How do you tell a 6 year old her cat died?

Oh, I feel horrible. This summer, I bought my friends' daughter a kitten. I was so excited, she was so excited. There are pictures over on my facebook page. M is a special kid. Her parents told me that it looked like Rainbow (yes, that's what she named him) had some health problems, so it's not a total surprise that he died today during his neutering. But now somebody has to tell her that her kitty is gone. She's at school right now.

Not sure what to do/how her mom should tell her.

Comments (17)

  1. Someone who knows says:

    Get another similar looking cat, replace it.  Explain that the surgery altered the color/size/nature of the cat.  🙂  

  2. sueminer says:


    I am a mom of 20 year old kids.  I have had plenty of experience with this stuff.

    It is never easy, but I am always surprised that kids seem to say "oh thats really sad, whens dinner?"  I think they also do better when you say that the pet is dead and hasn’t "gone away".  Kids deal better with unambiguous terms.

    I think death is much harder on us adults.  You could get all philosophical about things – well we are closer to death so its more real to us, for kids death isn’t even on their radar.

    Personally, I also am a huge believer in getting a replacement pet asap. Of course that could explain why my sons are away and I still have 3 dogs… <grin>.

    Good luck


  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Someone – that’s a tall order. He was an oddly small kitty with distinctive coloring. Plus, I don’t have any time for shopping today. (Thanks for trying to lighten up the sibject matter!)

    Sue – that sounds like good advice to me. I forwarded it along to my friend. Thanks!

  4. Rick Pennington says:

    Well, what Sue said works well, but I would also add an elkement to it.  If M is having trouble adjusting to the thought of her kitten being gone, advise your friends to have a special time devoted to letting them all say good bye to Rainbow, and allow a point of transition.  

  5. Rob says:

    I had a hamster named Ziggy that lived for 4 years. I cried when it died but I got better. Just tell her it died and get a new one.

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    OK, update…Miyeko just called and said "Aunti Heather? Will you take me to get a new kitty?". She’s crying but she’s going to be OK. We are going to the Humane Society this weekend.

  7. Wine-Oh says:

    Im a firm believer in being honest with the kid. And its a good life lesson in telling her the cat was sick and now is not feeling any pain. I had parents who found it hard to talk about this stuff, and just said, oh the hamster is taking a long nap, or it passed away and we got rid of it, lets go get you a new one. All the while without explaining what happened.  Better to be upfront. Also you don’t want the kid to tell her friends in school, that kitty is something other than dead. Who wants a call from the teacher asking for an explanation. The child will be better off.

  8. Walter says:

    >getting a replacement pet asap.

    I disagree. Especially with a child, a person needs time to grieve the loss of the pet. If you replace the pet too soon, the child can actually come to feel resentful of the new pet. Worse still, she can even start to feel guilt for loving the new pet.

    I’ve had many pets growing up. I now have 2 kids (11 boy and 7 girl). My advice is to tell her very directly that her cat died. Don’t treat her like a child. Listen to what she says about how she feels, but don’t try to hard to make it all better. Time will take care of that. Give her her time to grieve. When she’s ready for a new pet, she will let you know.

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    Well, sounds like she is ready for one as soon as ossible because she asked for one. So that is what she is getting. It was definitely her decision.

  10. mthree says:

    Our kids lost their pet last year, and we found a couple of ways for them to manage their own grief.  In particular, each drew a picture of our cat in their favourite setting, and on (our 9 yr old) gave the picture to Mom on a paint-on-a-plate-at-the-mall piece of pottery.  (Mom liked that touch…)  They told stories, had fun and remembered favourite stories.

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    I love that!

  12. Greg says:

    I have two cats that adore. One is 2 and the other 3. I owned two cats previously and each lived to be 15 and 16 respectively before their kidney’s gave out. I had to put each of them to sleep within a year of each other. Both times equally gut wrenching. Someone said something to the effect in a previous post that death isn’t even on our radar when we are children.

    I have to respectfully disagree. My mom had cancer when I was six and died 4 years later at the age of 30 when I was 10. Death has been on my radar most of my life since childhood.

    I have my own spiritual beliefs which would influence how I would communicate a death of a pet to a child but I have to respect the fact that not everyone believe’s as I do.

    I do not equate death with something dark or the end of something but really the beginning of something else and part of a much larger journey way beyond our own comprhension. We are only here for a very short period of time and I feel that we are here to learn, grow have a positive influence on others while we are here as long or as short as that time may be.

    At the risk of sounding preachy, my truth is that animals and pets are a wonderful gift from the almighty to teach us what unconditional love really is. I know that my wonderful animals teach me that every day. : )

    Good luck, I know the right words will come to you. : )


  13. HeatherLeigh says:

    We bought the new kitty this weekend. We went to the Humane Society and found a sassy little gray kitten that Myieko fell in love with. I’m still waiting for confirmation on the name, but when I left them on Saturday, we were leaning toward Comet (like the reindeer, not the cleanser).

  14. Rob says:

    When my grandfather was a child he had a pet goat. His family had to eat it (they were in Persia). It could’ve been worse.

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure you go to jail for doing that to a cat! You know the saddest par t of that is that if they got the goat, knowing it was going to be food, he could have been more prepared for the eventuality. But when you get it as a pet and then have to eat it. That’s rough!

  16. Joba says:

    I’d like grab the cat and bring it to a taxidermist and tell them that the cat got hard and it wont really move anymore.  

    Then the kids can always still look at it and it will be there for all to  see.  I heard stories of going to build a bear with the dead cat and they can put a voice box in it so it meows when you touch it’s paw.  So cute and the familywill always remember their favorite pet.

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