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How to Bury a Beloved Pet

Isabella writes articles about beloved pets, including litter box training, diseases in animals, and how to bury your pets.

Losing a pet is hard enough, but nothing compares to having to bury your beloved companion.

Losing a pet is hard enough, but nothing compares to having to bury your beloved companion.

Buying Your Pet Is Hard

If your beloved pet has passed away at home, or if you've put him to sleep at the veterinarian's office but can't face the idea of leaving the body behind, you're going to need to bury him yourself.

As a child, I'd buried hamsters and gerbils, but I'd never buried an animal that I'd been particularly close to until a week ago when I had to bury my kitty cat. This article is going to cover the practical aspects which sometimes go unrealized during our grief, but it will also cover the spiritual benefits you will reap should you decide to bury your pet yourself.

Losing a pet is very difficult for anyone whose loved one, but I've found that laying mine to rest myself was the best thing I could have done for myself and for her. That's not to say that not doing so is the wrong choice — everyone and every pet is different. This is just my personal experience.

Reasons Why You Should Bury Your Pet Yourself

I honestly wasn't sure I'd be able to handle doing this myself, from an emotional perspective, but I decided that I owed it to my cat. I was also pretty sure I'd have a lifetime of nightmares if I just left her body behind at the vet. I am so very appreciative of the decision I made to bury my cat myself, and these are the reasons why:

  • It’s an Emotional Outlet.

    I was, of course, rather hysterical during the moment she was euthanized, but during the ride home, I went incredibly numb. I had a very, very heavy heart, and I periodically burst into uncontrollable tears due to the feelings I was having. The physical exertion I underwent — carrying her body out to the woods, digging the hole, filling it up again — this was a very appropriate form of energy release for me. I felt 1000% lighter by the time it was done. I wasn't happy, of course, but I was in a much better position to cope at that point.

  • It Brings Closure.

    Ask any shrink, and they'll tell you how often people torture themselves over lack of proper closure. Putting the body of your pet to rest yourself is, for lack of a better phrase, something that feels right once it's done. As I stood there looking at the grave when it was finished, I knew I'd never have gotten that type of closure any other way.

Where to Bury Your Pet

  • If you've got a garden or backyard, you may want to bury them at home. I have a beautiful national park across the street, and I decided to bury my cat there. If you do this where you live, make sure you are not violating any rules in doing so.
  • Choose somewhere you can visit easily. It may be a lovely thought to bury your pet at the top of the highest hill, but that will likely prevent you from visiting as often as you'd like to.
  • Choose somewhere that makes you smile. Don't choose some dreary location that will depress you every time you visit. I chose a place with a lovely view for her, and even though that may sound strange, I like to think she appreciated it.
  • Some places have restrictions on burying pets in public places. I'm fortunate that this country only dictates that you have to be a certain distance from a water supply. If you think it may be illegal to bury your pet in a public park, you should contact your parks and recreation office to determine what you're allowed to do.

What You'll Need

  1. Firstly, you're going to need a pet casket of some sort. You can make one yourself out of a box, or you may want to invest in a professionally hand-crafted pet casket. I didn't have the second option, but I was quite happy with the one I made myself. You do not need to buy one, but they are there for those who feel drawn to them.
  2. Secondly, you're going to need a proper shovel that you can stand on whilst digging. If you're burying a very small box, and if the ground is very soft, you might be ok with a small shovel — but if I'd only had something small, I'd have been digging the entire day.
  3. Thirdly, you're probably going to need a second person. This hadn't even occurred to me, and I'm lucky that I had a friend who volunteered to help me. In my case, I had to walk and carry my cat into a National Forest — by the time we got to the place of my choosing, I could barely lift my arms. I would never have been able to carry the shovel; this is why I say you should plan to have a second person if it all possible.
  4. Lastly, you need to be prepared for a long and strenuous dig. This is another reason you may want to have a second person with you. In my case, I picked a spot that I was drawn to, and after 10 cm or so of digging, the earth was very hard, rocky and full of tree roots that had to be dug through. I was determined to bury her in that lovely spot, and it took me 3 hours to dig an appropriately sized hole. If you're digging somewhere else, you may not have that problem. But all I can tell you is that it was very hard and I wish I'd brought water with me because I was exhausted by the time it was done.

