I have always loved animals, but I never thought of whether or not they had souls until my first cat “Alex” died. Although I was deeply saddened when the family dog and cat died when I was growing up, I don’t recall thinking about them going to heaven or not. I don’t know why.

I got Alex when I was stationed in Minot, and he was the best cat ever. Alex was so small when I got him that he fit into the palm of my hand. Alex and I went through a lot together, from moving from Minot to Santa Barbara to some of my first relationships; it was always Alex and me. He was my Hobbes. When Alex had kidney problems, I took care of him, gave him fluid treatments, and did what I could for him. However, I put him to sleep when he began to suffer and gave up. After Alex’s death, I was devastated.

I wasn’t a Christian when Alex died, so my hope wasn’t in Christ. Thus, one day, after Alex died, I wondered if Alex would be in heaven, so I grabbed the phone book and called a church. I do not recall who I spoke to when I called that church. It could have been anyone, but the man I talked to told me animals don’t go to heaven. They don’t have souls, he said. 

After that day, I had a new perspective on animals. Pets, in particular, because the only life they had was this one. Years before Alex died, I rescued another cat, so knowing that this was the only life she had, made it more precious to me. When she died, I didn’t get any more pets. Well, my wife did get a turtle, but that was different. Although I was sad when he died. 

Since living in Sacramento with my brother’s dogs, I have enjoyed them immensely while here; older dogs have died, and puppies have replaced them, and frankly, they fill my heart with joy every day. Yet, they don’t have souls, or do they? 

While reading 1 Corinthians today, I encountered this verse.

It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:44 (NIV)

Paul was talking about people being raised from the dead. He hadn’t been talking about animals, but this part of the verse, “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body,” got me thinking. Again, I know that Paul wasn’t talking about animals. However, I did look into this verse and started thinking about things. Things like what makes up a person? What makes up an animal?

There are three parts to each person. What are these three parts according to the Bible? 1 Thessalonians 5:23 gives us this insight.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (emphasis added).

1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NIV)

We are comprised of spirit, soul, and body. We all know what the body is. This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 15. We have perishable bodies now but will have imperishable bodies when we are raised from the dead. The body houses the spirit and the soul. Hebrews 4:12 makes it clear that there is a distinction between spirit, soul, and body.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

What is the soul, or what is a soul? A soul is an expression of our humanity through emotions. It’s what makes a human; human. Not the body or the spirit. The soul leaves the body behind.

And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.

Genesis 35:18 (KJV)

This verse reveals that our souls leave our bodies when we die. Other Scriptures talk about the soul. 

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew

10:28 (NIV)

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Matthew 16:26 (NIV)

These verses reveal the eternal nature of our souls. While Scripture has much to say about the spirit, let’s examine these verses.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”

Luke 1:46-47 (NIV)

These verses show that the soul and spirit are separate and have different purposes. If we consider the soul the center of our emotions, thoughts, and such, then that’s the part that glorifies the Lord. These are the emotions and thoughts we have toward God. However, Mary says her Spirit rejoices with the Lord. This rejoicing is coming together. A means of communication, if you will, between Mary and God. Therefore, our spirits are used to communicate with God. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians.

What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.

1 Corinthians 14:15 (ESV)

Paul’s declaration here isn’t different than Mary’s. However, it’s easier to understand that the mind (soul) and spirit can function similarly but have other functions as well from 1 Corinthians 14:15. 

It’s clear that we are made up of a spirit, soul (mind), and body. What about the animals, though? What do we know about them? Let’s look to see Genesis and see what we can find there.

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.

Genesis 1:24 (NIV)

This verse tells us that God spoke and animals were created (from the land). Let’s compare this to the creation of man.

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7 (NIV)

Man was created from the earth, and after God breathed life into man, he became a living being. Unlike the animals that sprang into being from God’s word, man was formed, given breath and life, and became a living being. This is where the spirit comes into play. It’s the spirit of this “living being” that can communicate with God. Without the spirit, a human just has a body and soul, like an animal. Without the Spirit, there is no eternal life. 

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life (emphasis added).

John 6:63 (NIV)

We’ve determined that the soul is the seat of emotions and thought, and when we apply the term “soul” to humans, we know we have one. However, I know that cats and dogs think. I know they experience emotions. While not as intimately familiar with them, I know other animals think and have feelings. Therefore, within the context of thoughts and emotions, animals have souls, but they don’t have a spirit. Perhaps there’s a better term to describe the “soul” of an animal, but for right now, that’s the term I am using. 

Without a spirit, the body and soul of an animal dies when it dies, so although I think animals have souls, I think the question people are really asking when they ask whether or not animals have souls deals with whether or not animals go to heaven when they die. Unfortunately, I’d have to say no; animals don’t go to heaven when they die. Therefore, enjoy them and love them as much as you can! 

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.