Introduction: When You Have to Say Goodbye, How to Properly Bury a Pet.
It is sad, but it is also a fact that every pet will someday die. There is no escape from it. We usually don't know when and we don't know where and we don't know how, but we do know that it will happen. They all grow old and wear out or meet with unforeseen events, accidents that just happen. As a result, you, as a pet owner, will be faced with the task of one final act and that is deciding what happens to the remains and saying goodby.
Step 1: A Bond Farewell
I was recently faced with this reality again when I found Bond, Homers litter-mate and brother, run over on the highway just in front of my driveway easement.
Who was Bond, or Homer for that matter?
In September 2011 I wrote an Instructable about Homer and the saga of the cats. You can see it and/or read it here, but be forewarned, it's a lot of reading.
The much shorter version is this -- Bond is the kitten that I had to find and then rescue after Homer came home mangled from whatever it was that went after him. Of the 3 that disappeared Bond is the only one that I found and brought home. Homer recovered from his injuries and Jet never left since she really liked being in the house.
A short time later my visiting daughter fell in love with Bond and so he went to live with her and had a happy home there until last fall. She was planing her wedding and marriage and they, after much searching, had not been able to find anyplace in the city they were moving to that allowed pets. So until they could find someplace Bond came back home with me to be with his brother and sister and all the rest of the crowd.
It was not smooth sailing. I was pretty surprised by the reactions he and the other cat he had lived with, Dora, had to a new home. I had visited my daughter and Bond often and he was totally OK with me. But put into a different place after a long car trip was just not what he had in mind.
Talk about sibling issues. After several hours of cats attempting to kill each other and maiming me while they were at it, I put Bond into solitary confinement. I locked him into a small bathroom with his blanket and food, water and litter box. He stayed there for almost 4 days. I visited him and worked on calming him down and he finally mellowed. He started to want to look out the door. Then it was a short look around, and finally I left the door cracked open so he could go out but had a safe place if he needed that he could come back to.
So it took a while but he integrated into the rest of the family. Within a month he fell into the daily routine and a lot of the cat fights ended. He did continue to have problems with his brother, Homer. They were both alpha cats so harmony was not what they sang about. And they often did sing. It was pretty funny because they would adopt that challenge posture and start the howling and just sit there and sing to each other. They rarely took swats at each other but they did do a lot of talking. So through the winter and into the spring Bond adjusted to being back home. He avoided the highway and never went there so I have no idea what lured him to it. But there he was, dead on the road. And so I had to do something about it right away.
Step 2: Choices
Although it is not something that you should dwell on to much, having an idea as to what you want to happen at the end of a pets life is a good thing. Often their end can be fast, like Bonds, and you just don't have a lot of time when it happens. So giving forethought to the possibility and having a plan to deal with it is prudent.
There may not be to many options open to you. If you live in a city you can't just bury them anywhere. Many times if a Veterinarian is there to put them to sleep they can take care of the remains. It is my understanding that many of them have the animals incinerated. That would be preferable to just putting them in a dumpster. After all this was your friend, not some leftover meatloaf.
But do some research and have something in mind, just in case.
I don't want to make recommendations here. It is totally going to depend on you and your circumstances and on any of the other people involved as to what you might do. The option I am offering assistance with in this Instructable is burial. Because I do have the land and live in the rurals, for me it is an option that makes the best sense. And it involves far less cost for me. Basically a DIY solution.
The pictures of Urns for pets are from Amazon's web site. They have a very big selection of them. So, thank you to them for that.
Step 3: If You Chose to Bury Your Pet --
If you want to bury your pet there are some things you need to find out in advance.
If you are a renter you need to get the owners permission. Although they may never know or find out if you do it without permission, it is still better to ask.
You need to find out what the local laws permit. Probably a call to the county sanitarian or a county attorney can get you all the information you need. There may be restrictions regarding the size of what you want to bury. There is a big difference between a little kitten and a full grown German Shepard. A pet rabbit would probably be no problem. A pet pony might be a different story.
Before you dig anywhere, especially in a suburban area, call to locate the utilities first. The web site below can get you the numbers for your state.
The utility companies have been running the advertisements for many years. You really do need them to verify that the area you want to bury a pet in is clear of utility lines and pipes. This is serious, since you need to dig down at least 2 to 3 feet and some utility lines are as little as 2 feet down you need to call and get them to check. This is one thing you should do in advance since it can take several days for them to actually do this.
So make yourself a checklist
1. Check with the landlord (maybe also the neighbors just to be courteous.)
2. Check with local authorities. You should get permission in advance.
3. Contact the utilities to locate underground lines for you. If the spot you wanted has lines there ask about where you can bury a pet. They should be able to tell you.
