A Basic Guide to Pet Cremation

A Basic Guide to Pet Cremation

Losing a pet is an especially difficult experience for most people. Our cherished pets become part of our family, so when they pass we grieve their loss as we would for any loved one, and we also want the opportunity to give them a proper memorial.  

Whether a dog, cat or other beloved animal has to be euthanized or passes away on their own,  it can be stressful to decide what to do next. Therefore, it’s important to plan, just as we would for our own end-of-life and funeral wishes.

Many pet families opt to take care of arrangements in advance and find pet cremation to be the best option to remember their pet. From selecting the proper pet crematorium to choosing the type of cremation or a suitable memorial, we have put together a basic guide with everything you need to know about pet cremation services. 

What is Cremation?

According to Wikipedia, cremation can be defined as “a method of final disposition of a dead body through burning.” Cremation has become increasingly popular as the method of choice for memorializing humans with over 56% of people choosing it for their end-of-life arrangements. Cremation is also the most popular choice for memorial services for pets. In approximately 1.9 million pet funerals held annually, 99% of them end in cremation. 

What Happens During the Pet Cremation Process?

Regulations around pet cremation can differ from state to state, but most require pet and human cremation chambers to be separate from each other. During the pet cremation process, the chamber’s temperature goes up to 1400-1800 degrees Fahrenheit. The high heat reduces a pet’s matter down to dust and dried bones within one to two hours.  

Once complete, crematorium staff will remove tags, surgical pins, and other metal objects from the ash before pulverizing them to a sand-like powder. The color of the ashes is usually white or pale grey, but can vary due to the diet or medications of the pet. 

Then the pet’s ashes are placed in a sealed plastic bag and placed in a container, tin, or urn of choice before being returned to their owner. If the owner has opted for a communal cremation, the ashes are spread by the crematorium. 

Types of Pet Cremation

There are several different options of types of pet cremations you can choose from based on your bereavement needs and budget. The details can vary slightly depending on which type you choose and the policies and procedures the crematorium abides by. The various options available enable pet owners to select the best service that works for them and their situation.

Communal Cremation

This option involves a pet sharing a cremation chamber with other pets. Most of the time, the pet’s ashes are not returned to the family since there is no separation between the ashes. Typically, the cremation company will scatter or bury the ashes on a farm or a memorial garden. 

The advantages of communal cremation are:

  •  Reduced costs for those who are looking for an economical option
  •  A known, designated place to visit your pet’s remains (Please inquire with your crematorium for information in regards to how they handle ashes after cremation)

Partitioned Cremation Service

In a partitioned pet cremation service, a pet is placed into the cremation chamber, and is separated from other pets by distance or an actual partitioned structure. After a service of this type is performed, your pet’s ashes are returned to the pet owner. However, it is important to note that there is no way to guarantee another animal’s ashes aren’t also in the urn or container. 

Private Cremation

In a private cremation, a singular pet is cremated by itself in the chamber. This service ensures that the ashes scattered or returned to you only belong to your pet. 

Why Should You Choose Pet Cremation?

Pet cremation tends to be the best option for many families because it offers several options. These options include returning the pet’s remains “home” via an urn or temporary container or scattering the pet’s remains at home or a pet’s favorite place. 

Cremation of your pet’s remains is also a good option if: 

  • There are zoning restrictions that prohibit you from burying your pet at home. 
  • If the animal’s size limits the ability to be buried
  • You want to avoid common potential risks or circumstances associated with pet burial (i.e., what happens if another animal digs it up? What happens if you move?)

How to Choose the Right Pet Crematorium

It can feel overwhelming and even stressful to find the proper pet crematorium to handle your pet’s remains, especially if you have to make a decision quickly. However, here are some things to think about when selecting a facility to take care of your pet’s remains. 

Make a List of Pet Crematoriums in Your Area

A quick online search will most likely bring up many businesses that offer pet cremation in your area. Your vet may also have recommendations. Just keep in mind, many vets often work with a specific crematorium.  

  • Check reviews- Online reviews are essential these days for any business. If someone has had a negative experience with a pet cremation service, they’ll often post an online review. Also, ask family and friends to share their experiences with you. 
  • Call for quotes and check services- While the business may post a majority of their information online, it’s imperative to talk to someone either in person or on the phone. This will allow you to ask questions and get clarification for them as well as find out about any additional fees. 

What Do You Need From Your Pet’s Cremation Service to Help You Grieve for Them Properly?

