Saying goodbye to your cat is never easy. Even if she’s enjoyed a long and happy life and you’ve given her the best care you possibly could, that final farewell is bound to be a wrench. Once your cat is gone, you may want to keep her with you or perhaps put her to rest in one of her favourite outdoor spots. Cremation is one way you can do this. In this article, we’ll take a look at the various pet cremation services on offer and how much you can expect to pay.
How much does cremating a cat cost? In the US, expect to pay between $70-$250 for a cat cremation. Much depends on the vet and what additional services you require, such as a return of the ashes and what type of receptacle you will be using. High-end specialist services may cost more.
Whether your pet has recently passed or is in failing health, you probably have a lot of questions and concerns. How much will cremating my cat cost? Will I get the ashes back? What kinds of receptacle are available? What if I decide against cremation and wish to bury my pet at home? Keep reading to find out the answers to these and other questions.
The cost of cremation
How much does cremating a cat cost? There’s no cut-and-dried answer. The most basic options start at well under $100. This is the lowest amount you are likely to pay if you have your cat cremated at the vet. The cost of cremation may be fairly modest; $80-1000 are the typical low-end figures. That said, some vets charge more.
You may also find that certain services bump the price up quite a lot. In particular, expect to pay extra if you actually want to take your cat’s ashes home. It’s important to check with your vet whether they offer such a service — in many cases, your cat will be cremated with other animals and their combined ashes will be scattered in a communal area.
If you plan to take your cat home after cremation you may have to look elsewhere. (If your vet charges very much more than $130 for a basic communal cremation and won’t give you a reasonable explanation as to why: run, don’t walk, to a pet cremation service.
Vets save a significant amount by using this kind of service and they should be passing at least some of those savings onto you. Additional money should buy you additional services.) Your vet will usually be happy to suggest an appropriate service in your area.
Specialist pet cremation services do exist but they’re not available everywhere. You may need to travel a little if you want your cat’s ashes given back. That said, there are various options; some services allow for sending your cat to the crematorium and receiving the ashes back by mail.
This can be a good option if getting to a crematorium is an issue. Your cat was very dear to you in life and you’re probably concerned about making sure she gets the send-off she deserves.
You may also be anxious about finding the money for cremation costs on top of everything else — bills relating to her final illness, the cost of euthanasia if this was necessary, and more. In the upcoming sections, we’ll look at inexpensive options as well as more high-end cremation services. We’ll also consider the various alternatives to cremation that are available should you decide that cremation isn’t right for you after all.
There’s no right or wrong way to cope with the grief of losing your kitty. Everyone has a different idea of what they want their pet’s final resting place to be. In the past, people would generally leave their cats with the vet for disposal or bring her back for home burial. Today, more and more pet owners are choosing cremation as a safe, respectful and environmentally conscious way of saying goodbye to a deceased pet.
Cremation involves heating your pet’s remains to a very high temperature, reducing them to ash. All that is left after the process are a few bones, which are finely processed into a powder. What is returned to you is a small amount of ash and powder, sterile and completely safe.
Cremation is seen as more hygienic than a garden burial and also makes it easier to keep your cat’s remains with you if you so choose, even if you later move house. Another positive benefit to cremation is that you won’t suffer the heartache of someone accidentally digging up your cat while gardening, or find her body disturbed by scavengers. Cremation is clean, simple and easy to arrange, allowing you many different options for disposal or retention of your cat’s ashes.
What is cremation? What does it involve?
The precise process will vary somewhat between crematoria. In general, however, they follow roughly the same protocols. Your cat will be placed in a cremation chamber; this is a large, heat-resistant receptacle with a solid floor. This chamber is carefully cleaned between each use.
The crematorium should prepare paperwork for your cat and keep it with her body at all times; when she’s placed in the cremation chamber, paperwork will be attached to the outside so people know exactly who is in the chamber and who her owners are.
A careful log is kept of all the animals to be cremated, ensuring that your cat’s remains can never be confused with those of another pet. The cremation chamber is heated to a very high temperature — at least 1100°C and probably higher.
The cat’s remains stay inside the chamber until nothing is left except a sterile, desiccated skeleton and any metallic items such as identifying tags. The metals are removed using a powerful magnet and the bones are passed through a machine called a cremulator. The cremulator breaks the bones down to a fine powder so that they are easy to store or scatter. Everything in a good crematorium is very clean, hygienic and respectful.
Why shouldn’t I just use my vet’s cremation service?
In some cases, this is a perfectly good option. Your vet is probably someone you’ve trusted with your cat’s health for years; it makes good sense to trust them with caring for her after she dies. Some vets use a small local crematorium where your cat will receive a respectful send-off, with various options for recovering your pet’s ashes after the procedure. In many cases, however, this isn’t what happens.
It’s unfortunate but in the case of many large veterinary practices, “cremation” is a euphemism for “placed in an incinerator with many other animals and then transferred to a communal site, possibly a landfill”. It’s fine, by the way, to feel that you have already said goodbye and you’re comfortable with your cat’s remains resting among those of other much-loved animals.
This is not disrespectful and you can still have a meaningful farewell if you choose this option. That said, not everyone feels that a communal cremation and grave is what they want. Many owners arrange to have their cat cremated by the vet and are shocked when they discover, too late, that they won’t be able to be present at the cremation or recover her ashes.
