Considering that 67% of U.S. households own at least one pet, it’s safe to assume that our non-human companions are an important part of our lives—and they’re still growing in importance. In fact, pet ownership has increased over the years.
Since 1988, pet ownership has risen by 11%, bringing us to the 84.9 million United States households that currently have a pet today, many of which own multiple. Dogs and cats continue to be the most popular, but many others, including fish, birds, horses, small animals (like hamsters and guinea pigs), and reptiles (like snakes and turtles), have become permanent residents in American homes.
Topics Covered in this article
Many of those who have a furry (or scaly) companion view it as more than a living thing they own. A 2020 study by Ameritrade found that 79% of owners say their pet is their best friend. What’s more, 71% of millennials with “fur babies” say it’s their starter child.
And like children, it costs a lot of money to raise a “fur baby.” According to APPA, $95.7 billion was spent on pets in the U.S. in 2019 alone—that’s an increase of more than $5 billion from the previous year. After all, food, vet visits, grooming, pet insurance, and other related costs can really add up over time.
But unfortunately, our pets don’t live on forever—at least, not physically. Each type of pet has a different life expectancy and some live longer than others. You may only have your hamster for 2 years, or you could end up living with your lizard for 30!
But no matter how long we’d have a pet in our lives, be it for many years or only a few months, it’s not any easier when they move on from this life. In our survey on burial preferences in the United States, we found that some people love their pets so much they want to be buried with them—19% of Americans reported their desire to be buried with a pet or loved one’s remains.
Like humans, the most common burial methods for pets are traditional burial in the ground or cremation. This may be partially due to tradition, but other factors play into it, such as cost and practicality.
According to Dr. Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS, who is a veterinarian at Breed Advisor, cremation is more popular than burial— “But that might be partly due to a lack of suitable options. Pet cemeteries are few and far between, and many owners don’t want to have to travel to visit their companion,” she says.
It turns out that search data supports Dr. Woodnutt’s claim. We found that throughout 2020, there was significantly more interest for the search term “pet cremation” compared to “pet burial” in the United States.
Although cremation may be a more popular option for burying pets, there are over 200 currently operating pet cemeteries in the U.S. Florida contains the most, housing 17 pet cemeteries, followed by Pennsylvania with 14 and New York with 13.
Although the traditional method and cremation remain the most common, there are still other options for burying our pets once they’ve passed on; it just depends on what you’re willing to pay.
Traditional burial at home: $0
A home burial can be the most affordable and personal burial option, depending on where you live. It won’t cost you anything to bury your pet in your yard, but there are a few things to keep in mind as each state has its own laws and regulations for doing so.
Traditional burial in a pet cemetery: $470+ on average
Pet cemeteries give you a place to form a memorial for your beloved animal friend where you can visit them any time you like. The cost varies depending on how large your pet is. Plots are often sold based on the pet’s size or its casket, meaning a small cat will cost less than a large dog. The average plot costs between $400 and $600, plus the price of a basic casket, starting at $50 or so. A grave marker can cost anywhere from $20 for a small one to hundreds of dollars if you want a larger headstone similar to what you might see in a typical cemetery.
Cremation: $130+ on average
Cremation is an affordable and practical option since owners can take their pet’s cremains with them if they move. With a cremation, there are two options: a private service, where your pet will be the only one being cremated, or a communal option in which they will cremate other pets at the same time. Private cremations typically cost about $150, and communal are about $70. On top of that, you’ll have to add in the cost of an urn to hold the ashes which start at about $50, but can be more expensive and elaborate if you wish.
Recomposition: Starts at $99
Should you choose to take a natural approach, you can have your pet’s remains converted into usable compost. The soil made from your pet gets donated to reforestation projects, and a tree gets planted to honor your best friend.
Aquamation: starts at $70
Also known as alkaline hydrolysis, aquamation is similar to cremation in that it leaves you with powdered remains. It’s becoming more popular as an alternative to cremation since it doesn’t emit as much carbon or greenhouse gases. It usually starts at $70 or so but can be more depending on the company you use. Aquamation is not legal in all states, and you can only use this method if you live in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, or Wyoming.
