7 tips for eco-friendly pet owners

German Shepherds in field
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Damian Synnott

With hundreds of millions of pets across the world, being an eco-friendly pet owner can have a greater environmental impact than you might expect.

It’s easy to overlook our furry friends while seeking out ways to make our lives a bit greener and more environmentally conscious. With more than 160 million pets in American households, and possibly upwards of 800 million worldwide, our favorite companions have quickly become an unsustainable force to be reckoned with. Even so, there are plenty of ways to extend your eco-friendly lifestyle to your pets - you just have to know where to start.

1. Adopt from a shelter

There is already a significant overpopulation of pets in the country, and purchasing that new puppy or kitten from a store or breeder only leads to greater demand for breeding. More breeding has the potential to become unsustainable very quickly, and there are already millions of homeless animals stuck in shelters across the country. The Humane Society estimates that anywhere from 6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year, 2.7 million of which are euthanized. Adopting not only saves an animal from this fate, but it can also help overburdened shelters reduce overhead costs and preserve their often very limited resources.

2. Spay or neuter your pet

The exact number of strays in the United States may never be pinpointed, but the ASPCA estimates that there are over 70 million stray cats alone. Spaying or neutering your pets is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent further overpopulation. When strays – especially cats – multiply, they can severely disrupt the surrounding ecosystem. Feral cats are even listed on the Invasive Species Specialist Group’s list of worst invasive species on earth, and it is believed that they are responsible for over one billion animal deaths each year.

3. Buy earth-friendly pet care products

Cat in litter box© Shutterstock
Purchasing eco-friendly pet products is a simple change, but it can really help lower the environmental impact your pets. Dog owners, for example, can find many different varieties of shampoo on the market that use natural or sustainably-sourced ingredients. For cat owners, kitty litter can be an environmental concern as it often does not biodegrade. Thankfully there are litter products available made from biodegradable or recycled materials.

4. Make your own treats

Why constantly purchase new pet treats, generating even more packaging waste along the way, when you could be making your own? Specifically for dogs, Dog Treat Kitchen has dozens of recipes for homemade goodies that you can whip up in your kitchen. Looking for some homemade cat treat ideas? If you have a green thumb, try growing some catnip or cat grass at home.

5. Choose more sustainable pet food

Yet another way to decrease the environmental impact of our pets is to choose pet food from companies with a commitment to the planet. At TerraCycle, we have partnered with pet food brands Open Farm and Wellness TruFood to open free recycling programs for pet food bag waste, allowing anyone to send us their pet food bags for recycling. Family pets are able to have their favorite sustainably produced food, while packaging waste is diverted from the landfill.

6. Compost your pet’s waste

Pet waste can be a particularly hazardous pollutant – especially to nearby water sources – and dogs alone are responsible for 10 million tons of it every year. But believe it or not, your pet’s waste can be used as an effective ingredient for compost. There are plenty of tutorials online to help start a compost pile with pet waste. Keep in mind that dog waste compost is not recommended for plants and crops meant for human consumption.

7. Consider eco-friendly pet toys

Playtime can also be eco-friendly with the right products. For the cat owners, this list of eco-friendly toys boasts a wide range of fun things to keep your cat occupied. You will find everything from dye-free toys made with organic materials, to toys created with recycled or upcycled materials. To ensure old toys don’t end up in the trash, be sure to donate or upcycle them instead. You can always make your own toys as well! Cats love balls of aluminum foil, hair ties, and paper towel rolls, while dogs will always be happy with an old ball from the garage.For most of us, our favorite companions are essentially extensions of the family, and require just as much love and care. Living an eco-friendly lifestyle requires paying attention not only to the choices we make for ourselves, but those we make for our pets as well.
7 tips for eco-friendly pet owners
With hundreds of millions of pets across the world, being an eco-friendly pet owner can have a greater environmental impact than you might expect.

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