Pets are family and similar to any of our loved ones, when a pet passes it is a time of significant emotions and grief. Many people also want to give their beloved pet a proper memorial to be reminded of all the joy and love that they brought into our lives. For many families, this means having their pet cremated and doing one or more memorials with the ashes. If this is something you’re considering, this comprehensive guide can provide you with everything you’ll need to know about pet cremation and related services and memorials.
Pet Cremation vs. Pet Burial
Often when our pets pass, we think about burying them in our own yard, or at a local pet cemetery (if one exists in your area). However, these options are not always practical. If you’re in a climate with cold winters, the ground may be frozen and you may have to wait weeks or even months for the ground to thaw out enough to dig a gravesite.
Also, if you choose burial and don’t bury a pet far enough down into the ground, there’s a risk of having other animals attempt to dig up the remains, which can be traumatizing for you and your family.
If there’s a nearby pet cemetery to where you live, you can certainly go that route. However, if you prefer to have a memorial that is unique and special for your pet, cremation may be a good choice for you. And you wouldn’t be alone – over 90% of pets are cremated.
Who Performs Pet Cremations?
The availability of pet crematoriums and the services they offer often depend on where you live. Many areas of the country have local pet crematoriums that offer both direct services to the public and also contract with veterinarian clinics.
If you live in a rural area, it’s possible that the crematorium takes care of both humans and pets. However, even if they do this, most state laws require that they have two separate cremation chambers – one for people and the other for pets. Do a quick internet search or check with your veterinarian to find a reputable pet crematorium in your area.
How Do I Get My Pet To a Crematorium?
There are two main ways families deliver their pet to a crematorium. The most common is through your local veterinarian. Most vet offices have frequent pickups from the local crematorium and will store your pet in refrigeration until that occurs.
Another option is to take your pet directly to the crematorium yourself. This is becoming more and more common and allows you to get comfortable with the crematorium staff and the process. It also gives you the chance to view the urns and other memorial options offered by the crematorium.
Pet Cremation Process
There are two main types of cremations performed for pets – communal and private. A communal pet cremation is the most cost effective cremation and involves having your pet placed in the cremation chamber with other animals. Since there are multiple animals being cremated at the same time, you’re not able to get just your pet ashes back, however many crematoriums will offer the option to get a portion of the overall ashes containing your pet and others.
With a private cremation, your pet is cremated by itself and you are able to get only their ashes back. This is a more expensive option than communal cremation, however, is becoming a more common choice among families looking to do a memorial with their pet’s ashes.
Certain pet crematoriums also offer partitioned cremations. With this, your pet is cremated with another pet or pets, however, the areas are partitioned off so you only get your pet’s ashes back. Because more than one pet is being cremated at the same time, this can be a less expensive option than a private cremation but more than communal pet cremation.
The pet cremation process follows these general steps:
- The pet’s body is placed in the cremation chamber and incinerated using high heat. The amount of time it takes depends on the size of the animal, but is typically completed within a few hours
- The pet remains are inspected for metal objects (implants, etc.); if metal is found, it is removed from the remains
- Pieces of bone that did not break down with the cremation are pulverized to a fine dust resembling ash
- For private cremations, the pet ashes are then placed in their storage area. Your cremation center may allow you to provide an urn, box, or other enclosed container that they are to use to inter your pet. If the crematorium does not accept urn or you’re still looking for the perfect resting place for your pet, the cremains are usually poured into a plastic bag. The bag is placed in a box and delivered to you or your veterinarian (or can typically be picked up).
Pet Urn & Memorial Options
There are virtually endless pet urns and memorial options available to you. What you decide to do with your pet’s ashes and their memorial is up to you and there is no right or wrong answer. You may want to keep them in an urn at home, have a portion or all of their ashes made into jewelry, or scatter the ashes outside at one or more special places to your or your pet.
Below we highlight some of the more popular pet memorial options:
- Scatter - similar to memorials for people, many families are now choosing to scatter their pet’s ashes at one or more special places. This can be at a special place in the yard, a favorite hiking trail, or other place of your choosing. To do this, you can order a scattering urn designed to scatter ashes. One of the more popular ones offered by pet crematoriums nationwide is the Eco Scattering Urn for Pets. With this eco-friendly scattering urn, you have the option to have it engraved with your pet’s name, date of birth and passing, a sentiment and a symbol or image.
- Outdoor Tree Memorial - another option that’s growing in popularity is to do a tree memorial with some or all of your pet’s ashes. This can be a truly beautiful ‘living memorial’ that you can view in your yard or other special place and remember and reflect on your beloved pet. The Living Urn offers over 30 tree options for most areas of the U.S. and gives you everything you need to create a pet tree burial.
- Indoor Bonsai Tree or Plant Memorial - if you like the idea of a ‘living memorial’ but don’t have a place to plant outdoors, consider The Living Urn Indoors/Patio, which gives you the ability to easily plant a bonsai tree or houseplant in the center of a porcelain urn holding your beloved pet’s ashes. Another indoor option is the PlantUrn for Pets – this is a decorative urn made from recycled hardwoods and includes a small pot on top where a succulent can be planted.
- Traditional Indoor Urn - many families prefer a more traditional urn for some or all of their pet’s ashes. This can be made from wood, stone, ceramic or metal. With a quick online search, you can find many options available. Some indoor urns can be engraved and others include a place where a photo can be inserted.
- Pet Cremation Jewelry - there are thousands of cremation jewelry options available. With this a portion of your pet’s ashes can be inserted into a pendant, bracelet, ring or other piece of jewelry. In addition, there is also the option of having your pet’s ashes infused into a diamond or other gemstone. This can be a beautiful piece that you wear or keep in a special place at home.