Taxidermy: starting at $500
To keep a more lifelike version of your pet around, you may choose to have it taxidermied. The process of taxidermy starts at about $500 and increases in price the larger your pet is. As a note, some states or taxidermy offices won’t allow for pets to be taxidermied, or they’ll only allow it for certain animals.
Mummification: starting at $9,000 for small pets
An ancient Egyptian practice, mummification is the most uncommon and the most expensive way to bury your furry friend. For small pets, it will cost you $9,000 for the process. And if you want an elaborate sarcophagus, it can cost you thousands more. Plus, Utah is the only place in the world where you can have your pet mummified.
If you’d rather have something other than an urn for your pet’s ashes, there are lots of companies that will turn them into something else for you. That means you could do almost anything, from turning your sweet friend’s cremains into diamond jewelry to pressing them into a working vinyl record. Note that each of the prices below does not take the cost of cremation into account.
Remembrance Stone – Starts at $99
Turn your pet’s ashes into a memorial stone that can be placed in your yard or home.
Pottery – Starts at $145
Choose a potter to mix the ashes with potting clay, and have your pet turned into a ceramic piece of your choice.
Stained glass – Starts at $100 per square foot
The ashes will be mixed with glass and used to make a beautifully stained glass piece. You’ll even be able to choose the design, so you can have a stained glass portrait of your pal.
Tattoo – Starts at $289 (Ink Only—Labor Not Included)
The cremains are put through a sterilized process and mixed with tattoo ink, which you can take to a tattoo artist to use in a real tattoo. Get your pet’s name tattooed or your favorite portrait of them.
Coral Reef – Starts at $2,400
Your pet’s remains are mixed into a substance similar to concrete and molded into an artificial reef that can support underwater life.
Painting – Starts at $250
The ashes of your pet are mixed with special paint and used to create a unique piece of art that will remind you of them.
Planted as a Tree – Starts at $50
Put your pet’s cremains into a biodegradable urn (bio-urn) that can be planted and grow into a tree.
Printed Portrait – Starts at $127
Pick the image you want to represent your pet and use your pet’s ashes in a canvas print.
Diamond – Starts at $2,200
Compress your pet’s remains into a diamond. You can choose the color, cut, and type of jewelry you want to use it in and wear it to honor your pet’s memory.
Vinyl Record – Starts at $1,160
Have the cremains pressed into a working vinyl record. You can decide what sound clips to include on it, so you can listen to those barks or meows whenever you want.
Launch Into Space – Starts at $2,500
If you thought your pet was out of this world, you can show it by sending their ashes into space.
No matter what burial method people choose for their pets, most want a keepsake to honor and remember their best friends. Many choose to take a paw impression or keep some hair or whiskers. But there are other creative options to choose from as well.
Press your pet’s paw into clay to preserve their paw print. Paw impressions can usually be done at a vet clinic.
Hair and Whiskers
Cut off some of your pal’s hair or whiskers to keep in an envelope, vial, or use it in a memorial ornament.
Nose and Paw Castings
You can get a casting of your pet’s nose or paw. This casting can then be used to make other objects, like necklaces or decorative pieces.
Paw and Tail Preservation
Instead of taxidermying an entire animal, you can have just the tail or paw preserved.
Skull and Bones
Your pet’s skull and bones are cleaned and sanitized from bacteria so you can keep them for years to come without them decaying.
Jewelry and Decor
A few preservation specialists offer completely unique pieces of jewelry and decor that incorporate almost any part of your pet—from their teeth to their actual heart. You just need to find and commission someone to do it for you.
No matter what role your pet has played in your life, they’ll always be important! Like people, pets have unique personalities, which can be showcased through the many ways we honor their memory once they’ve passed on.
We looked at various data sets, studies, and surveys related to pets, pet ownership, and burial practices. We also looked at Google Trends data for 2020.