April 22nd is World Earth Day.
But as the organisers point out, this is about more than just one day. This is about the fight for the future of our planet. From deforestation to our rising carbon footprint, how each of us go about the way we live our life places demands on the earth. As responsible cat guardians we aim to be the best pet parents we can be, but have you considered the bigger picture and the impact of cat-keeping on the earth?
It is possible to provide for your cat’s needs in a responsible way that has a minimal impact on the planet. To give you some food for thought about the changes you could make, let’s look at how to be an eco-friendly pet owner.
They say two things in life are certain: Death and taxes. But if you’re a cat guardian, there’s a third inevitability: Poop. Kitty needs a litter tray, but do you realise just how un-environmentally friendly traditional clay-based cat litters are?
The downsides of clumping clay cat litter include:
- The raw ingredients are often strip-mined, which involves laying waste to vast areas of land and causes further soil erosion.
- Clay cat litter is non-flushable and can swell to 18 times its original size, blocking drains and sewers.
- It’s bad for the planet and bad for your cat’s health. Clay litters can contain carcinogens such as sodium bentonite (an expanding agent used in grouting and cement) which when swallowed during grooming, can accumulate and cause ill health.
So what are the more environmentally (and kitty!) friendly options?
1. Biodegradable Cat Litter
Biodegradable cat litter is made from natural ingredients such as wheat or corn kernels, recycled newspapers, dried wood or grass, and kiln-dried pine. There are plenty of brands available, and whilst they are more expensive they don’t cost the earth. Better still, they are compostable which leads us onto point number two.
You scooped the poop: Now what? Do NOT use regular poop bags as these take 1,500 years to degrade in landfill sites. Instead use biodegradable bags which break down in around one month.
Better still, set up a home composter in the back yard. These turn pet waste into compost for your garden (although the compost produced should not be used to feed vegetables or plants for human consumption.) You can create a composter from scratch using an old garbage can and some sewage starter, or you can purchase a commercial pet poop composter.
Food for Thought
Have you ever stopped to consider what goes into your cat food and the environmental impact of producing it? Many commercial foods contain meat and meat-by-products from intensively farmed animals, plus they contain cereals grown using fertilisers and pesticides. The food may then be packaged in cans containing BPA (bisphenol A), a substance linked to health problems in humans.
The alternative is to buy natural or organic cat food that contains meat from animals raised using humane, sustainable methods without the use of drugs, hormones, fertilisers, or pesticides. To be certain a food meets these standards looked for a ‘certified organic’ mark on the packaging which is backed by your country’s government. Also, be sure to dispose of packaging responsibly. Some trail-blazing companies even undertake free recycling of their pet food containers.
Toys and Bedding
Cat toys may be little but they can make a big impact. Plastics and rubber often contain BPA and phthalates (both have potential health and environmental implications). Instead, look for toys made from recycled materials which are eco-friendly such as:
- Stuffing made from cycled plastic bottles
- Dye free fabrics
- Recycled cotton yarns (for fabrics and rope toys)
- Recycled or organic materials
The same goes for cat beds. You can buy gorgeously soft and comfy beds made from recycled PET bottles and stuffed with wadding made from recycled materials. And don’t forget to look for blankets made from organically produced cotton plants raised without the use of harsh chemical that are damaging to the environment. And just think, when your give the cat your old T-shirt to sleep on, this is a form of recycling and your cat will love it because it smells of you.
You’re probably spotting a theme by now, but when purchasing household cleaners and disinfectants to tidy up after your cat, buy ones that are marked as environmentally friendly or opt for natural cleaning products such as baking soda and vinegar.
This is because most domestic cleaning agents contain triclosan. When this gets into the groundwater, the action of ultraviolet light converts it into dioxins. These toxic substances accumulate in body tissue and can work their way up to the food chain. So what you pour down the sink could ironically work its way into the fish your cat (or you) eats and indirectly harm them.
If your cat is a fussy eater and you have a stash of cat litter you are determined to use up, consider off-setting the environmental damage by looking into personal carbon trading or a tradable personal pollution allowance, as appropriate for where you live in the world.
This Earth Day we invite you to consider the bigger picture, and ask yourself what changes you can make to become a more eco-friendly pet owner. Leave a comment below and share with our readers the changes you intend to make.