Caring for a Loved One’s Pet After They Pass Away

The death of a loved one is always a challenging experience. Some turbulence is, of course, expected. But there can also be aspects that people find unexpectedly difficult from both a practical and emotional perspective.

One of the more common of these occurs in relation to a passed loved one’s pet. If you’ve been asked to provide a home for an animal they leave behind, you may have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, their pet is a member of the family and should be treated with love and respect. At the same time, caring for an animal is a big responsibility that takes focus and investment during a very difficult time.

We’re going to look a little closer at caring for a loved one’s pet after they pass away. What do you need to consider to ensure a smooth transition for everyone involved?

Navigating the Emotions

There will be a distinct emotional component to taking care of a loved one’s pet after they’ve passed away. You may still be in the midst of the grieving process when they come to live with you. Indeed, the pet’s presence may spark memories that exacerbate the void of your loved one’s absence. Remember, though, that the pet may also be going through a grieving process, too. Often, the best way to navigate this loss is to do so together.

You can perform activities together to help you both to feel closer to the person you’ve lost. One of the complex aspects of grief is often memories can be both painful and can help us manage the sense of loss. So, find positive parts of your loved one’s routine with their pet you can duplicate. Favorite walking spots and games can be helpful tools for you and the pet.   

Nevertheless, another important aspect of the grieving process is the ability to move forward. You can navigate the emotional component of the change by creating new and unique routines with the pet. Create playtime activities to provide fresh experiences for you and the animal. Explore new places together. 

Handling Your Loved One’s Instructions

Your loved one may have made your guardianship of their pet part of their will. As a legally binding contract, this is an important consideration. However, even if they verbally expressed their wishes while they were sick and left a list of care instructions, you still have an important responsibility. Indeed, there can be powerful emotions bundled with your adherence to these instructions. It’s not unusual for people to consider the requests of a passed loved one to be sacrosanct. 

Firstly, pay close attention to the instructions most relevant to the pet’s essential care. Your loved one may have left information regarding their health needs. This is especially important if you’re taking care of an aging or disabled animal. If you’re unsure of how essential these elements are, it may be worth speaking to the pet’s regular veterinarian for clarity.

However, there may also be aspects of your loved one’s wishes that are purely preferences. For instance, they may outline requests for professional grooming or expensive cat food brands. Don’t feel guilty if these aren’t practical options for you. Utilizing items and services in your price range or in keeping with your lifestyle is not a betrayal of your loved one’s wishes. It’s enough that you’re providing a secure, stable, and loving home for their pet.

Preparing Your Home and Family

If you don’t already have animals at home, the introduction of your loved one’s pet can represent a distinct shift in your lifestyle. They will have care needs you need to incorporate into your family’s budget and routine. Not to mention that you’re likely to need to sacrifice a certain amount of space to be able to offer them a comfortable home. As such, it’s important to prepare your home and your family for your loved one’s pet’s arrival.

This may include adjusting parts of your home and decor. It’s worth investing in some pet-friendly furniture that can stand up to claw scratches and be easily cleaned. This is especially important during the transition process, as you may find the pet more prone to accidents or stress-based clawing and biting. If entirely new furniture isn’t practical, you can also get removable covers for sofas and chairs. If your loved one’s pet lives with mobility challenges, you may also need to provide them with steps up to higher seats or a ramp at the entryway.

Alongside adjusting the physical arrangements of your home, there are practical preparations that are essential for the pet’s health and well-being. Animals don’t just need food, furniture, and toys to thrive. You’ll also need to make arrangements for how you’ll be able to financially handle medical costs. This could be by purchasing pet insurance or setting up a savings fund for unexpected health issues.

You should take the time to talk to the family about the pet’s needs. With younger members of the family, in particular, it’s vital to go over ground rules about safety, such as not leaving items lying around that can present choking or poisoning risks. Talk together about pet chore schedules to make sure the animal’s needs are met while spreading the workload fairly among the family.


Coping with the loss of a loved one isn’t just about the gap they leave in your life. You may also be tasked with caring for their beloved pet. The grieving process is difficult, but you and the pet can navigate the emotions by maintaining familiar activities while building new routines together. While your loved one’s wishes hold a certain amount of importance, don’t feel guilty if it’s impractical to follow all of these to the letter. Remember, the introduction of a pet can be turbulent, so take the time to prepare your home and family accordingly. Though the pet may not be joining you under the best circumstances, you can certainly make sure the experience is positive for everyone involved.

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