4 Ways You Could Make Pet Ownership More Sustainable
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If you’re passionate about leading an ethical and sustainable life, there’s a good chance that animals are a big part of that decision. You care about the devastating impact that we have had on the other species with which we share our planet. In order to feed ourselves, we have created an enormous animal agriculture industry that has become the world’s leading cause of air pollution, species extinction, animal habitat loss, and ocean dead zones.
You may well have stopped eating animals and animal products altogether, or at least made a concerted effort to cut down on your consumption of animal proteins. Even little measures like “Meat Free Mondays” can be a great step forward. You don’t need to live a completely plant-based lifestyle to live more ethically… that said, every new year more and more people give Veganuary a try, to see if they can live more ethically and more sustainably while also saving money and improving their health.
If you’re an animal lover, you almost certainly have some kind of pet in the home. While it is an act of greatest kindness to give a home to an animal that needs one, there are lots of ways in which you can do this even more ethically and sustainably. In this post, we’ll look at some ways in which you could make owning a pet more sustainable, ethical and beneficial for the environment.
Always adopt, never shop
We all have favourite dog and cat breeds. Each of us has a slightly different idea of what we consider to be the perfect pet. And it’s this mentality that often drives us to breeders and pet shops. They’re the easiest way to exert control over the kind of pets that we bring into our homes. However, there are a multitude of reasons why you should always adopt rather than shop.
The animals in pet shops, cute though they may be, have been farmed specifically for sale as pets. Meaning that you’re contributing to a system that keeps generating more lives every day to fill the market for pets. Even if we assume that the animals are treated ethically at pet farms (which isn’t always the case), it makes it that much harder for all the abandoned or surrendered pets out there to find a home. And they will inevitably be put down if they cannot be rehomed in order to make way for more.
So always adopt and save a life. However, it’s important to note that some shops (such as Pets At Home) often have animals available for adoption for a suggested donation.
Feed your dog a vegan diet where possible
Switching to a plant based diet is widely regarded as one of the best ways in which we can offset the damage done to our planet by animal agriculture. But does this extend to our furry friends?
Whenever we think of dogs’ dietary habits, we invariably imagine them chomping down on a slab of red meat, or a juicy bone. But the truth is that an adult dog can not only survive but thrive on a diet that is mostly made of plants or even entirely vegan. The ability to digest and assimilate the starches from plant based foods is one of the few things that separates the domestic dog from their lupine ancestors. That said, there’s a balancing act to be found. A plant based diet may be rich in protein, but may not have the amino acid profiles necessary for a growing pup, which is why many vegan dog owners compromise by feeding their pups a combination of veggies and fish while they grow. Always consult your vet before making dietary changes. However, this article covers a lot of what you need to know.
One thing’s for sure, a lot of cheaper meat-based dog foods are made from animals that are diseased, dead or dying and deemed unfit for human consumption. While your pet may chomp it down eagerly enough, they will benefit little in nutritional terms from such junk food. A balanced diet is important for any living creature, but balance and supplementation are especially important for vegan doggies. Here are some of the best vegan dog food brands.
Of course, while this may be great for dogs, there’s no getting around the fact that cats cannot live on a plant based diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they have to eat meat to survive. Don’t let your pampered pet’s adorable appearance fool you. Felis domesticus is one of nature’s most perfect hunters. And their dietary needs reflect that. Still, that doesn’t mean that you can’t feed your cat ethically. For instance, cat food with chicken has a much lower carbon footprint than beef. The average cow raised for slaughter consumes far more land, water, feed and other resources such as energy to rear than their avian counterparts. And they produce a whole lot more methane (emitted from their flatulence and waste) which is actually even more damaging to the environment than CO2. An all-fish diet has an even lower carbon footprint. However, you should do your research and buy from a cat food brand that uses sustainably sourced fish. Here are some great eco and ethically friendly cat foods.
Buy sustainable toys and accessories
Toys and games do more than just enrich your pet’s life. They are also important for proper cognitive development and to practice the skills that are instinctive for them. If you own a cat, toys are also essential for practicing hunting, climbing and territorial behaviours which might otherwise be practiced on your furniture.
That said, a disturbing amount of pet toys and accessories are made from plastics and other synthetic materials. As well as including potentially harmful compounds like BPA, these toys cannot be reused or recycled once your pet has exhausted them, meaning that the only place where they can go is your local landfill. The good news, however, is that there are lots of specialist Ethical Living stores online which have a wealth of sustainably made and sourced pet toys, medicines and other accessories. These are made from natural materials which are neither harmful for your pets nor the environment.
Rethink your litter tray
The kind of litter you use can also have a profound effect on the environment. Some cat litters are not biodegradable or compostable and will remain in landfill long after you and your pet are both a distant memory. The good news, however, is that there are many cat litters used from materials such as wood and vegetable by-products, or recycled newspapers. Not only are these completely biodegradable, they are also highly sustainable.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of cat litter, you should never, ever flush cat poop down the toilet. Toxoplasma, a parasite found in cat feces can be extremely harmful to marine life once it gets into the eco system, and it cannot be filtered out via normal sewerage treatment.
There’s no denying that the cat’s litter tray is inherently pongy. Especially when it’s been freshly used. If you share a small living space with your cats, the smell of your beloved cat’s BMs is enough to make you want to stick your head out of the window for the next half an hour. However, while the temptation to reach for the air freshener spray may be tempting, it’s also not an ethical or environmentally conscious choice. Despite their sweet scent, many air freshening sprays contain known carcinogens such as formaldehyde, petroleum distillates and all kinds of other chemicals you don’t want floating around in your indoor air. What’s more, while aerosol cans are recyclable, let’s not kid ourselves that everything we put in the recycling bin stays away from landfill. We should always reduce and reuse before we recycle.
Fortunately, there are plenty of far more ethical options on the market. To absorb the pong, try placing a bowl of activated charcoal next to the litter tray. Combine this with a diffuser filled with essential oils which will freshen up your living space naturally. There are plenty of sustainable alternatives on the market. But if you want to save money, you can easily make your own. A little distilled water, witch hazel, lemon juice and the essential oils of your choice can freshen your living space without harming the environment (or your health). And let’s not forget that house plants are also a great way to purify your air while also beautifying your space. Just be sure to do your research. Some plant species can be harmful to pets if nibbled or ingested. In most cases, your pet won’t experience anything worse than minor irritation of the mouth, but in some cases they can be dangerous and even deadly.
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