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Adopting a New Pet After Your Cat or Dog Passes Away

Sadie Holloway, a proud cat parent, is a strong advocate for adopting pets from animal shelters and rescue organizations.

The death of a pet can be heartbreaking. But does that mean you should get a new pet right away? Find out if you are ready to adopt a pet after a beloved furry friend has passed away.

  • After a pet dies, are you confused about how long you should wait before you bring another pet home?
  • Are you feeling guilty about wanting to adopt another pet after your cat or dog has passed away?
  • Are you afraid that opening your heart to another cat or dog will only cause more heartache when that animal companion eventually dies?

This article offers tips that can help you and your family decide whether or not you are ready to open your home and your heart to another wet-nosed, furry pet friend.

When a pet passes away, how long should you wait before you adopt a new one?

When a pet passes away, how long should you wait before you adopt a new one?

When Is It Time to Adopt a New Pet After an Old Pet Dies?

Have you lost your pet recently? Are you feeling sad, confused and not sure if you're ready to adopt a new pet? For some people the pain, grief, and sadness they feel after a pet dies scares them and makes them hesitant about adopting another pet. The thought of adopting a new pet means that inevitably, one day they will have to feel this tremendous pain and grief again. I know that when our cat died, I was sure that I could never open up my heart to a new animal. The fear of getting hurt was just too much.

In time, I was able to cope with my grief and we eventually opened our hearts and home to a cat in need of a forever family.

There is support available to people grieving the loss of a pet. With time, it is possible to recover from your grief and pain.

In his book, The Loss of a Pet, the award-winning pet bereavement specialist Wallace Sife, Ph.D, offers guidance on how to carefully consider if and when people who have recently lost a pet should get a new cat or kitten, puppy or dog.

Give Yourself Time to Mourn the Loss of Your Pet

A pet’s death can be a traumatic, shocking event. Sife says that “Timing is everything when considering whether to get a new pet. You must be ready for the new relationship, or both you and the new pet may suffer because of your underlying resentment.” He reminds us that most people need to be alone with the memories of their lost loved ones. He also suggests that as families work through their grief, children be allowed to participate in the discussion about whether or not to get a new pet.

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.

— Anatole France

Acknowledge Your Feelings of Guilt About Getting a New Pet After a Loyal Animal Friend Dies

Sife says that for many people their “pet represents something that can never be replaced. [The pet] becomes a symbolic link to the past, and a sense of one’s own continuity and personal history. The thought of getting another pet at this time feels like disloyalty.”

But Sife also says that a new pet can “represent a healthy continuation of life.” It offers opportunities for meeting new people. Things like walking the dog, buying pet food, going to the vet or joining a pet club can provide social activities that help us feel connected to the world again.

No heaven will not ever Heaven be. Unless my cats are there to welcome me.

— Anonymous

How to Test Your Readiness for Welcoming a New Pet Into Your Life

Make sure that you are ready to take on the responsibility of pet ownership again.

  • Visit an animal shelter. A visit to a shelter doesn’t have to mean that you will commit to adopting a pet yet. It’s OK to just look around and get a feel for animals. In fact, Sife recommends that we fight the urge to rescue a pet right away. He recommends that we write down our feelings after visiting a shelter. Being near animals in need can sometimes help us out of our own feelings of despair and sadness. Instead of adopting a pet right away, why not make a donation to the shelter in your pet’s name? Giving to others is a gentle and productive way to ease your pain.
  • Care for other animals. Do your friends, family or neighbors have pets that you can walk or look after? Spending some time with other animals that you aren't committed to can help you get a sense of where you are in your grief process. Does walking your friend's dog bring up painful memories? Or does it remind you of how energized having a dog companion made you feel? Notice how you feel when you’re walking your neighbor’s dog or cuddling your sister’s cat.
  • Remind yourself of what is involved in owning a new pet. When your cat or dog died, he was probably already house-trained, well-socialized and part of a well-established feeding, exercise and veterinary care routine. Sometimes we forget what is involved in getting a new pet. Make sure that you're ready to devote the time, energy and money involved in adopting a new pet, training it and taking care of all its attendant veterinarian expenses (shots, spaying or neutering, grooming).

You Are Not Alone in Your Grief

After the loss of a family pet, many people wonder how long they should wait before they get a new cat or dog. Patience and gentle reflection can help you and your family heal from the pain of losing a pet. After all, pets give us unconditional love, boundless loyalty and unwavering companionship. They hold a special place in our daily routines and as part of our families. It’s no wonder that when a special pet friend dies, we feel like a hole has been ripped in our hearts.

I hope these tips can help you and your family decide whether or not you are ready to open your home and your heart to another animal friend. As someone who has lost a beloved pet friend, I understand how confusing this time can be for you and your family. The important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to deal with the grief of losing a pet. And if you feel that getting a new pet, or holding off on adopting a new furry friend is the right decision for you and your family, then fear not what other people say or think.

Our new kitty brings us joy and happiness and also reminds us of how much love we had for our cherished cat friend who passed away last year.

Our new kitty brings us joy and happiness and also reminds us of how much love we had for our cherished cat friend who passed away last year.

© 2013 Sadie Holloway


Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 26, 2013:

This is a very useful hub that will help people through a very difficult situation, Room of My Own. Thank you for creating it.

Melody Collins from United States on May 31, 2013:

My dog was stolen 7 years ago. It broke my heart. You know those stories about the guys in the white vans who drive down country roads and abduct dogs to sell on craigslist? That is what happened to my dog. It has taken me a long time to get over that. He was microchiped so I just kept waiting to get a call. Now, it is time to move on. I will be getting a puppy in six weeks. I am nervous but ready.

Shelley Watson on May 26, 2013:

This is a lovely hub and touches all those who have lost their beloved furry friends through the years. My heart still hurts when I think of the dogs and cats I have had, loved and lost, while my middle aged siamese sits here watching me type! Up, interesting and beautiful.

Kathy from The beautiful Napa Valley, California on May 25, 2013:

Hi there Room Of My Own. Thank you so much for writing this helpful, empathetic and informational hub...you've done such a great service and your writing is just wonderful! UP Useful Beautiful and Awesome. You've covered the grief of losing our animal friends perfectly....and given us many choices of how to handle our loss. Just fantastic!! I'm going to "like" and share on FB!