COMMENT: In the UK, more Britons are deciding on individual cat and dog cremations according to the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria. They say that there was a 10-15 percent increase last year compared to previous years. This may be due to Covid-19 restrictions during which time pet owners have a chance to be with their companion animal more than usual. My belief is that there is a general trend anyway to individual companion animal cremations because there is a general trend towards treating cats and dogs as family members. To cremate them as people is a logical extension of that relationship.
This is obviously a good development in terms of cat and dog welfare. The desire for companion animal caregivers to provide a proper send off on their passing has gone a step further in some cases. Reverend Tara Hellings, an Anglican vicar whose parish covers Crondall and Ewshot in Hampshire, provides a bespoke funeral service for departed pets. She has also been asked to attend pet cremations where she says a prayer. The full service includes hymans, prayers and a picture of the deceased animal.
She said that, “Part of the pastoral care of a vicar should be to help people, whatever their needs are”. Companion animal owners can spend up to £400 for a funeral service and an urn for the ashes. The more usual service provided by veterinarians regards pet remains as waste. They are cremated communally when sent off to a pet cremation provider. The fee is relatively small at about £50. I would expect that people opting for this service often do not keep the ashes in an urn at home.
It should be said, though, that a proper cremation reduces the animal to pure ash which contains no DNA of the pet. Therefore keeping the ashes in an urn is purely an emotion state of affairs. It is very useful but you can’t point to the urn and say that your deceased cat is still with you. They are in spirit and in memory but not physically.
Tara Hellings is also called upon to provide a calming influence over grieving pet owners in a conversation. We know it: losing a companion animal can be as emotionally painful and draining as losing a human family member. The reverend said, “It’s such a priviledge to help owners who are feeling sad. My job isn’t to tell people what to think.”
We are told that January is the one of the busiest months of the year for pet cremations. The Times reports that it is a month when people decide to euthanise animals who’ve been ill over the festive break. Does that mean they are putting off euthanasia until after the Christmas break. I suspect it is.
As to cost, individual cremations are about £180. I always choose individual cremations and have the ashes of all my cats in a large urn in the living room. Morbid? No, it is comforting to me. And I believe it is respectful of our companion animals to do this. Individual cremations can, however, cost up to £300 for a large dog such as a St. Bernard. Some crematoria charge extra if you want to watch your pet put into the cremation chamber.
CPC Cares, a large pet cremation chain, allows you to watch pets go into the chamber via CCTV. A lot of cat and dog owners relate to their pets as their child. On their death it is bound to be particularly painful. An added emotional burden is that often a pet suffers with a chronic illness leading to euthanasia. This may take many months during which time the owner ponders the emotional intricacies of deciding when to end the life of their loved companion. It is a very trying time ending with a moment which never leaves the memory.
There are three stages: the long incurable illness, the euthanasia and the individual cremation. All are painful for the caretaker. The advice is that the last responsibilities of a good companion animal guardian are to (1) make the correct decision on when to end the life of their friend and (2) attend their cat or dog’s euthanasia, a very difficult task for most and (2) to individually cremate. These are the end game tasks of a good caregiver.
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