Famous fat cat dies: How to talk to your kids about pet death

My heart breaks any time that I heard of an animal's death in the news. So when I heard of the death of famous 2-year-old Meow, a 39 pound cat living at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society, I was completely heartbroken. I've had pets my entire life and I know more than anyone how difficult it is to lose one. But it's particularly difficult to deal with the death of a family pet when you have kids. How do you talk to your kids? How do you explain what's going on? With Meow going up to kitty heaven this week, it's a conversation that many parents may be facing.

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I remember when one of my family's cats died the day before Christmas. My dad and I found him Christmas morning and I'm still sad about that. But we buried him and moved on. The thing is, though, my brother was much younger and the time and my parents decided to tell him that the cat ran away. When he found out what really happened years later it was as if the grief of losing a beloved family pet hit him again, 10 times harder.

I would never wish the death of a pet on someone, but I do think that there are better ways to talk about it with kids than to just pretend like nothing that bad ever happened. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends answering your child's questions about the pet's death "simply, but honestly, using terms and concepts the child understands." They also recommend talking with your kids about their feelings (which can include things like sadness, anger, fear, denial and guilt) as well as sharing your own feelings and encouraging them to come to you with questions or for reassurance and comfort.

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In the end, I think it's important to remember that it's a process that will take time. Your feelings are hurt, too, and it's good to share all of it with your kids. You don't want to scare them with too much, of course, but you also don't want to deceive them about what's really going on. And as the world mourns the death of Meow, it's important to remember to cherish the pets that are in our lives still.

Has your family ever lost a pet? How did you talk about the loss with your kids? Share with us in the comments below!

Image via NBC

Topics: tips for kids  pets  family pet