Companion animals

Are there opinions regarding care for companion (pet or family) animals?

I suspect not, except same as for living beings.


  1. is it wrong to give a pet animal an intoxicant? My cat likes catnip, and as she is entirely an indoor dweller, is at little or no risk to her life from this. It seems to be “interesting!” , calming, and perhaps pain relief as she relaxes. She definitely becomes heedless!

  2. is neutering ok?

  3. Is euthenasia of pets ok, to end pain?

  4. are there other possible ethical concerns regarding companion/pet animals which come to mind?

I have responsibility for this creature’s life, as I domesticated her from feral. She is an intelligent, remarkably obedient cat, with friendly social behavior, to humans, or to other cats who have lived with household.

Please keep the thread on companion/pet animals. Also, please speak clearly but gently, let us not lose equanimity and good speech.


As far as my Dhamma knowledge goes, all three practices are taboo. Animals are domesticated so that humans get some benefit out of them. Animals do not like it because it is not their normal habitat and they go through pain and suffering at the hands of those who domesticate them.

The most ethical thing to do is give them their freedom.
With Metta

I think catnip is fine, but it would be unhealthy to give an animal alcohol or drugs.

I also think neutering is fine and preferable but should of course be done with anesthesia and great care should be taken to make sure healing goes smoothly and relatively painlessly.

Euthanasia of pets breaks the first precept, but if one euthanizes their pet out of compassion to end their suffering, then that might be a mitigating factor making the kamma dark and bright with dark and bright result (AN 4.235).

Other possible ethical concerns include regularly breaking the precept to prevent fleas and ticks from causing your pet to suffer. Here again, I think there would be dark and bright kamma with dark and bright result.

Also, if your cat is an outdoor cat, then they might be killing local birds and other living beings, which is not ideal. So you have to decide, with that knowledge, whether the cat will remain indoors or be given free-range.


Domesticated cats freed tend to hsve short brutal lives, as they have not been taught to eat prey (that is a learned behavior).

I domesticated her because she was born feral in abackyard, near major fast roads. She no longer had a mother.

My method of domesticating was talk, and feeding from my hand, and npr radio.

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She is entirely indoor cat now, is 18 years old, was fixed under general anesthesia by a vet, treated (and cured) of cat hiv, and is my dependent. It would be a cruel death to abandon her.


I think this is a very contentious issue. I have seen dogs even at temples being looked after by monks. We sometime do things without considering the implications properly which in part is due to our lack of understanding of Dhamma. My personal understanding is that animals belong in the jungle. May be a venerable Bhante can contribute to this to clear any doubts.
With Metta

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I adopted her before I became Buddhist in this life.

Light and dark kamma… hmmm.

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Nimal, I do appreciate your comments. I am asking for input but of course I own the kamma for my intentions and actions.

Animals in the jungle; all animals? Because for most domesticated species, survival is not possible in the wild; humanity damaged or destroyed that capacity in domestication. It seems a betrayal of trust.

Of course, everything being aggregates, there is nothing to watch die, nor any watcher. But there would be suffering, which perhaps ethical action would prevent…

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I am glad that you were able to see the bigger picture. Things we do with good intentions sometimes go bad. The best you can now do is look after this animal with even greater compassion until its natural end, realizing that suffering is everywhere.
With Metta

Oh there is no question that I and my partner will take good care of her for the rest of her life.

I associate “the best you can do now” with learning from mistakes. My intentions at the time of adopting her were compassion, for her, and for myself and others, as finding her body on the road would have been painful and disturbing. Plus, I could feed her, reducing killing, as pet food is made from byproducts of human meat consumption. (I stopped eating animal or bird parts when I left my parents’ house, long ago.)

I do not see error in my behavior or intentions in this. Am I missing something?


Oh I see the disconnect. In your opinion, it is now going wrong. But how?

Hello, there is a talk given by Ajahn Brahm regarding euthanasia here

There is a story that Ajahn Brahm re-tells every now and again about one of his lay supporters.

This person took their cat (or dog? can’t remember which one) to the vet as it was gravely ill.

After diagnosing the illness, the vet recommended putting it down as there is nothing more that can be done. The pet owner (wisely) decided to have a few moments with the pet alone so they could get a sense if the pet was ready to be put down.

After conferring with their pet, the owner decided to take their pet home. The vet proceeded to admonish the owner and said they were ‘cruel’ or something to that effect.

Several weeks later, as they story goes, the owner then took the pet back to the vet…the pet had made a full recovery. Apparently the vet then said “You buddhists are wise” or something similar.

Ajahn Brahm’s advice is that your pet will know whether it is time for it to ‘go’ or not. Always check with them first.

I hope that helps. :anjal:


Thank you, I think I understand your opinion now.

