Monday, July 25, 2011

What Happens to Pets When They Die?

My cat Zenith died in July of 2007, and I still miss him so much.  He was really more like my child than a pet. He was such an amazing cat.  It was right after his death that I began exploring religion because I didn't feel that Christianity sufficiently explained what happened to my beloved pet when he died.  The Buddhist view of death is one of the defining reasons that I consider myself to be Buddhist today.


In Buddhism, birth, suffering, death and rebirth form the cycle of samsara.  According to Buddhist beliefs, all sentient beings experience this cycle until they reach nirvana, or enlightenment.  But the Buddhist concept of reincarnation is different than what I had always imagined reincarnation to be.  Many Buddhist teachers talk about leaves falling off trees as a comparison for reincarnation.  When a leaf falls off a tree and dies, it is replaced by a new leaf.  That new leaf comes from the same essence as the old leaf, but they are not the same leaves.  When humans and animals die, they are reborn.  They will not be exactly the same entity when reborn, but they bring their stream of consciousness and karmic imprints with them to their new lives.  Karma is a word that means "action".  In colloquial speech, karma is often referred to as something that is "bad", but actions may be positive, negative or neutral.  All of our actions effect us in some way.  My article only skims the surface.  If you are interested in a more detailed and scholarly article about Buddhism and death, please see

If you agree with Buddhist beliefs, then you would also believe that all beings have been your mother at some point.  It's a difficult concept to fathom because the typical human concept of time is so different from the Buddhist concept of time.  We have each had numerous rebirths, which means in the different circumstances in which we were born, at some point every other being has been our mother.  This type of belief is why Buddhism so strongly advocates vegetarianism.  This belief also explains that pets are no different from us.  They are born, suffer, die and are reborn, just like us.  Unlike most forms of Christianity, where people go to heaven and pets don't, Buddhism gives all sentient beings the opportunity to escape the cycle of rebirth and suffering and reach enlightenment.  These Buddhist beliefs give me hope and give me a sense of understanding about what has happened to Zenith.  

Because I love cats so much, I've decided to share some interesting photos with you.  If you look at these photos, I don't know how anyone could believe that people go to heaven and cats just die.  It's also hard for me to understand the killing of animals and eating of animals, but I've already been on that rant earlier.  Here are my favorite photos:

My ex-boyfriend's cat Rupert, who is Jewish by birth, but he apparently converted to Buddhism.

Happy Monday!  Posted as part of Much Love Monday.


Katerina said...

Very cute pics.
Your post has given me some comfort as I often wonder how I'd cope with the inevitable loss of my own fur-baby. Thanks for sharing this... I needed this message.
- Hugs

Pearl said...

I do believe that cats have souls. You've only to meet the ones that seem to have it closer to the surface to sense it.

Lovely post.


Barbara said...

My 18-year-old Siamese cat Char died in 1995 and I still miss her. I know how you feel. I'm Catholic Christian, but I believe as you do that pets must go to heaven - or at least, they don't just die. We've had so many precious animal friends die and I imagine them in C.S. Lewis's description of Narnia - in his writings it's obvious he believed they went somewhere heavenly, too. It helps me to imagine them there. Thanks for visiting my blog so I could find yours! (Beautiful cat photography, by the way!)

Anonymous said...

I found your blog over at Swap Bot and I'm one of your new followers. I have found it quite interesting reading some of the posts on your blog. I am not a Buddhist but have enjoyed finding out more about your beliefs.

Treehugger_31 said...

Love the cartoon!
I'm treehugger from the Blogger Swap on Swap Bot!