Question of the week: Do our pets go to heaven? Do animals have souls? Is it true that dead animals are also in heaven? Will we be able to enjoy our pets in heaven?
My answer: I have been asked these questions repeatedly at my speaking events. At one such event, before I could say anything, a well-known Christian speaker shouted, “Dogs will be in heaven, but cats, no way.”
The Old Testament states that certain nonhuman animals—all birds, all nonhuman mammals, and a few of the higher reptilian species—are “soulish” but not spiritual. This soulishness refers to these animals possessing emotions, a mind, a will, and a desire and capacity to serve, please, and relate to a higher species, namely us human beings. Any species that we can tame to serve and please us and emotionally bond with us is a “soulish” animal. However, only created spirit beings (humans and angels) can discover God, serve and please him, relate to him, and emotionally bond with him.
The Bible assures us that all spirit beings, once created, will continue to exist in some kind of conscious state forever. The Bible offers no such explicit assurance for the nonhuman soulish animals. However, it is debatable whether or not passages in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes rule it out. No passage, even implicitly, rules out the possible existence of soulish animals in heaven.
In the new creation, described in Revelation 21–22, God will create again. Exactly what kinds of creatures God will create to join redeemed humans and the righteous angels in the new creation, the text does not say. We can be assured, however, that God will not take anything away that he does not replace with something much better. In that context, the best answer to the questions posed about our pets is that no human mind can conceive of the things God has prepared for us (1 Corinthians 2:9).