Growing demand for pet cremation and columbarium services
Two companies offering cremation and columbarium services for pets have expanded because of growing demand
Every so often, a columbarium in Pasir Ris is packed with visitors carrying tributes for their loved ones.
But instead of flowers and joss sticks, they place old toys and cans of Cesar or Whiskas in the see-through niches.
This is no regular columbarium for humans, but one meant for pets.
Handwritten notes with touching messages, as well as mementoes and photos from when the pet was alive, decorate each niche.
This and other services for pets have surged in popularity in recent years, says Mr Patrick Lim Thye Song, the undertaker at Pets Cremation Centre in Pasir Ris Farmway 2.
His is one of only two companies here that offer pet owners a place to house their pets' remains after they die. Nearly all of its 300 niches are filled up, so in 2011, he expanded his business to another facility in Ubi.
Among the animals at rest there are dogs, cats, hamsters and even a luohan fish and a racehorse.
Says Mr Lim, 63: "When pets die, their owners grieve as though a sibling or a child has passed away. Funeral services give them the closure they need."
He cremates more than a hundred animals every month, sometimes getting calls in the middle of the night to attend to the death of a pet.
"Pet owners want a solution as soon as possible. When they are so upset, few people can bear to leave the bodies lying there," he adds.
Cremation can be done in his industrial-sized medical incinerator (above) on the same day.
After that, owners can choose to take the ashes home, store it in his columbarium, or have Mr Lim arrange to scatter it at sea.
Because "pets nowadays have many human friends", Mr Lim has to manage large crowds of people wishing to send the deceased creature off at the funeral service.
His most bizarre case was when a large group of monks decided to cremate a Pomeranian that lived in their temple. It came complete with funeral rites and chants.
The other company offering columbarium services - Mount Pleasant Pet Cremation Centre - has also seen a surge in popularity.
Like Mr Lim's company, it expanded to another columbarium in Mandai earlier this year. This is on top of its existing Whitley Road facility, which is reaching its maximum capacity.
Ms Ling Ing, an administrator at Mount Pleasant, says this is because this is the only "safe" option for owners as there are no burial sites earmarked for animals here.
Says Ms Ling: "Without a burial ground, cremation is the only choice for them."
The other legal option is to put the carcass into a plastic bag and throw it away in a bin to be disposed off by public waste collectors.
After all, niches don't come cheap.
To own a niche at Mount Pleasant would cost $250 each year for the first two years, and $200 each year thereafter.
Rates are slightly lower at Mr Lim's company, with the first year costing $300 and $180 per year after that.
While it may seem like the niches are generating a steady profit for him, he says that the future of the Pasir Ris columbarium is uncertain as the land lease expires in 2017.
Ms Ling says the extension on the lease for Mount Pleasant's Whitley Road columbarium also ends that year."We have already informed our clients. For now, we don't really know what will happen yet."
Eases pain for owners
Services such as pet cremation can help owners to cope with the sudden loss of a pet, says one pet owner.
"The end of a pet's life is something that all owners must prepare for, but sometimes it can be a bit too sudden to accept," says Madam May Liew, 38.
"For people who are very attached to their pets, it can be a nightmare."
The office administrator lost her pet Labrador to a sudden heart attack two years ago. Within a few hours of the dog's death, she hired a cremation service after searching online.
Says Madam Liew: "My family was devastated, but it would have been worse for all of us if the carcass started to attract maggots or flies."
As a pet undertaker, Mr Patrick Lim says part of his job is to help owners deal with their grief.
He says: "I listen to their needs and whether or not they have a specific request. If they want a priest or a monk to be present, I can arrange for that too.
"Once they know that things are being taken care of, they feel better."
About pet columbariums
- Mount Pleasant Pet Cremation Centre was the first to offer pet columbarium services here, having started it around 30 years ago. It has the capacity for 300 niches at its Whitley Road facility and another 1,000 at its new expansion in Mandai Pet Sanctuary.
- The Pets Cremation Centre has two columbariums, one at Pasir Ris Farmway 2 and another at Ubi Road 1. The former can hold more than 300 niches, while the latter can hold "a few thousands" as it can be expanded further, says Mr Patrick Lim.
- The Pet Hotel was the other major player that offered columbarium services for pets, but it ceased its services last year and provides only cremation services now.