Some vets offer a list of options, from simple communal cremation to more individual services, such as separate cremation and the return of your cat’s ashes in the urn or other receptacles of your choice. If none of these suits you, or if your vet is one of those who only offer communal cremation, you may need to look into specialist pet cremation services.
Finding a pet cremation service
A few decades ago there really weren’t many options for the bereaved cat owner. Most people left their pet with the vet to be cremated communally or brought her body home for burial. Nowadays things are very different, with an array of pet funeral and cremation or burial options. Not all of these are cheap — I have heard of people who spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on their pets’ cremation and related services — but there are modestly priced options that shouldn’t be too far out of reach for most people.
It’s quite easy to find pet cremation services that can take care of your cat in a way that fits in with your needs. You can ask your vet for a recommendation; a good vet will be happy to suggest a caring crematorium. You can also ask other pet owners in your area if they know of good service.
You can also search online for “pet cremation services in [your area]”. I would strongly recommend shopping around a little here. The grief of losing a pet is very real and you may not feel up to dealing with a lot of price lists and service options but you can easily end up being flagrantly overcharged if you’re not careful. Check with sites like Yelp to see what kind of reviews a potential crematorium has received and searched their name to see if you can find recommendations or complaints. Compare price lists for the services you want and look to see what options are available.
Questions to ask your crematorium
Once you’ve chosen a prospective crematorium, you should get in touch to ask some questions about the service. The procedure used by a pet crematorium may be quite different from the procedure you’re envisaging. Here are some simple questions that you should always ask to make sure you’re getting what you think you’re paying for.
Firstly, ask “How will my cat be stored before cremation?” You need to know that your pet will have a respectful temporary resting place before she’s cremated.
You should also ask how your cat will be transported from her current location to the crematorium and what will happen to her in between.
Be sure to ask “How will my cat be identified?” If you’re requesting a separate cremation with a return of the ashes, this step is very important and there should be a specific procedure in place.
You also need to check that your cat will be cremated separately from the other animals; if you’re recovering her ashes and only her ashes, she should be the only animal in the cremation chamber.
Your pet crematorium should be able to certify that your cat was on her own during her cremation and that the ashes you get back will be hers and hers alone.
Ask if you can be present during the cremation; this may be emotionally difficult but many people find it gives then closure. You will also have the reassurance of knowing that your cat was treated respectfully and that you are indeed receiving her ashes.
When will you get your cat’s ashes back?
This will depend on the services you’ve requested and on the crematorium’s schedule. You should check the length of time you should expect to wait before you arrange a cremation. If you choose to have your cat cremated through the vet, you may be waiting for quite a long time as they probably contract a large crematorium that only picks up once every week or two. This can leave you waiting for one to three weeks before you can collect your cat’s ashes. Small private crematoria often take far less time. You may find that you can pick up your cat’s ashes in the next day or two. In some cases, you may be able to attend the cremation and pick the cat’s ashes up straight away. This is in many ways an ideal situation as you can be absolutely certain that you are getting back your beloved pet and not another animal. You might expect to pay more for a smaller crematorium as they have higher overheads and make less profit per animal; however, it may be worth your while to spend a little extra in order to wait less and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what happened to your cat’s remains.
Your cat’s ashes: some options
Many people then scatter the ashes of their cats in their favourite spots; this is a lovely option that celebrates your pet’s happy life. Others feel they want to keep their companions close by, opting for a tasteful urn or ornamental container that can take pride of place on their shelves.
More unusual solutions I’ve seen include placing your cat’s ashes in a piece of jewellery, either sealed in a locket or perhaps cast in clear plastic resin. I’ve also met people who commissioned painting or sculpture where the cat’s ashes were incorporated into the paint, clay or another medium.
Some find it comforting to have a soft toy made up with their cat’s ashes in a sealed bag inside. A rather more extreme approach among the tattoo community has been to mix a little of the cat’s ashes with ink and use this for a tattoo; I can’t really comment on the safety or availability of the is procedure but it does exist as a possibility. Something I hear quite often is that cremation was chosen as a way of letting a cat join a departed human caregiver who passed before the cat did.
Not all cemeteries are especially keen to allow pets to rest with their owners; in fact, it’s usually out of the question. Pet cremation may allow you to circumvent this problem as you can discreetly scatter the cat’s ashes on the owner’s grave, or have them incorporated into some appropriate funerary ornament.
What if you decide against cremation?
As I previously stated, there’s no wrong way to say goodbye to your kitty — as long as what you choose is within local laws and is appropriate for others who might be affected. The more avant-garde pet owner has a multitude of eccentric options these days, such as having one’s cat taxidermied or even defleshed and made into bone jewellery; to each their own, I suppose.
The usual alternative to cremation, however, is a simple home burial. This can be very meaningful and allows you to keep your cat close to home. Burial does need to be conducted carefully. It’s usually legal to bury your animals on your property but you might want to check local by-laws just to be on the safe side.
If you’re part of a homeowners’ association you should check that they allow pet burials, and also find out what, if any, monuments might be permitted. Your cat needs to be buried deep enough that she won’t be disturbed by other animals who might dig up the grave; I would strongly recommend buying or making a suitable coffin for her so that she won’t attract scavengers.
Ideally, you should clearly mark the location where she’s buried so that nobody will accidentally disinter her later on. Wooden markers tend not to last very long. An eye-catching shrub or piece of garden statuary is a more durable option.