To many people, pets are so much more than just animal companions. They’re a member of your family. Pets are who you turn to when you need comfort or soothing after a hard day in the world. When you’re grieving the loss of a pet, it may feel like there’s no safe space for you to retreat to inside your home.
Gift Ideas for Someone Who Lost a Pet
Dog sympathy gift ideas
- Pet Collar Keepsake Frame ($18.99)
- Printable Temporary Tattoo Paper ($13.99)
- Pet Portrait on Hand-Stretched Canvas ($22.99)
- Douglas Alps Bernese Moutain Dog Stuffed Animal ($17.99)
Cat sympathy gift ideas
- Pet Cremation Urn Necklace ($16.99)
- You Left Paw Prints On My Heart Personalized Mug ($21.50)
- Cat With Wings Garden Statue ($20)
- Pet Loss Care Package ($32.95)
- I Wrote a Book About You — A fun, fill-in-the-blank book ($13.46)
Other pet sympathy gift ideas
- Hummingbird & Butterfly Wildflower Seed Mix ($19.99)
- Midwest Products Pet Photo Stepping Stone Kit ($19.99)
- Pet Memorial Ornament ($14.98)
- Remembrance Memorial Keychain with a Photo Frame ($7.59)
- Variety Box of 12 Cookies from The Cravory ($35.99)
- Love-KANKEI Wooden Shadow Box and Display Case ($15.99)
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Say Face-to-Face to a Loved One Who Lost a Pet
- What to Text a Loved One Who Lost a Pet
- What to Write in a Card to a Loved One Who Lost a Pet
- What to Say to a Loved One Who Lost a Pet Tragically or Suddenly
- What to Say to a Loved One Who Lost a Pet After a Long Illness
- What Should You Avoid Saying to Someone Who Lost a Pet?
Not everyone understands the pain someone can experience when their beloved pet dies. After all, it’s just an animal that you can’t have a conversation with. But in some ways, that lack of verbal communication makes the loss even harder. Creating a bond with a living creature that transcends the need for language is really special and rare.
If you’re struggling with the best way to express sympathy for someone who has lost their pet, here are some suggestions for the best things you can say so they know they have your support.
Post-planning tip: If you are dealing with the loss of a human loved one, we have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
What to Say Face-to-Face to a Loved One Who Lost a Pet
It can be awkward figuring out the right thing to say to someone who has recently experienced a loss. Having a simple, prepared statement at the ready can help any anxiety you might have about saying the wrong thing. Here are some versatile phrases that work in a variety of situations:
1. “I'm so sorry for what you’re experiencing right now.”
Even if you’re an empathetic person and you’ve lost a pet of your own, it’s not necessarily accurate to say “I know what you’re going through.” Saying "I can't imagine" can leave them feeling alone and isolated. Use this phrase instead.
We all process grief in different ways. While losing someone you love (pet or person) is a universal experience, no two people are ever going to have exactly the same experience, and suggesting that could feel dismissive of the very real anguish your loved one is experiencing.
2. “Would you like me to help you put away their things for now?”
It can be traumatizing for a person who has lost a pet to be faced with unexpected reminders of their presence. Help them out by gathering things like kennels, carrying cases, food, dishes, leashes, collars, toys, treats, and all the other various bits of detritus that accumulates in a pet owner’s home and put it somewhere out of the way, like a garage or storage shed.
This way, if they ever do decide to get another pet, they can choose to go through and reuse some items, or they can donate what they can when they’re in a better headspace. Either way, they won’t encounter a constant visual reminder of their deceased pet at every turn.
3. “You made the right decision.”
One of the most challenging parts of pet ownership is deciding whether to help a poet fight off an illness or make the agonizing choice to put them to sleep. It’s difficult to make the choice to euthanize a pet, especially because you can’t use words to explain it to them.
That can leave a person feeling very raw, vulnerable, and without a real sense of closure. Let your friend know that their pet may not have been able to say it out loud, but they knew their owner did the best thing for them. In this case, that was to release them from pain and suffering in the most humane way possible.
4. “If you’d like to get outside for a bit, I’d love to go with you.”
Dog owners may have an especially difficult time going out for a walk or visiting local hiking trails or parks if they have memories of taking their dogs for walks in the same areas. They may avoid going outside so they don’t have to face this flood of memories.
