According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), it’s estimated that U.S. households own a total of 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats. In a time when we’re trying to be more earth-conscious, do we pause to think about the environmental impact of over 165 million pets? Collectively, our furry friends leave quite a carbon pawprint, but there are steps we can take to make our pets more eco-friendly:
#1 – SPAY AND NEUTER
This is the most beneficial thing you can do to reduce over population. It only takes your pet getting out once (or a stray getting into your yard once) to make a litter or puppies or kittens. Only 10% of animals that end up in shelters are spayed or neutered. Cats are a far bigger problem than dogs: feral cats are listed on the Invasive Species Specialist Group’s list of worst invasive species on earth. They have been known to wipe out entire populations of native species, especially on island nations.
#2 – KEEP YOUR CAT INDOORS
There is a reason feral cats are on the list of worst invasive species on earth. But strays aren’t the only problem. As adorable as your house cat is, he’s a cold-blooded killer and should be kept inside. In the United States alone, it is estimated that cats kill up to 4 billion birds and 22 billion mammals annually. Free-ranging cats are likely the single greatest threat to U.S. birds and small mammals. If you don’t want to keep your cat indoors 24/7, put a bell on his/her collar to warn prey of the approaching threat.
#3 – CLEAN UP YOUR PET WASTE
When you leave your dog’s waste on the ground, rain can carry pathogens from the waste into nearby waterways, potentially making animals and humans sick. Dog waste is also high in nitrogen and phosphorus which contributes to algae outbreaks. The best thing for the environment is to compost your pet waste. ⬅️Check out that link I provided to learn how to compost pet waste (and never use pet compost on any plant you are going to eat from). If you’re going to throw your dog waste in the trash, consider purchasing biodegradable waste bags to reduce plastic in landfills.
Never flush your dog or cat waste down the toilet. Cat waste can contain a parasite (the one responsible for toxoplasmosis) that will affect marine life. Also, not all water treatment programs can cleanse out what is found in pet waste.
#4 – AVOID FLEA AND TIC PRODUCTS
WE all want our pets to be free and safe of fleas and ticks; however, the chemicals in most flea and tick products are very hazardous to the health of our pets and us. NRDC research has shown that chemical residue from flea and tick products can last on pet fur for weeks. These chemicals can the brain and nervous system. Try non-toxic control measures like regular baths in hot, soapy water, vacuuming, and washing your pet’s beds and bedding in hot water. Eartheasy has this comprehensive guide available with natural flea control methods.
If you do decide to go the chemical route (which I advise against), avoid products with tetrachlorvinphos, propoxur, permethrin, and amitraz. Check out this product guide that rates the toxicity of the flea and tick products on the market.
#5 – CHOOSE PET FOOD WISELY
How we eat has a huge impact on our environment. Pets eat much of the same foods (from the same sources), so how they eat has a significant impact, as well. There are many choices you can make with your pet’s food to make their diet more eco-friendly. Read the labels of your pet’s foods and try to avoid byproducts, chemicals, and preservatives. Organic pet foods are a great choice as they must meet strict standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As beef takes the most resources to produce, limit pet food containing beef, organic or otherwise.
Answers Pet Food is a great option for both the health of your pet and the environment, but it can be hard to come by. You can also make your own pet food, but this takes time and effort. Making food for your pet is not an easy task as they have very specific nutritional needs. But you can make some great treats as these are supplemental. If you do decide to make your pet’s food, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR VET FIRST.
#6 – PURCHASE ECO-FRIENDLY PET TOYS
Pets, especially dogs, can destroy pet toys rather quickly. These plastic toys end up in the landfill. There are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives to the traditional toys we buy our pets. Funny Fur is a great business catering to the environmentally-conscious pet owner. They have a selecation of eco-friendly toys, along with eco-friendly grooming products, pet beds, apparel, dining products, collars and harnesses.
You can also make your own pet toys, such as a rope toy made from braided strips of old fabric or a simple empty water bottle in a sock (recycle the bottle when your pet is done). And we all know how much enjoyment a cat gets from an empty box.
#7 – USE BETTER CAT LITTER
Traditional clay litter is very environmentally damaging. Natural clay is obtained through strip mining and it’s not biodegradable. Furthermore, clumping litter releases silica dust, a carcinogen, when it is kicked up. Inhaling silica dust is bad for both your cat and you. Clumping litter can also create intestinal blockages if ingested, which can happen when your pet is grooming.
There are a variety of natural cat litters that you can use to replace your clay litter. These litters can be just as effective, while not having a negative impact on the environment. Wood, wheat, corn, paper, and walnut litters are all great alternatives that are also biodegradable. Check out Kitty Catter to read their recommendations of the 5 best eco-friendly litters.
#8 – DONATE USABLE PET PRODUCTS TO SHELTERS
Before you throw anything away, ask yourself if it is still usable. Shelters are always in need of donations. Call your local shelter and find out what they need or will take before you throw anything out. Discarded toys, beds, collars, harnesses, food dishes, and litter boxes can all be donated rather than throw in the trash. And while you’re at the shelter making your donation, consider adopting an animal. Only 23% of dogs and 31% of cats owned in the U.S. are adopted, leaving 2.7 million animals to be euthanized per year.
#9 – SUPPORT ECO-FRIENDLY PET COMPANIES
Companies follow the money. The best way to make real change is to support the companies whose practices are eco-friendly. Here is a list of 15 eco-friendly pet companies. Give them your money if you can. But some of the larger, well-known companies have better alternatives. Purchase those alternatives to show these companies there is a consumer demand for products that keep your pets, you, and the environment safe.
As always, Brite Homes Florida believes in promoting better practices that protect our environment. If you and your pet are looking for an affordable, solar-powered, eco-friendly home, reach out. We’re here to help you and the planet.