There are three ways of answering the question of whether pets will exist in heaven. One argument suggests that animals, along with all of creation, will be restored to life in the Resurrection. The contrary argument suggests that animals lack a rational soul and, therefore, will not be resurrected. Somewhere in between is the thought that some animals (and dogs especially) have sufficient self-awareness and personality to have a soul, though not of the same substance as a human soul, and therefore will be brought to life in heaven.

There is some support in the Bible for the notion that animals will live in heaven. The Book of Job sounds a beautiful note that all pet lovers want to hear: “In his hand is the soul of every living thing” (see 12:7-10). The prophecy of Isaiah portrays a Messianic world reconciled by God’s grace and at peace: “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, / and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; / The calf and the young lion shall browse together, / with a little child to guide them. / The cow and the bear shall graze, / together their young shall lie down; / the lion shall eat hay like the ox” (Is 11:6-7). The vision of heaven seen by St. John in the Book of Revelation includes Jesus returning victoriously to earth at the end of time, astride a white horse (19:11-14).

Pope Blessed Paul VI told us: “One day, we will see our animals in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” Pope Francis has also weighed in on this. Despite the fact Pope Benedict XVI, a cat lover, said in a 2008 homily that animals “are not called to heaven,” Pope Francis teaches in his encyclical Laudato Sí’ (“On Care for Our Common Home”), “Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place” (No. 243).

We believe in the resurrection of the body, which implies physical and temporal dimensions to life in heaven. It is difficult to imagine bodily life without those things that support it: water, air, food, plants and animals. Even before the Fall, God provided for Adam and Eve with all sorts of living things. Will it be the same after our bodily resurrection?

Ultimately, the question will be answered in our experience of death and resurrection. One consoling truth is this: The love of our pets is intended to teach us in this life of the unconditional love of God. That love, which we taste only imperfectly in our corruptible world, will be experienced perfectly in heaven. In a limited sense, then, our pets can be understood to point the way to heaven and allow us to experience on earth a foretaste of the perfect love that awaits us in heaven.