How Do I Store My Pet for Cremation?
Losing a beloved pet is one of the most difficult experiences a pet owner can go through. When that sad day comes, you’ll need to make some difficult decisions, including what to do with your pet’s remains.
You may be wondering: what is the best option for handling my pet after they pass away? Should I store their remains until I'm ready for the cremation service? What steps do I need to take to ensure my pet is handled with care and respect? This process can be confusing, especially during such an emotional time.
When your pet dies, you have a few options for handling their remains. Some people opt for home burial if space allows, while others choose cremation. Cremation is a popular choice because it allows you to keep or scatter your pet's ashes in a meaningful place. If you choose cremation, you'll need to decide whether you want an individual cremation or communal service. You'll also need to arrange for your pet's storage until the cremation.
In this post, I’ll walk through everything you need to know about arranging cremation and short-term storage for your beloved pet.
Keep reading if you recently lost your furry friend and need advice on the next steps. This comprehensive guide will provide tips and considerations for respectfully handling your pet’s remains until you're ready to say goodbye.
Reasons to Preserve Your Pet's Body
When a pet passes away, it's natural to want to avoid thinking about what happens to their body. However, their remains will start to decompose immediately after death, though the rate of decomposition depends on factors like temperature and moisture.
Preserving your pet's body, either through refrigeration or embalming, can give you time to make decisions about burial or cremation services. Preserving the body also allows you to have your vet perform a necropsy to determine the cause of death, if unknown.
Some other reasons pet owners choose temporary preservation include: waiting for loved ones to pay respects, coordinating memorial plans, designing custom urns, or shipping remains to another location. Taking measures to temporarily preserve your pet can provide closure and enable you to memorialize them thoughtfully and meaningfully.
Burial or Cremation: Your Options After Your Pet Passes
When a beloved pet passes, one of the first decisions you'll need to make is whether to have them cremated or bury them.
With pet cremation, their body is cremated to ashes that can be kept in an urn or scattered in a favorite place. Burial involves interring their body in a pet cemetery or your own yard. There are pros and cons to each option.
Cremation is affordable and convenient, lets you relocate or scatter ashes, and takes up less physical space. However, some find comfort in having a gravesite to visit.
Burial gives you a permanent resting place but restrictions may apply for home burial. Take time to consider your lifestyle, beliefs, and budget when deciding between cremation or burial.
Whether you choose to have your pet cremated or have the burial, make sure you take time to grieve this immense loss.
How to Care for a Deceased Pet at Home
Losing a pet is painful no matter where it happens, but a death at home can leave you unsure of the next steps. Once your beloved companion passes on at home, their body begins to decompose immediately, even if refrigerated.
To avoid hasty decisions while grieving, it’s important to properly store your pet’s body until final arrangements are made.
If keeping your pet at home during this time, place their body in a chilled environment without direct contact with ice. In this section, I’ll go over crucial steps for caring for your pet at home after they pass.
What to Expect When Your Pet Dies
When your beloved pet passes away, it can be an extremely difficult and emotional time. However, there are some physical realities of death that you should be prepared for as well.
Once your pet dies, the animal's body begins to decompose, just like any living creature's would. This means waste might be released, and fluids may leak onto the floor or furniture where your pet rests.
You may also notice rigor mortis set in, which stiffens the body. As decomposition happens, unpleasant odors can permeate your home if the pet is not properly stored or promptly buried/cremated.
Your veterinarian can advise you on managing the process with care and dignity. While the physical changes are unpleasant to think about, remembering that a natural biological process is at work may help you prepare emotionally. Focus on honoring your pet’s life and legacy.
Ensure your pet is deceased
The first step after your pet passes at home is to confirm they are deceased. It can be difficult to determine if a pet is truly gone or in a very deep sleep.
Be sure to check for signs of breathing and look for the onset of rigor mortis, which normally begins within 10 minutes to three hours of death.
You may also want to check for a heartbeat, though finding the right location can be tricky on small animals.
Monitor your pet for at least 15-20 minutes for any subtle movements. Lack of breathing and pulse confirmed over an extended period indicates death has occurred.
If you have any doubts about whether your pet has passed, contact your vet right away. They can examine your pet or perform additional confirmation tests if needed. Taking these steps ensures your pet is not prematurely declared dead.
Call Your Veterinarian
After confirming your pet has passed, your next call should be to your veterinarian. Let them know your pet died at home and ask for guidance on next steps. Your vet may request you bring your pet's body to their office for storage and to determine the cause of death.
They can also direct you to reputable local pet aftercare companies or pet cremation services that can pick up your pet. If you wish to have your pet cremated or buried, your vet can provide referrals.
Explain any plans you may have for services or memorials and your timeframe so they can advise you accordingly. Your vet can also provide resources to help you cope with this profound pet loss. Calling them first ensures you have professional guidance as you navigate uncharted territory during this difficult time.
Let other pets smell your deceased pet
If you have other pets at home, allowing them to see and smell the deceased pet can help bring closure. Pets often understand death and will notice the absence of their companion.
Bring your surviving pets one at a time to sniff the deceased pet while you hold them. Let cats lightly paw or nuzzle the body and dogs give a gentle nudge or lick if they choose. However, do not allow aggressive behavior like biting.
Keep them calm and comforted during this interaction which likely will only last a few seconds. This allows pets to investigate what happened and understand their friend has passed away.
They may search for their companion during the following days but this ritual can provide some sense of resolution. It’s an important part of the grieving process for your entire pet family.
Handle the Remains of the Deceased Pet Carefully
When handling your deceased pet's remains, you'll need to wrap the body to contain any bodily fluids and make transportation easier. Have clean towels, sheets, or blankets on hand that are large enough to fully wrap the body. You may also want to wear gloves while handling the body.
