Did I bury my cat wrong?
April 25, 2014 12:16 PM   Subscribe

I had to put my beloved cat down last week and I'm frankly stunned by how hard the grief has hit me. He showed up at my back door 14 years ago and never left. We had a great time together. I decided to bury him in the garden but when I got home I found I couldn't dig down further than about a 8-12 inches because of tree roots and sprinkler lines. I have a bad back already, so in a panic, I buried him in his towel at that depth and put a 38-pound paver stone on top. I have a fenced yard and only a few stray cats (I note the ones always bullying him have disappeared) and maybe a possum find their way in. Now I am wracked with anxiety, worrying that he is not safe and I should not have done it, and maybe I should dig him up and cremate him, which would be awful to imagine...I can't stand it. Is there some drawback to this more shallow grave I don't know about? No animal could lift that stone. So far this anxiety and fear is the worst part of it. So if you could allay my fears, I'd appreciate it.
posted by PJSibling to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You did fine.
posted by adamrice at 12:19 PM on April 25, 2014 [28 favorites]

That is a more than sufficient burial for a small animal. I am sorry for your grief.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:20 PM on April 25, 2014 [7 favorites]

That's about as deep as we managed when we buried my childhood cat in the garden, and we continued to live in that house for a decade afterwards and he was perfectly safe. We put a rose bush next to the stone and it did very well.
posted by Sequence at 12:20 PM on April 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

This is fine......

posted by HuronBob at 12:21 PM on April 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

He is safe. The paver stone was the perfect thing to do; you are exactly right that no animal will lift the stone. I had a cat (Stewart) who I burried in exactly the same way (chipping into the frozen ground in early winter), with a stone on top, and I am able to visit him at that stone until this very day. It has never showed the slightest sign of being disturbed, aside from the flowers that have taken root around the stone.

I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by anastasiav at 12:24 PM on April 25, 2014 [15 favorites]

You did absolutely fine. The stone will protect him and keep him safe. I'm so sorry for your loss. Our little furry companions touch us so deeply and the grief at losing them is hard to bear. I hope that you find some peace in having him close and safe.

Once you're ready, I like the idea of planting some lovely flowers or a tree next to the stone.
posted by quince at 12:26 PM on April 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

Echoing others, I have buried two small(er) pets at a very similar depth, one with no stone, and another with a small stone over it. Both wrapped in their favorite blakets. Never any problem with either. You have my sympathies.
posted by Lafe at 12:29 PM on April 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Echoing the others. We have several little friends buried under the apple tree in our yard, all at about that depth or even slightly shallower, and have never seen the area disturbed.

Sorry for your loss.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:33 PM on April 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I did the same as you but with a round rock over top, so you should be fine.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:34 PM on April 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have buried 4 cats similarly. None of the graves ever had the least problem. Nothing in life is foolproof, but by adding the paver there, you've done what many another animal lover has done. Don't even think of disinterring him. I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by tyllwin at 12:34 PM on April 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

You did fine. Grief is so hard and hits us in all sorts of shitty ways. I am so sorry for your loss, but you did right by your cat.
posted by jessamyn at 12:38 PM on April 25, 2014 [11 favorites]

You did very well. Maybe you would like it more if you put a plant (in a pot) on top of the stone? Something pretty? Or, pretty shells or rocks, or anything that makes you happy and helps beautify this sacred spot.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:50 PM on April 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

Several years ago, the first cat I had an adult, was hit by vehicle sometime in the night. By the time, my ex noticed and woke me up, she was already dead, but by the nature of her injuries, it was probably instantaneous anyway. My ex and I buried her near the apple tree in the backyard of the house, at about the same depth you describe. I continued to live in that your for 6 years after the event and she was never disturbed. Unless the new owners uproot the tree, I imagine she'll stay there until she's decomposed beyond recognition.

I planted cat mint in the general vicinity and several of my cats and other neighbourhood cats poked around the area because of that, but the grave was never disturbed. You're probably OK.

It always is painful to lose a pet. Take care of yourself.
posted by Kurichina at 12:55 PM on April 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think it will be fine. That is a very heavy stone, and you're right that no animal will move it. And I'm so sorry for your loss.

(If you're interested--I planted a peony over my own beloved cat in my back yard. The plants can live a hundred years, are incredibly hardy and require no care. I love seeing her beautiful flowers every spring, almost 15 years now.)
posted by HotToddy at 12:58 PM on April 25, 2014 [15 favorites]

We have 6 cats in the yard. The last burial was very shallow. It was summer, and on the way home from a trip we received a call from our neighbor informing us that she back over Tito, who was napping under her car.

