7 Simple Solutions to Reduce Your Pet’s Carbon Paw Print

7 Simple Solutions to Reduce Your Pet’s Carbon Paw Print

Our pets carbon paw prints, it would appear, are unduly large, growing and plotting to destroy the planet!

Okay, so I’m exaggerating somewhat but you get the picture. Saving the planet is hard work! And if we’re to do the best we can we should probably take our pets into account as we change our habits.

First up, the facts of our pets’ collective wastefulness:

  • Dogs alone are responsible for 10 million tons of “waste" a year. (Excrement, feces, dung, poop … you get the picture.) In total (dogs and cats), half a billion pounds of waste are estimated to accumulate daily.
  • The world supports approximately one billion pet dogs and cats who eat billions of pounds of canned meat a year. And, unfortunately, meats are the most energy intensive ingredients on the planet.
  • Pet-keeping is a huge business. Pets even have their own sub-industries including clothing, toys, gear, gadgets, etc. Not to mention the environmental impact of veterinary and grooming services (among others).
  • Then there’s the alleged songbird devastation cats wreak. One UK study estimated that the average British cat will take down 25 bits of prey every year, which adds up to more than 200 million little wild animals consumed per annum. (Just so you know, not everyone agrees that cats are as murderous as that.)

That’s a big paw print! But it’s not the animal’s fault, right? It’s us. After all, it’s our choice to take pets into our homes, not theirs. It’s our decision to expend our environmental resources on them. It's not wrong, per se; it just means that pets are viewed as a luxury by a great many people.

Luckily, there are solutions to the dilemma.

Here are some simple approaches to reduce your pet's carbon paw print:

  1. Don’t overfeed your pets. Obesity is rampant and it’s not just our pets than suffer—it’s the planet too.
  2. Keep your cats indoors or, at the very least, keep them from killing sensitive species like songbirds. If that's not possible, try a bell or a CatBib.
  3. Feed chicken or fish, not beef. Beef takes more energy to produce. Choose brands that list sustainable ingredients.
  4. Don’t flush the cat litter! (Why would you do that to your plumbing, anyway?)
  5. Switch from clay litter to a more sustainable, biodegradable litter but do it slowly. Cats often resist litter changes even more than they do variations in food.
  6. Do you really need all that pet junk in her stocking this year? You know the stuff I mean—tutus, Christmas hats, over-processed treats, winter boots… Pets don’t really need all that stuff anyway.
  7. Scoop the poop so it doesn’t end up in your local waterways. All the nitrogen in poop (ours too) isn't good for our wet ecosystems.
  8. And, of course, keep your pets from reproducing!

Now, that’s not so hard, is it? Not really. Still, it might just be hard to break some of those die-hard habits. Winter boots are, after all, very cute!

Patricia Khuly

Dr. Patty Khuly lives in South Miami with three rescue dogs, one Belgian malinois, a bevy of cats, a pair of goats, a flock of hens, and one teenaged human (her son, Max). She practices as a companion animal veterinarian in Miami, Florida at Sunset Animal Clinic and writes a weekly pet health column for The Miami Herald, authors a monthly column for Veterinary Practice News, blogs biweekly for both Embrace Pet Insurance and VetStreet.com and serves as occasional contributor to publications like The Daily Beast, USA Today, Veterinary Economics, Chickens Magazine and The Bark.
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