Friday, 8 July 2016

Weekly Green Tips - 7 tips to make your pet sustainable

Week 15 - 7 ways to make your pet sustainable

It is quite possible that we look at our lives and wonder how sustainable they are but how often do we think about the pets we own?  Pets, like their human owners, come with a carbon footprint and have a surprisingly high negative impact on the environment.  Did you know the average cat uses 0.13ha of land just in his food production and bearing in mind there are as estimated 7.4 million cats in the UK alone that makes makes just short of a million hectares of land being used purely to produce cat food which incidentally is almost the same amount of forest that Indonesia is losing every year or an area about 1/3 the size of Belgium.  It is also estimated that 2 German Shepherds use the same amount of global resources per year as one Bangladeshi.

So pets do come with a heavy environmental load.  Now I am not, for one moment suggesting we should stop having pets.  Over 80% of UK pet owners say there pets are part of the family and they provide them with companionship, exercise and teach younger family members about the responsibility of caring for others ... but there are steps you can take to reduce the impact your pet has on the environment.

7 ways to make pet ownership sustainable

1.  Limit your pet numbers and have them neutered

This way there will be no more unwanted pets flooding the market and you can enjoy your pet safe in the knowledge that they are not adding to the world pet population.

2. Do not overfeed your pet

Knowing how much land it takes to supply the food for your pet it is important you don't overfeed them.  53% of US dogs are overweight thus putting unnecessary strain on limited resources and overweight pets are also likely to be less healthy and need more medication and treatments.    If your pooch is a bit on the portly side do have a read of this blog post which shows you how to get your pet back in shape.

3.  Buy second hand pet products

I can assure you, no pet is going to complain if you give them a second hand bed you found on gumtree or a friend gave you and they will be quite happy eating their dinner from an old kitchen bowl or plate you no longer use.  Saari sleeps in an old bed a friend gave us, inside which she has a selection of old eiderdowns, duvets and blankets that were too cruddy for human use but she is more than happy to sleep on.

4.  Keep pet toys to a minimum

So it is great fun seeing your pet play with a favourite toy but overall I bet each pet has one favourite toy and many other toys they have are simply ignored.  Again look for second-hand toys or see what you have in the house.  Please note though that if you give them old kid's toys do remove all sharp/hard objects first that could be chewed off and swallowed.  Moo, our cat adores playing with corks (cider ones are best as they ping off in all directions) and she has had hours of fun raiding my box of shallots and playing with them.  Saari in comparison thinks all toys are a waste of time, preferring instead an extra long walk.

5.  Get your pet from a refuge

In the case of dogs, many puppy farms have appalling welfare standards and they are simply in the business of making money by producing as many puppies as possible.  By getting a pet from a refuge you are giving an unwanted animal a much needed new and happy home. 

6.  Dealing with poop

This is one area where pet ownership really is not at all sustainable.  Composting poop in your home compost bin is not recommended for health reasons and bagging and binning just moves the problem to landfill sites.  So what options are there?  One is to flush the poop down the toilet so it can be properly dealt with but do not flush bagged poop down as this can block up the system.  So called green cone composters also exits which do allow for home composting of animal waste.

7. Pet Food

Not all pet food packaging is recyclable - cans, some paper sacks and tin trays are but sachets, plasticised bags and multi tins held together with plastic sleeves are not.  Buying food in larger bags/cans also reduces the amount of packaging.   In France, supermarkets sell fresh meat for your pets that is unsuitable for human consumption and this is better for the environment than expensive pets foods made from human grade food.  Pets do not need super posh foods and dogs in particular can eat food which includes some cereals/vegetables, although cats, in comparison, can't digest non meat foods.  That said if your cat suffers constipation, whilst there are medicines on the market, you can actually feed him courgette or pumpkin to solve the problem. 

In a world where pet ownership is growing these small steps will go some way to reducing the environmental impact of our much loved pets.  Ultimately the world pet population needs to stabilise, and then reduce.  China, where pet ownership has increased dramatically, has introduced a one pet policy and governments around the world could do more to encourage lower pet ownership - licensing pets and reducing the numbers allowed per household may not be a popular move but having pets eat into limited global resources (literally) cannot continue unchecked for ever.

Do you have any other tips for reducing our pets' impact on the environment ... or do you think we should all be allowed as many pets as we want?


A Green and Rosie Life


  1. I must have another look at composting the cat litter. We don't have a green cone composter, but we do have a green johanna.

  2. Interesting. I never thought of it that way, but yes you're right! They also have an impact as much as we do. As much as I would love to have another dog, I'm afraid we're sticking to just Boots and Doc right now :( #animaltales

  3. I had no idea that so much land was used for the growth of what is needed for pet food... That's scary! :0

    My one bugbear is people getting pets and not making an effort to find out their sex and then get them neutered. It's not cute to be constantly offloading kittens or puppies or baby bunnies on social media because you can't be bothered to get your pet neutered, and some places will do it at low cost here. I have a friend who thinks neutering animals is cruel and against the natural order, but it's irresponsible not to.

    My cats have an old cardboard box they sleep in, although they mostly take up space on our beds, and we don't buy toys for them, they never play with them anyway.

    Useful post. I need to go think about our cat food options now! Thank you

  4. Hi Rosie, I have never thought of our dogs as having a carbon footprint before! We do have far too many pets, not planned it sort of just happens, but they've all been spayed (bar the new one). I do weigh their dry food out, partly because we buy the best food we can afford and partly so we know who is eating what, as we have a couple of dogs that wouldn't know when to stop and one that probably wouldn't start!

    I do agree with pet licences, although over here it's not a thing. And I wish there were a way of enforcing pet sterilization over here, which would reduce the amount of animals born, which in turn would reduce the amount of animals dumped. A win, win situation for the animals, owners and the environment.


  5. You have some good points here. Certainly old bedding and towels are recycled for pets in our home. Also food waste can be reduced by feeding to the dog (as long as it is safe for them) - I was reading that the launch of dry, cereal based dog food was accompanied by a campaign to not feed dogs scraps from human food, but in fact they are perfectly fine with leftover meat and vegetables. (Not mushrooms or onions though)

  6. Lots there that I didn't know before...especially about cats' digestion. I've always recycled old duvets and towels, thought it was common sense to :)

  7. i always flush the cats poo down the toilet


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