How to Create a Memorial for Your Dead Pet

You may want to create a headstone, or you may only want to place a medium-sized rock at the location. If you've got children, I recommend creating a memorial stone with them, but you may prefer to purchase a memorial headstone. Or you may not want to put anything there at all, if you can remember where it is. But don't be afraid to put flowers there once or twice a year, perhaps on your pet's birthday or Christmas, to remember him or her. If you've got children this can be a very good method of helping them to feel like they are still connected in some way.

© 2009 Isabella Snow

Comments

JD on February 23, 2020:

I have been trying unsuccessfully to find a recommendation for the direction in which I should bury my recently deceased pet rabbit.

Jacqueline on October 25, 2019:

Such a beautiful article, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to share this. My bf & I are planning to bury our beloved ratty and this just gave me so much peace of mind. Do you mind my asking where you live? We are in California and have picked out a place in the Sierras.

Min on February 02, 2019:

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Read More From Pethelpful

Hi Isabella my cat of 15 years passed away naturally at home yesterday afternoon. We knew he probably wasn’t going to make it but we hoped he would recover and we turned down euthanasia. His condition got worse and by the time we requested the vet to come out to euthanasie my cat began dying it was around 10 minutes of meowing and spasms which was really hard for me and mum to witness. We were by his side and kept telling him we love him until the very end. Because we so distressed we couldn’t think of anything else to do other then go to a warehouse and buy a huge pot and soil. We buried him inside and put some white plants on top. Because we live in a unit he is on our verenda and we were wondering if that’s a bad idea will he smell?

Sarah on August 04, 2018:

Great advice thank you

Jo on June 19, 2018:

My Ramona has cancer in her mouth. I didnt think she’d still be with me. The vet said 3 mths and it’s been 9 mths. All she eats now is meat baby food. I can tell she doesn’t feel as well as used to but I don’t think she’s miserable. She loves to go outside, she still has an appetite & she still loves to lay on my lap. She’s the first cat (I’m 58) I’ve had from baby kitty to grown cat. She’s now almost 14. I have another cat, Bella, who is 9.

I’ve come into some hard times & I’ll be basically homeless by the end of the month. I know I’ll have a home again but many rentals only allow one pet. A friend is going to let me sleep in an extra bedroom.

I feel like Bella will adapt. We’ve moved two times & Ramona had a hard time adjusting. She’s always been high strung. Since the cancer diagnosis I’ve watched her carefully because I don’t want her to suffer. I was hoping she could live out her days with me unless I felt she was in great pain. I would never let her suffer.

The point is moot because I must have her put to sleep before the 30th. How do you pick a day for your cat to die? I feel bad because my living situation is affecting her life but yet I know her time is coming, one way or another. I just so wanted to keep her with me until the end.

I wish I could afford to cremate her. My son is buried at our local cemetery & I own the lot next to him. I would give anything to be able to place her ashes there.

My friend has offered her yard & ive thought about making a box so I can bury her. It just sucks.

I am a mess. I love my Ramona. I can’t imagine my life without her in it. I know that this is the price we pay for the love of our pets. We will always outlive them. I know it has been worth the pain; she has been a wonderful companion. But I am still so sad.

Ronin on May 02, 2018:

My wife's dog passed in my arms and I made a box casket out of a cardboard box and we filled it with treats toys and her sweater she wore. We burried her on our favorite walking trail and made a burrial mound with large rocks and a wooden marker so we can cost her on walks. Pick somewhere that is special to you and that you think they would be happy.

