2019 Checklist for Pet Cremation – Covering All Details and Top Questions

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Basswood Pet Cremation Urn

Wondering whether to cremate your pet and want to know more about it?  I am putting together this comprehensive checklist to cover all the details of pet cremation.  For the meantime its a work in progress to give really good and thorough details on all the major questions.  I am a wood sculptor out of Raleigh, NC making nice turned wooden urns for pets and people. 
So why is a wood guy writing this guide?  I want to have a good detailed list of resources that I can provide for anyone that is search for answers.  In essence, I hope that this will simplify and ease the whole process of pet and animal cremation.

What is the process of pet cremation?

azure holland logoStarts at the vet… either mobile or traditional.  Once your pet has passed arrangements are made to transport the pets body to a crematorium.  This is either handled by the vet or left to the owner, if preferred, to arrange transportation.  Most veterinarians don’t handle cremation and refer this service to another company.  There are some services, mobile vets, that do in home euthanization and assist with the transport of the pet to the crematory.  For example, Azure Holland is a company in my area that helps with home euthanization and transition to cremation services.
A cremation unit, or furnace operates in the ranges of 1400-1800 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pets can be cremated in standard crematories or ones dedicated specifically for pet cremation.  Many crematories require a container to house the pet’s body, i.e. casket or cardboard container.
pet cremation furnace

Pet Cremation Chamber

The furnace vaporizes organic matter, reducing the pets body to dust and parts of dried bone.  Those cremains are processed to remove surgical pins/rods, tags, chips, or other metal objects, etc.  This is done via visual and magnetic inspection.  The rest of the remains are pulverized to produce a remains of uniform consistency.
These remains are put into a sealed plastic bag and put into the standard vessel, box, or urn provided by the crematory, then returned to the owner.  The remains may be transferred to a nicer vessel to hold the remains of your pet.  Usually, the remains are returned the same or next day in a private cremation setting.  Communal cremation services may take longer.

How many ashes will you receive from a Cremated Pet?

A general rule of thumb states that 1 cubic centimeter of remains is produced per pound of the animal.  So a 100 pound dog would approximate around 100 cubic inches of cremains.  The amount of ash produced is actually based on the bone density of the animal.  There is variation to one side of that number or another.  Depending on the weight, age, and bone structure of your animal there could be less or more cremains.  By and large the vast majority of pets will produce 50 cubic inches of remains or less.  Larger dogs and horses produce more as they have larger bones.  Even for pets its a good idea to think about what size urn you actually need, read this article for some questions to think about before selecting a cremation urn for your pet.

What animals can you Cremate?

Equine Cremation Furnace

Equine Cremation Furnace

Most commonly dogs, cats, and small pets like birds, rabbits, hamster, etc. can be cremated.  Large animals, such as horses, are also cremated though there are fewer facilities to chose for these services.  Some crematories have varying capabilities for capacity.  Note the difference in scale between the standard pet cremation chamber and an equine cremation chamber.  The time it takes to cremate an animal depends on its size and small animals typically do not take very long.  Larger breeds of dogs and large animals often take several hours.  On average, pet cremation takes 45 minutes to two ours.

What do the Cremains look like?

Cremains is the term that describes the remains that are left following the cremation process.  The word is literally formed from cremation and remains.  It is the bone matter remaining after all other organic matter (hair, tissues, etc.) has been incinerated.  Prior to pulverization, the cremains are a collection of bone fragments.
Following pulverization the cremains have a roughly uniform and coarse texture, similar to wood ash in color but a bit more coarse.  The color is similar to an antique white or bone white but do range in the color spectrum from a pasty white to gray.

What are the different types of pet cremation?

