What Are My Aftercare Options for My Pet?

When my first pet died when I was in high school, I had no idea what aftercare options were available. I'm not sure it was even talked about back then. Now, families have many options, but it can be difficult to know what they are or what it all means. Here are the four most common aftercare options for dogs and cats:

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Private Cremation

Private cremation means that only one pet is in the crematorium at a time, so after the cremation is complete the ashes that are collect belong exclusively to your pet. A private cremation almost always includes the return of these ashes to you. For my clients, the ashes are returned in a carved wooden urn (featured to the left). If you prefer a different urn, the memorial service I use (Pet Memorial Services) has a catalog of many other options, including photo etched glass and pendants with ashes inside them. I always have this catalog with me, so you can pick out an urn at your appointment if desired. Private cremation is a more expensive option than communal cremation because the time and fuel costs for operating the crematorium are not shared amount multiple pet's families.  It is also possible to arrange with the crematorium to be present for your pet's private cremation. 

Communal Cremation

A communal cremation involves cremated several animals at the same time, and collecting their ashes together afterwards. Instead of being returned to the families, the ashes are interred in a dedicated pet cemetery.  (Every crematorium is a bit different in what they do with the ashes, this is what the crematorium I work with does. Others scatter them in apple orchards or other landmarks). Pets are always handled with great love and respect no matter the type of cremation. Sometimes families feel pressured to choose a private cremation because it's "better", but this is a really a matter of personal preferences and beliefs, and often comes do to whether having your pet's ashes in hand would be meaningful to you or not.


Individual Cremation

The terms "individual" and "private" cremation are often used interchangeably to mean "cremation with ashes returned", but mean slightly different things. With an individual cremation, multiple pets are cremated at the same time, but an effort is made to keep ashes segregated during the process. During the cremation process, there is some wind and it's normal for ashes to move around, so there is inevitable some mixing of ashes. You'll still receive the majority of your pet's ashes, but not 100% of them and you'll have some ashes from other pets as well. I do not offer this service because I have found that families who want their pet's ashes returned really want only their pet and all of their pet back.


Burial, either at home or in a pet cemetery, remain an option as well. It's important to check your local regulations about burial at home to make sure your intended grave site is safe for the environment and nearby animals. Generally you need to be able to dig 3-4 feet deep in the ground and make sure you know where gas, water, electric lines are located in your yard before starting. For burial in a pet cemetery, I recommend researching options and calling the cemetary ahead of time so transportation can be arranged to the cemetery.

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Making aftercare decisions can be emotional and grief makes it hard to think clearly. I highly recommend considering your options and making your choice before your pet's euthanasia appointment so you can fully focus on your pet. In every one of these options, your pet will be in good hands and treated like our own. Do you still have questions? Give me a call to talk.