Before we even went in the house, we located the burial site, which was very hard digging (as the other 5 pre-decedents had the good, soft spots. There is maybe 4 inches on top of this cat. I put a flagstone over him, then a cinder block on the flagstone. I will remove these after another year, just to make sure that no digging occurs. . .But we have never had any of our other cat graves disturbed.
posted by Danf at 1:01 PM on April 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry. We buried our nearly 20-year-old cat recently, at a similar depth. We only placed small decorative river rock on top. We are the only house in the neighborhood without dogs, so our yard is basically a raccoon, possum, and squirrel sanctuary. Stray cats pass through, too. I see animals in the yard all the time, and none have shown the slightest interest in the grave. No signs of digging, either.
posted by peep at 1:24 PM on April 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm very sorry for your loss.

A 38 lb. stone should be much more than adequate to keep the site undisturbed. You did fine.
posted by Zed at 1:31 PM on April 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry for your loss. You did exactly right by him, don't worry. We buried many beloved pets over the years and never much deeper than that. Never had a problem. He's safe. Maybe plant a nice shrub nearby to remember him.
posted by clone boulevard at 1:33 PM on April 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

You did everything right. While there are no guarantees I really can't see how he will be disturbed. Be kind to yourself and realise your fears are just your grief trying to find something concrete to worry about. Maybe put your fears in a practical direction and plan to put a nice big pot plant or a garden ornament on the paver, a nice cat statue or something in memory of him. My family traditionally plants trees, but even putting some nice annuals that remind you of him in colour or something, in a pretty pot on the paver might help you focus on less worrying thoughts.
posted by wwax at 1:50 PM on April 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Make a memorial of some kind, whatever you like. As you make it have the intention that this sculpture, or whatever it is, will keep kitty safe. Maybe imagine your beautiful cat or other ancestors advising you.

Choose materials that inspire you and that carry the intent to lend safety and warmth and love. For example, maybe something shiny to keep evil out, maybe something with slippery edges so bad things can't climb on it, maybe something with sharp points to scare the gremlins away, or maybe something with your cat's favorite thing, so he is able to be strong.

Put your memorial on top of your stone, and release your beautiful cat to the wide world that awaits.
posted by jasper411 at 1:56 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

We buried our guinea pig around the depth you described. The yard was in a fairly rural area with tons of neighbourhood cats, crows, squirrels and the occasional dog. The site was never disturbed and all we did was press down the soil so I'm sure your heavy rock will be more than enough to keep your little friend safe and secure. I'm tearing up about your losses (and mine). I hope you take care of yourself.
posted by cranberrymonger at 2:05 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

That's almost exactly how we buried my cat earlier this week -- shallow hole (my husband couldn't dig any deeper because of roots and rocks) with heavy cement blocks on top.

So far the only drawback is that it's taking all my willpower to not dig him back up myself just so I can hold him one last time. :(

Later, after he's decomposed, we plan to remove the cement blocks and plant orange flowers on his grave. (He was an orange tabby.)
posted by Jacqueline at 2:19 PM on April 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, thank you everyone so much. I wish I could mark you all as my favorites because every answer was so spot on. I just needed to hear what real people did in this situation instead of the "perfect" people, so I could stop worrying. I'm crying tears of relief now.

I got back from the garden center earlier and am fixing up the flower garden, especially around his final resting place and that heavy, heavy stone. I love the idea of a symbolic statue and will wait for the inspiration to hit as to what it should be.

Again, thank you all, and much love. I am so touched and so grateful for your thoughtfulness and kindness.
posted by PJSibling at 2:22 PM on April 25, 2014 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: BTW all the online guides to burying pets say to dig down 3-4 feet, so that's why I was kind of freaking out.

Again, many thanks!
posted by PJSibling at 3:44 PM on April 25, 2014

you did great, the paver stone will thwart anything. my last cat is eighteen inches down, plus an impressive rock cairn, right next to my driveway, and i think of her every time i go down it.
posted by bruce at 4:26 PM on April 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh, another thing we're going to do for my cat's grave is hang a bird feeder above it so he always has interesting company. :) After I retired him to indoor cat status (he was getting arthritic and senile), I hung a bunch of bird feeders outside his favorite napping window as a sort of "Kitty Entertainment Center" and he would stare at the birds and squirrels for hours.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:00 PM on April 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

You did exactly right. I buried my beloved cat the same way, and he's fine, 15+ years on.

Your ideas for the flower garden sound beautiful. Be at peace. :)
posted by Salamander at 7:32 PM on April 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

You did good. Much sympathy to you. (And I'm giving my beloved shelter-kitties extra love tonight in honor of you and your feline friend.)
posted by Lexica at 6:14 PM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

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