Explaining the death of our beloved cat to the children - any advice?

(14 Posts)
Needmorechocolate Thu 06-Jun-13 13:09:51

I am a bit of an emotional mess as I am writing this and am hoping for some advice please.

Our beautiful cat was hit by a car early this morning and sadly died. She really was a lovely cat and my two boys (4 and 2) absolutely adored her - she was the most friendly cat I've ever had and was so good with the children.

I have been upset all morning and my 4 year old clearly knew something had happened. Just now my 2 year old asked where the cat was (he plays with her every day) and I'm afraid I don't think I handled the response very well. I got very emotional (am a bit hormonal at the moment as i also have a 3 week old baby) and I tried to explain that the cat had had to go away somewhere so we couldn't see her. My 2 year old obviously doesnt understand but my 4 year old got very upset and confused. I wanted to try and be honest with him and so then tried to explain that the cat had died but, being so upset myself, I think I have made a bit of a mess with the whole explanation and now wish I had avoided telling them anything until I was a bit less emotional myself.

I really don't know what to say to the boys now and still feel so upset myself. Does anyone have any tips for explaining the death of a pet to young children? I really don't want to upset them any more but feel I need to help my 4 year old understand why his cat isnt here anymore.

Thanks for reading my rambling post and thank you in advance for any advice

There is no way to do it which won't be upsetting. But it's best to avoid words like sleeping or "gone away" "holiday in the sky" because to little minds that gives impression that they may wake up or come back sad

Meat to say I'm sorry about your cat. sad you may have to explain more than once as its alot to take in. It's ok for them to see you upset because you lived the cat too and nothing is going to make it any easier so just be sad together sad xx

Meant (do sorry for typos blush sad xx brew thanks

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Needmorechocolate Thu 06-Jun-13 13:31:34

Thanks caffeine - its all just so horrible and I wish there was an easy way to explain it. I hate seeing them so upset :-(

MadamNoo Thu 06-Jun-13 13:35:25

I'm terribly sorry. One of my ds has been obsessed with death for a while now and it is terribly hard to talk about - but I would definitely agree don't try saying anything about 'going to sleep' as I accidentally caused terrible anxieties about bedtime that way, with him wondering if he would ever wake up.

Needmorechocolate Thu 06-Jun-13 13:38:28

Oh fringe how awful for you - I am at least thankful that their first experience of death is through the death of a pet. I think keeping it simple is definitely right - I think I got too complicated earlier when talking to them because i was so worried about making them upset when in fact I probably made it worse!

Think the hardest thing I've had to do is explain a beloved pets death. There is no easy way sad

My dd and I still miss our cat terribly but we both find it helps to laugh about all the stupid things she did. Allowing yourself to talk about him is far better than trying to avoid the subject for fear of being upset. sad

Needmorechocolate Thu 06-Jun-13 13:41:47

Thank madamnoo I hadn't thought about the problems of saying "going to sleep" - my eldest is quite sensitive n tends to think about things a lot so I can imagine he may interpret it in the same way as your little boy.

HappyJoyful Wed 26-Jun-13 09:39:04

So sorry to hear about your cat's death.

I just came on this topic to look into the subject of telling a small child exactly the same thing (dd is 2.5yrs) and I'm afraid we're sadly thinking we're going to have to put our cat down (he has a tumour) and part of my struggle to do it is the thought of what I tell her.

Appreciate this thread may no longer be 'active' but has given me some pointers. Ummm, I'd kind of hoped that I could say 'he was poorly and had gone to live on a farm'... oh god, sounds terrible now, but I know I wont be able to do the death / dying. I appreciate that I'm being crap, arghh!

Luckily haven't had to tackle the death of a person yet though absolutely mortified and probably some subliminal issues going on here as ex-mil is terminally ill and dd is v.fond of her so know that's all to come

Anyway's sorry again about your cat OP for my ramble and I hope you are coping and the boys aren't missing him too much.

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 26-Jun-13 17:49:50

Happy as a vet and a Mum this is a topic I often deal with. I always advise being honest and using the word dead, then explaining that they have left their body. Children very often deal with this much better than us because they are very matter of fact - in the surgery we have a lot of tears and often they are asking about the next pet before they are out of the door. I do use the terminology 'pet is too poorly for the vet to be able to help any more' as I feel it helps to understand that there are some conditions that can't be fixed.
If you are able to bury your cat in the garden having a funeral does help children to understand and experience the rituals of death before it is a family member. I have friends who are an army family whose pets have all been buried with full military honors for this reason.
I firmly believe that one of the reasons we have pets is to help children experience all the aspects of life including death.
Goodbye dear Mog is a really good book to help.
I hope this helps you and others.

Chumble Wed 26-Jun-13 17:58:18

We have lost two cats in recent years and I have found it easier to explain it as simply as possible. 'X' has died, if they ask why I explain but give limited detail. I also suggest you only answer the question asked-often too much detail is not needed.

We got out old photos, all cried and talked about how we felt.

Sorry to hear your news. As another person said it is all life experience for your children and prepares them for loss of other family members.

HappyJoyful Thu 27-Jun-13 09:03:30

Thank you for responses and wise words lone. I totally get the matter of factness and thought process that it's good to deal with before death of a person..
chumble, again, totally have planned to say as little as possible and not harp on about it and DH and I discussed exactly the sentiment that don't go into detail.
Really appreciate it thanks. Deed not done yet, later today so feeling well prepared thanks to ace advice on Mumsnet!

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