Place the body on the towel or blanket and gently wrap your pet in layers. Use plastic sheets or a trash bag in between to prevent leaks, if necessary. For smaller animals, you may be able to use a clean pillowcase or plastic storage bag.
Make sure to wrap the body securely but avoid over-tightening that could cause damage. Place the wrapped body in a hard-sided container or sturdy box lined with plastic sheeting, if transporting.
Store your pet in a cool location
To preserve your deceased pet's remains after death, it's important to keep their body chilled. The freezer or refrigerator is recommended if your pet is small enough.
For larger animals, arrange the body in the coolest room in your home. Cover your pet's body with towels soaked in cool water. You can also place plastic bags of ice underneath the towels to aid in cooling. Rotate the ice bags every 4-6 hours to limit direct contact with the body.
Keep air circulating around the body with a fan but avoid blowing directly on it. Monitor for any signs of decomposition like discoloration or odor. Maintaining a chilled environment will buy you time to make final arrangements and say goodbye.
Saying your final goodbyes
Losing a beloved pet is one of the hardest goodbyes. Before their remains are taken for cremation or burial, you’ll want to prepare for a final farewell. This may involve setting up a viewing area with your pet’s bed, toys, and other special items.
Spend time with your pet, taking photographs, making paw prints, clipping fur, or just sitting quietly together one last time. Having children participate can help them grasp the permanence of death.
You may want to arrange for a vet, clergy member, or close friend to be present as you share parting words.
Comfort any other pets during this difficult transition. Do what feels right for your family to honor years of companionship and joy. By preparing thoughtfully, you create significance around physically letting go, allowing the grieving process to begin.
Order a Memorial
After the cremation, you may want to purchase a touching memorial keepsake to honor your pet. One option is pet ashes jewelry, which holds a small portion of pet ashes within an urn pendant. You can keep your beloved companion close to your heart.
If you bury your pet, memorial stones and garden plaques can create a lasting pet tribute in your yard or garden. Consider an engraved stepping stone or memorial bench.
You'll also need to select an urn, from simple wooden boxes to elaborate ceramic works of art. Choose a pet-sized urn or one large enough to share remains if you have multiple pets.
Take time to find the perfect memorial that captures your pet's personality and celebrates the joy they brought to your life. These thoughtful tributes help provide closure while preserving cherished memories.
Other Questions About How to Preserve Your Pet
Is it Safe to Put a Dead Pet in the Freezer?
Many pet owners instinctively want to place their deceased pet's body in the freezer after death, but is this a good idea? Freezers can preserve remains for some time, but several factors should be considered first.
Very small pets like rodents or birds may be safely frozen, enclosed in plastic bags. For cats and small dogs, the refrigerator is better than freezer to avoid damage from expanding ice crystals. Freezing causes cells to rupture and tissues to become mushy once thawed. You'll also need a large freezer to accommodate bigger animals.
Instead, keep bodies chilled with cool towels to maintain a temperature just above freezing. Ultimately, refrigeration works best for temporary storage before cremation or burial. Check with your veterinarian on safe short-term preservation methods recommended for your pet.
Who Do I Call to Pick up a Dead Dog or Cat?
When your pet passes at home, you'll need to arrange for transportation of their remains to a cremation or burial facility. Your veterinarian should be your first point of contact after confirming your pet's passing. They can examine your pet to determine cause of death if needed.
Many vet clinics also have refrigerated holding space if you need temporary storage before final arrangements. Additionally, your vet can refer you to reputable pet aftercare companies in your area that provide at-home pick-up. These businesses are trained to handle deceased pets with care and respect. Look for ones that offer 24/7 service and have strong reviews.
Some companies may also assist with cremation services, urn selection, paw prints, and other memorial items. Taking the proper steps ensures your pet is handled appropriately during this difficult transition.
How Long Can I Store a Dead Pet in the Fridge or Freezer?
Deciding what to do after your pet dies can be difficult, especially if you need some time before final arrangements. Refrigerating or freezing the body allows preservation for a short period, but how long is safe? For fridge storage, most experts recommend no more than 3 days for small pets and 2 days for medium to large dogs and cats.
The cold temperature slows decomposition but doesn't halt it completely. Monitor for changes in appearance, odor, or leaking fluids, which signal it's time to proceed with burial or cremation.
Freezer storage can extend to about 2 weeks if the pet is small enough to freeze quickly after passing. However, the freezer can damage the body, making viewings harder. Consider refrigeration instead for your cat or dog.
While it's natural to want more time during the grieving process, be mindful of the limits for respectfully preserving your pet's remains at home. Discuss options with your vet as well.
- When a pet dies at home, contact your vet right away for guidance on next steps for handling remains. They can examine your pet or direct you to reputable aftercare services.
- Keep the body cool but not frozen if storing at home temporarily. Refrigeration works better than freezing for most pets.
- Allow other pets to view and sniff the deceased if applicable. It brings closure to them.
- Wrap the remains carefully in towels and plastic sheeting before transporting. Handle with care and respect.
- Decide if you prefer cremation or burial. Your vet can provide referrals for services.
- Before final disposal, prepare for a goodbye including photos, paw prints, fur clippings, or viewing.
- Order a fitting memorial like an urn, cremation jewelry, or garden stone after the cremation service.
Losing your faithful companion is one of the most difficult experiences a pet parent will face. While nothing can completely ease the grief, taking deliberate care in handling their remains can provide some solace.
By partnering with your vet, preserving the body properly, allowing pets to say goodbye, and commemorating your friend with a meaningful memorial, you craft significance around the physical farewell.
No matter if you choose cremation or burial, the act of mindfully laying your pet to rest begins the healing process.
Their spirit lives on through the paw prints they left on your heart. Honor that bond, care for yourself during this profound loss, and cherish the memories of unconditional love.