Offering to go out with them will help them get the fresh air and exercise they need to start feeling a little better, but they’ll have you as a safety net if they end up feeling too overwhelmed by emotion.
5. “Would it help you to talk about them?”
Everyone handles grief in their own unique way. Some people won’t want to discuss the recent passing of their pet as it still feels like an open wound. Others may need to vent about how unfair it is, and how angry and hurt they are.
And some people may want to talk about happier times they shared with their pets. Prepare yourself to handle whatever reaction they might have.
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6. “Do you remember when …?”
If your friend does want to share stories about their pet, be prepared to chime in with stories of their own. Happy memories or memories of a pet’s shenanigans can be a great mood-lifter.
Talk about the time the family dog escaped from the house, and no one could lure it back inside until your friend drove home three hours in the middle of the night and caught the dog in under five minutes.
Talk about how their cat never learned what a reflection in a mirror was and would freak out and hiss at these strange cats in their domain. So much so that until your friend gave up and draped sheets over all the mirrors so it was like they were living in some weird, musty, Dickensian house. Think of stories that will help put a little smile on their face, even if it’s bittersweet at best.
7. “Would you like me to organize a small memorial?”
Funerals and memorial services are a big part of what helps us process the death of people we know. But not many people perform similar ceremonies for their pets.
Even a small ceremony may help your friend gain some of the closure they’ve been struggling to find. Invite a few people who knew the pet well—a dog walker, a house sitter, a friend from the dog park—and have everyone say a few words or share a happy memory.
If you don’t have a body to bury or ashes to scatter, the ritual itself may prove to be a comfort. You can always arrange for some funeral flowers to lay down as a symbolic gesture. Most of all, the mourning owner might derive some comfort from realizing there are other people who deeply feel their loss.
You might consider sending pet memorial gifts as well.
COVID-19 tip: If you host a virtual or live streamed funeral using a service like GatheringUs, you can still share your thoughts or eulogy with your online guests. Coordinate with your planning team, make sure you have the right microphones and other audio equipment, and send online guests digital funeral programs with the full speaking schedule.
8. “Your pet was irreplaceable. You’ll never have another one like her.”
When offering condolences, sometimes well-meaning people ask, “So, when are you getting a new pet?” But, some people need time to heal before they can even think about opening up their hearts and homes to another pet.
While some people are ready to go out right away and get another cat or dog, it doesn’t mean that they’re trying to replace their beloved pets. It just means that they have a lot of love to give, and are more able to take in another animal that needs a home. A new pet will enter your life when it’s the right time, but no matter what, they will never replace the pet you’ve lost.
9. “How are the kids handling it?”
If your friend has young kids, the death of a family pet may be the first time they’re being confronted with the concept of mortality. There are some great children’s books about death and books about pet loss that can help explain what has happened in an age-appropriate way.
Offer to pick some up and even to help with talking about it if your friend is too emotional to be able to do it on their own.
10. “Your pet had the greatest life because of [reason].”
When an animal dies, its owner may second-guess everything. Should they have borrowed money to pay for an expensive experimental surgery? If they had chosen a different food to feed their pet, would the pet have lived longer? If the pet had gone to people with more money, would it have had a happier life?
Pull them out of this negative circle of thinking by reminding them of concrete examples of the way they valued their dog. Remind them that they saved it from an overcrowded shelter. Point out that during thunderstorms, they’d sleep in the dog bed with the dog to keep him calm.
Show them Facebook photos of their adventures. Show them that they were the reason their pet had so many amazing days.
11. “I’m listening.”
There’s a tendency for people to downplay their own feelings after the death of their pet. They may not believe anyone else would prioritize the death of their animal, or they may worry about bringing people down.
Let them know that whenever they need to talk about their pet, you’re available to come and listen, and you truly want to be there. Sometimes all we need is proof that one person cares enough to listen to our grief to feel less alone.
What to Text a Loved One Who Lost a Pet
If you’ve heard that a friend or loved one has lost a pet, you don’t have to wait until you see them in person to express your condolences. Picking up your phone and sending a text is a quick and easy way to show your support.
12. “I heard about Primrose, and I wanted to let you know how sorry I am for your loss. She was such a sweet cat, and I know how much you adored her.”
Sometimes a simple, straightforward sentiment is best. This message is especially notable because it mentions the pet by name. It helps it feel more specific and not just a generic sympathy message.
