You recycle, try to reduce your carbon emissions, take your reusable bags to the supermarket each week, and generally try to do your best by the planet. After all, it’s the only one we’ve got, right? But then there’s your cat, and you’re pretty sure a lot of the stuff required for cat care isn’t exactly clean and green…never fear! This list brings together a bunch of steps, both big and small, you can take to be the most environmentally-friendly cat owner you can be. There’s no longer any need to grimace at pet-related plastic packaging, to twist your brain calculating the carbon cost of that food, or to cringe as chemicals go sloshing down the drains. These tips are practical, achievable ways to help those paws tread even more softly on our planet.
When you’re keeping your cat clean of dirt, grime, and crawling nasties, there’s a whole range of options where you can ditch the parabens and chemicals. Not only can these irritate the skin and eyes of your cat, the water run-off isn’t great for drains or tanks. Just like you can now get your shampoo in bar form, so can your kitty. Wondercide does a great range of all-natural shampoo bars (also avoiding the plastic bottles of most pet shampoos) and flea/tick/ear-mite treatments. You can do the washing in the shower or bath (if your pet deigns to submit to such an indignity!) with no chemical run-off to worry about. The formulations are also designed to soothe skin and leave a nice, naturally pleasant scent. Win-win! Remember to treat your house, to prevent re-infestation. Natural options like diatomaceous earth exist to help with this.
Are you feeling crafty? I hope so, because this is the most fun of my tips for today. Almost anything can be a source of fun for your cat, so there’s no need for plastic toys that come in more plastic packaging, and are shipped by plane or truck across the country, or the world. Come on, we’ve all been there...you buy this amazingly (expensive) cat toy you’re SURE your cat will love, only to have your cat play with or sit in the box the toy came in. Toy never touched. (FAIL!) I digress...
A simple option for a pull-toy would be to attach a string or ribbon to a simple stick from outside, or a knitting needle. Its decoration is limited only by your imagination. Rope or string wrapped around a leg of furniture, or an off-cut of wood, makes a perfect scratching post. An old t-shirt can make an outstanding catnip mouse (whiskers optional). And one of the greatest cat beds I ever saw was one made from a repurposed suitcase. Or was it the suspended bureau drawer, doubling as a tower? You know what, as far as environmentally friendly cat care goes, they’re both great.
Pet food has a massive carbon footprint, due to the nature of its production. You can read all about it here. For an easy way to reduce the environmental impact of your cat food, here are three simple tricks:
Do you know what outdoor cats get up to at night? They hunt...and they’re really good at it! Our cute, cuddly carnivores have lightning reflexes and razor-sharp claws which make them lethal to other animals out and about, including small ground-dwelling mammals like voles and mice, but particularly birds. Studies have shown that domestic cats are responsible for the killing of 1.4 - 3.7 billion birds each year in the Continental US. Birds are beautiful in and of themselves, yes, but they are also pollinators and seed spreaders, so their survival means the survival of many more plants, and the tiny ecosystem each one harbors. Indoor cats may get a run at the odd rodent or insect, but you can rest easy that as long as your precious puss is hanging inside with you, your garden will have that many more songbirds and burrowing critters in it for years to come!
If you’ve always had outdoor cats, you might worry that restricting their freedom to roam is cruel. Rest assured that up to ¾ of owned US cats are happily indoor-only, and there are millions who have transitioned with minimal fuss. There are special ‘cat-runs’ that can be fitted to your yard or windows, so your eco-friendly cat can have that taste of fresh air! And if none of this is an option for you, fit your kitty’s collar with a bell, and give those birds some warning!
Environmentally-friendly cat care is easy when it comes to kitty litter. Natural litters come in a range of forms, from corn to paper to sawdust. The materials are from renewable resources and often recycled - think old newspapers or waste products from lumber mills - which reduce waste by their very production. Their biodegradable nature means they can be composted (though the poop itself shouldn’t be home-composted) and often flushed. Flushing is recommended only for indoor cats though, as cat feces can contain the parasite Toxoplasmosis, which no-one wants in the water system. You can find out more about Toxoplasmosis, and how to deal with or prevent it, here. Some clay litters have chemicals added to aid in clumping and to prevent dust, which isn’t true of natural alternatives. And natural litters are often longer lasting too, which means that they need to be bought less frequently, leading to less packaging and transportation. Perfect! TofuKitty offers litter made from recycled, food-grade plant ingredients which are compostable, flushable and can be refilled, easily. This reduces the amount going to landfill, along with the plastic required for the bagging of the feces.
This is far and away the biggest step you can take to reduce the environmental impact of your cat! Controlling the population of cats and dogs is a challenge that faces almost all countries the world over. A single un-neutered female cat, and her offspring, can be responsible for 370,000 cats in the space of seven years! This is because cats reach sexual maturity around six months (so spay just before this!) and can have three litters each year. That could mean a whole army up against the small creatures in your garden. Also, from an ethical standpoint, preventing your cat from parenting kittens that may then need to be passed on to a local shelter is a fantastic way to avoid putting more pressure on a system already under a lot of strain. Getting your fur baby fixed is a quick, inexpensive measure that will mean they’re healthier, and you’ll be keeping their genealogical pawprint down to size!
Reducing the impact of cats can be done by reducing the number of them! There are millions of cats and kittens in shelters all over the country, in need of loving homes. If at all acceptable to you and your family, why not consider adopting or fostering one (or two…)? By choosing your next feline family member from among these sweethearts, instead of a breeder, however responsible and reputable, you’ll be freeing space for more cats in need. This will keep cats off the streets and contribute to keeping all those birds and small mammals safe.
Small steps lead to big changes in our world. Making these adaptations to your style of pet-ownership don’t take a lot of effort and sets an example for others. You’ll also feel better, knowing that you and your cat are helping to keep our planet clean, green and cool!