How Do You Bury A Small Pet? (Hamster, Puppy, Bird, Lizard)

When a pet dies it can hurt just as much as losing a friend or relative, and sometimes more. I remember losing many dogs and cats over the years and I’ve helped to bury them too.

The best way to bury a small animal is to wrap them in a blanket or place them in a small biodegradable box, burying them at least two feet below the ground. Ensure the grave isn’t near any water sources or utilities and get the permission of your local authorities to have a burial on the land.

Although I have always buried my deceased pet in the backyard, not every one has the permission or possibility of doing that. So, in this article I will go through some of the options you have to bury a pet, even a small one.

Before I go any further I would just like to remind you that feeling extreme grief for a deceased pet is quite common and if you feel you need someone to speak to I’ve had great success with these grief counselors who you can contact from the comfort of your own home.

How Do You Bury A Small Pet

How to bury a pet the right way

Before you pick up a shovel, you need to do two things. Firstly, you need to know if you have the legal right to bury your pet in the patch of earth you are eyeing up.

I’ve gone through a long process of reading every law in every state to give you a near-perfect list below. Nevertheless, give your local authorities a call if you have any doubts.

Secondly, you need to be sure that burial is the best option for you. A home burial may be cheaper but it limits you in the future, more on this later on in this article.

When you have decided that you do want to bury your pet on your own property, here is what you should do.

Step 1:

Place your pet in a blanket or cardboard box. If you are burying a very small pet such as a hamster, you may want to use an even smaller box. Try to avoid using any materials that won’t break down over time such as plastics or metals.

Step 2:

Carefully cut away and remove any turf on the grave and save it for later. You want to dig a rectangular hole that is about 2-3 inches wider and longer than the container you are using as a casket. So make sure that the patch of turf you cut away is a little wide than the grave, which will make it easier to replace and regrow.

Step 3:

Place a plastic sheet, bag or blanket next to the intended grave site so that you can pile the soil onto it. This will make it easier to backfill the grave later and will leave your yard looking cleaner when you finish.

Step 4:

Using a spade or trowel, did a grave that is at least 2 feet deep or as deep as 3 if you have scavengers and pests in the area. You don’t need to dig the grave as deep as one intended for humans, but that extra depth will ensure that nothing digs your darling pet up later.

Titan Caskets

Step 5:

Place your pet in the grave and, if you want to, say a few words or read a poem. I remember when my cat died as a child I said my goodbyes as my dad went onto the next step, backfilling the grave.

Step 6:

Careful backfill the grave until it’s about half full. At this stage, you can place a paving slab or a layer of rocks if you are really concerned about scavengers targeting your pet’s grave. Then shovel in the rest of the soil.

Step 7:

You can now mark the grave with a large stone or a genuine headstone if you want. In my family, we would always plant a tree over the gravesite, which I think is a nice green option.

Pets you can easily bury at home

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Ferrets
  • Gerbils
  • Hamsters
  • Rabbits
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Chinchillas
  • Bearded Dragons
  • Common Leopard Geckos
  • Turtles
  • Tortoises
  • Corn Snakes
  • Ball Pythons
  • Crested Geckos
  • Monitor Lizards
  • Green Iguanas
  • Red-Eared Sliders
  • Chinese Water Dragon
  • Green Anole
  • Parrots
  • Cockatiels
  • Budgies
  • Cockatoos
  • Canaries
  • Lovebirds
  • Parakeets
  • Chickens

Animals you can’t easily bury at home

  • Horses
  • Ponies
  • Big cats – e.g. Tigers
  • Cows
  • Pigs
  • Sheep

For more information about being buried with your pet in the USA, please refer to my full article here.

Home burial laws by US State (with Resources)

state laws

Most states will allow you to bury a pet in your backyard under certain circumstances. usually a depth of the grave is stipulated and that it is not near any drinking water source and will not interfere with neighbors.

Some counties within states have their own laws and pet burial may be permitted in one part of the state but not in the other. It’s always best to ask your veteraniran about the local laws near you.

Below is a handy table with a quick reference for your state and some additional resources. Where you see a “✔️” and “N/A” in the notes, it means that no actual law prohibits home pet burials, but you should probably double-check with your local government, which you can find in the contact section of the table.

