Although cats and dogs don’t require much more than food, a cozy napping spot and human attention, U.S. pet owners spent $95.7 billion last year on their furry companions, according to the 2019 National Pet Owners Survey Statistics
produced by the American Pet Products Association. That’s a lot of products, all of which require packaging, shipping, shopping, consumption and waste that the environment must bear. Finding eco-friendly alternatives is key to having a pet that doesn’t inadvertently harm the planet.
Pet toys can be costly to the wallet and the environment. Dogs can destroy flimsy items in seconds and the growing number of cat toys under the couch is money out the window. When choosing a toy, consider the pet’s play style. Look for non-toxic natural fiber, recycled, upcycled and locally sourced products. Reject plastic and other toxic materials that degrade and leach harmful substances into the pet. Purchase toys that have minimal packaging and remember that it won’t be any fun to play with if it is constantly stuck under the furniture or falls to pieces during the first roughhouse session.
Soft toys can be salvaged. Tie them in knots, sew them together or braid them into tug toys. Make soft or tug toys by upcycling old towels or T-shirts. Stuff some catnip in an old sock and let the playing begin. Cats can have as much fun with a paper bag as with an expensive toy. Consider simplicity.
Many chemicals and pharmaceuticals can be replaced with simple, natural products. Essential-oil-based insect repellants are safer for pets and people. Apple cider vinegar contains nutrients, vitamins, minerals and enzymes that can be helpful for the treatment of allergies, urinary tract problems, hot spots, dandruff, ear discharge, eczema and stiff joints in dogs, according to Organic Pet Digest
. Dr. Marc Smith, a veterinarian at Natchez Trace Veterinary Services
, in Nashville, advises, “Apple cider vinegar is a good source of potassium and has excellent antibacterial and antifungal properties to boost the immune system.”
A veterinarian trained in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine can often provide natural treatments and preventatives using herbs, essential oils and other natural substances. Find such a practitioner through the Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine
Taking a bath in chemicals seems wrong for both humans and pets. Eco-friendly alternatives are available. “We use shampoos without chemicals, preservatives or phosphates,” says Kim Molnar, owner of Salon Fido LLC, in Cross Plains, Wisconsin. “It keeps the dog from inhaling or absorbing hazardous chemicals and keeps the same from washing down the drain.”
A quality diet is good for the health of pets and the Earth. Many companies use local ingredients, sustainable manufacturing and recyclable packaging. Avoid artificial dyes, preservatives, fillers and chemicals.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention
, an estimated 56 million cats and 50 million dogs in the U.S. were overweight or obese in 2018. Judicious feeding will trim a pet’s waistline and reduce the amount of packaging and bodily waste a pet produces.
“You can reduce the number of products you need by sharing your food with pets. Saving whole-food leftovers reduces waste and helps move pets away from processed food,” says Molnar. “There’s so much common sense involved. Feed them food.” Dogs love cooked sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, broccoli and eggs. Cats can have cooked eggs, rice, spinach, pumpkin, salmon and chicken. Be aware of which foods are unsafe for pets. Some examples include onions, chocolate, bones, avocado and grapes.
Poop happens. Clean it up right. Kitty’s litter can be nontoxic and kept fresh with regular scooping. Picking up after the pup keeps green spaces clean and limits excess nutrients going to waterways. “If your dog is harboring any type of intestinal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms or whipworms, then the eggs of those parasites can be present in poo and spread worms to other dogs and people,” says Sarah J. Wooten, DVM, CVJ
, in Greeley, Colorado.
Dogs and cats may seem to tread lightly on the Earth, but their carbon footprint can be heavy. Help them get green by evaluating what they consume and getting them in step with Mother Nature.
Julie Peterson writes about wellness and environmental issues. Reach out at [email protected]