Eloise, easily the gentlest cat I have ever had, was diagnosed with cancer towards the end of June this year. By the middle of July, she was gone. She was the third cat I have lost to cancer in the past two years. It's a terrible thing to have to make the decision to end the life of a pet, especially since mine are like children to me, but I knew she was suffering and there was nothing any amount of medicine or money could do help her. Painful as it was and is, I knew I did the right thing for her. But, as always, it made me ponder the question of whether I would ever see her or any of my other beloved pets again.
There is no evidence in the Bible that shows pets go to heaven. So understand up front that I am not basing my faith on that point. I cannot say with even a slight degree of surety that my long-gone fur babies are just over the fabled rainbow bridge waiting for me. However, I utterly reject the idea that the Bible clearly shows that I will not see them again. Ecclesiastes 3:19–21 says "For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?" Solomon here is obviously talking about the physical aspects of man and beast. We all die. We all return to dust. There is no difference. But at the end of this passage, he asks the pertinent question: Who knows what happens next?
Well, for people, the Bible is quite clear that those who place their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ will be saved and, at death, go to heaven to be with Him. But it is silent about the fate of animals. Anyone who has ever had a beloved pet knows they have more than just physical bodies, more than just brains that act on instinct. They love, they suffer, they grieve, they enjoy. Each cat I have had has been an individual. Sure they share "cat" characteristics, but they each have a distinct personality. Like children, a new one is not a replacement for one that has passed away. It can never be. But it is a new adventure, a new journey, someone to be discovered and enjoyed and loved, deeply loved.
When that beloved pet dies, what happens to that remarkable and unique spirit? I just don't know. I would like to think that they are waiting to be loved again, just like the human loved ones who have gone before me. I have no basis for that in scripture, but nothing to refute it either. Someone I know claims that, since animals cannot be saved by Jesus' sacrifice, they cannot be in heaven. I think that's faulty logic. Angels are in heaven, but they do not need salvation. The Book of Revelation mentions horses and other living creatures in heaven, but it seems unlikely they need salvation either. Why would animals? And if they did, surely God has arranged for that in a way that is just right for them.
So are our beloved pets waiting for us in heaven? The Bible does not say either way. As my mother once told me, if God thinks they need to be there, they will be. I can trust him to see to it.
So what do you think? Do you wonder about what happens to your pets when they die? Or is it all a bunch of sentimental hogwash?
DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic, The Key in the Attic, The Diary in the Attic and The Legacy in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries debuted in the Summer of 2013 with Rules of Murder, followed by Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado in 2014 from Bethany House. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with two spoiled cats.