StateIs home pet burial legal?NotesLocal contactsFurther reading
& resources
Alabama✔️Grave to be 2 feet deeplinkMore info
Alaska✔️N/AlinkMore info
ArizonaMost communities
don’t allow this
linkMore info
ArkansasPets must be disposed of within 12 hourslinkMore info
CaliforniaN/AlinkMore info
Colorado✔️Legal but with limitationslinkMore info
Connecticut✔️A two foot grave is recommendedlinkMore info
Delaware✔️Legal but only away from water sourceslinkMore info
Florida✔️Contaminated pets should be crematedlinkMore info
Georgia✔️A two foot grave is recommendedlinkMore info
Hawaii✔️Some HOA ban this thoughlinkMore info
Idaho✔️Grave must be 3 feet deeplinkMore info
Illinois✔️Contaminated pets should be crematedlinkMore info
Indiana✔️Grave must be 4 feet deeplinkMore info
Iowa✔️Some HOA ban this thoughlinkMore info
Kansas✔️Legal but with environmental restrictionslinkMore info
Kentucky✔️Grave must be 4 feet deep and 100 feet from a water sourcelinkMore info
Louisiana✔️Grave must be 6 feet deeplinkMore info
Maine✔️Legal but with health restrictionslinkMore info
Maryland✔️Grave must be 4 feet deeplinkMore info
Massachusetts✔️Legal in some counties but not alllinkMore info
Michigan✔️Legal but not near a water sourcelink
More info
Minnesota✔️Legal but not near a water sourcelinkMore info
Mississippi✔️Grave must be 2 feet deeplinkMore info
Missouri✔️Grave must be 300 feet from a neighbor and away from a water sourcelinkMore info
Montana✔️Grave must be 2 feet deeplinkMore info
Nebraska✔️Grave must be 5 feet deep and 500 feet from a water sourcelinkMore info
Nevada✔️Grave must be 3 feet deeplinkMore info
New Hampshire✔️Grave must be 75 feet from a water sourcelinkMore info
New Jersey✔️Grave must be 2 feet deeplinkMore info
New Mexico✔️with permission from the HOAlinkMore info
New York✔️N/AlinkMore info
North Carolina✔️Grave must be 3 feet deep and burial done within 24 hours of deathlinkMore info
North Dakota✔️Grave must be 3 feet deeplinkMore info
Ohio✔️You should contact your local authorities before buriallinkMore info
Oklahoma✔️Grave must be 3 feet deeplinkMore info
Oregon✔️Grave must be 3 feet deeplinkMore info
Pennsylvania✔️Burial must happen within 48 hours of deathlinkMore info
Rhode Island✔️N/AlinkMore info
South Carolina✔️Grave should be at least 1 foot deeplinkMore info
South Dakota✔️Grave needs to be 3 feet deep and burial within 36 hours of deathlinkMore info
Tennessee✔️Grave must be 3 feet deep and away from water sourceslinkMore info
Texas✔️Grave should be at least 3 foot deeplinkMore info
Utah✔️Burial within 48 hours of deathlinkMore info
Vermont✔️N/AlinkMore info
Virginia✔️Burial within 48 hours of deathlinkMore info
Washington✔️N/AlinkMore info
Washington DC✔️Grave should be at least 3 foot deeplinkMore info
West Virginia✔️Grave should be at least 3 foot deeplinkMore info
Wisconsin✔️Legal in some countieslinkMore info
Wyoming✔️Legal in some countieslinkMore info

Funeral options for pets (cremation, burial, trash disposal)

If you don’t have a backyard to bury your pet in or if you live in a place where this practice is illegal, there are plenty of other options for you to dispose of your deceased pet.

Pet cemeteries

In many states where it is illegal to bury your pet in the backyard there will be a number of pet cemeteries, sometimes attached to regular burial grounds.

I research over 20 different pet cemeteries across the country to get an idea of the rates they charge for a private and communal burial.

The average cost of a pet burial is $639,04. Communal burials are cheaper and can be as low as $50 with private burials starting at around $205. The top packages for pet burial can be as much as $1,990. Transportation and maintenance costs are not always included in the package price, however.

If you want to pick up a quality urn or memorial for your beloved pet I would really recommend OneWorld Memorial which offers a wide range of products for both pet and human memorials. I was personally very happy with an urn I bought from them recently.

Here are some examples of pet cemeteries from around the country and their average prices for pet burials.

Pet cemeteryStateAverage
price of burial
The Forest Conservation BurialOregon$375site
Garden Of The PinesVirginia$597.50site
Woodside pet cemeteryOhio$349site
Precious Memories Pet CemeteryColorado$1,050site
Dixie memorial pet cemeteryTennessee $800site
Rest HavenMaryland$1,990site
Rest HavenTennessee$137.50site
Westport pet memorialWisconsin$712.50site
Rolling Acres Pet CemeteryNebraska$280site
Forrest run Pet TributesWisconsin$450site
Hinsdale Pet MemorialIllinois$897.54site
Tooth AcresTexas$560site

If you are planning to bury a small pet and even a larger one such as a cat or dog, be prepared to part with some serious cash unless you choose a communal burial.

