Anyone who’s ever lost a beloved pet knows the heartache that parting from their companion can bring. The idea that they might be waiting for us in Heaven is a very comforting thought for many people. The question of whether our cats — not to mention dogs, horses and other animal friends — go to Heaven is an interesting one for theologians to consider, and there are various schools of thought. For cat lovers, the question might be a bit more urgent. Cats are valued members of our households, and it’s genuinely painful when we have to say goodbye.
Do cats go to Heaven? It depends on your beliefs. Some religious thinkers argue that cats don’t have souls and lack free will, and are thus not subject to either punishment or reward after death. Others argue that because the Bible refers to certain animals as being present in Heaven, cats might be there too.
You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about cats and the afterlife. Perhaps you’re simply curious. Maybe you’re grieving for a beloved pet, and want the comfort and reassurance of an afterlife for cats. Will my cat go to Heaven? What does the Bible say about cats? Do cats have souls? Can cats go to Hell?
Keep reading, because we have useful information for you. In this article, you’ll learn about various beliefs regarding cats and afterlife. You’ll also find advice and support for coping with the death of a beloved animal companion.
Do Cats Go to Heaven?
A glib answer might be “does anyone?” Whether or not there is a Heaven is a matter of religious doctrine and personal faith. If you believe in Heaven — a place of eternal reward where good people go after they die — you may want to know if your cat will be there too.
Religion is a very personal matter, of course, and you may already have beliefs regarding the fate of animals. As far as Christian doctrine goes, there are various positions. Some state that cats can go to Heaven, while others argue that they cannot.
Many theologians assert that animals cannot go to Heaven. To receive an eternal reward (or punishment), they argue, a creature must have a soul. Since cats and other animals don’t have souls, they claim that it follows that cats can’t go to Heaven. They simply cease to be upon death. Another question is the matter of free will. Humans are often viewed as being uniquely able, among all species, to appreciate the difference between good and evil; without this awareness, it is claimed, animals can’t be rewarded or punished.
On the other side of the argument, there are those who take the position that cats do indeed go to Heaven. They point to the strong emotional bonds that people form with their cats. Heaven is believed to be a place of perfect joy and peace. Without your cherished feline companion, could that joy really be perfect? In addition, as many have also be pointed out, the Bible itself mentions animals in Heaven — horses, to be specific. That, it can be argued, implies the presence of other animals too. If horses can exist in Heaven, why can’t cats?
The Bible, incidentally, is silent on the matter of cats. They are mentioned only once, in passing, in a verse that’s found in Catholic and Orthodox bibles (and in the Apocrypha of certain Protestant Bibles). There are no other mentions of cats (other than wildcats, leopards and lions). Since there’s nothing in the Good Book to say that your cat can’t join you in Heaven, it seems reasonable that you can make up your own mind.
On a purely personal note, I have a hard time believing that animals don’t have some kind of soul. My British Shorthair cats have all had such strong personalities, I can’t believe they’re not ensouled.
What is the “Rainbow Bridge”?
Many people nowadays talk about their pets as having crossed the rainbow bridge, or having gone to wait for their humans there.
The idea of a rainbow bridge between the human world and the world or worlds beyond is a very old one, predating even the Bible. Modern depictions of a rainbow bridge where our lost pets wait seem largely to have been inspired by a prose-poem originating in the 1980s. The poem’s author is now uncertain.
There are a number of possible candidates, but we don’t really know for sure who wrote it. In this little story, there’s a green meadow “just this side of Heaven”, with a rainbow bridge stretching away that leads to Paradise. The meadow is also called “Rainbow Bridge”. This is where pets wait for their human companions after death. There’s always plenty of food and fresh water, and the animals play happily together. When an owner passes on, they come to the meadow where their pet is waiting. The pet greets the human, and side by side they pass over the rainbow bridge that leads to their eternal reward.
There’s also a poem consisting of short rhyming stanzas that tells more or less the same story: much-missed pets playing happily, restored to health and free from pain or injury, while they wait for their owners. This poem became the basis for sympathy cards aimed at bereaved pet guardians, and grew in popularity during the 1980s and 1990s.
Now the idea of the rainbow bridge has become very common among pet owners across the English-speaking world. While it has no basis in any particular religious doctrine, it’s a comforting image for those mourning a beloved animal companion.
What About Other Religions?
In many monotheistic faiths, cats and other animals are not seen as being ensouled, or having souls that don’t survive after death. Because animals can’t tell right from wrong as humans can, they therefore can’t be rewarded in Paradise (or punished, either). Even so, many faiths still demand that their worshippers are kind and gentle towards animals.
There are a wide variety of beliefs concerning animals across different faiths. Among those that include a belief in reincarnation, souls may be reborn in other bodies — including animal bodies. According to these beliefs, it would be quite possible for a deceased cat to be reborn once more as a kitten, or another type of animal. A cat who had acquired sufficiently good karma might even return as a human. According to these beliefs, the souls of humans and animals are similar — just at different stages of their growth and development.
Modern and ancient pagan faiths also have a variety of beliefs regarding animals in the afterlife. Some people believe that their pets stay with them in spirit form after death, or will be waiting in the afterlife when they pass on themselves.
What people believe regarding the fate of cats after death is often a deeply personal matter. Not every religion offers hard-and-fast opinions. Personally, I love the idea that I could be reunited with my much-missed cats after death.
Grieving for a Lost Pet
Losing a cat (or any other animal companion) can be brutally hard. When my first cat (a beautiful little British Shorthair tortie with an incredible personality) passed on when I was 27, I was inconsolable for weeks. She’d been part of my life for 20 years, and I didn’t know how to cope without her. I couldn’t believe she was gone. Even though she was a very old lady and got the best care, I felt guilty and wondered if I could have done more.
I would advise grieving pet owners not to let other people tell them how to feel about losing a cat. Our cats are tremendously important to us, offering love and companionship even when other humans don’t. It’s absolutely okay to be grief-stricken when you lose your companion, especially if your cat died at a young age or you had to let the vet put your pet to sleep.
Personally, I found that reaching out to others who’d lost a beloved pet really helped. You’ll find plenty of support online these days. I also found creating a little memorial in the garden very comforting.
Try to take care of yourself and maintain your usual routine as much as you can. Please know that it does get easier, and you won’t always feel this way.