When Your Pet Dies, You Can Now Compost, Taxidermy, or Make Them Into Jewelry

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A cat named Mew, but affectionately known as Blob Monster, wears a flower crown. A few months later, she was buried on a hillside. Kristin Hugo

Someday, hopefully far from now, your dog, cat, or other pet will cross the Rainbow Bridge. You may be left to wonder—what do you do with the body? Typically, when your pet dies at the vet, the veterinarian may transfer the body to a pet crematorium, or they may release it to you to bury yourself. But you don't have to settle for those options any more.

Composting

For starters, you can consider a particularly earth-friendly option: sending the body to a company that will compost the remains.

If your pet is under 100 pounds, you can send the body to a company called "Rooted," where they will bury the animal and turn it into fertilizer. They can send that fertilizer back to you in a bag, or for a cheaper price, they can send some scoops of several animals that were composted together. Poignantly, they can also send you a bag of your pet's mulch with a sapling in it, so you can plant a tree in their honor. If your pet is larger, you can send them to Compassionate Composting in Auburn, Maine.

Cremation

Composting may seem like a gross thing to do with Fido, but there isn't much that you can do with a dead body that isn't gross to someone. If you had never heard of cremation before, you may consider burning your loved one's body to ashes to be a disturbing idea as well. Furthermore, when you do that, you don't always know if you're actually getting your pet back in the urn, or a mix of all the pets they cremated that day.

However, the upside to cremation is that it doesn't take much direct action on your part—the vet may simply forward the body to the crematorium and then you get a classy little urn back. You don't have to touch or see your fur-baby's lifeless body again.

Burial in Nature

Depending on the laws in your city, you can also just bury the animal yourself in your yard. Depending on the cause of death, the most environmentally-friendly thing to do might be to simply leave the body in the woods for it to "return to nature," i.e., to be eaten and decompose as animals in nature do. The protein in the meat and the calcium in the bones benefit local fauna, and there are several species of insects that need dead bodies to reproduce. However, if your pet was "put to sleep" via lethal injection, the sodium pentobarbital in their body can hurt and kill wild animals who consume it. In that case, it's better to bury the body deep.

Taxidermy

If you're a little more brave and want to have a more tangible reminder of your dead cat or dog, you might consider taking it to a taxidermist. However, many taxidermists refuse to work on pets, because they know you'll be upset if the face doesn't come out right. As a similar option, there are several companies that will freeze-dry your pet, which is a procedure that includes removing the organs but leaving the bones and fur, then flash-preserving them.

Memento Mori

You also have some artistic options for your pet's preservation. With the renaissance of "alternative taxidermy," more and more people are learning to preserve animal remains. If you have the space, know-how and guts to do it, you can even learn to process the remains yourself.

Or, if you don't want to risk messing up the process, you can get a professional to do it. For example, Jana Miller is a professional animal and bone processor who runs Bone Lust Studios (Instagram / Facebook / Blogspot / Etsy). She focuses on pet processing and natural history art, and offers several items custom-made from pet remains. Miller can make jewelry out of the animal's microchip, clean and return the skeleton, preserve the tails, or can even preserve the heart and make it into a pendant.

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The skull of a cat named Lucky, a preserved pet heart, a heart pendant, and the skull of a dog named Frank. All are processed pets created for clients of Bonelust studios. Jana Miller / Bone Lust

In the trying time of a beloved pet's death, it can be difficult to decide what to do with the remains. For that reason, it's important to have an honest conversation about what to do in advance. Remember that it's not creepy or wrong to process your grief however you feel comfortable.

When Your Pet Dies, You Can Now Compost, Taxidermy, or Make Them Into Jewelry | Tech & Science