Even with the best of intentions and a lot of effort, it can happen. Sometimes you really do need to rehome your beloved pets.
After you have made this tough decision, it’s time to explain it all to your children. This can be even harder, especially since they adore your pet even more than you do.
Use these 6 tips for talking to your kids about rehoming your pet.
1. Be Honest
Be upfront about why you need to rehome your dog, cat or other creature. Children can tell when you are hiding something or not telling the truth. It’s better to be honest now, and answer all of their questions, rather than play catch-up later to cover your tracks.
So tell them:
- if a family member has or has developed an allergy
- if the cost of pet care was just too much
- if the cost of moving with the pet is too high
- if your housing situation doesn’t allow a pet
- if your house isn’t the best place for your pet (no yard or too small)
- if life changes (like a new baby, illness or injury) have changed the pet situation
- if you just don’t have time to devote to your pet
- if the pet is aggressive with the kids or baby
- if the pet is too old or ill to move with your family
- if you are moving overseas and your pet can’t make the trip for any reason
There are so many life changes and situations that we cannot anticipate. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, it is better for everyone to find a different home for Fido or Fluffy.
2. Don’t Blame Your Kids
Kids are kids. They are still learning how to care for themselves. It’s frankly a miracle if they remember to both flush the toilet and wash their hands. Kids, no matter what age, should not be held responsible for all of the pet care.
When you tell them that your pup or kitty is going to a new home, don’t blame the kids.
Instead, explain that as a family, things have changed or happened. As a family, you are no longer able to care for the pet the way it deserves.
3. Do Your Research
Before you even tell the kids, you need to do some research. Yes, there are animal shelters in every community in the United States and abroad. However, many of these shelters are considered “high kill.” In other words, animals surrendered to these places have a ticking clock: either be adopted by a certain date or be euthanized.
If possible, try to find another option like a compassionate animal shelter or another family to adopt your pet. There are many groups online that can help direct you toward loving foster homes, pet adoption agencies or rehoming services.
4. Keep the Kids Involved
If you opt to find another family yourself, keep the kids involved in the search process. Remember, this is a beloved member of your family. You don’t want to give your dog or cat to just anyone!
Let them help make the ads or posters to show off your beautiful pet. Have your kids help you to weed through the people who want your pet. If it’s safe, bring them with you for meet-ups with the potential new owners.
Ask your pet’s new family if they might keep you updated with pictures and stories. Your child will want to know that their pet is still loved!
5. Don’t Make Any Promises
It is so tempting to make promises when you are talking to your kids about rehoming your pet. This is especially true if your current military life circumstances are forcing your hand.
You might be tempted to say:
- “We’ll get a new pet at our next duty station.”
- “When the baby is bigger, we can get another pet.”
- “When we get a house with a yard, we can get a new dog.”
- “If we get a bigger house, we can get another pet.”
- “Let’s get a cat/reptile/fish tank instead.”
Before you even sit down with your kids, be really honest with yourself. Why do you need to rehome your pet right now? Really consider these reasons and then don’t promise anything.
6. Let Them Be Sad
Remember, this isn’t just any pet. This is THEIR pet, their best friend and snuggle buddy. He or she will be leaving the family forever and it is sad.
Your kids might have ideas about how to keep your pet. Listen to them. They might have a creative solution that you didn’t consider.
Take time to grieve together as a family. Do some things together to help remember your beloved pet. Take pictures together, go for favorite walks or give special treats.
Talk about your pet after it is in the new home. If the new owners have agreed, let your kids write cards or letters to your pet or the adoptive family.
What tips would you offer to military families who need to rehome their pets? Tell us in the comments.