I think the realm of animals is very difficult and one full of fear for oneself and one’s family of animals if there is a family. Hunger, exposure to the weather must be all very common, with little capacity to understand… Them living essentially in the comfortable human realm is down to their good kamma where they are looked after-

With the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of elephants. There he receives food, drink, flowers, & various ornaments. It’s because he took life, took what is not given, engaged in sensual misconduct, engaged in false speech, engaged in divisive speech, engaged in abusive speech, engaged in idle chatter, was covetous, bore ill will, and had wrong views that he reappears in the company of elephants. But it’s because he gave food, drink, cloth, vehicles, garlands, scents, creams, bed, lodging, & lamps to brahmans & contemplatives that he receives food, drink, flowers, & various ornaments. AN10.177

I think the compassionate thing to do is to look after the animals if one already has them. However I would be vary of falling into attachment in getting new pets. There are enough pet videos on the internet! Living with another being isn’t easy…

With metta


If one saves a life one also have to take greater responsebility. Killing has no responsability attached.

I gave up growing plants in the garden that slug ate, as there was no way around the slug issue… also moving house helped, unintentionally!

With metta

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I thank all repliers past and possible future for their support of the Dhamma and Sangha.

Euthenasia: This animal has some pain, but it is managable, and there is still an apparent desire to live. I give her comfort and support, and hope it will never reach unbearable. If it seems to become so, it is possible I might take the bright-and-dark route, willingly knowingly out of compassion. But hopefully i will not face that challenge.

Vegan : I am not vegan at this time, but am working with the issues with my partner, and with myself. It is wonderful there is a lot more support for this lifestyle which does appear to better honor the first precept among others. One sometimes does what is easier first but if improvement is possible even if difficult, one has to keep trying.

Neutering of captive pets: there are many abandoned suffering animals; there is NO need to contribute to more; the kamma re captive wild animals is complicated and beyond scope of this thread imo. Anesthia is humane for this and many medical procedures.

Catnip: I think in some situations, it is medicine. It might be comparable to chocolate for humans imo; it has some psychological effects but is a food. Mindfulness and continued examination for me.

Flea “treatments”: I know the repellant we have applied in the past does not kill all, not sure if it kills any. How do I know this? They fleas moved to me, and I tried as a non furry being to shake them off outside. If I inadvertently killed any, of course that kamma is mine. This is not a matter just of suffering but of health for all beings around. So letting the creature just bear it is not responsible to the community.

As is probably obvious, still working with this. Again, thank you for input and compassion.


I feed birds in my garden with left over rice mainly, and what ever else life goes around the garden.

slugs are most likely included.

Overall I’m quite happy about it, it’s more like a jungle than a garden really, but it’s life.

I’m responding to this thread totally outside of the OP but that’s on purpose.

I wouldn’t have such a clear cut view on the matter. I’m also feeding “big” animals (one is a stray cat) from the front door, putting left over meat that my wife and kids don’t eat.

I probably would continue feeding the cat and look after it it if decided to live in the garden full time, and I wouldn’t consider that a bad thing. So long as I’m not seperating that one life I would be catering for from others in the surrounding (i.e. not letting attachment come into play).

In all cases, I don’t think we can dettach from the world around us totally, no matter how far along the path we are…until we make no kamma of course :d.


But does it interfere with her meditation practice? :upside_down_face:
Kidding aside, indoor only cats can suffer from a lack of enrichment so I think a little catnip every once in a while breaks up their day.

There is an increased instance of certain reproductive cancers in cats and dogs who are not neutered. Females can also develop terrible infections of the uterus called pyometra. Recent research has suggested, however, that neutering too early can cause other issues. In the main, I think if one is taking responsibility for a companion animal then neutering at the right age, with proper pain control, is best.

This one can be tricky because no one wants to watch a beloved companion suffer painful disease or disorder. That said, the animal will usually give enough indication that they are done with this whole business. In the meantime, palliative care is available. I’m more than willing to take the karmic hit if it means my cats can die peacefully, without pain and fear.

There is a struggle that I have occasionally with the idea of keeping a companion animal because all animals want to be free, right? Well, some do and some don’t. One of my sister’s cats wore her down over two years before she brought the cat into the house. And the cat wants nothing to do, now, with the world outside her safe and comfy house.
I view it as providing a home for someone who had been used to living in one, but lost it for whatever reason. ( I adopt shelter cats)

And it’s an honor and privilege.


It is a difficult topic. I recently agreed to euthanase my wonderful companion dog. After all the round and abouts… it finally came down to one thing. Assuming responsibility for another living being results in entanglements, these entanglements inevitable create Karma of all kinds.

So for me the decision of whether to assume care and responsibility for another animal all boils down to just how serious I want my practice to be. There is no right and wrong… and it is a long journey