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What Happens to a Pet’s Body After It Dies?

Far too often the question of what will happen to a pet’s body after it dies is left too long as an afterthought. Families commonly don’t discuss the issue until they face the sad fact of the demise of their fur-ever friend, and then, in the confusion (not to mention emotion) of the moment, they make a decision that is not in the best interest of assuring the pet’s legacy is as dignified as possible. The pet’s body is neglected – or at least not treated in a manner that might have been in keeping with the family’s emotional needs – and feelings of regret are sometimes experienced.

To help you avoid such an unfortunate scenario, and encourage all pet owners to spend a little time thinking about and discussing their memorial plans for their beloved animal friends, we offer the following words about just what commonly happens to a pet’s body after it dies.

Leaving a Pet with a Veterinarian

Many pet parents are faced with many afterthoughts upon the loss of their cherished companion.

For many pet parents whose loss of a furry friend catches them off guard, the most reasonable idea for what to do with the body of their pet may seem to be just leaving the remains with a veterinarian. From an emotional perspective, this may seem to be the best choice – until the pet owner stops to consider that a veterinarian’s office cannot simply make an animal’s body magically disappear. No, there are three main ways by which a deceased pet’s remains are typically disposed in our modern culture, and we discuss each of these the sections below. They all have their pros and cons in terms of how a pet owner may feel about using them in any particular case, and, given the emotional involvement that a typical owner has with a pet, it is probably best to choose the method carefully. It would be a shame to reduce an entire life-time of memories to an uncomfortable mental image of what happened to a pet’s body after it died. Rather, the best way to memorialize a companion animal in a manner befitting its great legacy would be to assure that its remains are handled in a befitting manner. So, a wise pet owner will not simply leave the choice of how a pet’s body is disposed to the charge of his veterinarian’s staff. Rather, he or she will take an active role in deciding how the decisions are made and carried out.

Those who make this decision on their own, rather than simply leaving the matter to the veterinarian will find that a veterinarian’s office is usually set up to support whatever choice they make. The office staff may have a particular method that they recommend, one that is most convenient for them (hence, the one they will use when a client leaves a pet body with them), but they will usually be able to offer great help to a client no matter which method is chosen. So now we are ready to discuss each of the three main methods.


Pet Cremation can offer families countless ways to remember and honor their companion.

Cremation is the method that is most common today for disposing of a deceased pet’s body. This is probably because it is the most convenient and it leaves pet owners plenty of options for memorializing their beloved, faithful friend. Cremation can usually, in today’s world, be arranged very routinely through a veterinarian’s office. In fact, the veterinarian will often have a contract with a cremation company and will be able to arrange for the entire service seamlessly, even sending along a bill in his or her own name (though most vet clinics are not set up to do cremations on their premises). Pet owners that have cremated a pet will usually receive the remains in an elegant urn returned by the company within a day or two of the pet’s death, and then they can do with the remains as they please. Many owners will transfer the remains to a specially made urn that they purchase themselves, usually from an online retailer. Either the new urn or the one that is provided by the veterinarian office can usually be placed in a display location in any home as a decades-long reminder of the memories the pet brought to a family. Meanwhile, some pet owners are understandably squeamish about displaying a pet’s cremation urn in their home (from a variety of reasons, whether they be cultural, spiritual or just superstitious). These people may opt to scatter the ashes over some special place outdoors such as a back yard garden or a spot where a pet liked to roam and play. And, finally, a companion animal’s remains can be distributed into a number of smaller containers such as pet keepsake cremation urns or even pet cremation jewelry, and these pieces can be divided among several members of the family who can do with them as they wish. This option is often a good one for families who had varying experiences with a pet and cannot necessarily decide upon one way in which to memorialize their special friend.


Burial of a pet is perhaps the next most common thing that happens to a pet’s body after it dies. This can be a very simple, routine affair, not necessarily even involving a casket – though pet caskets are readily available. So long as a hole is three feet deep, there is little concern, from a sanitation perspective, about how a pet’s body is buried. There are some legal concerns that pet parents will likely want to consider, however – especially if they are interested in using a casket and, perhaps, installing a pet headstone which can also be purchased, quite readily from many online retailers that specialize in pet memorial products. These legal concerns mainly involved the use of property to bury a pet. Local zoning ordinances vary from locale to locale, and a veterinarian’s office in any particular city will likely have up-to-date information about where pet burials are legal, from a city’s perspective. (If not, of course, a city hall is always a great source for this information, too.) But, that does not address the land-owner’s concerns, of course. Ultimately, what happens on a property is the responsibility of the person’s whose name is on the legal deed to the land. No pet burial should be conducted unless that person approves of it first and foremost. Armed with the land owner’s approval, a family can then proceed to find out whether its plans for a pet burial are appropriate by other legal measures.


