Pets don’t create as much of an environmental challenge as humans. It makes more sense to address our own shortcomings first. However, if you really want to make your pet’s life more sustainable, start with food.
Vets generally agree that wet food is healthier for pets. If your budget can handle you might consider buying dehydrated food, which has a lower carbon footprint when shipped. It’s rehydrated by adding water at home. And if you’re really into getting high quality and eco-friendly food for your pet, you can make your own. Unfortunately, it’s time-consuming and expensive.
My favorite place to find a balanced blend of sustainable and healthy food is healthy local pet store chains. The employees are always helpful, and there’s a good selection of brands at a variety of price points. This type of store carries supplies for all common household pets, including birds and small rodents.
Here are some Organic Dry Food Options
Organix Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food, 5.25-Pound
Buckley Liberty Freeze Dried Dog Food, Beef, 10 oz
If you’ve ever cared for a kitten, you know a balled up piece of newspaper can be just as engrossing as a fancy, ten dollar toy. Cats love boxes. Anything lying around the house. My kitten chases bouncy balls and a laser pointer, and anything tied to a swinging string.
Your cat might chatter at the birds and squirrels outside but keep them indoors. Not only will the pet avoid being hit by cars, getting into fights with other cats, and a variety of nasty diseases, you’ll keep the predatory instincts in check. Cats are reportedly responsible for billions of small mammal and bird deaths each year.
Dogs, similarly, can be entertained without spending much money. Plenty of parks allow canine companions, and there are several hiking trails in the area that do as well. There are also quite a few companies making more sustainable versions of dog toys, in case you want to pick up something more durable for your pet to chew.
Some smaller pets, like hamsters, enjoy playing in old paper towel or toilet paper tubes.
The stinky part, and the least exciting part of owning a pet. For cleaning up after a dog, some stores and online outlets sell biodegradable doggy bags. In theory, the whole thing degrades in the landfill. Since most landfills are too tightly packed to allow for much biodegradation, I’m a fan of using plastic newspaper bags, tortilla packaging, or anything else that might end up in the trash.
Cat waste is a more serious problem. About 2 million pounds of litter head to landfills each year. Clay litter (the most popular kind) is strip mined, but it lasts longer and contains smells better than many other options. One alternative is pine pellets, but many cats don’t appreciate the change in texture. Some people toilet train their cats, but mine prefers to use the toilet to drink.
My cat loves Feline Pine Original Litter
Feline Pine Original Litter, 20 Lbs
Any animal could, in theory, have its waste composted – but not any compost, you’ll put on edible plants. Plus, there’s the smell to contend with. Small animals that live in wood shavings, like hamsters, produce less waste and therefore less smell. If you’re comfortable composting, go for it! (But keep it very, very separate from anything going near your food).
Biodegradable Poop Bags
Finally, and most importantly, Spay and neuter your animals. Puppies, kittens, and other baby pets are cute, but there are already too many animals without homes. If we can we should try our best to control the cat and dog population. Go to your local pet store and talk to some experts. When it comes to toys, reuse, reuse, reuse. And, well, waste is difficult. Composting is probably the best option, but it comes with many challenges.