13. “I recently found some photos of our dogs having a playdate when they were puppies. I’d be happy to send you some copies if you’d like?
One of the hardest parts about losing a pet is knowing that you won’t be able to create new memories with them. Getting the opportunity to see new images of them can be a precious gift.
14. “I wanted to call and express my condolences, but I figured you might not be up for talking at the moment. Any time you want to talk about Rex, just send me a text and I’ll call you as soon as I can.”
When a loss is fresh, it can be challenging to speak about it aloud. While calling your loved one to express your condolences is a nice gesture, it can make people feel put on the spot. Texting them with an offer to talk when they’re ready gives them the space they need while letting them know you’re happy to provide a friendly ear.
15. “I never knew anyone who had a bird for a pet until I met you and Scarlet. Thank you for showing me what wonderful companions these animals can be.”
It’s easy to find things to say about a cat or a dog that has passed away. It can be a little trickier to express sympathy about the loss of a more unusual pet. Be specific, and talk about the impact the animal made on your life.
16. “I spent my life being afraid of big dogs, but then you introduced me to Starla. She was such a sweet and gentle soul, and she helped me conquer my fears and get a new appreciation for large animals. She will be deeply missed.”
Hearing specific, positive feedback about a pet who has passed can be a great comfort. It reminds the grieving owner that their pet made a positive impact on the world.
What to Write in a Card to a Loved One Who Lost a Pet
For many people, pets are part of the family. If someone’s parent or sibling passed away, the odds are that you’d send them a handwritten condolence card. Making the same gesture after the loss of a pet shows the owner that you know how much their pet meant to them.
17. “Sarah was so sad to hear about Baxter’s passing. She asked me to help her put together a little care package for you. There’s a picture she drew of both of you playing with Bax, and a golden retriever stuffed animal that she thinks looks like him.”
Kids and pets have a special connection. If someone in your life has a pet that has passed, children may feel particularly empathetic to their loss. Work with them to help them express their emotions.
18. “I wanted to let you know that I made a donation in Clementine’s name to the local cat rescue that you adopted her from. You’ve always spoken so highly of the work they do, and they really did pair you with the perfect pet.”
Animal lovers often work closely with their local shelters to ensure they have the resources they need. If your loved one has a particular shelter they’re fond of, donating in the name of their late pet can be an incredibly meaningful gesture.
19. “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
If you’re struggling with finding the right words to express your condolences, consider looking for famous quotes about pets. This one by the French poet Anatole France hints at the deep, almost spiritual connection pets and owners can have. This versatile quote is appropriate for the loss of any kind of pet.
20. “Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, and filling the emptiness we didn’t even know we had.”
This is another example of a quote you can use as a condolence message. Written by author Thom Jones, this sentiment pays tribute to the joy that dogs bring into our lives.
21. “Cats are connoisseurs of comfort.”
James Herriot was a British veterinarian who also penned several beloved books about animals including All Things Great and Small. This quote from him is the perfect jumping-off point for a condolence card regarding the loss of a cat.
What to Say to a Loved One Who Lost a Pet Tragically or Suddenly
Losing a pet is never easy. But it can feel especially devastating when that death comes out of nowhere. When sending condolences to someone who has suffered from the unexpected loss of a pet, it’s essential to be particularly delicate. Here are a few examples of appropriate words of support:
22. “Fostering cats is so rewarding, but it can also be incredibly difficult. When a rescue doesn’t pull through, it’s easy to feel as though you’ve let them down. Even if you save a thousand kittens, you’ll never forget the ones who didn’t make it.”
As pet shelters have become increasingly overwhelmed, citizen heroes have stepped up to help animals in their communities. Sometimes, despite their best efforts, an animal doesn’t survive. If your friend is fostering, the death of an animal they care for will hit them just as hard as the loss of a longtime family pet.
23. “I’m so sorry to hear about Buddy’s passing. He left this world too soon, but you loved him enough for a lifetime.”
It’s always sad when an animal dies, but it’s particularly tragic when they’re young. Focus on the quality of life their owners gave them instead of the quantity.
24. “You and Luna had such a special bond. I know you must be missing your loyal companion right now. If there’s anything I can do to support you, I’m here to help.”
Losing an animal quite suddenly can make people feel quite raw. A gentle and understated expression of condolences that also offers help is often appreciated in circumstances such as these.
