For centuries, pets have been valued family members around the world. However, many people are choosing to not only adopt pets but also change the way we view our furry friends. And that includes having a special memorial or funeral service for a pet.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Look Over Pet Funeral Ideas
- Step 2: Explore Burial and Cremation Options
- Step 3: Choose your Guest List
- Step 4: Set Up a Viewing Table
- Step 5: Pick the Pet Poems, Prayers or Readings
If you find yourself in the unenviable position of having to plan the burial of a beloved pet, follow these steps for guidance. You’ll learn what to say at a pet funeral, where you can hold a service, and ways you can make sure the service is both special and affordable.
Step 1: Look Over Pet Funeral Ideas
There are many different kinds of funeral services you can hold for your pet, depending on the level of formality. Here are just a few options:
- Candle-lighting ceremony: Losing a pet is a very raw emotional experience. A small candle-lighting ceremony is a lovely symbolic gesture. It can even be performed without words, so you're not under pressure to do much public speaking.
- Plant a tree in their memory: When we lose a living creature that we love, it leaves a void. Sometimes the act of creating a new life can help that void feel less overwhelming. Planting a tree can be a very healing gesture, and will serve as a living memorial. You can even incorporate that action into a burial or memorial service.
- Share memories with loved ones: When you lose your pet, you aren’t the only one who will mourn. Invite family and friends to come and bring photos of themselves with your pet to pin to a memory board. You can also share stories and memories together.
- Do a symbolic release: Letting something go to symbolize the freeing of your pet’s spirit can be very cathartic. This could be biodegradable balloons, lanterns, or even live butterflies.
- Put a slideshow together: Add an interactive component to your pet’s funeral and put together a slideshow with some of your favorite photos of your pet. You can ask other mourners to send you pictures that you may not have seen. You can set the slideshow to music and feature songs that remind you of your pet.
- Participate in a private memorial ritual: If you would rather take the time to be introspective and mourn your pet in solitude, that’s okay. A lot of people choose to pay homage to their pet by getting a tattoo to commemorate them. You can get something symbolic, like the mold of a paw print, or get a photorealistic portrait.
These options can serve as the funeral itself, or they can be part of a longer burial service.
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Step 2: Explore Burial and Cremation Options
When your pet passes away, you’ll have to make a quick decision about what to do with their remains. Most veterinary offices are not equipped to hold onto your pet’s body, and they’ll need to release it to a pet cemetery or crematorium.
Many veterinarians’ offices have deals in place with local businesses that handle the disposition of pet remains. This can help relieve the burden on grieving pet owners.
If you opt for pet cremation, there are two options. The first is for private or individual cremation. In this instance, your pet is cremated on their own so that you are able to receive their ashes back. Depending on the size of your pet and the costs in your geographical area, a private cremation tends to run between $150 and $300.
The second option is for a mass or communal cremation. In mass cremations, several animals are cremated together, and cremains are not returned to the owner. This is a more affordable option at $25 to $150.
If you do opt for cremation, you may decide to scatter your the ashes. If you do, you might select a location that meant a lot to you. You could choose a park where you always used to visit or a lake where you used to go fishing together. You can also opt to keep the ashes at home in a special urn or other container. Some pet cemeteries are even beginning to construct columbariums to contain pet’s ashes. Your choice will come down to personal preference.
Make sure to check out local, state, and federal laws on scattering ashes before you do, though.
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If you decide to bury your pet, you have a few options. You can bury your pet at home, or in a pet cemetery. Each option has pros and cons. Home burials are definitely the more affordable option. However, they are not permitted everywhere. You’ll need to contact your local government to determine if pets can be buried on private land and if any permits are required. Further, if you ever decide to sell your house and move, you may find it hard to leave the final resting place of your beloved pet behind.
If you do opt for a home burial, you should bury your pet at least three feet down in a biodegradable wood or cardboard casket. You can have a headstone made, or use a natural landmark like a boulder or tree as a grave marker.
If you would rather have your pet buried in a pet cemetery, it could cost a significant amount of money. A burial plot in a pet cemetery typically ranges between $400 and $600, and a casket for pets can run between $50 and $500. You could also spend anywhere between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on a gravestone depending on how extravagant you want to be.
Burying your pet in a pet cemetery is significantly more expensive than choosing a home burial. However, the cost is often worth it for people who want to be able to continue visiting their pet even after a move
Step 3: Choose Your Guest List
If you were someone who considers pets to be part of your family, you're not alone. Your family members and close friends will likely have viewed your pet as part of their own extended family as well. You can all support each other in the healing process by grieving together. Invite the people who cared about your pet to join you at a burial or memorial service. This can include your family and good friends, as well as other pet owners you know from places like the dog park or pet kennel.
You may also include people who helped you care for your pet. That could be people at the doggy daycare you used, pet sitters, and even the staff at your veterinarian’s office. People go into veterinary medicine to help animals, and it is hard for them to lose their patients.
The latter group, in particular, may especially benefit from an opportunity to grieve a pet without immediately having to compartmentalize and move on to the next patient.
Step 4: Set Up a Viewing Table
While most people wouldn’t have a viewing at a pet funeral, you can capture that same feeling with a viewing table. On this table, you can display mementos you associate with your pets. This may include a collar, tags, and favorite toys.
If you opted for cremation, you can have the urn displayed on the table. If you don’t have ashes to display, you can place a framed photograph on display instead.
Step 5: Pick the Pet Funeral Prayers, Poems, or Readings
Sometimes it can be hard to find the right words to express how you felt about your pet. Selecting an already written prayer, poem, or reading can be as meaningful as writing something yourself. It’s just about finding something that really speaks to you. You can peruse pet loss books to help you find the right passage to share in honor of your pet.
If you’re looking for prayers or religious readings, you might explore writings associated with St. Francis of Assisi. He is the patron saint of animals and ecology. For secular readings, look to the writings of James Herriot. Herriot (whose real name was James Alfred Wight) was a British veterinary surgeon who penned a series of semi-autobiographical books about animals and their owners.
Planning and Executing an Affordable Pet Funeral Service
Losing a pet can truly be like losing a member of your family. One way to heal from losing a pet is to go through the same rituals you’d perform for a human member of your family. Planning a funeral for your pet can help set you down the path to emotional healing.
Whatever funeral you end up planning should pay tribute to the life you led with your pet. Ultimately, the more personal your choices, the more special the service will be.