Elderly man petting a kitten.

When Should I Get Another Pet After One Dies?

One of the hardest parts of pet ownership is knowing that someday you will have to say goodbye. Because we live much longer than dogs and cats (and birds, and rodents, and reptiles), we will likely outlive many furry companions in our lives, and losing a pet never gets any easier. Whether the loss is sudden and unexpected or comes at the end of a full life or a long terminal illness, the end is the same: a broken heart, and worrying you’ll never again have a bond like the one you had with your special pet.

Whether you are grieving the recent loss of a pet or are looking ahead to the final days of your pet’s life, know that the pain will not last forever. Your heart will heal when the time is right, and you will be able to share a lifetime with many pets if you wish. By giving yourself time and space to heal, and approaching the decision to get another pet carefully, you can honor your pet’s memory in the best way possible: by giving another animal in need a loving home.

A New Pet is a New Relationship, Not a Replacement

A common emotion felt by pet parents looking for a new animal is guilt. After all, isn’t it disloyal to a pet’s memory to rush out and get a substitute? In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The bond you have with your pet is a special one, and nothing could ever replace them in your life. But getting a new pet isn’t about replacing the old one; it’s about making room in your heart and life for a different relationship with a new companion. Love is an infinite resource; you will never run out!

Don’t Rush Into Getting Another Pet Too Soon

While some may feel they can never have another pet, others may respond to the loss of a pet by wanting to get a new one right away. For a long time, that was the common wisdom: The way to heal is to get a new pet immediately. This is not always the best choice for every family, though.

When you rush to get another pet, you don’t give yourself time to fully grieve your loss. You may find yourself comparing the new pet to the old one, feeling resentment toward the new pet, or struggling to bond with them. You may also be using a new pet as a way to distract yourself from your pain. But in the long term, those feelings need to be confronted and dealt with; hiding from them will merely prolong your mourning.

How Do You Know You’re Ready to Get a New Pet?

The best time to get a new pet is when your heart has healed and you can look forward to building a new relationship with a future companion on its own terms. Here are a few tips for easing that transition:

  • Be sure everyone is on the same page. Children, spouses and even roommates may be grieving the loss of a pet as well and have opinions about acquiring a new one. Everyone’s needs should be considered before proceeding with the plan to get another animal.
  • Be sure any other surviving pets have their needs tended to first. Pets grieve, too, and the stress of losing a companion and getting a strange new animal in the home can be a lot to deal with. In some cases, getting a new friend for your surviving pet can really help that animal perk up and overcome its sadness. In other cases, it may be kinder to wait until all elderly pets have passed on before introducing a new pet into the mix.
  • Take stock of your lifestyle needs. Have you put anything on hold due to your pet? Now may be the time to work on that project or take that vacation you couldn’t do while the animal was ill. It’s not selfish to take some time to tend to any priorities that shifted before jumping into another commitment. Consider what in your life may have changed with the passing of a pet and whether you’d like to change your lifestyle. For example, maybe you always wanted a cat but owned a dog who was not cat friendly. Now might be the time to adopt a cat into your home.
  • Spend time around other animals. Volunteering at a local animal shelter or being a temporary pet foster home is a good way to get some animal companionship while giving your heart time to heal from a loss. It allows you to enjoy the company of animals without committing to them long-term. If you find it too painful to be around them, or if interacting with shelter animals reminds you too much of your deceased pet, that’s a sign that you still have grief to process and aren’t ready to get a new pet just yet.

Once you’ve determined that you are ready for a new pet, get one quite different from your previous companion. Choose a different color, sex or breed, and give them a name very different from your old pet’s name. This will make you less likely to constantly compare the animals and make it easier to get to know your new pet as a unique individual and new member of the family.

Whether you are struggling with the grief of a recent loss or looking ahead to your pet’s final days, Best Friends Pet Passings & Cremations can help. We can provide you with resources for managing your grief. We also offer pet cremation and memorial services and end-of-life planning for pet parents in the Albuquerque area. Reach out to us to learn more.

Elderly man petting a kitten.