Q. Do animals go to Heaven?
A. Every priest hears this question from children! It seems that the deep affection children (and all people) have for their pets leads them to a strong desire for a “yes” to this question. So the answer is…”yes,” “maybe,” “not exactly,” and “you can hope!”
This difficult question does not have a clear and absolute answer. Therefore, any of the above answers could be correct. However, let’s offer some clarity and possibilities regarding the afterlife and animals.
First of all, when we humans die, that is, when we die in this age in history before Jesus returns to establish “The new Heavens and Earth,” we believe that our body and soul separate. The body dies and is “laid to rest” until Jesus returns in all His glory and brings about the resurrection of the body. Until then, the body is dead. However, human spirits live on. Our spirit cannot die and, thus, Heaven (or Purgatory or Hell) awaits our spirits after earthly death. Only humans, angels, and God have eternal spirits. Animals do not. Therefore, for now, when an animal dies, it is dead and there is no spirit that lives on in Heaven.
But wait just a moment! There is hope that your pet, and all creatures, will rise again. How and why? The reason you can have this hope is because from the very beginning of time, in the original state of holiness (the Garden of Eden) there were animals. So, even though animals do not have eternal spirits, they are physical and have what we may call an animal soul. An animal soul does die when the animal dies, but there is no telling what might happen at the resurrection of the dead! When Jesus returns in all His glory and all humans rise from the dead, will animals and all living creatures also rise? This is something you can hope for.
Furthermore, Isaiah 11:6 speaks prophetically about this new age to come. That passage says, “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.” So is this a literal statement? Is it proof that animals will rise? Or is it just symbolic and figurative? Hard to tell. However, for that reason, it is worth having hope that animals will have some share in the new Heavens and Earth to come!