5 Beginner Tips for Eco-Friendly Pets
Raising eco-friendly pets should be easy, right? After all, most animal species exhibit innate eco-friendly behavior - cats give themselves baths, goats eat anything and everything, and birds weave beautiful nests of re-purposed material worthy of a Pinterest post. But when animals become dependent on their owners for food, shelter and waste disposal, the environmentally conscious decisions must be made by the humans, and that tends to be where things get complicated. There are several benefits for you and your pet to living a "greener" life, some of which are described below in these simple strategies to consider first.
Choose Natural Pet Food
While pet reptiles get by on relatively straightforward diets of crickets and rodents, other pets require more complicated and nutritionally balanced diets. With so much focus on GMOs (also shown in this graphic), preservatives, and contamination resulting from globalized food production, today's pet owners are wising up to the not-so-healthy ingredients often found in store-bought pet food. As a result, several all-natural pet food brands are appearing on the shelves. If you can find one that also follows fair trade standards, then know that you are doing your pet and the food producers a world of good.
Alternatively, you can make your own pet food at home. This doesn't mean your eco-friendly pets will be joining you at the dinner table, but your ball of joy will be enjoying clean, less processed meals. You might not save time at first, but you can save money, avoid packaging waste, and trips to the pet store. Or, if you don't want to commit to making pet food for every meal, let your pet enjoy some cooking scraps you would otherwise throw away. Save those broccoli stems, carrot ends, and chicken innards for the doggie bowl. Just be sure to first research which foods are dangerous to your pets. It might surprise you!
Repurposed Pet Toys
At the risk of making your home look like a garage sale hit by a tornado, you can squeeze extra life out of household items by converting them into toys. Achieving this goal simply takes pausing for a moment before throwing away that cardboard box you just got in the mail, or getting rid of that bath towel you've had since college. You can even make a dog bed out of old rags and unwanted t-shirts by using them as stuffing. Speaking of stuffing, if your eco-friendly pets have a "new-to-destroyed" speed of 5 seconds, it might be handy to keep a simple sewing kit lying around for quick repairs to stuffed toys.
For dogs that like to tear the stuffing out of things? Find one of those hollow balls with lots of holes, and stuff it full of scraps of t-shirts. This will statisfy their need to tear things apart without tearing apart the wrong things.
Responsible Waste Disposal
If you're lucky enough to have a pet capable of using a toilet, good for you! The rest of us unfortunately have to pick up after our pets. Much to Planet Earth's dismay, millions of tons of pet waste end up in landfills every year in plastic bags that cannot biodegrade. One solution is to switch to biodegradable dog bags; another is to flush pet waste down the toilet. Note: do not follow this advice for cats, as cat waste contains a parasite that is harmful to oceanic creatures. Instead, cat owners can purchase natural litter made from sawdust (or even old corncobs!) or incorporate unwanted newspaper with the litter of your choice.
In some cases, your pet poo can even be used as fertilizer or compost. It might need to be decomposed for quite a long time, and it's not recommended to use around edible gardens. This can be tricky, so research well before you try it.
Have you ever watched in awe as your dog or cat licked a section of your couch for a solid five minutes? Cute and quirky as it may be, an animal's habit of licking surfaces means it can ingest whatever chemicals have been applied to those surfaces. Thus, if you have pets in the house, be sure to choose natural, easy-to-make cleaning products. If you want advice on what kind of cleaners to avoid, ask a veterinarian or veterinary technician as they have to provide clean and sterile environments for eco-friendly pets on a daily basis. When you do clean, don't skimp on the objects your pet uses daily, such as the water bowl and pet bed. If you don't like sleeping on itchy, dirty sheets, chances are your pet doesn't either.
But Wait, I Have A Fish!
Clearly, you're not going to catch your fish licking the couch; if you're a lover of underwater pets, there are still ways you can make their environment more eco-friendly. You can reuse old or leaking aquariums for reptile habitats, art or garden projects, or maybe a not-so-secret treasure chest. If you have freshwater fish, you can use old water in the garden or compost pile, as it's full of nutrients. (Salt water might kill off beneficial microbes.) Finally, natural fish foods are available, despite the image of rainbow-colored mystery flakes you might have in mind.
So, whether your eco-friendly pets are covered in fur or scales, you can find ways to improve its quality of life and yours by incorporating eco-friendly habits into your routine.
Monica Gomez is a California native and lifelong animal lover. She has two pets, a Californian Spangled Cat, and a Miniature Schnauzer. Monica freelance writes on pet care and animal career training programs like veterinary tech and vet assistant courses.