Monday, October 18, 2010

Green Living With Pets

"According to an August 6th 2007 issue of Business Week magazine, we spend 41 billion dollars on our pets annually." ... from WikiAnswers

I have an adorable cat! She's also, like many pets, finicky ... she likes one kind of canned food and one kind of dry food. When I shop for her, I find myself thinking that I should buy her other things ... give her a variety of tastes (purely a "human" thing to do). And she always turns her nose up at the new offerings. But just look at those shelves filled with every kind of flavor and texture ... cans of organic food, natural food, vitamin-enriched food ... food recommended by veterinarians, food your pet will thank you for and food rated #1 by cats everywhere (hm ... my cat was never asked to vote).

As I looked around the pet store, I realized that purchasing pet products is an emotional experience ... and big business knows that. It also tends to be an area of our lives where we don't think much about the environment or green living. We see pet toys and think how Fido will love them rather than about what they are made of. We buy flea collars, sprays and drops to protect our animals without reading and understanding the ingredient list. There are cute little outfits to keep our critters warm in the winter, comfy looking beds and collars of every color and style ... and in truth, how many of us consider the "greeness" of these products?

Living with pets can be done in an Eco-friendly way. Here are some tips:

  • When buying pet food, consider packaging. Look for recyclable containers and forgo single-serving packages for bulk or large bags/cans.

  • Consider buying organic pet food and treats.

  • Choose Eco-friendly bowls and dishes for your pet's food ... glass, ceramic, stainless steel, etc.

  • To control fleas, opt for Eco-friendly methods rather than buying pet store remedies. Most pet store remedies contain a whole list of toxins which are not only bad for the environment but bad for your pet as well. Click HERE for a good article on natural, earth-friendly flea control methods.

  • Most pets enjoy toys. Choose items which are made from recycled products or ones made out of natural, sustainable materials like hemp. And don't forget that many of the items you have around the house can work as toys ... our cat's favorite toy is a shoe lace swinging from a hook under the counter.

  • Clean up after your pet. Pet waste contains parasites which can spread to other animals and humans. It also contains bacteria and nitrogen. When it rains, these components are washed into storm drains and can find their way to streams, rivers, etc. Safely dispose of pet waste by either flushing it down the toilet (sewage treatment plants effectively remove all harmful components) or bagging it (use biodegradable bags).

  • If you have a cat, choose plant-based litter. Clay litter is strip-mined ... a process which is bad for the planet. And as tempting as those self-cleaning litter boxes seem, consider the amount of energy used to run them and opt, instead, for doing it yourself ... a little more effort but much better for the earth.

  • Does your pet travel? Choose parks, vets, etc. which are close to home to minimize driving distance. Or, better yet, walk (good for you and good for your pet).

  • Choose a recycled pet ... adopt from a shelter.

  • Have your pet spayed/neutered. How is this "green"? Consider what happens if a single cat has multiple liters of kittens. Typically they become too difficult for the owner to deal with ... and often unwanted animals are released and left to fend for themselves. Populations continue to grow creating problems. For example, bird populations decrease in areas with large feral cat populations. For animals not abandoned, there are shelters ... but with growing numbers of unwanted pets, animals are being destroyed.
Having a pet is one of the pleasures of life. With a little thought, we can pamper our four-legged family members in a safe, environmentally-friendly way.

As always, I would love to hear from you!