Supporting you through pet bereavement
Pets bring so much to our lives it’s no wonder we can feel overwhelmed by grief when we lose them.
Our hearts are full and our homes feel empty. And, sometimes, it’s hard to know who to turn to for support.
To help you navigate your way through this difficult time, Petplan Charitable Trust has gathered together what we consider to be among the best pet bereavement resources available.
Here you’ll find everything from helpline numbers and useful websites to downloadable literature written by experts. Do you have a child who is struggling to cope with the loss of a much loved pet? Scroll down the page to find resources that will help you support them through the grieving process. There is also important guidance on the steps you should take to ensure your pet is cared for in the event of your own death.
The Trust is also delighted to welcome Caroline Hewson MRCVS who is sharing her expert knowledge via her brand new Pet Loss Blog (see right). Caroline will be tackling issues such as euthanasia decision-making; factors affecting grief; memorialisation; dealing with prognostic uncertainty and more.
Caroline Hewson MRCVS
Caroline Hewson is a vet and has a PhD in animal behaviour. From 2000 to 2006 she was Research Chair at the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre, Atlantic Veterinary College, Canada. Returning to the UK, she resumed regular practice. Her chief work now is writing and giving talks that translate research relevant to pets’ end of life into points to keep in mind.
At the Edinburgh Fringe 2018, Caroline co-presented “Never Say Die?” with palliative care doctor Scott Murray. She is currently writing a book for people facing the death of their animal companions.
Visit Caroline Hewson’s Pet Loss Blog, here
Someone to talk to
We all cope with grief differently. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and no ‘right length of time’ to come to terms with your loss either. What’s important is having someone to talk to. These helplines are staffed by pet lovers like you. They’re not counsellors but they are sympathetic and knowledgeable, and will offer you patient and confidential support.
Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service: 0800 096 6606
Lines are open daily from 8.30am-8.30pm
The service will also respond to emails within 48 hours. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Or, you can use their confidential contact form
Cats Protection Paws To Listen and Grief Support: 0800 0249494
Lines are open Mon-Fri from 9am-5pm (excluding bank holidays)
Confidential phone line providing emotional and practical support to bereaved cat owners. Staffed by knowledgeable volunteers who offer a sympathetic and supportive ear as well as information on euthanasia, burial and cremation.
Animal Samaritans Pet Bereavement Service: 020 8303 1859
The charity helpline offers ‘a sympathetic ear, understanding and support’
World Horse Welfare equine end-of-life planning: 01953 497 238
However young and/or healthy your equine may be, it makes sense to put end of life plans in place, just in case. The staff at World Horse Welfare can advise you.
There are some fantastic bereavement support resources online. We’ve selected some of the best, here.
Set up by vet, Shailen Jasani, after the loss of his beloved cat, Ralph, the Ralph Site is a not-for-profit website offering support and advice to bereaved pet owners.
A wealth of support for bereaved cat owners. Downloadable literature including help in preparing to have a pet euthanised and advice to help children deal with the loss of their pet.
The UK’s largest animal welfare charity, the RSPCA has a page dedicated to coping with pet bereavement.
Plenty of resources here including spotting the signs in your cat that will help you decide when the time is right to let go. There’s also an article on helping a remaining pet to adjust to the loss of its companion.
This site provides advice and support for pet owners at their companion’s end-of-life. It also offers training to vets to ensure they offer pet owners the best help at this heartbreaking time. You can search for vets in your area that have received this training.
A British Horse Society initiative designed to make sure that no horse owner has to face the loss of their equine companion alone.
Downloadable guidance from World Horse Welfare to help owners ensure their beloved equine has a good death when the time comes.
Advice covers decisions around having your pet put to sleep, the five stages of grieving and more.
This site offers a wide range of resources covering many aspects of pet bereavement, including a number of podcasts with supporting text to download.
This site is written by qualified Pet Bereavement Support Counsellor, Dawn Murray, and offers in-depth advice on understanding the grieving process and coping with pet loss.
Preparing to say goodbye?
Vet and founder of the charity Our Special Friends, Belinda Johnston, describes anticipatory grief as an invisible vulnerability: “Animals help us to cope with difficult times in our lives. The relationship we have with our pets is wonderfully supportive and non-judgemental. For many, the prospect of this relationship ending affects them profoundly. They worry that they won’t be able to cope but are often reluctant to discuss their feelings with their friends.”
In this video by PDSA, a pet owner talks through the difficult decision to have her cat put to sleep.
Produced by the Animal Welfare Foundation, this leaflet entitled Saying Goodbye – The Ultimate Kindness explains all you need to know about having your pet put to sleep.
Here’s another helpful leaflet: ‘When the time comes – preparing to say goodbye’, this time from Blue Cross, covering everything from ‘When is the right time?’ to ‘What should I expect?’ and ‘What Happens Next?’
This page on the World Horse Welfare site offers two downloadable leaflets to help you put appropriate plans in place for your equine in case the worst happens.
Helping children to cope with pet loss
According to the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, ‘bereavement in children too often has been trivialised or given inadequate attention. They need support and guidance to understand their loss, to mourn that loss, and to find ways to remember and memorialize their deceased loved one’.
The site offers useful age-appropriate guidance, here.
Further online resources:
Compassion Understood offers advice, as well as suggesting ways your child can celebrate their pet’s life including planting a tree or creating a memory box.
Pet Bereavement Counsellor, Dawn Murray, gives advice on helping a child to cope with losing a pet.
An article from Cats Protection gives advice on talking to your child when a pet dies.
Blue Cross has a helpful booklet on the subject: ‘Missing My Friend’
Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria
Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria: 01252 844478
The Ralph Site also provides a list, here
Who will care for your pet when you die?
None of us likes to dwell on our own mortality. But, the fact is that without any plans in place, many thousands of pets are left vulnerable every year after their owner dies. This article explains a number of steps you can take to ensure your pet is cared for in the event of your death.
One of the ways you can protect your pet’s future is through the RSPCA’s Home For Life scheme.