc. I can’t believe that and I wasn’t suppose to have to deal with it seven months after adopting him. I watch them and they’re so loving, so alive, and so beautiful. I can’t believe that a loving God, my Father, our Abba, would create creatures that he’d destroy. I can’t believe that a loving God would even create anything that merely became nothingness upon death. It’s just hard because I feel like I don’t receive any comfort anymore when dealing with loss, from my Catholic faith. I just keep seeing his tiny shoulders as his head slumped forward and his dead, pupily, black eyes, and I’m scared that I chose to send him into nothingness. And I remember taking such joy in watching my tiny, anorexic, weak kitten, begin to thrive and get a little belly full of food and gain energy, get to run and jump and play with his big brother cat and our German shepherd. And I was like, one day he’ll be able to jump high, and look like a little black panther, and be a big black cat smothering me by sleeping on my stomach still. We should have had 10, 15, even 20 years together. He should have outlived all of my animals except maybe my chinchilla. He should have outlived the hamster. He should have been there when I graduated college, and veterinary school, when I get married, my children should’ve been able to know him. FIP is a horrible disease that I don’t wish on anyone, a disease that kills mostly kittens and young cats. I just keep looking out at our yard where he’s buried, and thinking of our great big universe, and I’m scared that he doesn’t exist anymore. When my cat died when I was ten, and he was thirteen I had a dream he was sleeping on the back of the couch watching me and I always believed his spirit was in heaven and all my animals were waiting for me (I even thought about it, crying, but hopeful, just a few days before my kitten got sick) but Catholic resources just strike more fear in my heart that I sent my baby into nothingness. They generally use St. Thomas Aquinas for their logic, but he was wrong about many other theological things, and nothing on this subject has been actually revealed to us because it’s not necessary for our salvation. I just can’t believe that there’d be a patron Saint for Animals, but that animals have no soul. Because why would God create something loving, alive, with full knowledge that we’d become attached to them, that would become nothing upon death? I can’t believe that. Why would he create creatures that don’t keep the environment balanced, or aren’t used for food, some that suffer in third world countries, and in cities, that go through life miserable, dying miserable deaths, without love, just to die and become nothing. I gave my baby boy a good life with lots of love. I try to think that if my love is only a drop in the ocean compared to the love God feels, and if I’m feeling love for this animal, then how much more love must God feel for it? If I feel this much grief for his suffering, for his death, then what must God feel? If God is Love, Life, and Light itself, and if I’m only capable of feeling love if God feels love, then musn’t he love animals too. If our love is only a grain of sand in the universe compared to God’s love, then what does he feel for our animals that we love. I’m trying to hold onto that. Sorry for the novel, it’s just still so fresh because it was last Tuesday. God bless everyone.

    • I’m sorry you are going through this. I’m grieving as well. I was born and raised Catholic as well as being Italian. In addition to Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Francis of Paola resurrected his pets and referred to them by their last names after death. Saint Rocco was even saved by a dog… I’m so heartbroken so many Catholics have such awful beliefs about animals. I’ve even considered leaving my faith. I know that’s terrible to say, but it doesn’t seem logical.

      • Don’t forget St. Martin de Porres! He had an animal hospital! He also resurrected a dog.

  16. Honestly, you should read more about Saint Francis of Paola. Also why did Saint Francis of Assisi preach to the birds and tell them to beware of sin? Seriously, the coldness of this article and how many Catholics interpret their faith is sad. They even reference Aquinas as if he is an authority on all things when he was wrong about the immaculate conception. I have great respect for certain theologians, but let’s face it some of these men came from different times where animals were simply seen as livestock. Btw, so many people report seeing their pets in near death experiences and Jesus is riding a white horse according to the Bible. Pope Paul VI also told a young boy he would see his dog in paradise.

  17. Frank Cicero on

    Every living creature created by God has a soul but the human soul is different because we were born with sin no thanks to Adam and eve. Animals are incapable of sin because they do not know what sin is therefore they need not worry about purgatory and Hell . Someone once said to Saint Padre Pio that he did not believe in hell and he responded by saying you will when you get there. Vatican one reading material is filled with truth and I do trust many of the Vat 2 teachings and I suggest searching for the truth and pray for guidance especially in these times of despair and sin within the Catholic church. NO BAD Priest should prevent you from receiving the body and soul of Jesus Christ which is found in the Eucharist.