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Lots of people aren’t sure of how to grieve a pet. When a person dies, there are usually traditions and protocols in place that offer some guidance. But when you lose your pet, there isn’t usually a funeral, and you don’t have a funeral director guiding your way. You have different options when it comes to cremating or burying your pet. But once you’ve said goodbye, you may find that you’re left not knowing how to cope with your loss. 

Remember that there’s no right or wrong way of grieving a pet. Everyone reacts differently and different people will grieve for different amounts of time. Here, we take a look at some of the different ways you may be feeling and offer some info on how to help yourself feel more at peace. Whether you’re grieving a dog, cat, horse, rabbit or any other pet. You can also find recommendations for supporting someone else who’s grieving the death of a pet, supporting children who are grieving a pet and even how to help other pets who are missing their companion. 

Feeling misunderstood 

If you’ve lost a pet, you may experience disenfranchised grief. This is when others don’t or can’t understand what you’re going through or think that the way you’re grieving is out of the ordinary. This is particularly common if you’re around people who don’t have pets of their own or don’t particularly like animals. But it’s important to remember that everyone grieves differently and that pets can be a huge part of our lives and missed deeply. You can learn more about this and how to cope in our article on disenfranchised grief

Coping with feelings of guilt

If you had to make the decision to put your pet to sleep, it’s very common to feel a sense of guilt. But it’s important to remember that you made the best decision for them. Vets in the UK will only recommend euthanasia if they think it’s genuinely in your pet’s best interests. This is usually when there’s no chance of recovery or your pet wouldn’t have been able to live a good quality of life. This decision takes your pet out of suffering. While it’s an extremely difficult decision to make, it’s important to remember that it was the right one for your pet. 

Coping with a change to your routine 

Pets are companions, which means they can play a big role in your day-to-day life. When you lose your pet, big elements of your routine change. You may be used to carrying out responsibilities like feeding and walking or cleaning out tanks, cages or enclosures. If you don’t have other pets, you may no longer need to do any of these things. It’s okay to take time to grieve. But coming up with a new routine can help too. You could try finding other ways to fill this time, such as meeting up with friends and family, sleeping in longer in the mornings, doing other chores or picking up a hobby. 

Coping with loneliness 

When you lose your pet, it’s normal to feel lonely too. As we said before, pets are companions. They keep us company and grow to be members of the family. Some people find that getting another pet helps with this. But don’t make any impulsive decisions and think this over carefully. Don’t feel under any pressure to get another pet straight away, if at all. You should also remember that all animals are individuals and different to one another. When you get a new pet, it may be nothing like your pet who’s passed away – even if they are the same animal or breed. They’ll have a unique personality and need to be accepted as they are, not seen as a replacement. 

If you decide not to have another pet, but are missing animal company, you might want to consider volunteering at an animal shelter or charity, like a dog or cat’s home. This will give you the chance to spend quality time with animals, without committing to taking one home. You could also ask friends and family to spend time with their pets, or volunteer as a dog walker or pet sitter. 

If you do decide that you’d like another pet, this is fine too. You don’t need to feel like you’re replacing your pet. You’re just getting a different pet who you’ll build a new relationship and bond with. Whether you’re buying from a reputable breeder or adopting, take your time and allow yourself to enjoy the experience. 


Grieving a pet can feel like a very lonely time. But it’s important to remember that there’s a lot of support out there. And there are a lot of people who will understand you. Here are some options you might want to consider. 

Friends and family 

If your friends and family are understanding, lean on them during this difficult time. Let them know what you need from them. Whether that’s help with making arrangements for your pet’s burial or cremation, support with meals and cleaning while you’re grieving, a hand to hold when you’re collecting your pet’s ashes, or just a shoulder to cry on. 


Sometimes, just talking to someone who understands can help. This gives you a chance to get things off your chest or just have a good cry. This is where a helpline can come in useful. Lots of pet companies and pet charities have free and confidential helplines you can use without fear of being judged or irritating anyone. You can find out more about these in our article on pet loss helplines


While helplines are good, they don’t always offer advice. They’re more of a shoulder to lean on. If you feel that you need more support, or you want someone to guide you through your emotions and offer healthy coping mechanisms, you might want to consider pet loss counselling. You could choose a generalised bereavement counsellor. Or you could look for someone who specialises in grieving for a pet. This will usually be a paid service. But many people find it helps. 

Online Communities 

There are lots of online communities for people who’ve lost their pets. They offer a space to talk about your loss and where others who’ve recently been through similar situations can give their support. Look online for forums. Or search Facebook for groups specific to pet loss or your type of pet (for example, a page for Bichon Frise owners or a page dedicated to people who own ferrets). These groups tend to be very understanding, as they’re filled with people who love and loved their pets just as much as you do. 

Workplace support 

Legally, your workplace doesn’t have to give you time off for grieving the loss of a pet. But many workplaces will understand and may offer you compassionate leave. It’s always worth talking about your situation to your manager or to your company’s HR department. They could be flexible and might even offer paid leave while you attend necessary appointments or grieve. If not, and you feel like you need a break from work during this time, you might want to consider using some annual leave. 

Helping someone cope with the loss of a pet 

If you haven’t lost a pet, but someone you care about has, you might be wondering how you can help them during this difficult time. The most important thing is to simply be there for them. Ask them what you can do. Offer to attend difficult appointments with them, like collecting ashes. See whether they need you to make any calls for them. You can find more ideas in our article on how to help someone who is grieving

Helping children cope with the loss of a pet 

Children can find it extremely difficult to cope with the loss of a pet. Many children and young adults might not remember life without their pet being around. This is particularly true of pets who tend to live longer lives, such as dogs and cats, and who might have been around since before the child was born. 

The loss of a pet can also be their first experience of death. Not only do they face the loss, but they may begin to question mortality in general. This can feel especially difficult if you’re the one who has to explain the nature of life and death to them. 

It’s important that you support your child through this time. Even if you don’t think that the loss is that significant (for example, the death of a goldfish or stick insect). The way that you help your child process this loss can lay foundations for how they deal with loss later in life. 

Children of different ages tend to process loss differently. While you can never be 100% sure how your child will react, their age can give you an idea of what to expect. Children under 7 tend to struggle with the concept of death, while children over the age of 7 tend to have a fuller understanding of what’s going on. You can find out how to speak to your child about death here

Make sure that you treat your child sensitively during this time. Comfort them. Make sure that they know it’s okay to cry and be upset. You might want to tell stories to them about their pet. You could also ask them if they want to hold a funeral for your pet. This could be a small memorial ceremony with pictures of the pet where everyone says what they loved so much about them, or share funny stories and memories. 

Helping companion animals through the loss of a pet 

If you have more than one pet, you may be wondering if your other pets are grieving the loss of their companion. The answer is usually yes. Dogs, cats and other animals do tend to grieve when their companions pass away. You might hear this referred to as “pining”. Common signs that your pet is grieving can include a loss of appetite, change to sleep patterns, crying or whining, searching for their companion or having a generally sad demeanour. You can find more information on helping your grieving pet on the Blue Cross website.

Image by Sam Lion on Pexels.