Nobody likes to think about the day they will lose a beloved pet. Domestic animals become close companions experiencing life’s joys and sorrows with their owners for often more than a decade. One of the great tragedies of pet-parenthood, is the fleeting length of an animal’s precious life; yet death is inevitable for all creatures. Dogs do not live as long as cats usually do, and typically pass away between the ages of 8-15 years old. Domestic cats live an average of 15-18 years, while the oldest cat to ever have lived made it to 38 years old. Whenever the unpleasant event may occur, the tragic death of a pet can be overwhelming, and often leaving us unsure how to process the loss or deal with practical elements of a pet’s passing. If your cat or dog is ailing, or even if they are in perfect health, here are some tips to help you understand the options of how to deal with the body in an efficient and orderly fashion on that difficult day:

How to Deal With the Body

  • Calling professionals to remove the body: When an animal has died, before the owners decide what they would like to do with the remains, the body must be removed.
    • The Bureau of Sanitation will pick up any dog or cat (and other small domestic pets) free of charge.
    • The Humane Society will not charge a fee for body drop-offs. They will also house the body who will be tagged and kept in the fridge until the owners decide what they’d like to do with it.
  • Handling it yourself: If you are going to remove the body yourself, be sure to act quickly as the rigor mortis (stiffening of joints after death) begins within minutes of a creature’s passing. Since a corpse will also attract pests, or begin to decompose quicker if the temperatures are warmer; it is best to remove the body as soon as possible. To do this follow these simple steps:
    • Put on latex gloves and curl the legs into the body as if the cat or dog is sleeping.
    • With a dirty towel wipe any part of the body where fluids might have escaped, particularly around the anus or mouth.
    • Wrap the pet in a blanket or towel, and slide the body into a large plastic bag.
    • If you or your family members are unsure how you would like to commemorate the animal’s life, then see to it that he is kept in a freezer or refrigerator until the burial.
  • Burial: In many states, people have large enough yards to bury their pets on site, or in a forest nearby. Some cities even have pet graveyard spaces for purchase, when someone wants to bury they dog or cat but doesn’t have the space. If an old-fashioned burial is how you decide to lay your pet to rest, they must first be placed in a bio-degradable casket. This should be made of wood, and should have all elements of plastic or metal removed. If you plan to bury the pet in your backyard, be sure to check with your state’s animal-control ordinances, which may have certain stipulations, including how deep the grave must be.
  • Cremation: Some pet owners neither have the space nor the opportunity to bury their beloved pet, so keeping a box or urn of their cremated remains seems the best option. This option also allows the individual to spread the ashes in a meaningful place, or process the loss in their own time and way.
  • Commemoration: For some, celebrating the life of the pet is more important than focusing on the body. Oftentimes, memorial services and funerals are held for animals that were deeply cherished, while a slideshows of the animal’s life may be highlighted on display. Some families also keep photo albums of the animal’s life, to treasure their memory.