Barish on December 15, 2017:

My little friend Musti had suffered plenty of tragic accidents and attacks and each time we two managed to make it through. He was just 5 month old when he was attacked by 5-6 street dogs and it took him a long while until he completely recovered from his severe injuries. Then I had made him a promise that I'd never leave him until his/my last breath, and that I'd not be his owner, but rather his best friend. Unfortunately Musti has died of high-dgree anemia due to liver failure this morning around 03.00am, I had the chance to kiss his forepaw and say "goodbye" before he passed away. The vet told us that they would take care of the body if I and my family would like to, but I and my elder brother felt that it would not be the final goodbye that Musti has ever deserved, and we took the body and went to the small forest we have nearby. We digged a deep hole as Isabella indicates above, we put Musti into a casket, wrapped into a big piece of clot, we said "Goodbye dear Musti, rest in peace my friend" and closed the casket tighly. We put Musti into the hole we had digged, then put some soil, then some stones, then soil again, and stones... Finally we filled the entire hole so firmly, and we put also some big stones on the surface of my dear friend Musti's grave. I will never be easy to continue living without his presence and I'll definitely miss him so much, but in a way I feel a little peace in my heart because we've made what Musti really deserves... I love you so much my dear Musti, I'll miss you so much, and I do hope you and I will meet oneday in a better world. Rest in peace my dear Musti.

Hariharasudhan on December 03, 2017:

I am posting this with a heavy heart My cat MILO was 2 and half years old when he left me. He drowned in a over head water tank. I felt very bad and i dont know wat to do. I felt extreme sorrow and pain. Actually it was an accident the lid for the tank is broken i forget to repair it. I also said to my father to repace it because hes the one who check the water level in that tank daily poor old man he also didnt change it because he was lethargic and never thought our milo would jump there. Now i feel terible and angry oppon him and my self. If only i had repaired it my angel MILO would have been alive. Finally i burried him in my back yard after performing all final rites which we do i our relegion. RIP MILO.

alina q on December 29, 2013:

My oldest friend manuel left us a couple days ago. the hardest part is that i am visiting family for the holidays. my friend told me he wasn't doing well and they took him to the vet. i was on the phone with them, they took an xray and discovered his lungs were 80% full of fluid from a tumor. they put on oxygen and he wouldn't make it without it. i thought how could this be? He seemed fine, even at 16years old. i had to make the decision to have him euthanized and my friend was with him. i spoke and cried to him on speaker phone and my friend said he recognized my voice and seemed at peace finally, put his head down and closed his eyes. my baby boy has been with me every step of the way, we have moved so many times and been in strange situations together. i just wanted to hold him while his spirit left, and that is the hardest part about it. i go back home to an empty house and will bury him in the mountains on new years day. goodbye darling manuel. I must let your spirit go back into the loving arms of yhe creator.

dan on June 25, 2013:

rascal was a wildcat when it was 4 degrees outside when I moved n she stand with me n winter&rain sleeped sometimes with me,but mostly outside hunter I never tried to break her spirirt . hit by car n front of me I was n shocked I buried her by cat litter&wild food her sun shine place could only dig to stones because of city sewage pipes about 3-4 ft. I wish it was deeper next to house&home litter on top to keep other animals from digging her -up when I find stones I will cover up could her decomplation began to swell?if so I will put more soil on top. 1st.cat &friend.

Freddie on May 13, 2013:

My Sweet sweet siamese. Mousie Tung was chased, cornered and killed by a pit bull that was off leash. She ran away but got cornered by a fence and the dog crushed her in his jaws. I couldn't save her as much as I tried and she bled to death, so so scared. I can't stop crying over her. She was my friend. confident and loved to lick me and clean me for as long as I would let her. God she was so so smart and always had to have the last word in the conversation. She always knew what was going on, She loved to eat. I mean, this cat LOVED to eat. So yes, she was a little overweight but she was such a happy cat. She so loved Sylvia and I and would always run in front of of and plop on her belly when we came home. I don't know where to bury her, I just got her remains and they sit beside me. I still see her at night out of the corner of my eye. I miss her so.

