Man's Best (Green) Friend: Greening Your Pets
For lots of us, a pet is just another member of the family, garnering similar attention as a child (something we covered quite extensively last week). It’s not surprising, then, that there are lots of ways to help make your pet’s life greener, too. Throw the planet a bone; we’ve got the goods on how to reduce your pets’ carbon paw prints — without making your wallet roll over and play dead.
Source from the shelter — Pet breeders have only one goal in mind—to raise large quantities of purebred animals for profit. They’ve also been pilloried for misdeeds such as overbreeding, inbreeding, poor veterinary oversight, lousy food and living conditions, overcrowding, and culling of unwanted animals. Why buy when you can adopt one of the 70,000 puppies and kittens born every day in the United States? Check out Petfinder.com to find your perfect match.
Spay or neuter — Bob Barker was on to something with his plea for pet population control; “multiplying like bunnies” isn’t just any old trope. We don’t need any more homeless animals than we already have. As a bonus, spaying and neutering helps dogs and cats live longer, healthier lives by eliminating the possibility of uterine, ovarian, and testicular cancer, and decreasing the incidence of prostate disease.
Keep ‘em on a (short) leash — Always keep your dog on a leash when outside, and confine your mangy feline indoors. Topped only perhaps by habitat destruction, cats are the biggest, baddest bird killers of all time (even more than wind turbines — it’s true!) While you may poo-poo high cat-related bird-mortality rates as collateral damage in the great Circle of Life, domestic cats do have an unfair advantage. Unlike wild predators, house cats are always well fed, well rested, and in tip-top fighting shape.
Trash the junk food — Most conventional pet-food brands you find at the supermarket consist of reconstituted animal by-products, otherwise known as low-grade wastes from the beef and poultry industries — you know, inedibles you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot fork. Unless that can of Chicken ‘N Liver Delite explicitly states that it contains FDA-certified, food-grade meat, you should know that its contents are considered unfit for human consumption — but apparently good enough for your cat or pooch.
Natural and organic pet foods use meats that are raised in sustainable, humane ways without added drugs or hormones, minimally processed, and preserved with natural substances, such as vitamins C and E. Certified-organic pet foods must meet strict USDA standards that spell out how ingredients are produced and processed, which means no pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, artificial preservatives, artificial ingredients or genetically engineered ingredients.
Clean up their poo — Scoop up your doggie doo in biodegradable poop bags so your buddy’s No. 2 isn’t immortalized in a plastic bag, while deep-sixed in a landfill somewhere for hundreds of years. Cat owners should avoid clumping clay litter at all costs. Not only is clay strip-mined (bad for the planet), but the clay sediment is also permeated with carcinogenic silica dust that can coat little kitty lungs (bad for the cat). Plus, the sodium bentonite that acts as the clumping agent can poison your cat through chronic ingestion through their fastidious need to groom. Because sodium bentonite acts like expanding cement—it’s also used as a grouting, sealing, and plugging material—it can swell up to15 to18 times their dry size and clog up your cat’s insides. Eco-friendly cat litters avoid these problems.
Give ‘em sustainable toys — Your furry friends can get in on some saving-the-planet goodness, too — and have plenty of fun — with toys made from recycled materials or sustainable fibers (without herbicides or pesticides) such as hemp. A hemp collar (with matching leash) is a rocking accessory for a tree-hugging mutt. These days, you can even get pet beds made with organic cotton, hemp (pictured below) and even recycled PET bottles.
Use green pet care and cleaning products — You don’t use toxic-chemical-laced shampoos and beauty products, so lather up your cats and dogs (or whatever furry friend you prefer) with natural pet-care products, as well. And if your cat horks up a hairball, or Fifi doesn’t make it all the way to the bathroom, clean up the mess with cleaning products that are as gentle on the planet as they are on your critters’ delicate senses. Your pets don’t like breathing toxic cleaning fumes any more than you do.
Friends, not fads — Sure, everyone’s ovaries ping when they see a five-year-old moppet cradle a tiny chick or a bunny during Easter, but nature dictates that baby bunnies grow up into rabbits, and little chicks into full-size chickens. Unless everyone involved understands that a pet is a long-term commitment that involves demands on both their time and money, you’re better off giving the kid a stuffed animal. Impulse buying (say, rushing out and grabbing the next available Dalmatian puppy after watching 101 Dalmatians) isn’t a good idea, either, as the large numbers of fad dogs that pass through shelters (often to their death) can attest. Repeat after us: Pets are not fads or fashion accessories. They’re your friends, your family, so treat them as such and they (and the planet) will be much happier.