My son loves our 9 year old cat very much. The cat was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer a couple of months ago, and has reached the point where we will soon need to make arrangements to put the cat down and end its suffering. My son doesn't know that the cat is terminally ill, he just knows that the cat isn't feeling well. How do I talk to him out what is going to happen? Do I tell him before so he can say goodbye, or do I tell him after so he won't worry? How do I do this without him worrying that anytime he (or anyone else) gets sick, he might die?
The day came when we finally had to put our family pet down. My wife and I prepared our son by telling him about two days in advance that our cat was very sick (which he already knew), and that he could pass away very soon (which he didn't know). I emphasized that he should spend some time saying goodbye to our cat and bringing him any comfort he can. My wife and I did not tell him that we were going to euthanize the cat. We sent him to play at his grandparents house (who he frequently sees and spends time with anyway, so nothing would strike him as unusual about this) the day we euthanized our pet. When it was over, we called him and told him that he had to come home because our cat had died. We let him see and pet the body. We also let him see me bury the body in the backyard, where we all said a few nice words and shed some tears. My son asked a few questions (will our cat be in heaven, etc.), but didn't seem to take the situation too hard.
All things considered, I think the way my wife and I handled the situation worked out fine. Thanks for all your help!