Pet owners want nothing more than the best for their pets, but it shouldn’t need to cost the earth – literally or figuratively – to care for them. There are many small changes you can make to become an eco-friendly pet owner.
Not many people are aware of the amount of waste having a pet can lead to, from plastic bags or kitty litter filled with chemicals to mass meat production. Still, there are ways you can adjust what you buy, or how you take care of your pet, to ensure you are taking care of other animals and the planet too.
So, let’s have a look at where to begin!
There are plenty of planet-friendly foods out there for your pets to enjoy that also give them all the nutrients they need. When looking for food for your pet, it’s always best to buy from local pet stores or even your vet. Quite a few supermarket brands are filled with preservatives that aren’t so good for animals.
Back in 2017, an American study found that the countries 163 million cats and dogs consume roughly 25% of the US’s total calories derived from meat. This actually contributes the equivalent to 13.6 million car’s worth of greenhouse emissions. Meat is a significant source of pollution because of its resource-intensive production, leaving a large carbon footprint behind. When feeding your pet meat, try and pick ones with a lower environmental impact, such as chicken, instead of high-impact meats, like beef.
Giving your pet the same meats that humans consume puts more pressure on food production systems. You can use products made from by-products of meat, such as organ meat or bonemeal, or there are also plant-based alternatives to consider.
More than the actual food itself, you want to purchase products that have sustainable or recyclable packaging. Another good trick is to buy in bulk and store the food in reusable containers.
Plastic poses a significant threat to the planet, so it’s always going to be helpful to limit the amount you buy or use. One way you can do this is by staying away from buying your pet plastic toys and accessories.
There are many alternatives, including sustainable or reclaimed products. You can even use second-hand pet gear instead of buying new. Plenty of people donate old pet toys, collars or beds to charity shops. Whether you’re decking out your bird’s cage or need a toy for your playful pup to destroy without damaging the planet, you can find something second hand or sustainable.
Consider donating your old pet stuff too (assuming the items haven’t been chewed or worn out too much). You can contribute to charity shops or even animal shelters after giving the items a good clean.
You can also make your own pet toys from bits and pieces you find around the house. A ball of foil can help entertain a cat for hours, and old pieces of clothing can be turned into a tug of war rope for your dog, simply by knotting them together.
Save on Water
We all know that washing your pet can be an arduous task. More than that, it can be a real waste of water. When washing your pet – especially a big dog – make sure to do so outside on the lawn, with something big like a tub or a pool to collect the water. You can then use this water on your garden later, and the rest can soak into the earth. Ensure you use a natural, cruelty-free shampoo to protect your pooch and the garden too.
Self-service dog washes often time your visit, which is another way you can conserve water while bathing your four-legged friend. You can also find dry shampoo for dogs and cats that can be massaged into their fur and left to dry, eliminating the need for a big wash!
Another trick is to use ceramic bowls for their water. The water will stay fresher in ceramic, which will help to reduce the need to clean and change it. When you do clean out your pets’ water, remember to do so over the garden to put it to good use. Even aquarium water can be safe to use in your garden.
Disposing of Waste
The way you dispose of your pet’s waste can have a significant impact. This is especially true for dogs and cats.
As these animals are the most common household pets, many people spend a fair chunk of their day cleaning out the kitty litter or picking up after their dogs. Most dog owners clean up after their pups about three times a day, probably with a plastic bag. That amounts to thousands of plastic bags going into landfills a year. Some other options you can consider are:
- Use a scooper
- Bury it
- Compostable bags (it’s important to note that these won’t decompose in a landfill, so if you use them, you can compost them at home, but not on plants you intend to eat.)
For your cats, make sure you use kitty litter that doesn’t contain sodium bentonite clay. This is sourced using harmful mining methods. Ideally, you want to use materials that would decompose over time and could be composted in your garden, such as shredded paper or sawdust. There are eco-friendly brands out there if DIY isn’t your thing, just always check what they contain.
If you are a fan of DIY, you can make your own pet food or treats to minimise the amount of packaging you’re using. There are so many recipes online and no shortage of possibilities.
This way, you can also be in complete control over what your pet is consuming, leaving out all the nasty ingredients that are harmful to both your pet and the environment.
Spay or Neuter Your Pets
When we talk about being an ‘eco-friendly pet owner’, this doesn’t just pertain to taking care of the planet in terms of the carbon footprint we create or the waste we produce. It also means taking care of the planet’s inhabitants in the here and now, pets included.
Pet owners can play a large part in stopping animal euthanasia and homelessness. It is reported that roughly 130,000 dogs are placed in shelters in the UK every year, with around 20,000 have to be put down. By neutering or spaying your pet, you can be a part of the solution, helping to stop so many unnecessary pet deaths each year. It’s also worth considering pet adoption, helping to give a home to an animal in need while lessening the overcrowding in animal shelters.
Caring for both the earth and your pet at the same time isn’t impossible; it simply takes a little more time and effort. You can make small changes that could have significant impacts on this planet we call home.