Pet rendering is more reserved for animals who are disposed of in large quantities.

Animal rendering is probably the least exercised option by pet owners today (we say “probably” because there are few reliable statistics kept on this topic), but, nevertheless, it is commonly used by municipal governments and even veterinarians needing a quick and sanitary way to dispose of stray animals who happen to be of no particular emotional value to any family. The practice is somewhat controversial due to the perceived lack of dignity it shines upon animals, and some companies that offer the service are hesitant to speak about it openly and publicly – though it generally is a legal (and even a useful) service.

In general, rendering involves the processing of an animal’s body – usually en masse with many other bodies – into materials and substances that are useful in all sorts of commercial products. Of particular note (and concern for some critics of the practice) is that rendering can sometimes be used to make some of the ingredients in pet food. While there is little reason for concern that some of the products produced in rendering plants end up as part of commercial products sold for human consumption, there are people who make that claim, and it is perhaps true that some such illicit material ends up, on occasion, in human food.

Whatever the case, generally speaking, even very brief descriptions on the internet today (often written by people involved in the rendering plant industry itself) of what happens in a rendering plant are often offer images that are as upsetting and unsettling as can be found. (The famous Upton Sinclair novel “The Jungle” which helped bring on great reforms in the meat industry due to its graphic portrayal of what happened in the meat making processes of the 1920’s perhaps needs to be revised, this time with a focus on what happens to the bodies of, supposedly once loveable, cats and dogs and other domestic animals, in rendering plants.) While we have no reason to suspect that the men and women who manage and operate animal rendering plants have anything but the most helpful and most worthy of intentions, we recommend that pet owners work diligently to assure that their beloved pets bodies do not end up in such places where they will be anonymously processed into any number of products that – while useful to m


Animal urns help resolve the discomforting air of finality that can often accompany a pet cremation. As beautiful as they are important to a grieving owner’s emotion, animal urns can be a calming reminder of what many believe is the afterlife world for all pets. Tradition has it that, when a pet dies, it travels across the legendary Rainbow Bridge, and ends up in a beautiful meadow where it frolics endlessly with all of the world’s other deceased pets. When the pet’s owner dies, then, his or her first stop on the way to heaven is across this same rainbow to the same meadow, where he or she is reunited with the pet. The two companions travel to heaven where they live together for eternity.  Animal urns help bring this legend to life for a grieving pet owner, serving as a constant reminder that owner and pet will, one day, be together again forever.

Because they create associations like this, experts say, animal urns are an important part of the healthy grieving process that any animal lover experiences at the death of a beloved pet. Experts say it is important to recognize that the difficult emotions associated with losing a pet are as valid as any other human feeling, and dealing with them is important for healthy living. Accordingly, many pet owners have found animal urns to be a particular comfort.

Animal urns are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and materials, and they can be displayed in a myriad of manners that will preserve precious memories for years. While most animal urns store the ashes of traditional pets such as cats and dogs, animal urns can, and commonly do, accommodate the remains of just about any animal:  ferrets, horses, rabbits, pigs, roosters, even snakes and lizards.

Animal urns can be made of glass, marble, metal and even wood, and most can be engraved with the beloved pets name and any other appropriate text. Animal urns can take the shape of traditional vase-like cremation urns that can be displayed on a mantel or in some other special indoor location. Or animal urns can be molded into an almost limitless number of shapes including the shape of a pet and displayed outdoors as a permanent, beautiful addition to a home’s landscaping. One of our favorite ways to see a companion animal’s memory honored is through the outdoor pet cremation memorials. These wonderful tributes, as the name implies, hold the cremation ashes and are ideal for placement in the outdoors. They offer a wonderful way to pay tribute to the memory of a pet who truly loved to spend time outside – whether it was lounging in their favorite shady spot in the garden, or bounding across the yard at full speed.