Remember, we all grieve differently and there may be things we need that can help us cope during the difficult time of losing a pet. Below are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a crematorium, as well as the kind of cremation service that will be best for your pet:

  • Would you like a memorial service or some time alone with your pet at the crematorium? 
  • Do you want to be present during the cremation process?
  • Do you need the ashes back, or will it be okay if they’re scattered for you? 
  • Do you prefer the pet cremation to be private or communal?

Making a list and prioritizing what is important to you, your family, and your pet will help you eliminate crematoriums that don’t meet your needs. 

There are several options available when it comes to where and how your pet is cremated. Whether you need cremation services right away or want to plan, it’s always a good idea to know what’s important to you and what the places in your area have to offer. 

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Cremation

How much does the pet cremation cost?

The cost of pet cremation can vary dramatically from one facility to another and depend on many factors. Most crematoriums consider the weight of your pet when it comes to their base prices. (The cremation of smaller pets is usually easier and quicker than that of larger pets.) 

Below are are average prices for cremation services:

  • Communal Pet Cremation costs anywhere from $50 to $150
  • Private Pet Cremation can cost anywhere from $100 to $500, depending on your pet’s weight, if you want the ashes back, what urn or container you pick, etc. 
  • Horse Cremation ranges from $500 to $2,500 depending on your horse’s weight, location, and if pick-up is required.

Extra Pet Cremation Costs

For certain types of cremation services, additional fees may be added on. These include: 

  • Picking Up Your Pet: The crematorium usually charges if they have to transport your animal, whether from your home or the vet’s office. $30-$50 is a typical range for relatively close pick-up locations. 
  • Witnessed Pet Cremation- If you prefer to view the cremation, most places will charge an additional fee. 
  • Pet Urn and Memorial: Pet Urn and memorial options are available at a wide range of prices (anywhere from $49 to over $500). Be sure to inquire if an urn or box is included in your initial costs. 

Do I Take My Pet to the Crematorium?

While most pet crematoriums will allow you to bring your pet in, many also offer pick-up services, even if the animal passes at your home. If your pet passes at the vet’s office, the vet will coordinate with the cremation facility on transport. 

How Quickly Do I Get My Pet’s Ashes Back?

This will vary depending on the facility you choose. However, most pet cremations are performed within a few days to a week after receiving the body. You willusually receive the ashes within a day or two after the service is completed. Again, this can vary depending on if the crematorium transports the ashes back to the vet or has the owner pick them up. 

Make sure you let the vet or crematorium staff know if you want your pet’s ashes back. Even with communal cremations, some families choose to get a portion of the communal ashes back if the crematorium offers that option. 

Am I Able to Watch the Cremation Process?

Witnessing human cremation is becoming more and more common; therefore, more pet cremation facilities are also giving owners the option to view their pet being placed into the cremation chamber. If this is important to you for closure, ask the pet crematorium staff about this option.

What Should I Do with My Pet’s Ashes?

It can be hard to decide what to do with a cremated pet’s ashes. The only “right” answer is what is best for you and your family to grieve; however, here are some ideas on how to honor your pet. 

  • Display the urn in your home– Many people like to put the urn on a bookcase or shelf. There are urns available that allow you to grow a plant or succulent on top of them. 
  • Scatter the ashes in a symbolic place. (i.e., their favorite spot in the yard, a park, a river, etc.) 
  • Have some of the ashes put into a piece of jewelry or artwork. There are many options available online. 
  • Bury the urn in a pet cemetery- Pet owners who choose this route also have a headstone made. 

Starting the Grieving Process with Pet Cremation

Saying goodbye to your pet is never an easy process, no matter who is involved or how much you prepare in advance. 

While emotionally challenging, if you are able to plan in advance for your pet’s passing, it can help make the process of saying goodbye more bearable. Planning in advance for your pet’s passing can help you understand the options available to you as well as clarify any confusion you may have in regards to certain aspects of pet memorial services processes. It can also significantly reduce any anxiety you may have surrounding the situation and help ensure that your pet’s final days are filled with love rather than concern about rushing last-minute decisions. 

Pet Memorial Services Pre/Post Cremation

There are several options you can choose between in regards to funeral and memorial services for your pet. We have found these additional services can provide a sense of comfort and healing to families who are grieving their pet’s passing. 

As mentioned before, there is no right or wrong answer in regards to the type of cremation service to choose. Whatever is best for you and your situation in helping you to properly grieve the loss of your pet is the right choice for you. Pet memorial services can be as extensive or as simple as you want them to be. While losing a pet is heartbreaking, honoring their memory and the beloved companion they were to you and your family can help you make their farewell both meaningful and special.

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