Every day when Elena came home from school, her cat Tomaso would run to greet her. Then Elena would pick up Tomaso and give the cat a hug. One day, though, Elena came home and her cat wasn't there. Her mom told her that Tomaso had died.

Millions of people across the world own pets. Maybe you have a pet, and maybe some of your friends do too. A pet can be a special friend, and you might think of him or her as a member of the family. A pet can play with you or just be with you when you don't feel like talking.

What Happens When a Pet Dies?

Unfortunately, pets can't stay with us forever. Like all living things, they will die at some point. Sometimes a pet dies from old age because its body has worn out. Sometimes a pet dies from an accident. Sometimes a pet gets too sick to live. Even when an animal doctor (a veterinarian, or vet) helps, there are some problems that just can't be fixed.

If your pet is in a lot of pain and will never get better, your parents and the vet may decide that the animal should be allowed to die. To make it go more quickly and without pain, the vet can give the pet some medicine that will help it die. The animal gets a special kind of injection (shot) that allows it to die peacefully. Deciding to help a pet die is a hard thing to do.

Why Am I Feeling Like This?

It's sad when a pet dies. For a while, though, you may not feel anything at all. That's OK. Or you may feel like crying and that's OK, too. You may feel lonely because your pet was your friend. You might even feel mad at the vet for not being able to make your pet better. Maybe you feel guilty when you remember one time when you were mean to your pet.

To some kids, it may seem like no one understands what they are feeling.

Talk It Out

Elena decided to talk with her parents about how she was feeling. She wanted to ask about some things she didn't understand, like where Tomaso went after death. Elena's parents answered her questions the best they could. Death is a mystery, and people have different beliefs about what happens after an animal or person dies.

Elena's parents told her about the pets they used to have when they were kids and how it was difficult to say goodbye. They told her that it's OK to be sad when animals die and it's not silly at all. At first, it can be hard to talk about the pet you're missing. You might want to forget about everything instead. But talking with someone you love is the best way to help you start to feel better.

What Comes Next?

When a pet dies, you and your family may want to find special ways to remember your pet. It can be a big help to share a sad thing with people you love. You might have a ceremony to bury your pet or just share memories of fun times you had together. You might want to tell stories or write a poem. You could do a project too, like making a scrapbook.

There are many ways you can hold on to your happy memories. And you can always love your pet. A new animal can't replace your old pet. But someday the time may be right for you and your family to adopt a new animal for everyone to love.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.