ASK FATHER: Prayers for a sick pet

From a reader…

My 10 year old Golden Retriever is in rough shape. How far is too far when praying for pets? What is a Catholic to do when his pet is sick or in danger of death? Is praying appropriate?

I’m sorry for your news.  We can get so very attached to pets.  That’s why I don’t have one.

Hmmm… how might this go?

O Lord, heal faithful Fido, who has heeled so well during his life; or, if it not be Your will that this good heeler should be well healed, may his suffering end and end quickly.

There are not many occasions in which prayer is inappropriate.

Praying to be able to sin more effectively (“O Lord, please make Jenny write more clearly so I can cheat off her test,”) would be inappropriate. Praying for the truly impossible might be inappropriate as well (“St. Joseph, through your intercession, ask God to let me square this circle.”).

Praying for a situation that seems impossible is the meat and potatoes of prayer!

Praying for one’s sick pets, if done with reasonable restraint, is okay. The Lord has given human beings stewardship over the Earth and the critters that inhabit it.  Many of the good things of the Earth become dear to us. They bring us happiness.  They can help to bring us closer to God and to praise Him (which is their purpose, after all).

Offering a prayer for a sick pet, asking a priest to bless a sick pet (not to confer the sacrament of unction, mind you, but to bless, and preferably using the classic Roman Ritual) are appropriate. Having a Mass offered for a sick pet would be inappropriate. Organizing a novena and procession for a sick pet would be disproportionately inappropriate.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JuliB says:

    This is good to read. My female miniature pinscher (Penni Pinscher) has degenerative nerve disease, had an episode of acute pancreatitis and may have bladder cancer. However, she is still going strong and happy. My male minpin Thor was very over the weekend, but he recovered and is almost back to normal.

    I don’t concern myself whether pets go to Heaven – I’ll be happy to make it there myself. I trust God will provide what is good. I feel strongly about pets in this life. Given the loneliness and fragmentation in society, the unconditional love of a dog (or cat – nice ones do exist) may be the closest thing to God’s love that some unfortunate souls ever experience.

  2. rodin says:

    While I was still going to work every day I had to leave my two miniature dachshunds alone. Each day I asked St. Francis of Assisi to please protect my little guys. When they were sick I asked him to help them. When they died after 18 years, I never stopped thanking St. Francis and was able to leave a thank offering when I visited Assisi. I still pray for help for animals, even the squirrels who have come to my door mooching pecans. When the squirrels started raiding the bird feeder I found I could lure them away with pecans. In return they provide a great deal of amusement. Sorry father, I have learned to like them, starting with Minnie the Moocher who was followed by Eenie and Mynie, and–the grey squirrel–Mosby. Since Mosby arrived there have been Flip (because he flips his tail a lot), and another grey squirrel, Noni. Asking St. Francis for help has always worked and I hope/pray Penni continues to enjoy her life.

  3. Random Friar says:

    Rituale Romanum, Chapter IV, 3:


    The priest, vested in surplice and purple stole, says:

    P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
    All: Who made heaven and earth.

    P: Deal not with us, Lord, as our sins deserve.
    All: Nor take vengeance on us for our transgressions.

    P: You, O Lord, will save both men and beasts.
    All: Just as you, O God, show mercy again and again.

    P: You open your hand.
    All: And fill every living creature with your blessing.

    P: Lord, heed my prayer.
    All: And let my cry be heard by you.

    P: The Lord be with you.
    All: May He also be with you.

    Let us pray.
    God, who supplied even dumb animals to lighten man’s toil, we humbly entreat you to preserve these creatures for our use, since without them mankind cannot subsist; through Christ our Lord.

    All: Amen.

    Let us pray.
    We humbly entreat your mercy, O Lord, praying that in your name and by the power of your blessing + these animals may be cured of the dire sickness that afflicts them. Let the devil’s power over them be utterly abolished, and do you, Lord, protect their life and health against recurrent sickness; through Christ our Lord.

    All: Amen.
    Let us pray.

    Have pity on us, Lord, we beg you, and turn away every scourge from your faithful. Rid our beasts of the dread sickness that is destroying them, so that we who are justly punished when we go astray may feel your gracious mercy when we repent; through Christ our Lord.

    All: Amen.
    They are sprinkled with holy water.

  4. rodin says:

    PS–I forgot to mention that when I was living in Georgetown DC my dogs were taken to a nearby church for the Blessing of the Animals on the Feast of St. Francis. That is coming up on October 4, the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

    Blessings to Penny and Thor.

  5. ocleirbj says:

    I like to use Ps 84, either when praying for a sick pet, or at the tearful graveside with the children, especially v 3 –
    How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! …
    Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
    [the cat/dog a warm spot to curl up in,
    the goldfish a bowl of clean water,
    the guinea pig a little hidey hole underneath,
    the hamster a nice little spot far away from the cat … ]
    at thy altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.