4. If you don't have the physical ability to actually dig find someone in advance that can help you.
5. If you don't have a good shovel and or other digging tools, buy them when they are on sale and keep them for when they are needed. Besides, if you do have a yard or other area you will likely need the tools for other things like planting trees.
Step 4: The Digging Process.
The one most important things in burying a pet is to dig deep.
As animals decompose they give off gasses that other animals use to locate them. Some dogs are trained specifically to locate and indicate things that they find buried. When animals sniff out something that is buried they will dig it up if they can. Skunks and dogs and foxes are just a few of these. If you don't bury a dead animal deep it will most likely be dug up. I have had this happen, it is not pleasant. Most animals will give up after digging a foot or so. So its best to plan to dig at least 3 feet down. Seriously though, both you and your neighbors would be really upset if their dog dug up your dead rabbit and happily used it as a chew toy on their back porch. I usually dig down as far as I can reach into the hole.
By the way, depending on your soil this can take a lot of work.
Shovels are made to be stepped on to help force the blade into the soil. Once you get past the depth of the blade you can't do this anymore. What I have found works for me is to jamb the blade into the side of the hole at the bottom and then pry it backwards so it forces the blade to chip out the dirt in the middle. Use leverage to break the dirt up and keep the hole wide without closing in at the bottom.
Needless to say, you have to make a hole big enough to easily fit whatever it is that you intend to bury. If your hole tapers in a lot you will find that you need to dig it out a lot more. It is easier to start big than it is to enlarge one that is to small.
Step 5: Filling It In.
Once you get a deep enough hole all that is left to do is put your pet to rest and fill it in. How you do that is totally up to you.
The weight of the dirt will naturally compact it to some degree. When you get to about the last 6 inches you can add an inch or so of kitty litter. There are a lot of deodorants in the litter and they will help mask the gasses given off by decomposition. Often if an animal tries to dig things up they will quit when they hit the layer of litter.
Fill the hole in and mound the dirt up just a little so it will level out when the dirt settles.
Doing anything else beyond this point is totally up to you. If you just leave it, the grass will eventually grow back over it and it will essentially disappear. There are a number of animals that I have buried over the years that I no longer know where they are. General area, yes, specific place, no. It has changed with time and trees and things.
Step 6: In Bonds Case --
In Bonds case I have decided to take the extra step of putting a big rock to mark his spot. He was just to special in to many ways to not have a semi permanent marker. I am planing on either painting it or maybe even engraving it in the future. I just have to figure out how to do it. It's a nice big piece of granite with a flat face.
While I was buying bedding plants for the garden some lilies caught my eye and I thought it would be fun to plant them around his rock. I have had lilies like these before and they come back every year for what seams like forever. So now every spring they will come back and add a spark of color to the grass and his rock. As if to say, "hey, remember me?" So, who knows, for years to come, after everyone else has forgotten, the lilies will remember and be there in the spring. Bond was born in the spring, and he died in the spring and now his flowers will bloom in the spring.
Although he spent most of his life with my daughter, he was born here, not far from where he is now. And his mom, Juliette, that feral cat that came in from the cold is here also, just a little ways away.
Step 7: A Slow Blink Goodbye.
"Slow blinking by a cat (sort of an eyes-almost-closed look, almost trance-like) is a good sign — one that says, “You’re my buddy, and I feel comfortable hanging out with you.”
"Slowly blinking at you is a sign of pure love, and it’s often even referred to as a “kitty kiss.”"
Here is a slow blink to you from Bond.
Goodbye buddy, I will remember you. You touched a lot of lives and brought a lot of joy to many people, really what better is there that can be said of a cat.
The above quotes about slow blinking were taken from this web site:
Step 8: Dealing With Grief
Grief is the result of suffering a loss. Even if you didn't like your pet that much you will probably feel some amount of grief. A cat or dog that was constantly causing problems at first might be remembered mostly for the problems it caused. But the mind does an interesting thing. It tends to forget the bad and what you start remembering more is the good. The special times when the problems were not happening and the pet was doing some special thing that made it unique from the rest. You will miss that and you will experience grief.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions. While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to loss."
"Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away. Grief is also a reaction to any loss. The grief associated with death is familiar to most people, but individuals grieve in connection with a variety of losses throughout their lives, such as unemployment, ill health or the end of a relationship. Loss can be categorized as either physical or abstract, the physical loss being related to something that the individual can touch or measure, such as losing a spouse through death, while other types of loss are abstract, and relate to aspects of a person’s social interactions."
There are stages that people go through when dealing with grief. Some people have even named them the 5 stages of grief. So this is all a normal human thing. If however you find yourself being overwhelmed by it you should do some reflection and read through some of the articles about grief and how to deal with it. The answer may be as simple as getting a replacement cat or dog. If you find that the problem is much greater than you can deal with then seek help from a professional.
Don't let the grief overtake your life.