Impending pet death (probably). How do I take care of the remains?
April 16, 2014 12:58 AM   Subscribe

I think I'm about to have to deal with the loss of a beloved pet cat. I am not sure how to best handle dealing with her remains. I want to keep them. Can anyone help me figure this out?

I had one of the nastiest shocks of my life this afternoon when I took my at-least-18-year-old cat to the vet for a respiratory infection. The vet told me that she was basically at death's door due to other, yet-unknown factors, and that she might not make it through the night. I knew she'd been a little under the weather for the past 2 or 3 days, but I had no idea it was anything like this bad. I'm pretty sure she's going to make it through the night, but when we get the test results back tomorrow morning I will find out what else I can expect. If she will only get worse from here, I have to try to be prepared to handle that. Which means trying to figure out what to do with her body before I am a total shaking gibbering wreck.

The first option is cremation. It's been very difficult to find useful information about that online. Places don't offer prices unless you call them, and I haven't found a useful source of, I don't know, reviews? I want somewhere trustworthy. And I am unemployed and down to my last thousand dollars, so I want somewhere that isn't going to scrape me for as much as they can get. I can probably ask friends to donate a few dollars to the Cause, since they know how much my cats mean to me, but it ain't gonna be no $750. I do know I'm going with the individual cremation, I-actually-get-my-cat-back route if I go this way. Does anyone have recommendations for trustworthy places in and around Seattle? I know my vet will have suggestions, but I would like to be more prepared.

My ideal option would be to have her skeletonized and keep the bones. I don't have a dermestid beetle colony, though, and I don't know anyone who does. There may be a friend of a friend, and I'm looking into that. But does anyone have any idea how I could go about finding someone who does? I don't need her articulated. I'm not sure I would even want that. I would just like, if I could, to have her bones rather than her ashes. It just feels better.

This sucks. Please help me figure out the logistics so it sucks a little less.

posted by Because to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
Sorry for your loss.

Did you ask the vet? When one of my rabbits passed away, my vet recommended a cremation service, took care of delivering her body there, and even accepted delivery of the cremains at the vet's office so I could come pick them up.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:18 AM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm so very sorry to hear about your cat.

I don't remember what the cremation cost was for mine, a couple years ago. (And I didn't pick the company; I like my vet, so I just went with whomever my vet had an arrangement with. As with drjimmy11's situation, the vet handled everything for me.)

But I found one website that's quoting approx. $80 for a normal-sized cat, private cremation. I don't know if that includes any kind of urn or box.

And I found another place that's a bit more expensive.

Obviously, prices will vary from place to place, but these two should at least give you a ballpark idea. Thankfully, it's nowhere near $750.
posted by jeri at 1:23 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

When my cat died unexpectedly at the vet, the vet took care of all of the details for me, except to ask if I wanted a private cremation (which returns the remains) for an additional fee. They sent her out and took the returned remains.

Of course, now I have cat ashes in a cardboard box in my dresser, and I have no idea what to do with them.
posted by wotsac at 9:59 AM on April 16, 2014

My vet also took care of the cremation for my cats and called me after a week or so to let me know they were ready for pickup. I think it was about $120 (this was two years ago), including a nice little wooden box.
posted by vickyverky at 10:32 AM on April 16, 2014

I'm in the pet death care industry, so I am a bit familiar with this. Cremation prices do vary area by area, but usually prices will be in the $80-$120 range. you do need to be specific about individual cremation, though. Some places will allow you to be there, so you can feel assured that it is your cat that they are cremating, but the price does go up a bit with that.

If you trust your vet, I would simply go with what he or she suggests. You can then check yelp reviews on the cremation company as well, to feel more confident. The wonderful thing about going through the vet, is that they will handle all the details for you, so you don't need to try to process too much.

I am so very sorry you are going through this. It is never easy, and when it comes as a shock/surprise it can be harder, as you need to emotionally prepare so quickly.
posted by Vaike at 10:40 AM on April 16, 2014

Frey offers preserved cats for about $50. Maybe contact them to find out their technique. Freeze drying would be a lot more expensive.
posted by Sophont at 12:19 PM on April 16, 2014

I have the cremated remains of three beloved cats (they did not all die at once- this is over many years) in jars that they came in. I think the cremations were in the $100 range. Having them on the bookshelf brings me a lot of solace, in a way that intellectually makes no sense. I am glad I did it.
posted by wittgenstein at 2:04 PM on April 16, 2014

Best answer: Sorry to hear about your cat. Where do you live? There is a place outside of Berkeley, CA that will skeletonize pets (or at least they got positive reviews on Yelp for doing so...) Their info is here.

They may have a recommendation for a similar place in your geographic region?
posted by stillmoving at 2:18 PM on April 16, 2014

Best answer: This place in the Seattle area uses dermestid beetles for skull and skeleton cleaning.
posted by Snerd at 7:25 PM on April 16, 2014

Talk to your vet--I am sure she/he can handle all the arrangements, especially if you have a long-term relationship with the practice. We, too, have the cremated remains of three cats that died over the years in the various places we have lived. In each case, the vet made the arrangements and we picked the cremains up at the office. The latest one was returned not only with the cremains, but with a paw print in plaster with his name etched in it. That brought some tears. The staff also sent a lovely sympathy card. I don't remember the cost of the private cremations, but not more than $100. We have the boxes in a spot in the family room, unobtrusive, but we know where they are.

Vets understand our love of our pets--they love theirs, too--and really want to help. Don't think you have to go through this without his/her help at each stage--making decisions about next steps for the cat's health and treatment and the following decisions.

You have my sympathy. We still talk and tell stories about our great cats, even though one died more than 25 years ago.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 7:53 PM on April 16, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who's responded. I have the appointment tomorrow at 3:00. My vet's office is awesome, and they were willing to take care of everything for me without any difficulty, as many of you suggested. I kind of wanted to mark every answer as best.

I decided to go with the people that Snerd recommended, after talking to the very nice man who runs the company and getting a recommendation from a friend who has used his services for the same thing before. I'm going to make sure that Apple is as happy as she can possibly be before I let her go, but for me, the protracted process is going to be made so much easier by knowing I can honor her in the way that seems right.

Again, thank you all so much. This has been blindsiding and difficult, and your support and help makes it a little easier.
posted by Because at 12:51 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am so glad that you had a chance to plan this beforehand. I recently lost my cat and decided to bury him at home in his favorite spot. However, I completely forgot in the heat of the moment that I have a bad back and so only managed to bury him about a foot down. I did cover his grave with a very heavy paver that I bought and so I'm sure he will be safe, but can now add the anxiety of not burying him correctly to all the other grief-related anxiety.

My sympathies to you, and I hope that all the support here and the planning helps you in your own situation. I found some nice poems and prayers on line as well if you did want to have a little funeral service, which I did.
posted by PJSibling at 5:42 PM on April 22, 2014

Response by poster: Followup in case anyone finds this later: I went down to the Beacon Hill Biological facility today, and was very, very impressed. Bob is a really cool guy, and clearly knows what he's doing. He showed me around and I got to see the beetles and some bones in various stages of cleaning, as well as some articulations he's done and some of his stock. I feel totally safe leaving New Girl in his hands, and will definitely use his services in the future. A++ would skeletonize again.

Info here.
posted by Because at 4:48 AM on May 21, 2014

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