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What Not to Say to Someone Who Lost a Pet: 12 Hurtful Sayings

Written by: Misty Layne

Last Updated on January 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat walks on the rainbow bridge in a cloud shape and catches a butterfly

What Not to Say to Someone Who Lost a Pet: 12 Hurtful Sayings

Knowing what to say to someone who just lost a pet can be difficult. Obviously, you want to offer your condolences, but there are some things people end up saying that are more hurtful than helpful. One might not mean to be hurtful, but there are a few things that should not be said to a grieving pet parent.

If you want to be sure you’re saying something appropriate and not hurtful the next time someone you know loses a pet, keep reading. We’ve compiled a list of 12 sayings that should be avoided when talking to a grieving person. Stay away from these, and you should be able to offer comfort to a pet parent who’s lost a pet.


The 12 Hurtful Things to Avoid Saying to Someone Who Lost a Pet

1. “It’s just a cat/dog/fish/other animal.”

Dismissing a pet’s death as “It was only a pet” minimizes a person’s loss to make it seem as if it’s no big deal or their grief is not valid. But for many, pets are just as much a family member as the humans in the family, and a person may even feel more grief over the loss of a pet than a person. Saying this and acting as if a person’s loss isn’t a big deal and their grief isn’t valid is incredibly dismissive.

neighbors talking by the gate
Image Credit: ImYanis, Shutterstock

2. “At least you have other pets.”

This is another highly inappropriate statement to make to someone who has lost a pet. It doesn’t matter if this person has a billion pets; they have a different relationship with each pet they have, so their relationship with the pet who has passed away can’t simply be replaced with another. Pets hold a unique place in our hearts, so just because someone has more than one pet, it doesn’t mean they won’t miss or grieve the one who was lost. A better turn of phrase may be, “I hope you can gain comfort from your other animals during this time.”

3. “You can always get another pet.”

This ties into the last phrase, as a new or different pet won’t replace the one that was lost. Pets aren’t items that can simply be replaced when they’re gone. Pets are family. Think about how horrible it would be to say to someone who has lost a human family member, “Well, you can just get a new one, right?”. You would never say that! So, don’t say it about the loss of a pet, either. Getting a new pet may be something a person does in the future, but it’s likely the last thing they’re thinking about right now.

4. “I’m not a pet person, so I don’t really understand why you’re sad.”

It’s fine if you aren’t a pet person. It’s even fine if you don’t understand why someone would be upset enough about losing a pet to need to take a day off from work or cry. But keep that to yourself. Even if you don’t understand the importance a pet holds in the life of someone, it doesn’t negate the fact that a bond was there, and now it’s gone. Let grieving people grieve, whether you understand or not.

Two people arguing.
Two people arguing. Photo by Shutterstock

5. “I didn’t actually like your pet. Maybe you can choose a different kind next time!”

Your personal feelings are not important when it comes to someone else’s grief. Whether you liked the pet that was lost or not, this is another time when your feelings should be kept to yourself. What matters here is that the person who lost the pet loved them, and they now miss them. Stick with statements such as, “I know this must be a difficult time,” instead!

6. “Look at it this way; at least they aren’t in pain any longer.”

This one seems as if it should be a comforting thought, right? For some, it may be, especially if a pet parent had to decide to put their beloved pet down because it was better for the animal in the long run. Hearing this might make them feel better about that decision. But for others, a statement like this could bring up memories of their pet suffering or even cause them to feel guilty.

7. “Your dog/cat/pet is up in heaven now! (or has crossed the Rainbow Bridge).”

This is another statement that seems as if it should be a comforting one, and again, for some, it may be. If you know the belief system of the person who lost a pet, and this statement matches those beliefs, this statement may be perfectly acceptable. But if you don’t know how someone feels, this remark could come across as inappropriate. Plus, this kind of statement may be said too early (such as hours after a pet’s passing) and bring a person no comfort at all.

man sitting at grave site
Image Credit: Cris Kelly, Shutterstock

8. “You were so lucky to be able to have them for so many years!”

Yes, the person was fortunate to have their pet in their life, but being positive and looking on the bright side when a loved one dies isn’t very helpful for the grieving person. And saying something along these lines can make it seem as if the longer a pet lived, the more valid being sad over their loss is when the truth is that sadness is valid whether they had that pet for a year or ten years.

The same goes for saying something about how the person should feel grateful for their time with their pet. This statement is meant to be helpful, but again, positivity in the face of loss isn’t always welcome. It may also indicate to the grieving person that they should simply get over their loss.

9. “You gave your pet such a good life!”

This is yet another nice statement that might not always be so nice. This is often true—that the grieving pet parent gave their pet a lovely life—but this statement is often said with the intention of trying to make someone feel better and to take away the pain they are feeling. Which, again, sounds nice. But there’s really nothing you can say that will take away the pain of loss, and what most people need when grieving is the space and time to feel what they’re feeling. It can also be helpful to them to have those surrounding them recognize and acknowledge the pain they’re feeling.

10. “Was X/Y/Z the best option?”

If a person had to make difficult healthcare decisions for their pet, the last thing they need is you re-litigating their choice. Guilt can be a huge part of grief (whether it makes sense to feel guilty or not), and a grieving person may be feeling guilt over some of those decisions. A grieving pet parent already feels bad enough; they don’t need you to make them feel worse by questioning how they chose to care for their pet.

woman blowing out candles
Image Credit: Antonio Guillem, Shutterstock

11. “You knew your pet would die before you.”

There’s no two ways about it; this is an awful thing to say to someone who has lost a pet! Yes, pet parents are aware that they will (in most cases) outlive their pets. Knowing this doesn’t make the loss any less terrible, though, and pointing this out to them does absolutely nothing helpful for anyone.

12. “Shouldn’t you move on already?”

Grief doesn’t have a time limit. You would never ask a widow who’s still grieving a year and a half after their spouse’s death why they haven’t moved on, so why would you say something like this to a grieving pet parent? We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: Pets are part of the family, despite not being human, and they’re just as important as our human family members. Statements such as this one indicate that a pet is less than a person, and a person’s grief should be commensurate with your perception of their pet’s importance. Avoid any statements like this!

grieving dog owner holding pet collar
Image Credit: Liudmyla, Shutterstock

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And a Few Things You Can Say

So, what should you say to someone who has lost a pet? There are many statements far superior to the ones above. Just a few include:

  • “Would you like to talk about it?”
  • “If you need anything at all, call me.”
  • “I’m so sorry; I can only imagine how hard this must be.”
  • “I know it might be difficult the next time you do X/Y/Z, which you used to do with your pet. If you want company while you do that, I’m available.”
  • “I remember the time when your pet…; they were really wonderful.”

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Losing a pet is a difficult experience. Hearing comments made by well-meaning friends and family that are meant to be helpful but are actually hurtful can make the experience so much worse. Try to avoid the statements above the next time you’re speaking to someone grieving a lost pet. Instead, stick with statements that let them know you’re there if they need you and that you know grief doesn’t have a time limit.


Featured Image Credit: Elena Nechiporenko, Shutterstock

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