Three Common Mistakes Pet Owners Make When Caring for Aging Pets

By Cara Gubbins, Ph.D.

Ben Franklin said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” And it’s just a biological fact of life that we are going to live longer than our pets do. We are going to have to say good-bye to them and we are going to have to take care of them as they age, slow down, and make their transition.

Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier, though. And often we make it harder for ourselves than it has to be by making one or more of these three common mistakes.

The first mistake is denial. When something bad happens, we try to deny it to avoid the pain that comes along with it. The problem with denial is that the hardest part of any situation is the not knowing. Being worried and being in limbo are more difficult than actually dealing with whatever the situation is. Humans are great procrastinators and denial helps us put off what we assume will be an unpleasant experience.

But being in denial robs us of enjoying the time that we do have together. That, in turn, leads to feeling guilty and beating ourselves up. To avoid this mistake, plan for any and all contingencies before your pet starts showing signs of aging and decline. It’s really helpful for many pet owners to make a Good-bye Plan. A Good-bye Plan takes a lot of the uncertainty out of the situation and removes many of the chances for denial and the pain it causes. And it can include your needs and your pet’s needs and wishes. (I can help you include your pet’s wishes with an animal intuitive reading.)

The second mistake is being a victim of the superhero syndrome. These pet owners put pressure on themselves to be Superman or Wonder Woman and be all things to all people and animals. They believe anything less than 110 percent is a failure and a betrayal of their pet. This creates unrealistic expectations that lead them to feel guilty when they (inevitably) don’t live up to their high expectations.

The fix for this mistake is to evaluate the situation objectively and honestly. You need to know your values and be realistic about what you can and can’t do. It’s OK to have boundaries and limitations—they are part of being human, after all. The best thing we can do in any situation is to share our love; all the rest is secondary.

The third common mistake I see that pet owners make when caring for aging pets is taking a physical perspective and not a spiritual perspective. It’s like seeing the trees but not the forest. Not seeing the big picture leads these owners to see each new development as a problem to solve and not an opportunity to grow closer.

This limited perspective leads people to get stuck in reactive problem solving, wasting time, money, and emotional energy. The biggest cost is less quality time with the pet that you love so much.

All pet owners are connected spiritually with their pets, whether they are aware of it or not. Our pets are brought into our lives for so many reasons—and each reason has a spiritual component, whether it is to learn a lesson, love unconditionally, or have more fun.

The remedy for this mistake is to look into your pet’s eyes and see the divine spark of life within. As Loren Eisley said, “One does not meet oneself until one catches the reflection in an eye other than human.” Experience the soul of your pet and connect deeply with your pet, really experiencing the love between you.

The main drawback to all these mistakes is that they all take us away from where we really want to be—loving and enjoying our beloved animal friends. Everything that you do should bring you closer to your pet and enhance your relationship. With a little bit of thought and planning, you can maximize the love you share while minimizing the discomfort of your pet so that you can really enjoy the time that you have left together. The time we share with our pets is the greatest gift that we can give to them and receive from them.


Animal intuitive and pet medium Dr. Cara Gubbins helps people connect more deeply with the animals in their lives through intuitive readings, intuitive-development classes, and online and in-person events and workshops. Find her at