When pets die, do they go to heaven?

Do dogs, cats and others pets go to heaven when they die? This is a question that children (as well as some adults) ask when a beloved non-human family member passes away.

The Catholic Church doesn’t actually pronounce whether pets go to heaven or not. Sometimes, though, in a moment of pastoral insensitivity or because of a lack of proper grounding, an adult – and sometimes even an authority such as a priest or a parent – incorrectly states that according to the Church, animals do not go to heaven.

Lancer (our former Black Lab) and Pookie (our former rat) got along well as friends

Lancer and Pookie, pets of ours from years ago

My family ran into this at our parish when the associate pastor announced to a full church of families with children that his cat had died and that “we all know that pets don’t go to heaven”.  I can’t imagine how much harm he did that day from the pulpit, pretending to be authoritative on an area out of his depth. If nothing else, even had he mistakenly believed this to be Catholic teaching, there was no pastoral benefit to his statement – only harm.  What was he thinking?

Luckily, although my children did hear it, they knew it was lousy theology. (We can never know all theology – even the bishops have theological experts whom they consult.  But we can develop a taste for good and bad theology. My young adult children do have that.)  But they no longer wanted to attend Mass there very often (so we are now more involved at Mission Santa Clara instead).

But what of everyone else, sitting in the pews and thinking that this priest was espousing an official Roman Catholic position?  I can only hope and pray that they thought to check it out somewhere else. Or that they weren’t listening….

Recently I spoke about this incident, and the likely fallout, with a couple of priests who have good heads on their shoulders.  One said “we don’t know what happens” and the other said, “if your happiness required your pet to be in heaven with you, then your pet will be there”.

My own thinking is that our God is the God not just of “the living and the dead” as we say at Mass, but all of creation; Our God is the God of all the animals on the earth as well as of women and men.  If all creation is to be Redeemed in Christ, why not also our beloved dogs, cats, bunnies, fish….?

What would Saint Francis of Assisi say?

Ask a child whose dog or pet has just died what he or she thinks is the right answer.  “Will I see my dog in heaven?”  “What do you think, honey?”  Children often do have that taste for good theology – frequently it is simpler than we think.  “You said Heaven is perfect. If Heaven is perfect then I will.”

Amen.

 

 

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4 Responses to When pets die, do they go to heaven?

  1. Natalie says:

    I agree with you let God speak to his people about animals in heaven. After all he made them. I am not Catholic but, I agree with you that priest could of been more respectful over the topic. At the very least speak about the issue with only adults not with little kids in the room.

  2. Mary Pope-Handy says:

    Thanks Natalie!

  3. M.LaClair says:

    For an informative article, with Scriputural documentation to prove that God includes animals in the judgment and the hereafter go to:
    http://www.LookListenANDThink.com for several articles on animals with balanced teachings which include the articles:
    Do Dogs Go To Heaven? and
    Animals Will Be Judged By God, and
    Killing Mice in Mousetraps
    all three give proof from the Word of God – and the answers may surprise you, because they’ve been there all the time. For instance in Gen. 5:9 we are told that animals which are man killers will answer to God, they will come before Him in judgment. He will require a reckoning from every beast.
    In Isaiah 43:20 we are told that jackels and ostriches will praise Him. Heaven will be full of praises – from ALL creation. click on this link:
    http://www.LookListenANDThink.com

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