I will find a place to bury her this weekend. Somewhere where she will be happy and warm and have the sun on her warming her as she so loved that in life.

applenchica on September 22, 2012:

I rccently lost my baby Apple,a few days ago. I wasn't thinking clear when my husband burried her and he burried her in the wrong spot, is it bad to move her. I wanted her closer. It's real hard for me to deal with the lose.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on June 06, 2012:

I was googling today and found this hub. It must be very helpful to a lot of pet owners, as I see from the comments. I wish I could read them all, but I'm too sad to do that. I had to bury my cat today. My niece helped me. I found a nice spot by the back fence that looks peaceful and where I can continue to keep an eye over him as I did since he was a geriatric cat that I took in his final two years of life. I miss him so much. Thanks for this helpful hub.

Keith77 from Edinburgh on May 13, 2012:

Carey,

Sorry to hear about Indiana. I never realised just how close our pets are until we loose them. It was really hard when we lost 'Salem'. Burying him was the hardest thing I've ever done.

Talking about it helps a lot. Take it easy and keep your chin up.

Carey on May 12, 2012:

I came home from work tonight to find my favorite cat, Indiana, unresponsive. After getting her to a late night emergency care clinic half an hour away, I decided, through sobs of grief (I could barely even talk without breaking down), to have her put to sleep. I'm debating even four hours later here if it's the hardest thing I've ever had to do!

Indiana, and her sister JuJu, are both rescue kitties. They have lived with me in Tennessee and Virginia, then up to the beach in Maryland and Delaware, then down to the country in Georgia, up to the suburbs in Ohio, and then back to Georgia. And I'm working on making it to California. She was supposed to make it with me and her sister...

Once, Juju was missing. Indiana would meet me at the door when I'd get home from work and walk around the block with me at night looking for Juju. We'd walk to a house, and Indiana would dart down the driveway, "meow" around in the back yard, then come back. She'd repeat this at every house, every night we went out. I've never seen behavior like that out of a cat.

She's sitting beside me right now in her little cardboard coffin. I'm burying her tomorrow. I keep falling into uncontrollable bursts of tears as I reflect on what she's been to me. I can't seem to reach any of my friends and feel so totally alone right now. But I found all of your stories while checking to make sure she'd "keep" til tomorrow, and it helps seeing so much concern and empathy in these posts. They've truly helped ease the incredible, almost unbalanced, pain I'm feeling right now. I miss you so much already, Indiana. I love you forever and thank you for what you brought into my life.

Thank you everyone for sharing your stories. Our lives will be forever altered in the best way for being open to and accepting love from our pets. I'm proud to say I'm a cat guy. It takes a truly kind and open heart to fall in love with your pet. And those that do are rewarded. I love you, Indiana...

Patrick R on April 01, 2012:

My poor old whiskers died last night, she was almost 20. I still remember the first day I brought her home to the kids she was so playful and fun to have around. Whiskers I will miss you and will think about you everyday. Love you girl...

Geena on March 29, 2012:

My beautiful cat Jack was found passed away today. He had been missing for 5 weeks and we were all beggining to lose hope. But then after I got home today someone had spotted a

Isabella Snow (author) on March 27, 2012:

It is quite sad... I read all of them myself, too.

Keith77 from Edinburgh on March 26, 2012:

I keep checking back here after writing a post about our cat 'Salem'. It's sad to read about the loss of other peoples pets. It does get easier over time. All we can do is cherish the memories that we have.

Mike on March 24, 2012:

We woke up this morning only to find our loving Penny dead. She was never sick and always healthy as a horse. We rescued her from a shelter 11 years ago. Very smart, already housebroken, and to this day cannot imagine anyone abandoning her. I guess she was meant to be part of our family. My three boys loved her and she was a constant companion to all of us. I knew she would not be here forever, as I have had dogs growing up, but she was OUR first. My wife never knew she was a dog person until Penny came into our lives. It has been a tough day for me so far, I buried her in her beloved yard where we spent so much time together playing and gardening. This was HER yard. I could see no better place to lay her to rest. We have a huge yard with many trees, about 80 or so. I layer her in a hole near the biggest oak, probably some couple of hundred years or so. She had a great last day, we went to bed with her safely sleeping, maybe just watching us, on her pillow. That was her spot and now it is empty and makes me sad. As I was covering her body with earth I kept saying "Good doggy.". I wanted her to know how much we loved her. That was way harder than I expected, I could hardly keep my composure. Reading your stories of your pets has helped. There os a big hole in my heart right now but in time it will heal but the hole is the size of a Pennydog. So we need to get the boys home and have a toast to this wonderful animal who for the past 11years gave us so much joy. Good doggy, I miss you.

