How to deal with a death of an animal with kids

There’s been a lot of dying on N’s mind at the moment. From discussions about the war in Syria (anyone got any tips on how to talk to 5 year olds about it, feel free to let me know), to closer to home and animals on the farm.


The first was when I arrived home from my 40th weekend away, to see N upset and cuddling Granny at the farmhouse. Their dog had had to be put down that morning, so he was upset at that, having come home from school to find her gone.


She was pretty old at 15 years old, and had been hobbling in and out of the house for the past year. She’d had a great life, lots of strokes and love from all the people coming onto the farm, and from all 7 of the grandchildren. N did spend a lot of time with her when at the farm though – he liked to give her a dog biscuit every day, and would sit stroking her for ages.

A few days later he seems to be over the upset at her being gone.

‘Mummy, I’ll show you where she’s buried in the garden. It’s a nice place. I know and you don’t’.

Although he has told me off because he doesn’t understand dog years and why she would only be 15 years old. I’m not sure we’ve got that one clarified yet, but he’s been talking about her to me, to his dad and probably to people at school. Hopefully he understands that she was very old and got poorly, and it was better that she was put down to avoid any pain and hardship at the end of her life.

We’re now on to cows. Or more precisely his cow. It’s not boding well for his future in farming – I should be pleased as that might make him realise that there are other jobs outside of farming. I don’t think the OH is impressed though.

‘Mummy, I don’t want my cow to die’

‘Well, it will have to at some point, all animals die eventually’.

‘I don’t want it to die to take the beef out of it’

‘Well, if it’s a mummy cow it’ll be kept to have calves so it won’t be beef for a long time’.

‘But I don’t want my cow to die’.

‘Well, that’s your investment for the future so if you want a cow pet, you’ll have no money in future, no meat and you’ll have to pay out for food and vets bills with no return’. Thankfully N gave up asking me the questions and tried his dad instead.

At least there was one positive out of this week’s animal stories…’Mummy, I think Fern (Labrador) will have to make friends with Belle (spaniel) now’.

And he’s decided he’s buying Granny and Gramp a new dog for Christmas.

Explaining the death of an animal to children isn’t easy. How have your children dealt with the death of a pet?

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  1. Oh it’s so hard, I’m sorry to hear about the loss. I have been writing recently about my 13 year old cat. He was diagnosed with Heart failure, which we have just found out is due to hypertyroidsm. Prognosis is looking better but there’s still uncertainty until medication settles or whether we opt for an op . My little boy at 3.5 is far too young to understand he is poorly and wants to be left alone. I dread if we have to make the choice to put him down how we can explain it to him at his age!

    1. Sorry to hear about your cat. It’s easier I think when they’re older animals, although I do worry if kids then relate animals getting old and dying to their grandparents. Bu so far N hasn’t seemed to twig that people do only live finiste time.

  2. That is hard! Especially with the cow. It’s so hard for kids to understand that those animals exist to give them food 🙁
    Our kids were much older when they experienced the death of a pet – our guinea pig, Daisy, earlier this year. They were still devastated though. They put all their energies into making sure our other guinea pig, Eric, was OK and then of course getting a new guinea pig!

    1. The food and animal thing has never worried him before, and doesn’t with the rest of the cows, just his own. And he’s not bothered about his own sheep. Thankfully his cow and calf are female so will be kept or sold on to breed, so less of a worry at the moment for him.

      Pets are hard – ours are working dogs, so don’t live in the house generally, but N still loves the dogs a lot so it’s still sad. He got over it in a day or 2 though. Probably easier when they’re less involved and younger.

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