Getting a new pet after losing a beloved animal companion can be very difficult for many pet parents. Some are able to get a new pet within days of losing the old pet, others may take months and sometimes even years, or never get another pet again. This is not a decision that anyone else can make for you – there are too many factors that play into it to allow for some easy guidelines, but perhaps, the following can provide a better understanding of the process.
Each pet is unique
First and foremost, every pet guardian knows that it’s not possible to ever replace a lost pet, but that doesn’t change the fact that to many, it still feels like that’s exactly what they’re doing when they bring another animal into their lives. It helps to remember that each and every animal is unique, and that your relationship with the new pet will probably be completely different than the one you had with your lost loved one. I’d like to think that our animals would want us to open our hearts to another; that, in fact, they are celebrating when we’ve recovered from our grief over losing them enough to even begin to contemplate a new addition to the family.
How do you know when the time is right?
How do you know when the time is right? This varies from person to person. Just like grief is an individual journey, so is opening your heart to another animal. Don’t judge others, or yourself, if you’re not ready, or if you’re ready before others may feel that it’s appropriate.
This issue can be complicated in families where one family member may be ready for another pet, but the other is still deeply immersed in grieving the lost companion. This will require honest and caring discussions. Don’t surprise the family member who is not ready with a new puppy or kitten – rather than bringing happiness, this may complicate their grief, and it’s not fair to a new animal to come into this type of situation. Be mindful of other animals in the household who may also be grieving the loss, and think about whether a new pet would help them or whether it would add to their stress.
Think carefully about what kind of an animal you want to get. You may love a certain breed or coloring, but be aware that just because you adopt another animal that may look like your lost one, the new one will not be a carbon copy of your lost pet. He will be his own, unique personality and the two of you will form your own, unique relationship.
Do you “just know” when it’s time?
Ultimately, I believe that you “just know” when the time is right. Or, alternatively, a new animal will find you. Opening your heart to another and beginning the joyful journey of getting to know and love a new animal companion in no way diminishes the love you had for your lost pet. Lost love and memories can beautifully coexist with new love and happiness.
About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.