Gordon on March 20, 2012:

Do check for utility lines before digging. Grief can make us have some unfortunate accidents if we don't plan.

modernmedevilwoman on March 16, 2012:

Our Family Pet Henry VIII the chinchilla was with us for 6 years. He was the most loving and adorable pet. He was my daughters first pet and she grew up with him. He began to show signs of distress and became extremely lethargic. He stopped eating and drinking and we made an appointment for the vet. He died the night before. I discovered his passing at 3am and worried about my daughter finding him in his cage in the morning. I decorated a shoe box and placed him gently in. She was devastated. We are going to bury him in the park. We will miss him and we are planning on donating to Chinchilla rescue reliefs in his honor.

hond begraven on March 14, 2012:

I have my dog ??buried in a casket purchased from www.liefhuisdier.nl my children have made drawings ??that we have done in the coffin. the loss of your pet is an emotional event. sammy our beloved dogg we have buried in our own garden in a decent coffin we had a beautiful farewell to her.

Philip on March 06, 2012:

Our Ruffles, a four year old male cat died suddenly on Sunday morning. I found him after waking in the night. I woke the family. Later Sunday morning we laid him to rest in our flower bed. Later that day we memorialized him with a potted plant with pink flowers, as his nose and paws were pink. He also loved to chew on flowers. The pet funeral was good for us and while it is hard, it provides reflection and closure. He will be missed!

Emma on February 25, 2012:

my 8 month old kitten Dillon literally dropped dead yesterday. she'd been abandoned at an early age and had always had problems, but i thought we had helped her over the worst of it. we buried her in the back garden with her toy. i'm still crying.

John on February 24, 2012:

Sad reading all these stories about pets that have passed away. My dog is old, and will have to be buried by myself at a beautiful spot that I have already chosen, but hopefully a few years yet. He's been here so long it will be painful when he's not here. Too sad to think about!

Gisel on February 13, 2012:

Peaches was my 9 month old cat. She died in my arms on Saturday at 5am. I heard a moan and when I turned the light on I saw her on her side struggling to breath. I got scared and hoped she was giving birth or anything but not dying! Those last 5 minutes when all her power and might was being used to pump her little lungs and heart. The worst sight of my life. She was so beautiful my sweet Peaches. I can't help but feel guilty for not waking her before I went to sleep. I found it odd to see her laying on the wooden floor but she looked so cute I didn't want to disturb her. If only I bad attempted to wake her and I would have noticed her in pain....

But now after gallons of tears I just hurried her this February 13 2011, right outside my window under a pink tree that will forever drop pink petals on her grave. It was a spot shed run to every morning to climb the wall to her journey to the neighbors yard. I hope to see her in heaven when I go ); love

Kellie Altieri on January 09, 2012:

Hi there! I'm commenting for a few reasons. First - I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to write this so soon after your kitty's passing. Second - One of my cats, Shelbie, is about 14 years old and over the past few months, her age is showing more and more - weight loss, hard of hearing, arthritis, etc. But, Besides those things, she has got to be the happiest, most content cat ever. She gets along with *all* animals - about 10 years ago, I had a bunny and they were BFFs. They loved to chase each other and snuggle. :) and she *loves* to snuggle, She's been a 24/7 purr machine since she was a year or 2 old, she still does the typical cat "midnight crazies" where she darts around the house, non-stop for like 15-20 minutes. She's just awesome. She came to me as a feral cat that was recovering from her spay surgery and I was supposed to try and socialize her with humans. She lived up to the word "feral" and I have a few scars to prove it. :) She came around a few weeks later with the help of bacon bribery. :) We've been through alot together - 5 moves, both of my parents dying, the birth of my son and the addition of 2 more cats and a dog. She's *always* there when I need her.

