Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our cat. He had been struggling with a chronic illness and was taking a turn for the worse. We had been told by the vet that this day was coming, but tried to pursue other options and treatments before letting him go.
I personally chose not to be in the room during the process because I didn’t want to have that picture of our cat in my mind. As I sat in the waiting room holding back tears, I stared out the window. It was a sunny day, not the dreary damp kind we associate with the sort of occasion. Like many cats, ours loved the sun. He especially loved it toward the end of his life as quite possibly his illness made him anemic.
As I sat there in the sunlight, a thought passed through my mind; do cats go to heaven? I didn’t have an answer right away, but it didn’t matter. My answer isn’t in control of the inevitable truth and there was nothing I could do to will my cat’s fate. So, I said a short little prayer under my breath; “God you are in control, I don’t know if cats go to heaven, but if they do would you please welcome him peacefully and joyfully.”
If any cat deserved to get into heaven, it was Bumper. He never tried to bite, never peed on anything he shouldn’t have, never tore apart couches or phone charger cords. He was a well-mannered cat. Of course, the problem with that theology is that none of us -not even cats- deserve to get into heaven.
The Bible clearly states that everything is in a fallen state, short of the glorious state God intended it to be in (Romans 8:18-22). The grace of Jesus is our only ticket for salvation. It is something we accept, proclaim and ask for (Romans 10:13), yet as far as we know, cats can’t do that. So where does this leave us?
In Genesis God makes animals just before making people-
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:24
There is a very important distinction that sets humans apart from animals; we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), animals are not. This fact leads some to believe that animals do not have souls or that if they do it must be of lesser value than humans. We also have to remember that heaven will have everything we need to be happy. There will even be no need for the sun because God’s glory will be the light (Revelation 21:23).
Yet, when God made animals he saw that, “it was good.” While God created humans to be in a special relationship with him, mimicking the reciprocity of the trinity itself, He still took joy in creating animals. If then, He created animals on Earth for His pleasure and ours, why wouldn’t pets be in heaven?
You see, I don’t think it’s a matter of salvation or souls. I think it’s a matter of joy.
Bumper brought so much joy to our lives and while I don’t think we will need him to be in heaven, because our joy will be the Lord, I wouldn’t be surprised if God Himself would be delighted in having him there. Humans are indeed made in the image of God, so if it brings us joy to have pets then it would make sense for God to be a fan too.