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Cremation & Crematories: What to Know About Making Decisions

Cremation & Crematories: What to Know About Making Decisions

By: Stephanie Belak LSW, MSW

When faced with the difficult decision of choosing your pet’s aftercare wishes, it is important for you, the pet parent, to be educated on where to go and what your options include. From a communal cremation, private cremation, even an at home burial, pet parents have a vast array of options for their pet’s aftercare plan. Educating one’s self prior to making difficult and life changing decisions, creates a path of least regrets, which is in my opinion as a pet loss professional, key to beginning one’s pet related grief journey.

Private Cremation vs. Communal

It is important to know what the difference is between private and communal cremation and which option you prefer.   A private cremation is the option a pet parent chooses when they want to receive their pet’s ashes back. On the other hand, a communal cremation is when a pet parent would prefer to not receive their pet’s ashes back. It is important to ask the crematory how they respectfully dispose of communal remains, as they should be spread in a garden or farm environment with dignity.

There are a few factors one may consider when choosing between a private or communal cremation. One factor is where you will place the ashes when you bring them back home. Some people chose to have the ashes as a part of a memorial, others choose to place them in a secure place. A factor to consider, when choosing communal cremation, is if you want any memorial pieces created prior to the cremation process. Lastly, one may also want to consider the cost of a private vs. communal cremation. It is important to note that a private cremation is nearly double in cost.

“The Educated Pet Parent”

When researching crematories, a pet parent should educate themselves on the following factors:

What crematory does my primary and emergency vet utilize? You can work with the crematory your trusted veterinarian uses, but it important to research who they use and to confirm that it’s a reputable crematory. You can also use your own crematory, even if it is different than your veterinarians’ recommendations. This option allows you to have your pet’s remains delivered to that specific location or even your own home. Here are some additional questions you should consider asking your vet:

  • How long have you been working with the crematory?
  • Do the cremains come back the hospital or does the crematory deliver them to me?
  • Can I pick the cremains up at the crematory?

Where is the crematory located? Knowing the location of the crematory is important if your preference is to deliver your pet’s body or to pick up the cremains after the cremation process is complete.

What will my pet’s ashes be returned to me in? Most crematories (included in their price) will place your pet’s ashes in a wooden box with a name plate. The ashes themselves will typically be in a plastic bag located inside a velvet pouch.

What do online reviews say for the crematory? Researching reviews and ratings on reputable websites is also something a pet parent can do when researching a crematory.

Will the crematory offer a tour or allow me to watch the cremation? If possible, a tour is also recommended when researching crematories. Some people choose to witness the cremation, have a memorial service, or facilitate a viewing of their pet’s body and have a funeral service. If this is a preference, it is important to view the facility and discuss this with the crematory prior to your loss.

What is their cost and return time for cremains? Most cremation pricing is based on your pet’s weight. Costs range from $100-400 for a private cremation and $50-200 for a communal.

Memorialization “Extra’s”

Most crematories will have options for additional items to be included in your cremation order. A popular item is an ink or clay paw imprint. Crematories will also include “extra’s” such as custom urns, hair clippings, nose prints, cremains jewelry, and photograph memorial pieces. Please know these items will be at an additional cost to the cremation and must be ordered prior to the actual cremation process.

Create a Path of Least Regrets

As a pet parent caregiving for a terminally ill or elderly pet, it is your job to be educated on all aftercare options in order to create a path of least regrets. This is important because it can hinder your grief journey substantially. Creating a trusting relationship with your veterinary team and properly educating yourself on the crematory you have chosen to utilize is important to ultimately begin this difficult journey.

Please know there are counselors at Day By Day Pet Caregiver Support that are available 24/7 for your emotional support. We are here to support you during this difficult time and assist in educating you during your end-of-life and aftercare experience. Contact us at: or 484-453-8210.

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