An older cat lying down and resting. Photography ©krblokhin | Thinkstock.
An older cat lying down and resting. Photography ©krblokhin | Thinkstock.

Would You Donate Your Cat’s Body to a Vet Education Program?


Whether it’s due to a terminal illness, grave injury or simply old age, the passing of a beloved pet is something we all dread, and yet it’s something most of us must face eventually. When our cats pass over the rainbow bridge, we usually need to decide whether to bury them at home or in a pet cemetery or to have their remains cremated. What many cat owners don’t know is that sometimes there’s a third option. Some pet owners, looking for a way to manage their grief, donate the body of their beloved cat to educational programs, taking solace in the fact that their cat can help other pets, even in the afterlife.

Such programs, which are called educational memorial programs or willed body programs, are modeled after human cadaver donation programs and are offered at several veterinary universities in the United States. If you live close to a veterinary college that offers such services, you might consider donating your cat’s body to contribute to the education of the veterinary students who will one day help countless animals during their careers.

Why should you donate your cat’s body?

An orange and white cat lying on the floor, looking sick.
Would you donate your cat’s body to a vet education program? Photography by Nikolay Bassov | Shutterstock.

Body donation might offer financial benefits, as well. “A veterinary office charges clients for euthanasia and disposal or cremation,” says Liz Harbert, a certified veterinary technician with Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Student Teaching Lab in Corvallis, Oregon, which has a deceased pet donation program. “This could be quite costly for a low-income family. We take the donated pet at no charge to the owner.” Harbert says that another common reason pet owners choose to donate their pet’s bodies is because they like the idea that by helping to teach future veterinarians, their pet’s death will benefit other pets down the line.

Similar to the way donated cadavers are used in human medical school, donated pets are used for educational purposes, not for medical research. “The students learn on cadavers,” Harbert says. “Donated pets are used mostly in our teaching labs for learning to do dentals, tracheostomy, transtracheal washes, thoracotomies, etc.”

How do you donate your late cat’s remains?

Each program has different specifics, but in general, donation arrangements must be made prior to the pet’s death, so this is something to consider ahead of time. Some schools allow you to arrange to donate directly; others have your veterinarian act as a liaison. Usually, you must live within easy driving distance to the veterinary university.

The following schools offer some type of donation program:

  1. Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Corvallis, Oregon
  2. Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, Massachusetts
  3. Western University College of Veterinary Medicine, Pomona, California
  4. University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tell us: What do you think? Would you donate your cat’s body to science?

Thumbnail: Photography ©krblokhin | Thinkstock. 

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7 thoughts on “Would You Donate Your Cat’s Body to a Vet Education Program?”

  1. I have heard of this and would do it, but I am surprised because I thought so many pets were euthanized in shelters that there wouldn’t be a need for this.

  2. Although I have no issue with cadaver donation of people, I am repulsed by the thought of this for my pet cats. Although I know that they are not there, still, it really bothers me, on an emotional level.

  3. My kitty is 12 and doing quit well now. She had all teeth but two pulled;. the problem came from an inherited condition . For 11 years I had no idea the pain she must have suffered!! She ate her food, gained weight and was most the time cheerful. Of course now she’s much happier but she eats a lot more food. I know this is not an isolated case so I think it would be wise to donate her beautiful body to science – if she dies before me,that is.
    Where can I go in Colorado?

  4. I wish I had known this when we lost our beloved kitty to fibrosarcoma following routine rabies vaccine. We put him through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy to give him quality life, but the prognosis is only 18-24 months, and he lived 24 months and one day before showing signs of pain. Cost of burial was barely affordable and of donating his body could have helped future cats I certainly would have considered it.

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