From time to time, I am posed with an interesting theological question: Do animals go to heaven? We’ve heard people with great sincerity say, “If my dear pet can’t be with me, then I can’t be there.” That sounds extreme, but we shouldn’t criticize such strong emotions. Any of my readers who have owned pets will know this feeling well. It is a topic worth discussing, not that we know the answer for certain. But there are suggestions in Scripture that could point to such a conclusion. In several places, there is the image used that, at the end of time, God will create “new heavens and a new earth” (Rv 21:1; 2 Pt 3:13).
We shouldn’t throw away God’s creation of the universe. In Genesis 1:31, it reads: “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” Indeed, all that God does is truly good. And among those good works are humans, animals, and plants. God is life itself, and we could argue that once God gives life, he would not destroy it.
Out of Love
Sometimes we think that God made us to love him. Yes, but that was not his first reason. We were made so that God could love us. Loving is what God does. Isn’t that why moms and dads have babies? It is not so the baby can love his or her parents.
Rather, it is because the parents have a new little person whom they can love. Out of love, God made us and gave us all of creation. God did that for our sake, so that we could consider how loving our God is.
The theology would hint that heaven and earth are not for God, but for God’s creatures. And, thus, animals that have been so loving and helpful to their owners would be there, too. Some Christians imagine an afterlife where we spend eternity loving and praising God. They say we don’t even need each other—just God. But that is so contrary to all that we know about God and his love and need for us. Aren’t parents most happy when their children are happy and loving one another?
What heaven is like is far beyond our wildest imaginations. Our call on our earthly journey is simply to know, love, and serve God as best we can. But what God has planned for us we cannot conceive.
A Prayer for Our Pets
St. Francis of Assisi showed us
that your family of creation extends
to the birds in the sky,
the fish in the sea,
the dog at my feet,
and the cat on my lap.
For their companionship,
I am grateful.
Because their love is unconditional,
I am humbled.
Thank you for animals, wild or tame
who bring color and warmth
to an often grey and cold world.
12 thoughts on “Do Animals Go To Heaven?”
I believe animals go to heaven, too! I believe God loves them just as He loves us. I believe animals embody pure innocence which is God’s divine nature.
I have believed this all my life (close to 70 years now), and I ‘preach’ it every time I encounter someone who is grieving the loss of their pet (recently it was my Manager who lost her frog). I always say, that in Heaven we will be perfectly happy, filled with joy, filled with light and life, and as St. Paul wrote, we will know fully, as fully as we are known by our Heavenly Father. We will have and experience everything that will contribute to our eternal joy – – and if having our pet there (like in my case my “Reba”, my 16-year-old chubby chihuahua who passed away last March), then our pet will be there. As I said, I believe this with all my heart, soul, and spirit.
I have no doubts at all that life goes on and Tinker is waiting for me, in my heart for now.
Tinker was my close companion for 29 years. He was a little corella cockatoo. We were two halves of a whole. The last year of his life he was not well and I and the vet at ISU university tried our best to save him, but it wasn’t to be. I finally had to make the decision that the end had come and then watch as his life drained away before my eyes. It was the single worst day of my life! I was devasted. There was a hole in my life so large that I didn’t know if I could learn how to go on and live without him.
A year went by and the first anniversary of his death was coming around, and I dreaded that day. I got up that morning, had breakfast and began to do my daily chores. As I was washing dishes, I heard a noise coming from a 25 lb bag of safflower seeds for the birds outside and thought that it was likely a mouse, as this was an old farmhouse we lived in. I went over to check and saw a tail down in the seeds, so I reached down and grabbed it, but was shocked to find that it was a very small bull snake. I had no idea exactly how that snake got inside the house and up over the top of that bag, and I knew that somehow it was a message from Tinker, telling me that he was OK, because he would have known that the surprise would delight me, as I was always bringing bugs, snakes or toads or young possums in to show him, so he had one for me this time.
Now it’s not that I think the snake got into the bag by magic. There was a very unlikely and roundabout route by which it was conceivable he could have gotten there, however unlikely that may have been, and I think in order for that to happen he had to have divine guidance.
