You might already bring your own shopping bags to the grocery store and put out a recycling bin of aluminum cans for curbside pickup, but do you take the same eco-friendly approach with your pet?
According to a survey from the pet-focused company Rover, roughly 75 percent of 1,000 American pet owners polled cited an interest in learning how to live more sustainably with their pets. Moreover, 81 percent said that taking an eco-friendlier approach to pet care is important to them.
But what does that mean? And where do you even begin?
The best time to start is before you even get your pet, says Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity and author of The Animal Lover’s Guide to Changing the World. Her advice? Don’t feed into the breeding cycle by purchasing purebred dogs or cats from private owners, and be wary of pet stores that might get their animals from puppy mills. Instead, support your local animal rescue group or animal shelter by adopting an animal looking for a loving forever home.
The next step? Get your pet spayed or neutered to avoid contributing to the ongoing issue of pet overpopulation. “There are programs that help pet parents with cost,” says Feldstein, noting assistance can range from low-cost fees to 100 percent free.
Feldstein adds that once you bring your new pet home, you shouldn’t get lured into buying too many unnecessary products for them. “The pet industry is a $70 billion industry, with products marketed to humans that animals really don’t need, such as bottled water, energy bars, collars for every season, and full clothing lines,” she notes. “They don’t need a toy-of-the-month-club subscription. Just like with human-focused products, everything that’s produced for our animals comes with a production cost that’s paid by wildlife.”
If you need a place to start, try these sustainable pet care tips.
- Don’t overconsume. Stick to the basics, such as a few toys to keep your pet active and mentally stimulated, nutritious food that fuels their belly, a leash to keep them safe, a crate to transport them in, and a comfortable bed for them to sleep on.
- Feed them sustainably produced foods. Although often pricier, organic pet foods provide the same primary benefit as organic human foods—there are no pesticides, which means they’re healthier for your pet. And some brands, while not necessarily organic, use responsibly sourced, sustainable ingredients or packaging. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations, especially if you’ll be changing your pet’s diet.
- Choose environmentally friendly products. To minimize the production impact on the environment, look for products manufactured from recycled or natural materials. For instance, some pet bedding brands provide eco-friendly duvet covers that you stuff with gently used materials you already have at home (think soft clothes, towels, and pillows). Instead of plastic toys, look for playthings made from sustainably produced materials or natural fibers like cotton cloth or rope.
- Take the DIY approach to toys. Have you ever watched a kitten chase a flashlight or laser on the floor? Animals are often incredibly easy to please. Crumple up a piece of aluminum foil for your cat to bat around or hide a treat under a newspaper for your dog to find, and they’ll be happy. Other ideas for dogs include playing chase with tennis balls and knotting up an old T-shirt for a pull toy. For cats, let them play inside an old cardboard box or look for a treat inside an empty paper towel
- Make your own pet treats. With a bit of online research, you can dig up DIY recipes for safe-to-eat, animal-friendly treats—but check with your vet first to make sure the ingredients are safe. You can also visit the American Kennel Club’s website, which features recipes such as baked chicken bites, apple-cheddar dog biscuits, and peanut butter treats.
- Handle pet waste in an eco-friendly way. No one likes dealing with animal waste, but you can get rid of it in planet-friendly ways. From backyard compost systems (designed specifically for animal waste) to non-clay-based cat litter to biodegradable poop bags, sustainably minded products can make a difference. For instance, environmentalists have been urging people to abandon clay-based litter (due to the strip-mining involved with one of its ingredients) in favor of eco-friendly options. These days, you can find cat litter made from natural materials like sawdust shavings, walnut shells, wheat, and other renewable resources. For more tips on eco-friendly ideas, check out the pet-waste tips on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.
- Respect animals wherever you go. It’s up to you to responsibly manage your pet and make sure they’re respectful of wildlife and their habitat. “If you’re hiking with your dogs, be careful around sensitive habitats such as bird nests, where they might be young ones,” cautions Feldstein. “Also, don’t let them chase wildlife because it’s stressful for the animals. Keep your pet leashed to explore safely.”
When it comes to making the planet a healthier place for animals and people, being mindful of the products you buy and making some small changes can reduce your pet’s impact on the environment.
This article was prepared by ReminderMedia.
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