Our pets are such an important part of our lives that when the time comes to say goodbye, the feelings of loss can be overwhelming. The bonds we form with our smaller friends are unique but no less strong than those formed with the canine and feline members or our families. Dealing with the practicalities of pet loss can be challenging at such a very difficult time, and in this article we will help to guide you through some of the choices that you have.
Burial at home
You may wonder if you are able to bury your pet in your garden. This is allowed under UK law as long as several conditions are met:
- Your house should be owned and not rented
- Your pet should not be buried near a water source
- Your pet should not be a hazard to human health, for example if they have been treated with chemotherapy drugs
Home burial in a quiet corner of your garden may be the right choice for you and your pet. Make sure that you bury them at a sufficient depth to reduce the risk that your much-loved friend will be disturbed; a depth of about 60cm is usually sufficient.
It is fine to bury your pet as they are, but small coffins for pets are an option if you prefer. They can be sourced through your local vet practice or pet crematorium or can be purchased online. They range from a simple cardboard construction to more elaborate designs made of bamboo, seagrass or wood. Wooden coffins tend to be the most robust and may be a good choice, especially if you have a pooch with a desire to dig. Or why not make something yourself? You could use a small cardboard box (a shoebox is ideal) and decorate it for a personal touch.
However, if you live in a rented house, move frequently or don’t have a suitable garden, you may need to consider options other than burial.
There are many pet crematoria in the UK who do a wonderful job of treating all our furry friends, no matter how small, with dignity and respect. They usually offer a range of services from general cremation with other pets to individual cremation with return of your pet’s ashes. You may even have the option of arranging a small funeral service.
Your veterinary practice will be able to advise you on a local pet crematorium and can arrange cremation of your pet for you. If you prefer, you may be able to take your pet directly to the crematorium yourself.
- Cremation with other pets
Cremation alongside other pets, without receiving your furry friend’s ashes afterwards, may be the right option for you. Planting a tree or other special plant in your pet’s memory or simply remembering all the happy times you shared may help you through the grieving process.
- Individual cremation
Individual cremation with the return of your pet’s ashes to you can be a popular choice. You can choose to receive you pet’s ashes in a small casket, or you may prefer a simple box so that you can scatter their ashes in a favourite spot in your garden. Whatever your preference, most pet crematoria will do their very best to help you at this difficult time.
Hamsters, hibernating or not?
In the Winter as temperatures drop, hamsters may enter a state of hibernation. During hibernation, the metabolic rate drops, and it can sometimes be tricky to tell if your hamster has entered this cold-weather state or has sadly passed away. If your hamster appears unresponsive it is always best to seek veterinary advice immediately, but how do you tell the difference?
- Check room temperature
If room temperature is above 20oc, your hammie is unlikely to be hibernating and you should seek veterinary advice straight away. If room temperature is low, gradual warming should result in a hibernating hamster waking up over the course of a few hours.
- Check for breathing
Watch your hamster closely to see if they are breathing. You will need to watch carefully for several minutes because during hibernation, they may only take one or two breaths a minute.
- Check for a heartbeat
Place your thumb and first finger either side of your hamster’s chest to see if you can feel a heartbeat.
- Is their body rigid
A rigid body suggests that your hammie has sadly passed away.
Consider a keepsake
Whether your pet dies at home or is ‘put to sleep’ at the vets, a keepsake may help you to cope with your loss and serve as a long-lasting reminder of happier times. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask your vet for a lock of your pet’s hair, or a paw print.
If you would like something a little more permanent, you could have your pet’s ashes enclosed in a beautiful piece of jewellery, or your pet’s paw print on a charm necklace.
If you would like more advice on coping with the loss of your small pet, take a look at: How to cope with the loss of your pet.