Pet Loss Support

Our pets are very much-loved members of our family, so saying goodbye to them can be a difficult and emotional time. 

Grief after losing an animal can be extremely distressing, and may be misunderstood by those around us.

Sometimes the loss of a pet can come suddenly, without warning and be a huge shock, but the information on the grieving process below still applies. In other cases, a pet may be elderly or have been poorly for some time, and whilst this does not lessen the loss, it can give time to plan ahead and ensure you are prepared for the difficult decision you may inevitably need to make.

When is the right time?

This can be the hardest decision you ever have to make as a pet owner.

As responsible owners, everyone should ensure their pet’s needs are met throughout their lifetime, so finding the right time to make that final decision must always take into account what is best for your pet. Some pet owners may go through this heart-rending situation many times, but it never gets any easier.

Talking to your vet will help, as they are less emotionally involved.  If you need more information, remember there are no stupid questions and your vet will have been through similar scenarios in their professional roles, and many are also pet owners themselves.  They will listen, guide and advise you on the most appropriate treatment options and outcomes.

Also speak to your family and friends for emotional support.  It may also help to prepare any children in the family, as losing a pet may be the first time they will ever experience grief, which can be a very scary feeling for them. Its not uncommon to feel you have little control over your pet’s fate during this difficult time, but try to focus on the things you can control. For example, when the time comes, you can ask your vet to come to your home, so that your pet will be in familiar surroundings and you will not have to face an upsetting journey to the practice.

You can also think about where your pet’s resting place will be, and whether you would like them to be be buried or cremated after they’ve passed on. If you need a special tranquil place to scatter your much loved pet’s ashes, or simply sit quietly to remember them, our Memorial Garden (see below) may be the solution.

Whatever your wishes, it is a good idea to discuss this with your family and your vet, so you all have a clear plan and you don’t need to worry about making these decisions when the time comes. Some Pet Insurance policies also offer “end of life” cover, which can lessen any worries about the costs involved.

Grieving for a pet

Everyone deals with grief differently, but for many, grieving for a pet can be similar to mourning the loss of any family member.

Some owners experience feelings of loneliness or isolation. Others around you may not understand the intense sadness you feel after losing a pet, but please remember there are many who have experienced exactly what you are going through.

Do talk to friends, family, even work colleagues; share cherished memories and express your feelings … being upset over the loss of your furry companion is nothing to be ashamed of. If you find it difficult to discuss with those close to you, or do no have close friends or family, there are support services available.

The Blue Cross has a pet bereavement service, providing free, confidential support to anyone affected by losing a pet.  There is also specific guidance on how to help children through the loss of a pet here.

Cats Protection also offers a confidential phone line called Paws to Listen, for any cat owner suffering grief or bereavement for a beloved pet.

For equine support, The British Horse Society’s ‘Friends at the End‘ is designed to make sure that no horse owner faces losing their companion alone.  For more online support, World Horse Welfare also has good advice on saying goodbye.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve for your pet, but we hope some of the information above may help support you through this difficult time.  Every member of staff at RSPCA Cornwall Branch has been through this situation, some more than once, and express our sincere sympathy for anyone facing this difficult decision … our thoughts are with you …

RSPCA Cornwall Branch now have a Memorial Garden, which is a tranquil, quiet space, where you can sit and remember your much loved pet. This is open every day, between 9.00am and 4.00pm.  If you would like to arrange a plaque as a memorial to your dearly departed companion, please email for more information.