We recently had to euthanize our 15 year old cat Riley. He was a rescue cat from Boston’s Animal Care and Control Shelter in Roslindale and was (IMO) one of the best cats on the planet. We got him right after we were married so he was with us through all the ups and downs of having three children over the last decade! He was sweet and loyal and soft and cuddly and we will all miss him so much!
Saying goodbye to an animal is never easy but it’s one of those inevitable things you have to do when you’re a pet owner. It can be particularly hard when you have small children in the house who are very attached to your animal. I wanted to share 5 ways you can help your kids deal with pet loss.
- Take a photo. This might seem super obvious, (especially coming from a photographer!) but while I was busy worrying about our cat and watching his every move, it honestly did not occur to me to take a picture of him! My daughter asked me to take her picture with Riley and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it myself. I had this one printed for her room. She loved him so much.
- Create a memory box. We decided create a memory box filled with items that were special to Riley. Favorite toys, pictures, notes and his cat dish. You could keep this box on a shelf and take it out to reminisce or use this for a memorial service.
- Have a memorial service. We buried our memory box and had a little memorial service for Riley in the backyard. Even though it was very informal and brief I think it was helpful for the kids to have some closure on his life. We painted rocks to place in the middle of a little flower garden we planted just for him.
- Talk/Read about it. There are lots of books on the topic of pet death, but one that I found particularly sweet is Cat Heaven ( There is one for dogs, too!) It is playful and sweet and has a comforting storyline about all the wonderful things that happen for cats (and dogs) in heaven.
- Donate to a shelter. Even though we aren’t ready to jump into pet ownership again right now, there are so many animals that need help at our local shelters. We are donating all of Riley’s beds, food and toys to our local animal hospital so that other pets can enjoy them, too.
I hope these ideas were helpful if you and your children have to suffer the loss of a family animal!
Cara Soulia is a Boston family photographer, wife, mom to three children and tried & true cat lover.
If you would like to have a family session with Cara (pets are always welcome), please get in touch to find out more information!