If you care about animals, then chances are you also care about the environment. Minimising our influence on our planet includes considering the environmental impact our pets have. Here are some surprising suggestions to lighten your pet’s environmental load.
ACQUIRING YOUR PET
Perhaps the most eco-friendly decision you can make when choosing a new pet is to rehome a surrendered animal from a shelter. Giving an unwanted animal a home may perhaps be the ultimate recycling contribution that pet owners can make, one which will bring much appreciation from your new pet.
The best route to avoiding the cycle of unwanted animals is to desex your pet, so schedule this into your calendar soon after acquiring your pet.
CARING FOR YOUR PET
Being eco-friendly means considering all aspects of pet care and interaction, regardless of whether it’s at home or outdoors with your pet. Taking both into consideration…
- Consider using natural materials for beds, blanket and pet toys
- Recycle unwanted items by swapping with friends or donate them to charity
- Rotate toys around to keep your pet’s interest
- Keep cats indoors so they cannot hunt native wildlife
- Store treats in jars and washable containers rather than plastic bags
- Recycle pet food tins and bags (check packaging)
- Eliminate pet odours using natural ingredients e.g. bicarb of soda instead of chemical air fresheners
- Grow your own cat grasses or catnip
OUT AND ABOUT WITH YOUR PET
- Walk your dog instead of driving them
- Always pick up poo
- Buy pet goods in recyclable materials e.g. cardboard
- Buy in bulk to reduce packaging and transport costs
- Use re-useable bags at the pet store
- Ask your vet to email or SMS reminders instead of posting them
Any discussion of the environment just has to take poo into consideration and our pets produce a lot of it! When animal faeces are left in our gardens, streets and parks, they can be washed directly into our waterways, resulting in bacterial contamination, which can affect our wildlife. Native animals may also react to the simple scent of pet poo in their environment.
Responsible dog owners always pick up dog poo when out in the community, but how we collect it can make a large impact on our environment. Be sure to use a biodegradable bag. Biodegradable means that the material breaks down with the help of microbes. Non-biodegradable bags stay in our landfill for centuries.
Indoor cats require litter trays. Many forms of cat litter are eco-unfriendly, due to unsustainable mining practices, use of chemicals and being non-biodegradeable. Some cat litters claim to be flushable but this advice should be used with caution. Others claim to be compostable but do your research before spreading litter around your garden.
Some new forms of environmentally-friendly litter even include a recyclable litter tray. Purrlybox, for instance, is a new litter system where the entire tray and litter can be thrown away together, as the litter is biodegradable and the box made from recyclable cardboard.
Composting is an efficient way to recycle natural materials and many people already recycle their kitchen scraps. Pet poo can be composted too and dedicated pet poo composting systems are available.
Food, pharmaceuticals and other pet production companies Commercial companies have a responsibility to look after our world and pet owners, as consumers, have a right to question their practices. Research the food company that you purchase food from. Ask the pharmaceutical company that produces your pet’s flea treatments. Some aspects that you may wish to find out more about include:
- Responsible sourcing of ingredients – Are animals farmed humanely? Are antibiotics used? Are ingredients from a sustainable source? What impact is the company having on the environment?
- Efficient operations – Is energy from a renewable source? Are energy reduction strategies in place?
- Packaging and transportation – Are recycled materials used in packaging (and how does this impact on product storage storage ability)? Are products shipped by companies that have energy efficient transportation programs?
- Disposal of waste – Are any chemicals used safe in our environment? What happens to packaging materials? How does the company dispose of waste?
Just like individuals, companies are on a journey of learning and improving their environmental impact, balancing this with efficiency and meeting budgets. A holistic approach may be the most eco-friendly of all, such as the one outlined by Nestle Purina Petcare which takes into account all aspects of pet food production (Fig 1).
ARE YOU ECO-FRIENDLY?
Each one of us has a responsibility to our environment and a responsibility to our pets. Every little step you take may have a large impact further down the track. What are you doing to improve the world for yourself and for your pets?
Dr Jo’s favourite environmentally-friendly behaviour tip
If you have a digging dog, if possible, take your dog to an ocean beach. There, they can dig to their heart’s content and the tide will wash everything back to normal later that day. So much better than filling in holes in your backyard!
Dr Jo Righetti
Dr Jo Righetti is an animal behaviour consultant who helps people understand pets and any behavioural issues they may have. Her website has lots of advice on pets. Dr Jo is a proud Ambassador of Animal Welfare League Australia (AWLA). Website petproblemsolved.com.au