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Pet cremation: 10 worst nightmares and how to avoid them

When it comes to pet cremations there are always some horror stories that people will always remember from reading, with that being on social media or in the news. I have read many. They are horrifying – and they make you think about who you can trust with cremating our pets. Let’s go through some of the possible questions that we may ask when it comes to cremations and see how we can avoid them. 

I’m worried I’m not getting just my animals ashes back?

When you talk to people about having their animals cremated, their big question is always “how do you know it is your pet’s ashes you’re getting back” – and not another or a bundle of random ash. People always seem more and more sceptical on this subject… Probably because there has in the past been some bad press about pet cremation services. 

There has to be a part of us that has to trust the cremation company to do this correctly – but it’s always worthwhile checking. If you find a company that people have good experience with and it has great reviews, then this is ideal. Your vet is also responsible for doing “due diligence” (at least here in the UK) if you arrange cremation through them, and this is something we’d recommend, because it’s so important to be able to trust the people that we hand our pets over to for their last journey. The good news is that not everyone is out to scam people!

I forgot to ask for a hair clipping and paw print?

This could be a nightmare. This part needs to be decided before you leave your pet to be cremated. Remember, often at private crematoria, pets are cremated straight away so this could be too late. Once they have begun the cremation service then it is too late for them to be able to do this. Having a paw print or hair clippings needs to be asked for before you leave your pet – or before your vet transfers them to the crematorium. 

Another potential problem is if the crematorium or the practice has forgotten to take hair clippings or do a paw print for you. Unfortunately, this is human error and this could be too late to change, it can be very upsetting to us as owners. 

We’d suggest trying to do your own hair clippings, just in case, and maybe paw prints too.

My pet’s ashes came back in the wrong casket?

This can cause some distress to us as owners, because at the end of the day we just want our pets back to us as soon as possible and as we requested. Sometimes communication is lost and sometimes these mistakes can happen. 

As owners it’s important to reiterate the option we choose and make sure it is written down. If this happens, even though it can cause some distress, it is easily and quickly corrected.

My pet’s name is wrong on the information – does that mean that this isn’t my pet?

Often names get misspelt on paper work or on plaques on a casket or urn. It isn’t uncommon for this to happen. Obviously in practice we always try to make sure everything is spelt correctly, but sometimes mistakes do happen, especially with less common names. If your pets’ ashes are returned and there are spelling mistakes this is just a genuine mistake, it doesn’t mean this isn’t your pet. Even if the name is wrong, it’s very likely that the wrong plaque was used on the right box, as the (generally excellent) record-keeping in a good crematorium is focussed on the ashes not the boxes.

I don’t know where my pet is being cremated.

Unfortunately, this is a common problem: under the circumstances, we don’t usually think to ask where our pets go. This is more commonly a problem when we leave our pets in a vet practice and they arrange the cremation. Owners aren’t always informed about what company they use for this service. It is always ideal to ask and check what company they use to put your mind at rest – or alternatively to choose a more local place. 

The difference between communal cremation and individual cremation. 

There are a few options when it comes to cremation. Firstly, do you want your pets’ ashes back? Having a pet’s ashes back means your pet has been cremated individually. 

If you don’t want any ashes back then pets get what we call communally cremated which means they get cremated with other animals and their ashes scattered. 

It’s very important to understand the difference and to make a definite decision on what option you would like to choose. Remember, if you decide later on then it might be too late. A nightmare would be if you choose communal cremation then change your mind to individual, as this could be too late.

Trying to find a cremation company to trust.

This can be a nightmare, especially if you’ve been fortunate to have never used these services before. From experience I think the use of social media and reviews online and word of mouth are the best way to find a reputable pet crematorium. Word of mouth plays a big part in giving good reviews. 

Searching on, say, Google will bring up several crematoriums that you may have never heard of in your area, but do you know anyone that has used them? Just because they are local doesn’t mean they have a good reputation. 

Ask around, read google reviews, search on social media. It’s always good to look on their website. Personally I would stick to family run companies rather than these big ones, as family run companies are more personal. 

Always look to see if they are members of the Association of Private Pet Cemeteries and Crematoria (APPCC). This means the crematorium has received strict inspections and has passed. To find an approved company near you, you can check on the APPCC membership page.

It is ideal to have a good look around, see what is out there. This is your pet’s final journey and we don’t want it to be stressful.

My pet’s cremation is taking longer than I thought.

This doesn’t mean they have lost your pet or anything terrible has happened. Often this occurs when we use the veterinary practice’s service. Ashes usually take 1 to 2 weeks to return. You should be made aware of this when making this decision. One way to solve this problem is to use a local pet crematorium, which often you can get booked in on the same day and collect your pet’s ashes the following day. 


Often pets get left with toys, blankets or collars on. A nightmare would be if these were cremated with the pet but the owner wanted to keep them. Unfortunately, this does happen as they have been left with the pet it may be presumed that they wanted to be cremated with them. It is important that anything like this that you would want to keep it’s taken away with you rather than being left. Otherwise, it can cause much upset. 

I thought my pet had been sent off for cremation. 

This quite commonly happens within the veterinary practice rather than when you got to a private crematorium. When we unexpectedly lose our pets we haven’t had time to think about what cremation option we would like. With this, it means that your pets’ body is held within the practice until a decision has been made. 

Some of us do forget that we haven’t made a decision and are shocked to find our pets bodies haven’t been cremated. To avoid this, we need to think and communicate as soon as a decision has been made. Some errors can occur and someone has forgotten to arrange the cremation, therefore our pets are still waiting, this is human error, which is a nightmare because after all we are waiting but again can easily be corrected. 


I’m sure most people have heard, read a nightmare story. Everyone will have their own experience, there might be nightmares I may not have even spoken about; everyone has their own. A lot of the nightmares come down to communication between owners, the veterinary practice, and the crematorium. It’s so important we get this process right to avoid anything going wrong. So at the end of the day – talk to us at the vets and make it very clear what you want, and we’ll try and sort it!

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