What to do when your rat dies

Your veterinarian will be able to help you decide how to proceed if your pet is euthanized. If your rat passes at home, your vet will still be able to help you. If you’d like to take care of the remains yourself, you have lots of options. Pet cremations and burials are becoming more common. If you have children, a burial might be able to help them understand or at least say good-bye.


Did your rat come from Echo Rattery? If so, you may be under contract to have your rat necropsied. A necropsy is an autopsy done on animals. It’s best if done by a pathologist, but your rat-experienced vet may be able to do an adequate job also. Echo Rattery strongly supports a necropsy on any breeding animal or animal in a multiple-rat house. For more information on necropsies, check out Echo’s article and Dr. Sue Brown’s article.

Michigan Laws

If you’d like to bury your rat, Michigan has some laws regarding animal burials. Complete information on the Bodies of Dead Animals Act can be found at http://www.mda.state.mi.us. Passed in 1982, this public act guidelines disposal methods, conditional exemptions, temporary options and violations. In general, all dead animals must be disposed of within 24 hours after death. The following methods are allowed by law: burial, burning, composting or rendering. Composting is allowed for poultry only, and most of us would rather not have our rats be put into pet food, so details of burials, cremations and temporary cold storage are included here.


Burials are permitted under the following conditions: all body parts must be buried at least 2 feet below the natural surface, burials must have the landowner’s permission, carcasses must not come in contact with the Great Lakes or any surface bodies of water or groundwater, graves must not be within 200 feet of any existing groundwater well. Individual graves must be separated by at least 2.5 feet and no more than 100 individual graves are allowed per acre.


Burning is permitted under the following conditions: burning must take place in a location that does not cause a public nuisance and residues must be buried as outlined, land-applied at agronomic rates. If you’re interested in cremation, you can go to your vet clinic, Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, or a licensed pet cemetery. Urns can be bought from popular pet catalogs or some pet cemeteries.

Cold Storage

Dead animals may stored temporarily for up to seven days in a secured, temporary cold storage at a maximum of 40 degrees F. If longer temporary storage is required, dead animals may be frozen and securely stored at 9 degrees F or below for a maximum of 30 days. At the end of the maximum storage period, carcasses must be disposed of. No cause for alarm if you keep your rats in your freezer though; the MDA is unlikely to enforce this upon private individuals.

Michigan pet cemeteries and crematories

Heavenly Acres Pet Cemetery
501 S. Kellogg Road, Howell

Country Meadows Pet Cemetery
5401 N. Michigan Rd (M-99), Dimondale

Key-Lore Pet Rest Gardens
7185 Gillette Road, Flushing

Partridge Enterprises Inc Pet Cemetery and Crematory
2000 Paragon Road, Tipton
4705 Industrial Drive, Clark Lake

Rainbow Bridge Pet Crematorium
2920 W. Airport Service Drive, Lansing
517-432-2696 – Support Line

Online Help:

Remember Our Pets
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Pet Loss
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Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
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