Most people, understandably, find it difficult to think about and discuss planning for the care they wish to have for their pet family member after its death.  Pet cremation services are available to assist you in making a decision that will be dignified, respectful and accommodate your needs. You may also be able to make the arrangements through your veterinarian.  When working with a reputable cremation provider, you can be assured that your special family member will be handled in a gentle and loving manner.

What is Pet Cremation?

Cremation is the process of burning a pet’s body at very high temperatures (usually 1400-1800 degrees) until there are only brittle, calcified bones left, which are then pulverized into “ashes.” The length of time required will depend on the size of the pet.

The three types of cremation available for pets are:  Private (Solo, Priority), Partitioned (Segregated, Individual), and Communal. Terminology is important when you are making a decision for the aftercare of your pet.  At the present time, there is no uniform standard. Ask your cremation provider to explain fully any words you do not understand.  An example is that “Individual” is not the same as “Private.”

Some families choose a Private cremation. During a Private cremation, your pet is by itself in the cremation chamber preventing any commingling of the remains. You may also be allowed to witness the cremation. Generally, you must make a special request to receive a Private cremation.

A Partitioned (Segregated, Individual) cremation service uses a “separation” method in which several pets are placed in isolated zones within the cremation chamber. Each pet is separated by space or dividers of some sort to minimize commingling of ashes. The Partitioned method of cremation provides a more economical alternative, while still providing pet owners with their own pet’s cremated remains. This is the most common method of cremating pets.

Some pet families choose Communal cremation. For those who do not wish to have their pets remains returned or want a lower-cost option, this would be the service of choice. Pets are cremated with a number of other pets, and the ashes are not returned to the owners.

How do I know that the pet returned to me is actually my pet?

In order to ensure that each pet is properly identified and tracked, many pet cremation providers utilize numbered ID disks which are attached to each pet and stay with the animal throughout the process. Strict quality controls are followed each step of the way. A cremation certificate with the same ID number should accompany the urn at the time it is returned to you.

How long does the cremation process take, and when will I receive my pet’s remains?

Depending upon the size of the crematory chamber and the weight of the pet, a cremation can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours to complete. The scheduling of the actual cremations can vary, and it may be up to seven days or more before you will receive the remains of your pet

In what type of container will my pet’s remains be returned?

Pet owners have a wide choice of urns, many of which are offered by cremation providers. Most cremation services provide a basic urn to return the ashes to the owner if no other urn is chosen. A family may also opt to provide their own urn.

Can I make arrangements for my pet’s aftercare before we need the service?

When you know your pet has a terminal illness or is geriatric, it can be much easier to pre-plan the aftercare arrangements before the actual need, as the grief from your loss may make these decisions more difficult.

What if my pet dies at home?

Most pet cremation services and many veterinary hospitals will be able to assist you in the event your pet dies at home. Pet crematories usually provide home pick-ups, or you may be able to transport your pet directly to their offices. Your veterinarian may also be able to help by referring you to a service if you don’t know who to contact.

If I have a horse or large farm pet that has passed on, can the crematorium provide services for my farm animals?

Many cremation services have equipment large enough to accommodate farm pets and horses, but you may wish to contact the business you are thinking of using prior to the time you need them. These facilities may also be able to assist in making transportation arrangements for animals which are too large to fit in a passenger vehicle.

What are the costs for pet cremation?

Many factors will determine what you will have to pay to have your pet cremated. Basic cremation costs will vary depending on the type of cremation you have chosen and the size of the animal. Fees can vary from $30 to over $1,200 for a horse.

Additional costs would include an urn, personalized memorial items, home pick-up fees, or after-hours and weekend fees.

It is highly recommended that you visit the pet crematory facility prior to your time of need. Judge their facilities just as you would any other business. Are you greeted by pleasant, compassionate staff who are considerate of your feelings? Will they allow you to take a tour without making an advance appointment?  An open-door policy can be important.

When faced with the death of a beloved family pet, it can be very difficult to sort through the chaos to make a clear decision on what’s best for you and your pet. Understanding the process can help make it easier to get through this difficult time.

About the Author

Skye M. Stevens is co-founder and co-owner of Homeward Bound Pet Memorial Center and Crematorium in Colorado Springs, CO.  The business was started in 1995 and has served veterinarians and pet owners in the Pikes Peak region and along the front range of Colorado for the past 20 years.

Skye was a Certified Veterinary Technician for many years, working with her husband, Dr. Bruce Cottrell, in their veterinary practice. She assumed the chief executive duties for Homeward Bound in 2004, and she and her husband, M. Bruce Cottrell, DVM continue to operate the memorial center and crematory.  Skye received certification as a Pet Loss Professional and a Grief Companion through the Pet Loss Professional Alliance in 2011.