Going green means making eco-friendly, sustainable decisions for ourselves and our families — pets included. I adopted my feline soulmate (as I call her) a few years ago, and I have learned that she is not picky. She will eat any brand and flavor of food, and she will poop in any type of litter. For me, this meant I could get away with buying the cheapest products the pet aisle had to offer. But I don’t. Instead, I check labels for the food she eats just as I do for myself, and the cheapest brands tend to have strange or deceitful ingredients. In addition to pet food, other products like medicine, toys, cleaning products, and pet waste products are typically made with precarious chemicals by unsustainable companies. Fortunately there are increasingly more choices of pet supplies that are friendlier to our pets’ health and the environment.
Mysterious byproducts like chicken meal, and grains like corn and soy are often the first ingredients listed on pet food labels, and actual “meat” is often at the bottom of the list for many mainstream pet food brands. The pet food industry thrives off the unwanted scraps of the human food and agricultural industries. The common term “meal” can mean rendered parts of animals that are unfit for human consumption. I’ll spare you the graphic details, but these scary byproducts and fillers are just cheap calories that are harmful to our pets’ health.
Cats and dogs are carnivores and require diets high in meat protein and low in carbohydrates. Organic and natural pet foods that use human-grade ingredients without dyes, additives, or synthetic preservatives are available. Preparing home-made pet food is also an option, but check with a veterinarian for expert advice. Here’s a site with sample recipes for cat and dog food: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/articles.php?p=360&more=1
When deciding which brand of pet food to buy, I also take its packaging into account. I refrain from buying dry food that comes in thick plastic bags and, instead, I buy large bags that are better priced and produce less waste than several small bags.
In my garden, I grow my own wheat or cat grass and catnip that my kitty goes wild for. Wheat grass and cat grass are said to provide health benefits such as adding fiber and vitamins to their diet and eliminating hairballs. I make toys with the dried catnip by putting it in old socks and tying a knot.
Medication and Cleaning Products
Pet medications usually are made of harsh chemicals that can cause bad reactions in pets. Home-remedies or natural products can be found on the internet, such herbal shampoos or sprays to repel fleas and ticks, but it is best to discuss options with a veterinarian first. Vacuuming carpet is extremely helpful in getting rid of flea eggs, and borax can also be used to treat flea infestation. Read more here: http://www.ehow.com/how_4421449_use-borax-kill-fleas.html
Conventional kitty litter is produced from clay, usually obtained through strip mining, plus other materials that are petroleum-based or high in chemicals that end up on our cats’ paws and eventually on their tongues. Not only that, but tons of clay litter is sent to the landfill where it never biodegrades. The best alternatives to clay litter are plant-based, but you can also try making your own home-made litter with newspaper: http://thegreenists.com/pets/tip-of-the-day-make-your-own-kitty-litter/1044.
I’ve tried various litters made of different materials, such as corn and wheat, with varying results. I’ve had most success with Feline Pine, a wood-based product that clumps well and smells like fresh pine. Plant-based litters are biodegradable and don’t leave harsh chemicals on kitty feet. Although some natural litters are claimed to be flushable, this is not recommended, as toxoplasmosis, caused by a parasite in cat feces, may be a result of its sustained presence in wastewater.
For dog waste, biodegradable bags are essential. They work like plastic bags, but are flushable and compostable. Pet waste should be composted separately from your regular compost pile. Check out this site for a step-by-step guide to pet waste composting: http://cityfarmer.org/petwaste.html