Planning ahead for a pet's passing
July 9, 2010 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I want to plans to deal with the eventual death of my pets. They're healthy and happy but I know small animals don't live too long, and I'd like to know what to do before I lose them.

I've previously buried pet hamsters in tiny boxes in the yard, but my current pets are larger and I'm not the owner of the property. I know some people get cremation through a vet but I suspect those services are costly, and I don't have a vet in the area. I don't think I need to keep the animal's remains with me, but at the same time it seems so wrong to just wrap a lost friend in a bag and toss in the dumpster. Perhaps the ideal thing for me would be some way to preserve the animal's bones, as I am an art student and would love to be able to make them into something as a tribute. The only way I can think to achieve this however involves leaving it out to rot, which sounds even worse than the Hefty bag.

Any experience or advice on handling the physical aspects of pet death (especially medium-sized like cat or rabbit) is appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We had to euthanize our dog Charlie because of cancer last fall. Our vet took care of the cremation through a third-party they use. It only cost us around $100.

My wife mixed his ashes in with her garden this spring.
posted by Fleebnork at 11:22 AM on July 9, 2010

NEVER strip a carcass by 'leaving it out to rot'. Not sure if you were serious about that, and I'm afraid I can't help with the rest of the question, but this I know for sure. Let's say it again: NO LEAVING DEAD BODIES OUT.

If you *have* to do this, learn to do it properly by boiling or chemicals, or better yet, see a taxidermist and have it done professionally.
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 11:51 AM on July 9, 2010

I agree, cremation for pets doesn't cost too much. If you put $10 a month away per pet, that'll cover it in a year or so.

Perhaps the ideal thing for me would be some way to preserve the animal's bones, as I am an art student and would love to be able to make them into something as a tribute. The only way I can think to achieve this however involves leaving it out to rot, which sounds even worse than the Hefty bag.

Leaving it out is a bad idea. There are much better methods, but they're definitely very gross. This PDF outlines the basic options: maceration (soaking in water), hot maceration (cooking), or a bug box (consumption by beetle larvae). With a pet, any method is going to be really unpleasant, as the process involves skinning and gutting the animal and removing its flesh.

If you're really serious about this, I'd suggest professional taxidermy. Any decent taxidermist should be able to take your small pet and preserve its bones. This'll cost -- probably quite a bit more so than cremation -- but it's way more practical than trying to do it yourself.
posted by vorfeed at 11:58 AM on July 9, 2010

Burial need not be a distasteful option, especially if paired with the planting of a tree over your pet's body. Keep in mind many regions have laws about burying a pet's body inside city limits. Since it seems like you're outside city limits, contact your area's animal/health control for regulations. If you are rural, make sure you bury deep enough to keep out scavengers, as distasteful as it sounds.

Animal control may be able to pickup and dispose of the body for you for a fee of around $25-50, assuming you are in the US.

If a vet is still an option, you should be able to drive your pet's body there for cremation. (My cat's cremation cost $100) You may have to store the body in your freezer prior to the trip. Check to see if any pet cemeteries operate near you to cut out the middleman.

If preservation is still of interest to you, you may be able to arrange something with a taxidermist. It's more common than you think. Again, be prepared to use your freezer as temporary storage. Just be aware the concept upsets a lot of people. Though frankly, I'm a bit taken with the idea of keeping my cats' pelts when they die. Maybe make into a nice pillow...
posted by Wossname at 12:07 PM on July 9, 2010

As vorfeed described, you can use dermestid beetles, but it is still a stinky process. We keep them in the fume hood of the lab because the smell is enough to peel your own skin off.

If you search, you can find a vet that will cremate inexpensively. I had one of my cats cremated for $25, only a couple of years ago.
posted by bolognius maximus at 12:09 PM on July 9, 2010

There are people who have mummified a pet rat after it died. There are also some taxidermy related instructables over on
posted by rmd1023 at 12:29 PM on July 9, 2010

You don't have to go through a vet for cremation. I haven't looked into it, because I have a great vet and intend to use them for any such thing, but you can work with the cremation company directly.

I do know there's a difference between private cremation and group (?) cremation, something to be aware of before it's that time and you're not thinking clearly. Make sure you get private cremation if you want YOUR pet's ashes back.
posted by galadriel at 12:39 PM on July 9, 2010

Perhaps a tiny funeral pyre would work, although I imagine burning fur would be unpleasant. I figure it would be legal anywhere bonfires are allowed. It would be much lower cost than cremation or taxidermy, and be much more respectful and ceremonious than a garbage bag.
posted by luftmensch at 3:25 PM on July 9, 2010

Yeah, if you do not want the ashes back, group cremation of a small pet should not run much more than $50, especially if you can arrange it directly with a pet cemetery. I would contact your local animal shelter or a veterinarian near you (do you really not have a vet nearby?) to ask them about pet cemeteries in the area.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:04 PM on July 9, 2010

We had our dearly loved dog creamated. We buried the box containing the ashes near a young tree (a dogwood tree) in our yard. We placed his blanket on top of the box to keep him warm along with his dish; because how are you going to place those items in the trash? We nailed the tags to the tree in hope that in time the tree's bark would surround the tags, ensuring that they'd be there forever. My parents have since sold the house, but my dad doubled checked the tags before he left for the last time. I haven't checked since then, but my heart assumes they are still there and that he's resting peacefully.
posted by Tristram Shandy, Gentleman at 5:55 PM on July 9, 2010

We had to have one of my cats euthanized in May. The animal hospital that it happened at had names for several different companies that would do animal cremation. After he passed, I contacted one of the companies, they picked him up from the hospital, and took care of everything. It was $100, but it included a very nice box (that now sits on the bookshelf because I can't bear to do anything else with it yet), a name plate, a paw print, a fur snip, etc. It was very nicely done by a local funeral home and I would not hesitate to do this same thing again.
posted by itsacover at 9:09 PM on July 9, 2010

When I had to put down my guinea pig, the vet was kind to give me a pretty box to put him in along with his favorite fleece. My fiancee dug up a big hole, and that's where he rests.
posted by cobain_angel at 11:04 PM on July 9, 2010

Just another perspective on cremation:
Had to have my fur-baby euthanized almost exactly a year ago, after 18 and a half years together. The cost of the euth and the cremation (with certified letter assuring it was my cat's cremains, a nice box, and a brass nameplate included automatically) was $130. I'm in southeastern Pennsylvania.
posted by MeiraV at 11:18 AM on July 21, 2010

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