Pets in the Afterlife
Chloe is my sweet and beloved twelve year old cat. She is my favorite pet of all time; an affectionate, intelligent, special being. Yet, for the last 3 weeks, she has been fighting for her life.
After an emergency room visit and follow up appointment, she was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, an inflamed spleen, kidneys, and lymph nodes. She was hospitalized for two days. Thankfully, with much supportive care, six medications, and an extremely compassionate vet, she is finally showing signs of improvement.
It has been an incredibly stressful time. Pets are our second children, our fur-babies, members of our family. We hate to see them suffering. I have been sad, scared, and pre-grieving, just in case.
Yet, I have also been thinking about pets in the afterlife. I do not believe that our soul, or spirit ceases to exist upon physical death. Instead, I believe that pets, as all living beings, are comprised of pure consciousness and energy. As we know from the law of thermodynamics:
Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. It simply changes states.
I have been spending too many hours reading about feline abdominal disease. I believe knowledge is power, yet, sometimes too much medical information is detrimental.
Personally, I am a non-religious, spiritual person. However, I have always wondered how various religions answer the question, “Is there an afterlife for pets?” During one of my internet surfing frenzies, I stumbled upon a fascinating article by Helen T. Gray, which addresses this very issue.
Below is the article in its entirety:
Thor Madsen, academic dean at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, acknowledged the desire of Christians to see their pets again. But, he concluded, "We really have no biblical grounds for an assurance that our pets will be resurrected along with us."
Some Christians think heaven would be lacking something essential to their happiness if their pets were not there with them, Madsen said.
"But the Scriptures imply that heaven's overwhelming treasure for us is the fellowship that we, the followers of Christ, will have with our Creator and Savior," he said. "Nothing will seem to be absent at that point."
Children, and even some adults, have asked the Rev. John Schmeidler of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Lawrence, Kan., whether their pets had gone to heaven.
"St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about animals having a soul, but it wasn't similar to that of humans, and St. Francis of Assisi saw animals as God's creatures to be honored and respected," said Schmeidler, a Capuchin Franciscan.
The Catholic Church traditionally teaches that animals do not go to heaven, he said.
"But a lot of people have a hard time with that, and I do, too, when I see a grieving pet owner. I know God wants us to be totally happy in heaven, and if our dog will help make us fully happy, and if God can resurrect us, I'm sure he could resurrect a dog too."
The Quran contains no direct references to an afterlife for animals, said Muslim scholar Abdalla Idris Ali of Kansas City. But there are indirect references. One says that in paradise people will be given everything they have asked for, he said, "so indirectly, if they want their pets, they can have them with them."
Islam also teaches that God will be the judge of people and animals, Ali said.
"For example, he will charge an animal that has horns who took advantage of one that didn't have horns, and that horned animal will be turned to dust after taking him to account for what the horned animal did," Ali said.
Rabbi Scott White of Congregation Ohev Sholom in Prairie Village, Kan., said, "Judaism teaches that God reserves a blessed existence in the world to come for the truly virtuous. It's only fitting that such an existence includes the pet that inspired the greatness.
"For myself, paradise with my own mutt [Rescue the Wonder Dog] is a perfect inducement to pursue virtue."
Native Americans believe all creatures are interconnected, said Gary Langston of Kansas City, a Northern Cherokee." All living things are children of the Earth," he said. "It doesn't matter if we have feet or wings or roots. "So, yes, there is an afterlife for animals. We all are going home, back to the Creator. And, yes, people will see their pets again. The dog I had as a kid, his spirit never left me; he just moved into a different dimension."
Langston said he believes that when he dies he will move into the dimension where his dog is, and they will be in the spirit form together.
There is a story in the Hindu epic "Mahabharata" about Yudhisthira, the eldest and noblest of five Pandava brothers. When he made his final journey to heaven, his faithful dog Dhruba followed him there, said Anand Bhattacharyya, a member of the Kansas City area's Hindu community.
"Yudhisthira was allowed to go to heaven, but not his dog," he said. "But he didn't want to enter heaven without his dog. On Yudhisthira's insistence both were allowed to enter heaven in eternal peace."
Still the general Hindu belief is that animals have souls but no access to eternal life, Bhattacharyya said.
"Because of the soul's inherent urge to be united with its source [God], souls in animals will ultimately evolve to the human plane. Once the soul is in a human body, it is capable of union with God in eternal bliss. But it may take many more reincarnations in human form to liberate the soul from the death-rebirth cycle."
A similar view comes from Linda Prugh of the Vedanta Society, an organization based on a Hindu philosophy. She said animals have souls, but unlike humans they do not have the ability to reason and discriminate between right and wrong. Animals go from birth to death to birth again and evolve into higher forms, eventually reaching the human plane, she said.
From the Buddhist perspective, "I don't know" about an afterlife for humans or animals, said Marnie Hammer of Mid America Dharma.
"The Buddha talked about being present now rather than spending a lot of time worrying about what's out there," she said.
Buddhism teaches that the animal realm is a lower realm of existence, Hammer said.
"I've had three cats that I've shared my life with and have made my life richer, but I don't know if I'll see them again," she said. "That's not the question."
The question, Gray said, is whether one is making life "more peaceful and generous for everyone."
*Will Your Pets Be Waiting for You in the After-life, Helen T. Gray, Kansas City Star/Chicago Tribune, August 27, 2008.