Pet loss, whether anticipated or sudden, is a tragic event. Pet Owners facing the loss of their pet are often overwhelmed, finding themselves unprepared to handle the proper disposition of their beloved companion.
If you are a Pet Owner whose pet is in failing health, or if you have sadly experienced the recent passing of a pet, the following is an informative guide to help you move through this difficult period with knowledge and understanding.
Choosing pet cremation as a memorial
Because we form special bonds with our companions, it is only natural that many of us wish to follow the human model of burial or cremation to respect and remember our pet’s devotion. An option such as burying your pet at home sometimes necessitates meeting stringent health department regulations, and you may find that pet cemeteries are either hard to find or costly.
Today many Pet Owners opt for cremation since it both provides a way to keep your pet near you and allows you to bury or scatter some of your pet’s ashes in your yard or a favorite place your pet enjoyed. With our mobile society many families choose pet cremation in order to keep their pet’s memorial with them when they move. You may be surprised to know that cremation is available for pets of all sizes, from birds to horses.
Considering the alternatives to pet cremation
Upon the passing of your pet, you will be making some decisions about what will happen next. Thankfully the decisions to be made are fairly simple when you know the available choices. Typically you will have three alternatives: cremation of your pet with the cremains returned to you; cremation of your pet without receiving the cremains; or, if you prefer, burial of your pet in a pet cemetery.
Understanding the pet cremation process
If your pet’s passing involves your Veterinarian, he or she will usually have a relationship with a crematorium, a regulated establishment which contains a special kind of furnace called a cremation chamber, used exclusively for pet cremation. The process of pet cremation uses extreme heat (usually 1500 – 1600 degrees Fahrenheit) and evaporation in the cremation chamber to reduce the body to its basic elements which are referred to as cremated remains, or cremains. Also commonly called ashes, the cremains are in fact bone fragments which are then reduced in size to a sand-like state.
Selecting a type of cremation for your pet
It is important to know that there are a range of options that exist within pet cremation, and therefore you will want to be sure to confirm the type of cremation you desire for your pet with your Veterinarian or crematory, after considering which one of the following four choices best aligns with your wishes:
Private Cremation – With this selection, your pet alone is placed in the cremation chamber. Upon completion of the cremation, your pet’s cremains are removed from the chamber, processed and returned to you for transferring to the pet urn of your choice.
Viewing Cremation - Similar to a Private Cremation, but The Pet Owner, friends and family are permitted to be present during the cremation in a viewing room. This option is not available at all crematories.
Individual Cremation – During the cremation, your pet shares space in the cremation chamber with other pets, however they are separated so that you will be able to receive your pet’s cremains.
Communal (Mass) Cremation – With this alternative your pet is cremated along with a number of other pets, and the cremains are not able to be separated. No urn is returned to the Pet Owner. It is common practice for these cremains to be disposed of commercially.
Frequently Pet Owners who are selecting a private pet cremation ask how they can be certain that their pet’s remains are kept separate from the remains of other pets. If this is a concern for you, ask your Veterinarian for the name and phone number of the crematory he/she has a relationship with, and call the crematory management to discuss your concerns. It is assuring to know that all responsible pet crematories have thorough operating policies and procedures in order to provide the highest level of service and reduce possibility of human error.
Transferring your pet’s ashes
Your pet’s ashes are typically placed in a sealed plastic bag which is then placed in a temporary pet urn, usually a tin, plastic or cardboard box, and returned to the Pet Owner or Veterinarian. The ashes are bagged to prevent accidental loss should the pet urn be dropped or damaged, as well as to prevent damage from moisture. It is preferable to transfer the entire plastic bag of cremains into a permanent pet urn. Since many Pet Owners find it emotionally difficult to transfer the ashes by themselves, you may prefer to have the Veterinarian, a relative, or a friend transfer the ashes to your pet’s memorial urn.
Determining the right pet memorial urn
Just as we pay tribute to a dear departed loved one, Pet Owners feel they should do something special to memorialize a much-loved pet. A popular choice of pet memorial is a decorative wooden box which serves as an urn to hold your pet’s ashes, displaying a name plate and treasured photo. Larger pet urns can additionally hold remembrances such as a collar, tag or ball.
To determine the size of the urn for your pet, you’ll want to know the weight of your pet and the capacity of the selected pet urn in cubic inches. For example, if your pet weighed 50 pounds under normal healthy conditions, you would select an urn with an interior area of at least 50 cubic inches.
Letting your Veterinarian assist you
With the assistance of your Veterinarian throughout the management of your pet’s final care, you’ll find the required choices much easier to make, feeling more confident that events will proceed smoothly. Your Veterinarian’s expertise plus a clear understanding of the pet cremation process will give you a welcome degree of control in handling the careful steps along the path of honoring your faithful friend’s passing.