When are the kids old enough to help you put down a pet?

Filed under: Tweens, Teens, Nutrition: Health, Development/Milestones: Babies, Day Care & Education

Maine coonMy husband and I have been anxiously watching one of our oldest cats in the past three weeks. Bushy has been through a lot: he lost an ear about a year and a half ago to cancer. He has had long hair and mats galore. He has a penchant for waking us up at 4:00 a.m. for wet food. He sheds all over the house. I have had him for fourteen years.

During the Christmas holidays, Bushy jumped onto the table to try to steal some cheese and caught his long fur on fire from a candle. Ironically, I had lit the candles because the children weren't around to knock them over. Bushy only singed his fur, but he scared us a great deal.

But in the past few weeks, he can't seem to get enough to eat. When we pet him beneath his copious amounts of fur, he feels bony, like he is shrinking. Instead of lying near the dishwasher and on the heating grate in the kitchen, he sleeps next to the litter box. This is a new behavior, and not a good sign. When I look in his eyes, I cry. Last night, my husband suggested that we take him to the vet on Monday.I started crying, because I know that if we take him to the vet, we probably won't be bringing him home.

I haven't yet figured out what to tell the children. The kids get very emotional about our animals. My youngest, Tommy, who is now 9, once argued with us eloquently about whether or not kitty Rufus deserved a chance to sire his own children and raise them. We neutered Rufus anyway.

A few years ago, when Whiskers was starting to go down hill the way Bushy is, I waited too long to take him to the vet and he died at home. I have no desire to repeat that with Bushy. But considering how the children get about the animals, I am not sure whether we should take them with us to say goodbye at the vet or whether we should have them say goodbye to him and then do it while they are at school.

Will holding their pet as he leaves this life be too much? How old should a child be before they experience this? My kids are 9, 10, and 13. Should we take the oldest but not the younger two? I don't want them to think their pets just disappear-- but I don't want to traumatize them either. I should probably mention that Bushy is one of five cats, also, so he is not our only furry friend, and there will be many here to comfort us after he crosses the veil.

Does anyone have any advice?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.