My (Perry Jameson) family has decided to do what we can to be eco-friendly. We recycle paper, plastic and glass; we ride bikes or walk if we can instead of driving; and we compost any food wastes for our garden.
I realized however I was doing nothing to decrease the negative impacts my pets could be having. So here are several things my family is starting to do that will help our pets be eco-friendly and, if you follow suit, yours too.
How you manage your dog and cats poop can impact the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies pet waste as a nonpoint source pollutant, the same as herbicides and insecticides. These are all agents that, with rain or snow-melt runoff, get moved into natural bodies of water and underground drinking water.
Pets can shed bacteria and parasites that can potentially infect humans by ingestion of contaminated water. Also, children playing in areas where pets have defecated can be exposed to these organisms.
So if your dog poops in your yard, the park, or out on a walk, do not leave it there, pick it up and place in the trash. Use biodegradable bags that will break down at the landfill.
Clay (sodium bentonite) is the most common form of cat litter but the least environmentally safe. It is popular because it clumps and expands when wet, making scooping the litter box easier. The problem is it requires strip mining, in places such as Brazil and Wyoming, to produce.
A better alternative is to use materials that are being repurposed and/or break down quickly. There are many litters made today with this in mind, from materials such as cedar, pine, wheat, corn and even recycled newspapers.
It is estimated that each year, pet and feral cats kill between 1 billion to 4 billion birds in the United States. They also kill rabbits, squirrels and any other mammals. They cannot help this behavior as they are instinctive hunters. As eco-friendly pet parents, we all should do our part to prevent this.
They only definitive way to stop this is to make all cats indoor cats. Unfortunately, this is not always practical. The next best prevention is colorful collars. Cats are great at being completely still while blending into the environment so that a bird can get close enough to catch. These bright collars, such as the Birdsbesafe brand, make them visible to the birds. One study found they decreased bird deaths by 87 percent. You can add a bell to your cat’s collar as well. These help but were not shown to be as helpful as a brightly colored collar.
Reducing feral cat populations also will dramatically decrease the number of wildlife killed. Spay and/or neuter your cat. Also support the Charleston Animal Society’s effort where feral cats are caught, spayed or neutered and then released back where they came from.
Start paying attention to how your pet’s food and litter are packaged. Many still come in plastic containers that may take decades to break down. Switch to products that come in packaging that will biodegrade rapidly, like paper. Be sure to at least recycle the can or plastic container the food came if that is the only option.
Also purchase toys, collars and leashes that are made of renewable resources. Most of these products have historically been made of plastics. Now, however, you can find collars, leashes, toys and pet T-shirts made of natural products like hemp and cotton.
Just like fecal and urine waste can contaminate our oceans, lakes, rivers and drinking water, so can the products we use on our pets. Use eco-friendly shampoos and grooming aids that are environmentally safe.
Our family has adopted these practices so that our whole family, not just the human portion, is now earth-friendly.