    We never had snakes or lizards, but I’m sure there is a place for them too.

  6. Father, your answer is pretty reasonable. And about not having a pet that you’ll get attached to? Reminds me of St John Bosco who was so inconsolable when his pet owl died, he vowed never to have a pet again to which he would be overly attached.

    Detachment. Balance. Perspective.

    But heck, those dumb dependent animals – its hard not to cry over them. They are under our dominion after all. We can care and pray for them as we would for our farm animals and crops, or any part of the natural world.

  7. Mary of Carmel says:

    My sympathies are with the reader who asked this; I, too, cried hard over the loss of a stray cat that I had taken care of last year (and had to give away because I couldn’t afford the vet bill). It’s not easy getting attached to a beloved animal, especially if they have special characteristics that separates them from other animals.
    My question is this: What does the Catholic Church say about animals when they die? Do they go to Heaven?
    I know it sounds silly, but Protestants insist that they just lie in the ground and we don’t see them again because they don’t have a soul. Some Christians say they go to Heaven.
    Since our pets give us some comfort here on earth, there may not be a need to have them in Heaven (after we finish Purgatory) and we will be so elated and at peace with the Beatific Vision that we won’t worry about seeing our pets again.
    I have often heard that Heaven looks like life on Earth, and that much of what we see here is there, which I am sure has to have birds and butterflies, trees and flowers. God made them so pretty, they must be in Heaven as well.
    I’m not worried about where the ugly things go, like spiders and roaches. Whether they decay here on the earth or go to the other place, is not a matter for me to wonder over.
    Any thoughts?? I would like to know what we believe on this matter.

  8. Jack says:

    I believe that Golden Retrievers are proof that GOD truly loves us!

  9. Geoffrey says:

    My family has always prayed for its furry “members”. I recall that Fr Z’s favourite book, “The Roman Ritual: Book of Blessings”, also has a some “blessings” for animals.

    Sometime last year, a squirrel kept coming around in my backyard. He would eat peanuts right from my hand. I named him “Benjamin”. Sometime later, little “Benjamin” had a badly wounded leg. I figured in the wild, this would be a death sentence. I said a quick prayer to Saint Francis of Assisi, mosty to relieve the little critter from suffering, being eaten by a bird of prey, etc. In a week or so, I so little “Benjamin” again and his leg had healed. He just had a bit of a limp.

  10. Elizabeth D says:

    Fr Z there should be a TLM St Francis of Assisi Mass, and it should be at Holy Redeemer Church, and there should be a blessing of the animals. I shouldn’t have to wait till my parrot Earl Grey is sick for him to get blessed with the Rituale Romanum!

  11. Hidden One says:

    St. Francis of Paola, by means of prayer, resurrected his pet trout after it had been eaten. Really.

  12. Dave P. says:

    For some reason, I’m reminded of these scenes from A Fish Called Wanda:

  13. APX says:

    When our priest was going around doing Epiphany house blessings, I found it a bit odd that our priest made a point of incensing my dog’s cremation and sprinkling them with holy water.

  14. RafqasRoad says:


    Labrador Retrievers are also a proof that God loves us :-) .

    I have had priests pray over guide dogs either privately (praying for specific needs or, as in the case of Nyssa, blessing our new working partnership earlier this year). I have also taken my previous guide dog to a St. Francis day mass – he was naughtier than ever that afternoon following said mass!!!

    An all too often neglected saint for dogs is St. Roc (also spelled ‘Roch’ or ‘Roque’

    I have a St. Roc medal attached to my guide dog’s collar at all times, next to her Guide Dogs ID tag.

    Hope this helps. There is also a Novina to St. Roc that you might like to pray

  15. pelerin says:

    I looked at the link given by Dave P as I have never seen the film. I have to admit to finding the excerpt extremely funny but would not recommend the film to dog lovers for obvious reasons! If I am not mistaken I think the actress playing the lady with the dogs was Patricia Hayes – a wonderful comic actress appearing on our British screens for many years.

  16. DCMArg says:

    Room space, personal time may be reasons to not have a pet…but love? ;)

  17. I grew up believing that dogs [or pets or animals or creatures] don’t go to heaven because they don’t have a soul like humans. Cause that’s what the Church teaches. Or is it?

    But what is ‘soul’? What is ‘heaven’? And what happens to anything that God creates? Is anything that God creates ever annihilated out of existence? Not even the Malignant One is annihilated.
    I am musing here, just a what-if:

    Humans have souls different from everything else. Immortal. Can see the Beatific Vision. All that extra-special stuff that separates us from the rest of creation, and puts us just a little lower than the angels.
    But all other life has animus – or that essence of life, right? I mean you can tell when an animal or plant is dead, the material body is still there but its ‘gone’ when dead. What’s gone? That life, the ‘spirit’ [for lack of a better word].

