Fish are the third most popular pet in America after dogs and cats. Reptiles and small mammals or “pocket pets” like mice, rats, and hamsters are also found in many homes. Though these small exotics are often left out of the conversation about pet ownership, no creature is too small to have a big place in your heart.
If you are the pet parent of a small rodent or exotic, you may not know what options are available to you when they die or how to best handle the remains of your companion. Here are a few things to consider when planning end-of-life care for your fish, reptile, hamster or other pocket pet.
A goldfish or hamster is often a child’s first pet, and its passing may be a child’s first encounter with death. Parents may wish to spend some time with their child to plan a memorial service as a way to help them through their first experience with grief.
Adults grieve the loss of their small pets, too. Caring for an aquarium is a labor of love, and you’ve spent time tending to the needs of these creatures and living alongside them. You know better than anyone how much personality can fit into a small package and how much affection a little animal can provide. Honoring your pet’s memory with a tribute ritual is a way to acknowledge the important role they played in your life. It’s also an act that helps you recognize your loss and begin to heal.
Although the media has popularized the idea of flushing fish, this is not a good option for disposing of their little bodies. It’s not exactly a dignified farewell for the creature you’ve cared about for a lifetime. It also poses a threat to both the plumbing system and the water supply. Many sewage systems lead to nearby streams and rivers, and not every disease that can affect a fish or aquatic animal will necessarily be filtered out at a treatment plant.
It is better to bury your little companion or arrange for cremation. If you’ll be choosing burial, you can bury the animal directly in the ground, or use a cloth shroud or biodegradable cardboard or wooden casket. Wrapping the body in a plastic bag and placing it in a freezer until burial or cremation allows you to take your time making final arrangements. Some pet owners make the choice to keep their pets preserved in a freezer until multiple companions can be cremated together at one time.
Because they are so small, people often assume that goldfish, geckos, mice and other tiny pets cannot be cremated. In fact, there is no animal too small for cremation! However, bear in mind that most of what you receive after cremation is bone ash tumbled to a finer consistency. Small animals will produce a very small amount of ash, and some identifiable bone fragments may remain.
Since such a small portion of ash is created, a pet’s cremated remains are perfect for keeping them close by through cremation keepsakes such as lockets or pendants. Alternatively, you may wish to scatter or bury the ashes in your garden or even a potted plant that can be brought with you if you move to another place. On the other hand, you might prefer a group cremation, which would allow your pet to be cremated at the same time as several others. This option is less expensive, and the ashes will be respectfully scattered in a dedicated pet memorial space so you won’t have to worry about what to do with them yourself.
If you’re interested in learning more about our cremation services, you can reach out to discuss your options with a member of our staff at Best Friends Pet Cremations. Just call 505-345-5615. We’re happy to answer your questions and work with you to find a way to keep the memory of your pocket pets close to your heart.
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