The loss of a beloved pet is heartbreaking. Your pet was your best friend, your valentine, your steady source of love and companionship whether times were good or bad.
And when you lose a pet, it's understandable to want a companion again. Someone to fill that hole your pet left behind.
Many owners struggle to know when is the right time to get a new pet. In some ways, this can be harder than getting a pet for the first time. You want to love your new pet as a creature in their own right, not a replacement for your lost pet.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate the process.
Grieve Your Loss
First, you need to give yourself time to grieve in a healthy way.
Or, in other words, you have to give yourself time to finish grieving your lost pet.
If you haven't finished mourning the loss of your former pet, you'll adopt a new pet looking for a replacement, and that isn't fair to your new pet. They're a completely different personality, and if you're not prepared for that, you'll saddle them with unrealistic expectations--or project negative emotions onto them.
Everyone experiences grief differently. There is no time limit on how long you have to get over the loss of your old pet--the truth is, you'll always miss them.
Wait until you feel at peace with the loss of your old pet. That's not the same thing as not grieving anymore. You may still be grieving. When you find yourself missing a companion, rather than your old pet specifically, you're ready to adopt again.
Think About Your Current Household
You also need to think about your current household.
You might be ready for another pet, but that doesn't mean that everyone else in the house is.
Think about your family members--your spouse or significant other, roommates, children, or any other relatives who live with you. In order to adopt responsibly, the decision to adopt again must be made as a unanimous household.
Be open and communicative with your loved ones about where you are in the grieving process. If everyone can comfortably agree they're ready for a new pet, you can start talking about what kind of pet would be best suited to your home.
Be Aware of Your Current Pets
However, don't forget about the other members of your family--your other pets.
Animals grieve just like we do. They form meaningful relationships with close companions. So it only makes sense that they, too, would grieve.
Like humans, all pets grieve differently. Some pets seem completely normal. Some begin having behavioral changes--if a dog who died was the leader, the remaining dog may see it as their job to take on the role and may bark more or behave more protectively.
Some pets become deeply depressed in their grief, becoming quiet and withdrawn, sleeping more, eating less, becoming clingy, or seeming disoriented.
Keep an eye on your pets after one pet passes away. If they're not ready for another member of the family, a new pet will only serve to upset them further. Wait until they've returned to more or less normal behavior before you consider introducing a new animal.
During this time, be strong for your pets. Try to maintain a normal routine and comfort them when you can.
Be Responsible When You Get a New Pet
Whenever you decide it's the right time to get a new pet, the most important thing is to be responsible.
Pets are living creatures with their own interior lives. They have emotions, personalities, likes, and dislikes. Treat them as you would treat another person--with kindness, care, and respect.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to encourage treatment or diagnosis of any animal medical condition. For medical advice, contact your veterinarian.