“Our pets come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss. A new pet never replaces an old pet, it merely expands the heart.”
An often-asked question, “When is the right time to bring home a new pet after experiencing pet loss?” There is no right or wrong answer. Some pet-parents may wait a few weeks while others may wait for a few months or even several years. Below is a guideline to assist you in making the best decision for you, your family and the new pet.
1. Grieve the pet you have lost
It is crucial to grieve the pet you have lost. Allow yourself to walk through your grief journey without feeling pressured by either yourself or others. It is important to acknowledge that a new pet will not fill the void you are experiencing; never get a new pet to replace the one you have lost. People who say, “Oh, you can get a new pet!” most likely never had and/or lost a beloved animal.
2. Is this a family pet?
Obviously if you live by yourself, the final decision will be made by you in due course. However, should there be other family members, it is important to respect and consider everyone’s feelings. If a family member is not ready and is still grieving, it is best to wait and then revisit the matter.
3. Lifestyle Changes
Perhaps you are thinking about doing some long-awaited renovations or continuing with your education or thinking this would be a good time to take your dream vacation. Whatever the change or changes may be, go forward with them. Reinventing your life is both a positive and healthy tool in your grief journey. It provides you with the knowledge that your life can go on, it is a healthy distraction and honours both your grief journey and your pet’s memory. Once the waves have settled you can revisit the idea of bringing home a new pet.
4. Are there other pets in the home?
If you have another pet in your home, it is important to consider how he/she would react to a new sibling. Is your pet elderly or perhaps grieving and seeking your undivided attention? He/she may have grown up with the pet that has died and may not be as welcoming to a new pet as you hope. Be aware and sensitive to your pet’s needs, just because he/she may be lonely does not necessarily mean he/she wants a new pack member. Before bringing a new pet into the home, be sure that your pet is animal friendly and no longer displaying signs of grief. Introduce the new pet with knowledge, hiring a professional may be helpful to bring about a positive and calm transition for both you and your pets.
5. No two pets are the same
Over the years we bond with our pet, we know their facial expressions, their body language and their unique silly quirks. It is important to understand that the new pet will be as unique and individual as the pet you have lost. You may be considering adopting a kitten or a puppy, having just had an older pet we can forget how much time and attention they require. Sitting on the couch cuddling your pet and watching a good movie will most probably have to be set aside for at least the next year. As well, you may have given consideration to adopting a pet from a rescue, sadly but understandably some can come with behavioural issues and or special needs. Therefore, you will need extra time, attention and patience. I can personally attest that the final result is well worth the time invested and more importantly, they are so deserving. Again, in either scenario, hiring a professional may be beneficial for both you and the new pet.
The pet you have lost can never be replaced. Many pet-parents do struggle with getting a new pet, feeling that they are being disloyal to their beloved pet. I truly believe that is farthest from the truth. Opening your heart to a new pet and giving him/her a loving home is one of the many ways you can honour the life of the pet you have lost; what greater gift can you give to your friend of old and your friend of new.