However, be sure to contact your local pet cemetery as the prices may vary depending on what pet you actually want to bury. The prices here are more than likely aimed at larger animals.

Pet cremation

Of all the pet cemeteries that I spoke to during my research, pet cremation seemed to be their main business offering. when you are not allowed to bury your pet in your own backyard, you may be forced to cremate them.

The average price of pet cremation is $233.04. Communal cremations are a fraction of that cost, starting at only $25-$50 whereas private cremation starts at $100-$140. The cremation cost is based on weight, with animals over 200 lbs costing around $245-$500 depending on the locations.


Pet cemeteryStateAverage
price of cremation
Garden Of The PinesVirginia$220site
Precious Memories Pet CemeteryColorado$222.50site
Petland Cemetery IncWashington$175site
Rest HavenMaryland$245site
Peaceful Shores Vet HospiceMassachusetts$267.50site
Westport Pet MemorialWisconsin$352.50site
Rolling Acres Pet CemeteryNebraska$65site
Forrest run Pet TributesWisconsin$220site
Abbey GlenNew Jersey$298.50site
Sorrento Valley Pet CemeteryCalifornia$343site
Rolling Acres Memorial GardensMissouri$135site
Hinsdale Pet MemorialIllinois$170site
Tooth AcresTexas$185site
Heaven’s PetsLouisiana$225site
Resthaven Pet ServicesTennessee$130site

Some packages do include a grave marker and casket, whereas others do not and these are additional fees, and not always optional

Water cremation

Water cremation is another way to dispose of your deceased pet. It involves reducing the body down using a chemical solution rather than heat. It costs around $150-$400 depending on the size of the animal and can be cheaper than regular cremation in some cases.

Garbage disposal

Most location authorities that I researched will also accept the remains of dead animals when collecting another refuse. The animal normally has to be below a certain weight, 60 pounds seems the average quoted, and must be stowed in a sealed plastic garbage bag. You should notify the collection staff of what is inside, but they will dispose of the animal for you.

Nevertheless, I cannot imagine putting my dog Mia in a garbage bag when she passes away and throwing her in the bin. I feel that most pet owners, even for pocket pets, this really isn’t a good option. But, if you have no other choice at least you know this does happen.

Do you need a pet casket?

If you are performing a home burial in most cases you won’t need a pet casket, a blanket or large carboard or wicker box will do. When burying a pet in a pet cemetery, you will probably be offered a casket as part of the package. Make sure that you shop around though as you can find the same caskets for cheaper online.

My recommendations:

Premium Wood Pet Casket (Handcrafted)

Link to this product on Amazon

Prestige Wicker Luxury Willow Pet Casket

Link to this product on Amazon

Eco-Friendly Pet Burial & Cremation Cocoon Kit

Link to this product on Amazon

Eco-Friendly Pet Burial & Cremation Cloud Kit

Link to this product on Amazon

How deep should you bury a pet?

All pet graves should be dug at least 2 feet deep and not within 100 feet of a potable water source. It is also recommended that the water table should be at least 10 feet below the surface when digging the grave. Graves should be far away from other residences not to cause a nuisance.

Why you shouldn’t bury your pet in the backyard?

Even when home pet burial is legal in your state, you may not want to bury your pet in your backyard if you aren’t in your forever home. You are unlikely to exhume a pet when you move, but it may be unpleasant to leave them when relocating. A permanent burial in a pet cemetery may be preferable.

Today Americans are much more likely to live in several different homes during their life time and even as you get older you may feel the need to downsize. Although there is nothing wrong with leaving your pets in the yard when you leave, you won’t be able to visit the site if you feel the urge in the future.

A pet cemetery gives you this option for many years to come as they are very unlikely to be redeveloped or made inaccessible to the public.

Should you bury your pet in a plastic bag?

I am personally against doing this and I explain exactly why I think that you shouldn’t bury your pet, such as a dog, in a plastic bag. You can read about it in my full article here.

Can you plant a tree over a dead pet (dog, cat, rabbit)?

In my family, we have always had this tradition as it not only marked the graves of Tessie, Fern, and Todd but it has also given them an eco-friendly legacy that just added to their natural burial. Of course, you can only do this on land you own or when you have permission to do so.

However, if you plan to have your pet cremated and then you want to plant a tree with their cremains, you may have an issue. Cremated remains are often full of harmful sodium and don’t have the correct Ph level for plants to thrive.

The best way around this is to neutralize the ashes by diluting them with soil that carries the right types of nutrients. You can even get special eco-friendly urns that do this for you. You see my suggestions below.

Bios Memorial Pet Loss Urn 

Link to this product on Amazon

KIRI Bio Urn

Link to this product on Amazon

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