Understanding Cat Cremation and Whether It's the Right Approach for You
Losing your beloved pet is the hardest part of having a cat. As your cat is nearing the end of their life or after your feline friend has passed away, one decision you'll have to make is whether to bury her or have her cremated, and there are pros and cons with each. How do you know which option is right for you? Below are some tips to consider to help you understand the cat cremation process, know where to go to get help with these end-of-life care services, and how to budget for the associated costs.
Choosing Between Cat Cremation or Burial
Choosing burial or cremation when your pet passes away is a highly personal decision. Your experiences and beliefs may cause you to lean toward one option or the other, and finances can also play a role.
Home burial, if possible with your living situation and local laws, is often the most cost efficient option. You can lay your cat to rest in a quiet spot in your yard and mark the grave with a stone, sign, or freshly planted flowers. For those who cannot or do not wish to bury their cat at home, there are also pet cemeteries and some veterinary hospitals provide or partner with a burial service. To place your cat in a pet cemetery, you will need to buy a plot and adhere to any rules that the facility has.
In cremation, your cat's body is turned to ash. There are a couple of different options, including individual and communal cremations. Depending on your preference, you can get your cat's ashes returned to you. Most crematoriums have a variety of urns that you can select from. You can also have a portion of your cat's ashes incorporated into jewelry or another memorial, usually through a separate business.
A newer option available in some areas is alkaline hydrolysis, also known as hydro cremation, aquamation, or water cremation. This option is attractive to many because of its lower environmental impact. Cornell University says about their hydro cremation process, "Safer for the environment and for society than the traditional method, the College's sustainable approach produces 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions and is used at multiple animal health facilities in North America."
In both traditional cremation and hydro cremation, your pet's ashes can be returned to you. This allows you to bury or spread the ashes if you wish to do so, or keep bring your beloved companion's remains along with you through moves and life changes.
What Does the Cat Cremation Process Involve?
The cremation process starts with delivering your cat to the cremation facility. Most crematoriums allow owners to bring their deceased pets directly to the facility or can arrange pickup (possibly for an additional fee). Your veterinary hospital may have their own incinerator to do cremations on site, or may have a relationship with a local crematorium.
The crematorium may allow you to send items to be cremated with your cat, such as a collar, favorite toy, or blanket. Some items and materials may not be safe to put in the furnace, so always ask the staff first.
According to the Cremation Institute, "The body is placed in the cremation component and then subjected to the exceedingly high heat of 1400 to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. This reduces the biological matter to dust and dried bone, which is then ground to a gritty sand-type substance." The process takes under two hours.
In alkaline hydrolysis (hydro cremation), the body is placed into a pressure vessel that is filled with water and lye and heated. This process leaves only soft bone that easily crumbles into a fine dust similar to ash.
For both traditional cremation and hydro cremation, you can choose whether your cat's body is cremated alone or with other deceased pets. Some facilities will also allow you to witness the cremation of your cat for an additional fee if you want or need that closure.
When the process is completed, if you chose an individual or private cremation, your cat's ashes will be returned to you. Depending on the location and facility the ashes may be mailed to you or delivered to your veterinary hospital, or you may be able to pick them up yourself.
Where to Go to Get Your Cat Cremated
Most crematoriums allow owners to deliver their deceased pets directly to the facility. Shelters and veterinary hospitals typically have a relationship with at least one crematorium, and may be able to arrange a pickup from there.
To find pet crematory services in your area, contact your veterinary hospital or do a search online.
How Much Does It Cost to Cremate a Cat?
The cost to cremate a cat largely depends on the options that you select. There are two primary options for cremation: private or communal.
In a private cremation, your cat's body is cremated alone, and the ashes returned to you are completely hers. This generally costs about $100-200.
In a communal cremation, your cat is cremated at the same time as other deceased pets. The ashes get mixed in together, and usually you are not able to get any ashes back. This generally costs $30-70.
Some facilities also offer an "individual" cremation, in which several pets are cremated at the same time, but each one is on a separate surface. There is still some potential for mixing of ashes in this case, but you can get ashes back and they will largely be from your cat. Different facilities may use slightly different terminology for their cremation options, so don't hesitate to ask the staff for details to make sure you get exactly what you want for your furry friend's final act.
Witnessing your cat's cremation may have an additional fee, typically ranging from $20-60.
Your cat's remains will be returned to you in a box or tin. Most crematoriums also offer a variety of urns and memorials that you can choose from if desired. You can also have your cat's ashes incorporated into a sun catcher or jewelry to remember them by.
The cost of traditional cremation and hydro cremation are comparable.
Grieving the Loss of Your Cat
Choosing end-of-life care for your cat can be a difficult decision, but can also help to find closure as you the grieve the loss of your companion. Reach out to friends and family for support to help you honor your cat as you would like to. Speaking with a grief counselor can also help you through this difficult time.