    Is ‘heaven’ simply a generic term? We have the Beatific Vision, a result of the Felix Culpa that allows the baptized [only the baptized] to see God.
    When Christ said ‘my Father’s house has many mansions’ we rightly assume there are different levels of reward/perfection and closeness to the Throne. But perhaps there’s also different versions of heaven such as The Beatific Vision and a Paradise, that place of natural happiness where the unbaptized go, those without personal sin or who died with that rare grace of perfect contrition. Perhaps this Paradise is going to be where creation will no longer be disfigured by sin, and back in its originally-planned glory? With all the plants and animals that God made?

    Maybe I’m an idiot telling myself I’m gonna see a glorified version of my dogs, cats, horses and even those beloved trees of my childhood, that all of creation, every bit of creation is important to God who made it. And this Dominion over which Man has been placed, to take pleasure in, to properly care for, and to see the reflection of God…is gonna be there after this shadowy life is all done.

  18. AvantiBev says:

    I keep the following on my fridge door:
    A Prayer for Animals

    Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals, especially for animals who are suffering; for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry; for all that must be put to death. We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity, and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words. Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals and so to share the blessings of the merciful.

    Albert Schweitzer

  19. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Animals have animal souls that don’t survive death the same way human souls do. However, God of course has the power to do as he wishes with animals’ bodies and souls. Since there will be a new heaven and a new earth after the general resurrection and judgment, it’s entirely possible that animals and plants will also be made new.

    At any rate, other animal saints are St. Anthony the Abbot (all animals and livestock, but especially pigs); St. Roch (dogs); St. Martin de Porres (dogs, cats, mice, and all strays); St. Gertrude (mice and cats); St. Ailbe (dogs and wolves); St. Bernard (obviously for St. Bernards!); the various beekeeper saints; St. Eloi (horses); St. Brigid (sheep and other livestock); and many more, often regionally popular. Sicknesses in animals were often life or death for people, so the Church has never been ashamed to pray for animals to get well or to stay well in the first place.

    Although one wouldn’t hold a procession oneself, there are processions of animals in many places on given feast days, or in honor of miraculous endings to animal epidemics (look for words like “murrains”). Many saints’ day sacramental foods are also taken home and fed to animals as well as to the rest of the household, or saved for need in sickness and fed to whoever needs it, animals or people. Blessed salt and holy water can be used on animals as well as people, too. (Just keep the distinction of use in mind – you’re not reminding animals of their baptism, but rather using Christ’s power of dominion over the animals, which we also share from Adam.)

  20. gracie says:

    Father Z addressed answered the issue of whether pets go to heaven in a previous post:

    A student asked me if animals go to heaven. I told her “no” because they don’t have immortal souls. However – because I know how attached people are to their pets – I also reminded her of Christ’s words, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and everyone will be given to you”, and that by “everything” Christ means “everything” and that He is perfectly able to re-create your pet and give it to you in Heaven if that is what you wish – AND if He so wills it.

    Even though I couched the answer in those terms , all hell broke loose as a couple of parents complained that I had told their kids that their pets don’t go to Heaven. To give her the credit due her, the CCD Director sided with me and explained to the parents that what I said followed Church teaching. She even took time to explain the reasoning behind it. The parents still were disgruntled. It shows just how hard it is to teach Church doctrine anymore. People go wild if their incorrect ideas are contradicted. They won’t even try to understand the reasons for something if they wish to think otherwise.

  21. gracie says:

    Oops! The above should read, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and everything will be given to you.”

    (And to think I read my post over twice before posting it.)

  22. JuliB says:

    Gracie, as a convert/revert, I’ll admit that the issue of pets and heaven was a stumbling block to me as I came home. But, trusting in God helped me, as well as the thought that animals would play a part in the new earth (where the lions would lay down with the lambs) helped. Understanding that in heaven, my will would be combined with his clenched it. But it was a process and I recognized that I was being emotional about it. I’m more worried about my non-believing family at this point.

  23. Mary of Carmel says:

    To Gracie:
    Thank you for the link to Fr. Z’s explanation of critters going to Heaven. This helped me a lot.
    I am alright in taking care of fish, but I get too attached to cats and dogs. I like them too much.

  24. Mariana2 says:

    So Cordelia in Brideshead was seriously out of line with the novena for her pig.

    As a convert in a Lutheran country I was shocked to learn on this blog that pets do not have immortal souls. I had assumed my dogs would be somewhere in heaven – perhaps lying down with the lion and the lamb.

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