There are a few types of pet cremation services, and most crematories offer at least two of them.  The services are referred as Private, Individual/Partitioned, and Communal/Commingled and differ by the number of pets that are cremated at the same time.  Communal is a batch type of cremation where multiple animals are all cremated at once.  Individual cremation is also a bulk cremation method but the animals are segregated in order to try and keep the cremains separate.  Animals are cremated by themselves in a private cremation service.
Some crematories also offer a witnessed cremation, which is a private viewing of the cremation service for your pet.  Most commonly this is a private cremation service but some facilities do allow the viewing of individual or communal cremation.  This pictures a really nice viewing room, and while this one is for humans the idea is similar for pets.  Certainly not all crematoriums are set up as well as this one is, but the process is similar.

What is the Cost to Cremate a Pet?

Pet cremation costs range from $75-$350 and are based primarily on the weight/size of the pet as well as the local market.  Crematories break their cremation pricing out in a few categories around every 30 lbs or so.  Prices can exceed this range for very large animal cremation. 

Sample Private Cremation Service Costs in Raleigh, NC

Pet Weight (lbs) Cost ($)
1-25 lbs $175.00
26-50 lbs $195.00
51-75 lbs $220.00
76-100 lbs $250.00
101-125 lbs $275.00
125+ lbs call for quote
Private cremation is the most expensive while communal cremation being the most affordable.  There are also a wide range of additional costs that are associated with getting your pet cremated.  Vet and Euthanasia costs typically are the first of these additional fees.  Transportation costs, vet referrals, testing, burial, urn/ cremation vessel costs, and memorials are some of the other costs of cremation that are not so obvious.  Delve deeper into the costs of cremation in this companion article.

What Pet Urns are available?

There are a wide range of vessels to hold the cremains of your pet beyond the crematories basic box.  Crematories stock a small urn inventory and offer additional urn options from a catalog.  The same supplier is used by many of the crematories so the urns are similar from one crematory to the next. 
There are around a dozen or so online urn companies that expand the selection even further.  Prices range from $15-$1000 depending mostly on the urn material and the capacity of the urn.  Pet and Keepsake urns are generally 100 cubic inches in capacity or less.  Median pet urns range from $15-$100 for most of the urn suppliers.  The majority of these urns are imported from India, Vietnam, and China. 
william morris glass cremation urn

William Morris Glass Cinerary Urn

An artisan urn or high-end urn option is also available.  Their urns are typically much prettier and unique, they also cost more.  Artisans are producing urns in a myriad of different shapes and styles compared to the traditional urn shape.  You have to wade through all the online mass market urn brokers to get to the artisans producing cinerary urns.  That being said they are found without too much difficulty.  The artisan urns come from all media – cremation urn jewelry, diamonds, glass and ceramic artisans, wood sculptors like myself, and even some that make really nice urns from textiles.  

Pet Cremation Jewelry, what is that?

Lee Alexander & Co. - Mystere Cremation RingCremation jewelry is another option to consider as a compliment or alternative to a traditional urn for ashes.  Each piece of jewelry has a small reservoir that holds a tiny amount of cremains.  There are literally thousands of options on the mass market urn broker sites.  Prices usually are in the $25-$200 range.  All mediums are covered too… metal, glass, wood, etc.
It is possible to go on the high end as well with your pet’s remains.  There are now services that can create diamonds from the cremains.  Not an insignificant number of glass artisans are also infusing glass art with cremains as well.  Read more about cremation jewelry in this companion article, it may help your planning for your pet.

Ever Heard of Cremation Art?

Cremation Art is a term describing the various forms of art/sculpture which hold the cremains of a person or pet ashes.  Additionally, some forms of cremation art are created as a memorial or tribute to a loved one or animal.  In this case they may or may not have some physical component of the loved one.  There are works of cremation art in just about every medium and every price point.  
Treo the Hero Dog tattooThere are even things like dog ashes tattoos, yes that does exist.  Cremation tattooing is one of the more modern art styles in recent years.  Its just another way to commemorate the love for your pet.  Take a look at this article about Treo the Hero Dog, its a pretty neat story.

Here are some additional questions soon to be covered

Memorials for Dogs, Dog Headstones, and Dog Cremation Urns

Other animal cremation products

Service Providers and Associations