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.
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.”
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.
Tell us: What do you think? Would you donate your cat’s body to science?
Thumbnail: Photography ©krblokhin | Thinkstock.
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