Losing a pet is always heartbreaking for any pet owner, and if you lost your pet after many years of love and companionship, feeling that a huge hole is missing from your heart is perfectly normal for quite some time afterwards. Oft-quoted advice given to people who are struggling to come to terms with the loss of a much beloved pet is to ‘get a new pet as quickly as possible.’ While this advice is clearly well intentioned, it can also come across as a little bit mercenary. It does not really take into account the fact that the bereaved person is grieving for the loss of a unique pet that they knew very well and loved for their individual personality, and that simply buying another animal to fill the gap is unlikely to ease the pain of grieving. Jumping straight into buying or adopting a new pet too soon after bereavement can be counter-productive. While having a new animal to care for, bond with and to provide the companionship that is often sorely missed in the wake of losing a pet can be a good thing, it would be unrealistic to say that getting a new pet right away will cancel out the loss or shorten the grieving process.Many pet owners find themselves saying after the loss of a pet ‘never again;’ that the pain and grief they felt as a result of losing their original pet is something that they are simply not willing to open themselves up to a second time. Additionally, unfounded feelings of guilt, fear of the unknown and a sense of being disloyal to the memory of the previous pet can all have their impact too.Have you have lost a pet and are trying to establish your feelings on getting a new one, or do you feel that something is missing from your life even though the idea of getting a new pet simply isn’t something that you feel you can face? Read on for an impartial look at getting a new pet after pet bereavement.
Rushing into replacing a lost pet immediately is ever a good idea, for the reasons that we touched upon above. A new animal will not remove your grief for your original pet, but neither should you feel guilty to your pet’s memory that you are bringing a new animal into their home. It is also important to understand that you may still be grieving, or find yourself feeling sad and nostalgic for your old pet at odd moments, even if you have a new pet in the home. This is normal and natural, and does not mean that a new pet is a bad idea, or that you are in some way not giving them your full attention.
Think about the effect that getting or not getting a new pet will have on the other members of your family. Do they all feel the same way as you? Are one or more members of the family really suffering due to the absence of an animal in the home, or is one of the family really not ready or able to consider having a new pet in their space? It is also really important to think about any other pets that you already have as well. Some pets will pine and grieve strongly for the loss of a companion, and will not be happy until they have a new friend and soul mate to keep them company. Some other pets, however, particularly if they are older and very set in their ways, will not deal well with the addition of a new animal to the household, and you should always prioritise the needs and feelings of your existing pets when coming to a decision.
If you lost your previous pet due to an injury or illness, you will probably be hyper-aware about the risk factors for the same fate befalling your new animal. Try to minimise the possibilities of facing the same issues in a new pet by risk assessing your area, and making sure that you research any pet you are considering buying, and have them checked out by a vet if you have any doubts or concerns.
However hard you try to safeguard the health and wellness of a new pet, one key element of making the decision to get a new pet after bereavement is that you must accept the inevitability of their eventual demise. Hopefully, this will be after a long, uneventful and healthy life, but even this can be difficult to accept. You should also be aware of the possibility, however slim and however much you try to minimise the risks, that your new pet may at some point become ill or injured, and that you will have to face your feelings over this again. Could you do this without it breaking you?
If you do decide to get a new pet in the wake of losing a previous one, it can be hard to know how long to wait before doing so. Some people seek to find a new animal companion within weeks or even just days of losing their prior pet, and for some people, this is the right decision. Other people may take months or even years to come to terms with the idea of getting a new pet, and learning to see the life of their prior pet and the happiness that they provided as a positive thing once more, rather than only reflecting upon the feelings generated by their loss. There really is no one size fits all answer.
However much pain you are in, and however unsure you might feel about opening your heart up to loving another animal, there is no getting away from the fact that you, as a pet lover, can make a massive difference to the life of an animal that is desperately in need of a secure, loving home. Few pet lovers can ignore the plight of homeless and needy pets when they might be in a position to make a difference to the life of even just one animal. Knowing that you could potentially make such a positive difference to the fate of an animal is often something that makes it all worth it in the long term- the love, the laughter, and even eventually, the loss. Don’t rule it out.