While pet urns are usually displayed at private residences, they can also become part of sometimes elaborate pet cemeteries. One of the most famous pet cemeteries in America is the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park in southern California, and, like others of its kind, this park features an array of animal urns with which pet owners have chosen to honor their pet. The wide variety of beautifully designed animal urns hearty enough to stand up to the elements for decades help make the Los Angeles cemetery, and many other similar cemeteries across the world, a top attraction for tourists from around the world.


What Size Cremation Urn Do I Need

Any quick search for cremation urns for sale will show that a large variety of urn sizes are available. Containers ranging from 15 cubic inches in capacity to more than 700 cubic inches can be readily found from retailers. And many urn styles can be purchased in multiple sizes. Much as is the case with clothing, one size of cremation urn simply does not fit all. This fact about buying cremation urns can lead to much confusion for those who are trying to memorialize a loved one in a fitting with with an ash vessel. Below are some answers to common questions about urn sizes and how to determine what size you will need.

Is there a standard size for an urn?

No. Urns come in many different sizes and these sizes often depend upon their purpose. In general, though, there are three main types of earns, and each of these types fall usually fall into a typical size range. We now turn to a summary of these types:

Keepsake urns are typically 15 cubic inches to about 120 cubic inches. These urns are the smallest available and are generally used for storing a small portion of cremation remains. Many families will buy multiple keepsake urns in order to share the remains of a loved one amongst several people. (Keepsake urns are also sometimes used for the remains of children or smaller people.)

Individual urns are typically between 150 cubic inches to 300 cubic inches. These urns are perhaps the most common, and usually have an overall average size of 200 cubic inches. They are usually used for storing the cremation remains of a single person.

Companion urns are typically 350 cubic inches to more than 700. These urns are usually used for storing the cremation remains of two people or more people.

What is a good rule of thumb for determining what size I’ll need?

Generally speaking, to know what size cremation urn you will need, simply refer to the weight of the deceased. In most cases, the cremation process yield about 1 cubic inch of ashes for each pound that a person weights. So, in general, if your loved one weighted, say, 200 pounds at the time of death, you will need a 200 cubic inch cremation urn. It should be noted that memorial industry experts rely upon this rule of thumb because it generally provides a conservative estimate. While it is not a perfect tool, following this rule will rarely result in your purchasing a cremation urn that is too small. A perfectly precise measurement of the remains of a 200 pound person might very well show 180 cubic inches, but only very rarely will it amount to more than 200 cubic inches.

When might I need to have a more precise measurement of cremation ashes?

Cremation urn size options can allow families to not only store, but also share the ashes.

Only in very rare cases will a precise measurement of cremation ashes be necessary. These cases mostly involve bodies that are near, or over, 300 pounds. Typically, the largest individual size urns are 300 cubic inches, and families wanting to be absolutely sure that all of their loved one’s remains will fit into the largest individual sizes urns may desire a precise measurement. (But, even these cases, that may not be necessary. Many memorial options are available to these families, including purchasing a companion sized urn or one or more keepsake urns in which to store remains that will not fit into an individual urn.) If a precise measurement of ashes is needed and desired, it is recommended that families inform their funeral director in advance of the cremation he or she is arranging. If you have received the ashes in a temporary container, simply multiply the length of the container (in inches) by the width, then multiple that product by the depth, and you will arrive at the number of cubic inches you will need in the final urn that you will purchase. (Please note that it is perfectly acceptable, and quite common, to purchase an urn that is much larger than what you will need. Extra space in an urn offers no trouble for the remains.) Unfortunately, it is impossible to arrive at a precise measurement of ashes before a cremation has taken place. This is the main reason why memorial industry experts rely so heavily upon the rule of thumb mentioned above.

What should I do if I buy the wrong size urn?

If you discover that you have purchased the wrong size urn for your loved-one’s cremation ashes, there are plenty of options available. Unfortunately, one of these options is not to return to your retailer an urn that has already been filled. (Many laws and most retailer policies strictly prohibit this.) But, if you have not yet filled the urn, most reputable retailers will be happy to work with you to get an urn that is large enough for your needs. Other options are to scatter left over ashes in some special place or to share the ashes with several people in a family buy purchasing other, smaller, cremation urns or, perhaps, even a few pieces of cremation jewelry.