25. “While you only had a few years with Eddie, you made them incredibly magical and fun for him. He had such a rough start in this world. I know you wish you could have given him many years of joy, but please know that his life was better because of you.”
If your friend rescued a pet from a bad situation, it can be okay to gently remind them of those early days. It can help people to know that they improved the life of their pet.
26. “We were devastated to hear about Goldie’s untimely passing. The neighborhood won’t be the same without her.”
When a beloved pet dies unexpectedly, anyone who loved them will be affected. It’s okay to let your friend or loved one know that they’re not alone in their grief.
What to Say to a Loved One Who Lost a Pet After a Long Illness
Even if the death of a pet is anticipated, it is still a painful loss. Your loved one may have been expecting their pet’s death, but there’s no way to really prepare for that kind of loss. Try one of these supportive sentiments for someone dealing with an untimely (but not unexpected) pet death.
27. “It takes a very special person to adopt a senior cat. You know from the moment you get them that the clock is ticking. And yet you set yourself up for that heartbreak, because you know these creatures deserve to live out their last months in peace and comfort. I admire you enormously.”
People often avoid adopting senior pets because they know they’ll only have them for a limited time. As a result, they can linger in shelters for years. Anyone who takes on this kind of mission deserves special recognition.
28. “You have been so devoted to Morris’ care over the last few years. I know you did everything you could to nurse him through his illness. You did everything you could.”
Sometimes we spend a lot of time and money to help our pets overcome an illness. It’s nice to remind someone about how valuable their efforts were.
29. “It was so brave of you to make the decision to let Lucy go. I know how much you loved her, and how you would have done anything to keep her here with you. Ending her pain was a kindness.”
Even if you know that putting your pet down is the best decision for them, it’s still easy to feel guilty about making that choice. Support your loved one by reassuring them that they did the right thing.
30. “I remember when you got Snowball for Christmas back in kindergarten. I never would have imagined she’d still be with you after you graduated from college. She had such a long and happy life with you.”
All good things must come to an end. When an elderly pet dies, remind their owner of the many great years they shared.
31. “It’s clear from hearing you talk about Smokey how much she meant to you. I’m incredibly sorry for the loss of such a special friend.”
This short and sweet sentiment shies away from any suffering the pet may have gone through and cuts neatly to the heart of the matter.
What Should You Avoid Saying to Someone Who Lost a Pet?
We’ve gone over a plethora of examples of appropriate condolences for the loss of a pet. But it’s also important to know what kinds of things you should avoid saying to not inadvertently cause someone pain. Here, we break down some examples of phrases and topics to avoid when wishing someone sympathy.
32. “How did it happen?”
Many people immediately want to get all the details when a tragedy strikes. They’re not necessarily being nosy or gossipy - they just want to understand the circumstances. Unfortunately, pets sometimes die in incredibly tragic ways, and repeatedly dredging up the details can cause the owner unnecessary pain.
33. “They’re in a better place.”
Not everyone shares the same belief systems. Some people don’t believe that there is a heaven or afterlife at all. Others may belong to faiths that don’t believe animals join us in the afterlife. When you’re uncertain about someone’s personal beliefs, it’s best not to bring the topic up at all.
34. “Will you be adopting a new pet soon?”
This question may be well-intended, but it implies that pets are interchangeable and easily replaced. For many people, pets are more than just companion animals - they’re members of the family. If a loved one’s spouse died, you wouldn’t ask them at the funeral when they’re getting remarried.
35. “That breed of dog is known for having respiratory issues, so this can’t have been a huge surprise.”
Certain breeds of animals are more prone to specific health issues than others. If a loved one’s pet dies, it’s best to avoid any commentary about known health risks associated with the breed. It can come across as though you’re blaming the owner for adopting that breed in the first place.
36. “I can’t believe you’re still so sad. It was just a dog/cat/other pet.”
Some people form very deep and emotional bonds with their pets. People struggling with physical limitations or mental illness, in particular, are often incredibly personally attached to their pets. For others, their pets may have been their companions through a bad breakup, homelessness, or other personal setbacks. When someone has a close relationship with their pet, they may need more space and time to grieve than you would, and that’s a valid response.
Supporting a Friend After the Death of a Pet
Part of the reason we love our pets so much is because they love us back unconditionally. Your friend will be feeling the loss of that love in a very profound way. Until they’re able to feel a little better, do for them what their pet once did: love them wholeheartedly and unconditionally.