Seven creative ways to honor and memorialize your pets after they pass away

Pet paw prints

There’s nothing that can truly prepare you for the loss of a beloved pet. Whether they pass away suddenly or as a result of old age, saying goodbye to your best friend can be one of the most painful moments you'll experience in life.

Though you’ll always have memories of your time together, you might also find a special way to honor your pet immediately after their death, or for years to come. Celebrating your pet’s life can be an important part of the healing process and helps keep the special love you shared with them alive.

Seven ways to memorialize your pet

Bucket of tennis balls in memory of dog

Tennis balls for park-goers (shared by @samannieand_us_ via @goodnews_movement)

1. Commemorate with others

When coping with the loss of a pet, it can be helpful for some pet parents to lean on their family, friends, and community.

  • Consider hosting a memorial service for your pet — a time for you and those closest to you to share memories and say a final farewell. If you have your pet’s remains, you might bury them or spread their ashes during this time as well.
  • For something a bit more unconventional, reflect on your pet’s favorite activities. Did your pup love to chase tennis balls at the local dog park? Supply the park with a bucket of balls in honor of Fido. Was your cat obsessed with glitter balls? Donate a bundle of your kitty’s favorite toy to a local animal shelter in their memory.

2. Create an outdoor memorial

Did your pet love to sunbathe in your backyard or lounge in the grass near your garden? Consider creating a special place outside in their memory. Put their name on a garden stone and add it to your garden, plant a tree in their honor, or have their name engraved on a bench. If you keep your pet’s remains, you can also bury them in your yard and mark their resting place in one of these ways.

3. Preserve their paw print

Though it’s hard to think of this in advance — or you may simply not have the opportunity you might try to capture your pet’s paw print either in ink or with a simple salt dough. You could keep the print in a box with other mementos, use it to create custom artwork or a tattoo, or turn the dough print into an ornament. Many veterinary clinics also offer this service when it’s time to say goodbye. Animal Humane Society’s end-of-life services, for example, include a card containing your pet’s paw print.

Custom watercolor pet portrait

Custom watercolor pet portrait

4. Customize art or jewelry

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to personalizing artwork or a piece of jewelry in honor of a pet. Turn your favorite photo into a custom watercolor pet portrait, or have your four-legged family member’s nose or paw print engraved into a necklace. Some artists will even incorporate a portion of your pet’s ashes into jewelry or pottery. Reach out to a local artist or search an online marketplace for the right token for you. 

5. Get a tattoo

Some pet parents may choose to carry their pet with them in a more personal and permanent way. A talented tattoo artist can craft a custom portrait of your pet from a photograph, or replicate their actual paw or nose print if you have it on paper. Alternatively, a simple paw print with your pet’s name and/or a heart can also serve as a constant reminder of your faithful companion. You can find countless ideas for commemorating your pet on your skin with a simple image search.

Dog tattoo

Custom pet portrait tattoo

6. Celebrate their birthday or anniversary date of their passing

Whether visiting a special place frequented with a pet or simply looking back through old photos, some pet parents will commemorate their late friend’s birthday or anniversary of their passing. This can serve as a dedicated time each year to reflect and celebrate just how much your pet meant to you.

7. Give to animals in need

Honor your pet by giving another animal a second chance at a happy life. To help animals in need, consider donating to AHS in tribute to your pet. Your gift directly impacts the animals in our shelters by providing them with medical and behavioral care and helping them find the loving homes they deserve.

Saying goodbye is never easy. However you choose to honor your pet, know that your love for them will live on well past the all-too-brief time you had together. And sometimes, while the loss of one animal can cause an overwhelming amount of grief, welcoming a new one into your home (when you’re ready of course), can lift you out of sadness and remind you of all the reasons we choose to love and lose in the first place.

Preserving or donating your pet’s remains

Animal Humane Society provides end-of-life services, including euthanasia, at a reduced cost to pet owners. If you wish to keep your pet’s remains, you can reclaim your beloved pet’s body for burial or do a private cremation to retain their ashes. For those who do not wish to keep the remains of their pet, communal cremation services or our Willed Body Donation Program are available.

For caring, compassionate advice and resources to address all your animal concerns.

Contact the Pet Helpline