I was a vet tech for 6 years and have put to sleep more dogs and cats that I can count. Every one of them was emotional and I would cry right along with the pet owners. But, having to go through it with your own pet is different. I've never had to put one of my own to sleep. I'm not looking forward to it, both my son and I will be devastated - even talking about the possibility of her not being with us this time next year makes us both start crying.

I don't think I'm going to bury her though. I wouldn't be able to leave her behind if/when I move. That happened with the dog my family had when I was growing up. We had him cremated and my brother buried him in the yard. Eventually, as everyone grew up, we all went our separate ways. And thinking about him still being in the yard without us there makes me so sad. Alot of vets will cremate your pet and give you the ashes. So, I think that's what I'm going to do. Out of curiosity, was this not an option for you? You mentioned burying her yourself or leaving her behind but, cremation wasn't brought up in your article.

So, anyway Thanks again for writing this .. it will prove to be a very useful option when it's my turn. Keep your head up!

PS - SORRY FOR THE NOVEL. Sometimes I don't know when to STFU! LOL

B. Born on December 08, 2011:

My cat Tomie was 17 years 11 months and just passed away tonight of kidney failure. He was a wonderful Buddy to me and I miss his meows in the morning saying it was time to get up! I plan to bury him in my backyard but it is going to be difficult with the freezing weather. In the box, I plan to place his special fun stuff like toilet paper and his catnip toy. I loved and he loved me. I plan to plant flowers come spring.

Joey on November 29, 2011:

My dog died yesterday when I wasn't home. I got phone calls and texts, but couldn't believe it. Came home, and he wasn't at the door waiting for me as always. I went to the back, and he was under a towel, drips of blood on the floor. The story, he was being chased by a bigger dog, and my brother couldn't keep up. He came around to the other block, and a couple said he had died beside a car. My brother picked him up and that couple gave him a ride home. Not sure if he was hit by a car or killed by the dog. No wounds or anything, just bleeding from the nose. I loved my dog, and still do. Instead of sleeping now at 4:33am on a Tuesday morning, I'm here thinking about him. He would have been sleeping here with me under the blanket. A lot will change now. I come home to no one greeting me at the door, when I'm laying down, no one will be by my side, and when I walk around, no one who will follow, while happily wagging his tail. Mojo, you are loved, and greatly missed. I wish there could have been something to do to prevent this. I went to his body, hoping for some sort of movement, any sign of breathe, nothing. I stood there, pouring tears, and as I move over the towel, I see his balls. I flip the other side, and there was his face, eye partially open. I patted his body, solid hard, no movement. I am struck by this. I miss you mojo, see you tomorrow morning buddy. I'm going to bury him in the back yard because I want to visit him. It's kinda scary in my backyard and doesn't look so beautiful, but I want him close to me. RIP Mojo, mixture of chihuahua, and possibly mini ponscher

Isabella Snow (author) on November 16, 2011:

I just wanted to let everyone know that even though I don't reply to every story shared here (because I don't want to sound cliché repeating the same condolences each time...) I do read all the stories the same day they are posted, and most of them make me cry! I hope you are all coping as best you can, and I know your beloved pets are in a good place, along with my kitty. :)

tamara dunne on November 16, 2011:

my dwarf hamster past away this morning.ive been miserable all day.thank you for your advice.it has really helped me.

Keith77 from Edinburgh on October 28, 2011:

It's good to read all the good advice and comments. Can I just say I'm sorry to hear about the loss of so many loved pets.

My wife and I lost our cat last Sunday morning, but little did we know at the time he had been knocked down. Our cats name was 'Salem', he was pure black, like a little panther. He was so affectionate. He never appeared home for breakfast on Sunday, which was unusual for him, so we were a bit worried. We waited to see if he would appear throughout the day, but he never. We went round our local area shouting his name, thinking that he might have returned to the house, as he often came rushing in through the cat flap when we shouted out the back door.