10 Ways to Love Your Pet and the Planet, Too

You recycle, say no to straws and take your own bags to the grocery because you want to reduce your carbon footprint. But don’t forget your pet’s carbon paw print. Here’s how to care for your fur child without harming the environment.

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Keep Your Cat Inside

Your kitty’s cuddly when he’s indoors on your lap, but he’s lethal when he goes outside. America’s felines, both pet cats and feral ones, kill as many as 3.7 billion birds each year. The average outdoor pet cat kills two animals a week. This puts pressure on bird populations already threatened by pesticides and habitat loss. Keeping kitty inside is good for him, too. Indoor cats live as long as 17 years. Outdoor ones live an average of two to five years.

Pick Up Dog Poop With Biodegradable Bags

Clean up your pet’s poop in a plastic bag, toss it in a trash can and it will still be in a landfill a century from now. Use compostable or biodegradable bags for cleanup. And for heaven’s sake, pick up your pooch’s poop. Not only is leaving it on the ground rude, that poop will pollute the planet’s water supply. Get this: The EPA found that 90 percent of fecal coliform in storm water was from dogs. Ick.

Choose Sustainable Toys

Look for pet toys made of recycled, repurposed or organic materials. Bonus points if they’re made nearby, because then you’ll cut out a long, gas-guzzling journey from the manufacturer to your pet. Get crafty and make your own pet toys. And donate your pet’s clean, used toys to a local shelter or pet rescue. Better to make a homeless pet happy than send more stuff to a landfill.

Make Your Own Treats

Buy pet treats, and you also get a box or bag that will end up in trash. Plus, those treats likely traveled a long way to you via gas-guzzling, greenhouse-gas emitting trucks. Bake your own treats at home for your dog. Grow catnip or other feline-friendly plants for your kitty. Not a baker? Buy treats at a local dog bakery where they make them on site. Or look for treats made from organic ingredients.

Spay or Neuter Your Pets

The overpopulation of dogs and cats is hard on the environment. Feral cats are one of the most invasive species on the planet. A wild feline kills an average of 35 birds a year, and they’re responsible for 14 percent of extinctions on the planet. Roaming dogs kill wildlife, too, and strays can spread rabies to wild animals. Make sure your fur kid can’t make puppies or kitties that will grow up and become part of the problem.

Walk Your Dog

Instead of driving that mile or two to buy stamps or a loaf of bread, leash up your pup and walk there. You both need the exercise, and the planet needs a break from the greenhouse gases belched by your car. You’re thinking that driving a few less miles a week won’t make a difference, but if half of the 43 million Americans who own dogs park their car and walk their pup a few times a week, the impact would be significant: Cleaner air, fewer fat dogs.

Don’t Buy Exotic Pets

Monkeys, parrots, iguanas and snakes are cool animals. But they’re terrible pets. Many species are protected or even endangered, so chances are good the creature for sale as a pet was procured illegally. Exotic pets can also become an invasive species that’s a menace to the ecosystem if they escape. Boa constrictors and iguanas who were once pets (or are the descendants of former pets) are devastating the native wildlife in Florida. So skip the macaw and go to a shelter and adopt a conventional pet. If you must have a parrot, adopt one from a bird rescue.

Choose Sustainable Pet Food

The problem with pet foods is the boatload of chemicals and fossil fuels used to make them. Pet food production pumps 64 million tons of greenhouse gases into the air every year. Buy pet foods made with organic ingredients. And look for pet food made by companies that use ingredients produced near their factories, and package their food in recyclable containers. Cans are recyclable. Most kibble bags are not, because they’re coated in plastic.

Use Earth-Friendly Grooming Products

Buy shampoos, conditioners and other cleaners packaged in recyclable containers, or better yet, in containers made from recycled materials. All that single-use packaging is piling up in landfills. Use products made from organic ingredients. And look for groomers who believe cleaning dogs doesn’t require dirtying the planet and use sustainable grooming techniques and products.

Look for Eco-Friendly Cat Litter

Many cat litters contain clay, and guess where that comes from? Strip mines, which are about as destructive to the environment as it gets. Go with cat litters that use wood chips or corn, or litters made from recycled newspaper. Another reason to switch: a lot of traditional cat litter contains silica dust that can coat you and your kitty’s lungs and cause breathing problems.

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