For many pet owners, the decision to put a cat or dog down, even after a long and happy life, is not an easy one. Although pets do pass away from natural causes, many owners are faced with the decision of euthanizing a sick cat or dog to end their suffering if they have been battling a severe illness.
Researchers have proven the strong bond between pets and owners, and even more studies have looked at how humans grieve their pets when they are gone, according to The Washington Post. A 2002 article in the journal Society & Animals reported that the death of a companion animal can be "just as devastating as the loss of a human significant other," the news outlet reports. Some people even rate this loss as "far more intense" than losing a human loved one.
The news source reports that because pets are so dependent on their human companions, it is natural for an owner to feel guilty and wonder whether they did everything they could to keep their pet healthy and alive. It is normal to wonder whether you should have taken your dog to the veterinarian sooner, or to wish you had insisted your cat be hospitalized. Further guilt may be incurred when an owner feels that they should not be grieving so much for an animal. Grieving the loss of a pet may be particularly difficult for children. recommends that adults tell children the truth about the animal's death, and not hide their own emotions about the loss. This way, the family can grieve and recover together.
All of these feelings are normal and part of the grief that one may feel when losing a pet. There are many support groups available and you should ask your veterinarian for more information if needed.