You’ve suffered the loss of a four-legged family member, and the inevitable question arises – either within your family or from a well-meaning friend: “When are you going to get a new fur baby?”
As a vet who has practiced more than 15 years, I have insights, but not an easy answer. It’s an individual decision, and often, even your family will disagree. I have seen and heard everything from, “We are getting a new pet this weekend” to “I will never have another pet – I can’t go through this pain again”.
What are some things to consider?
Most important: considering a new pet absolutely does not mean that you are replacing your lost loved one. The loss of your pet left a hole in your heart that can never be filled, it just has to heal through time and care – but it is amazing how your heart can expand to welcome a new pet. Often, people tell me they worry that their departed pet would never forgive them for moving on so quickly. I believe that our pets want us to be happy, no matter what. I think they hope we will look for another four-legged family member to love.
Where are you in your grief – will a new pet distract you from grief or bring comfort as you grieve? Grief is not something that can be avoided. We all must move through it in order to end up on the other side. Distracting yourself from grief long term will not make it go away and can be damaging to your health and wellbeing. If you are choosing a new pet so you don’t have to grieve, then it is probably best to give it some time. If a new pet will bring you comfort as you process your grief, then that can be very beneficial.
Next, consider the other people in your family – everyone may not be on the same page about a new pet. It is important to discuss each person’s feelings, especially the children in the home. While surprising a child with a new puppy may seem like a fun idea, it can have disastrous results if the child isn’t ready.
Are there other pets in your home? Do your other pets miss having a companion? Consider their personality, their need for interaction, and their health when deciding on a new pet. If you decide to expand the family to include a new animal, please make sure you are able to return it, if it becomes clear they are not a suitable match for your household.
You could always test the waters before taking the plunge. If you are feeling the need to interact with an animal but are not ready for your own quite yet – consider pet sitting, being a cuddle buddy at a local shelter, or even fostering.
There are no rights and wrongs when considering when to get a new pet, just be open and honest about your own feelings, as well as considering your family and current pets.