Thank you Father Jim for this article. Heart warming and shows God’s love for us. I dont have children but my pets have helped me throughout my life. In my youth going through and watching abuse within my family, prayer and clinging to my little dog, who always seemed to know when i was sad and scared kept me from taking my life.
To Whom It May Concern,
I teach a Faith Formation Class at St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Temecula, CA. to children in the 6th through 8th grade. I was given some material to review by an old friend that thought maybe I could use them in my class. I came across “The Story of The Mass” in comic book form, published by Franciscan Communications, many years ago. I like the concept of how the Mass is explained and was wondering if you can help me find out how I can order this “comic-type form book for my students. I have 20 children attending my class weekly on Wednesday evenings.
Published by Office of Publication, Franciscan Communications, 1983
In the Garden of Eden story in the Bible, God made the animals before he made humans. Humans need animals for companionship. It reminds us of our humanity. And of course, we have man’s best friend, namely the dog.
I told my Turkish friend Tuesday that she needed to get herself a pet. I recommended she get a goldfish, lol. She could even name it “Abraham” or something. That way, she would have someone/something to talk to.
Is very this is very comforting because I also believe that God made everything with love. St Francis stands in my yard with hundreds of birds feeding around him every year. I loved this article . I read in Genesis that it says “God said let the waters produce animals with a living soul and flying creatures above the Earth under the firmament of heaven and God created the great sea creatures and everything with a living soul… And God saw that it was good…”. I know that only we are created in his image, but obviously anything that is living, was given a soul!
This is very comforting because I also believe that God made everything with love. St Francis stands in my yard with hundreds of birds feeding around him every year. I loved this article . I read in Genesis that it says “God said let the waters produce animals with a living soul and flying creatures above the Earth under the firmament of heaven and God created the great sea creatures and everything with a living soul… And God saw that it was good…”. I know that only we are created in his image, but obviously anything that is living, was given a soul!
This topic hits close to home for me. I just lost my dog Bella to cancer in November 2022. She died on all Saints Day. Thomas Merton referred to such creatures as saints, as they live their lives most fully when they can just be what God made them to be. Bella came into my life just a couple years after I retired. I was sad and depressed for several years after I retired. One of the great joys in my life was when I had the good fortune to bring home Bella. Bella was a puppy when I received her. Over the ten years of her life she taught me some wonderful things about the love of God. First she was joyful! Every time I asked, “Bella, want to go for a walk,” she would dance in circles and jump up and down. Each time we walked it was always the same, it was as if it was her first time to go for a walk. She loved to chase balls, catch frisbees, chase rabbits and pounce on bushes to see what she could flush out and chase. When I was laid up in bed after surgeries she would not leave my side. She wanted to stay by me to make sure I was ok. I saw in her the joy of God, God’s playfulness, God’s faithfulness, God’s goodness. It was as if God was showing me what it looked like to know the freedom God wishes for all of us. Bella was a selfless, faithful, persevering, humble carrier of God’s goodness and love for me. I can’t imagine a new heaven and earth devoid of such a wonderful creature.
Jack, am so struck with your insight…thank you very much for letting me see what I should have seen long time ago… pax et bonvm!
I have no doubt that all God”s creatures know him, he knows them, and loves and will keep them safe forever. Both the Old Testament (many times) and the New tell us that all creation praises God. The Bible doesn’t include a lot of Information about God’s relationship to other creatures, but I think that’s for a couple of reasons. First:: I can very easily imagine the God who spoke to Job from the whirlwind telling us that it is none of our business! Second: if the Bible described all creatures’ relationships to God in depth, it would be much longer than the Encyclopedia Britannica. We would need wagons to tote our Bibles in!
The Bible was written for the creature that can read, and it tells largely of our fate. But in telling us that all creation praises God, it tells us that all creation knows God and has a relationship with him. Jesus himself tells us that his Father (and therefore he as well) cares about the fall of a sparrow. He takes for granted that we already realize that the lilies of the field are clothed more beautifully than “Solomon in all his glory.” Those who place us humans in a category above and separate from the rest of creation have not read the Bible.
This is very similar to a book by Fr. Wintz, OFM “Will I see my dog in heaven”. Thank You