8 ways to lighten your pet’s footprint

G Magazine

Our pets bring joy to our lives, which shouldn’t be jaded with a high environmental impact. Keep their footprint light and green with these eight easy tips.


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» First choice

Two-thirds of Australian homes have a pet, and more than half of these households have dogs and cats – but is
this the best choice? The general rule is that smaller pets will consume fewer resources and produce less waste, so consider smaller pets such as fish, birds, rabbits or hermit crabs. For anyone with even a small backyard, the lowest-impact pets are chickens, which will eat table scraps and lay scrumptious eggs as well.

» End pet overpopulation

Animals Australia says that because breeding is unrestricted, overbreeding is a major problem which results in our nation putting down at least 200,000 healthy cats and dogs every year. Love knows no pedigree, so consider adopting your new companion from a shelter near you at www.operationtoby.com.au, or look for abandoned pets to suit you at www.petrescue.com.au. The RSPCA also says by desexing your cat or dog, they are less likely to get into fights, stray, spray and mark their territory and they are better companions.

» Green their diet

“Manufactured pet foods substitute lowquality and poorly bioavailable proteins – such as corn, wheat or soy – for the high quality and bioavailable proteins found in flesh,” says Dr Bruce Ferguson, a Perth-based natural vet. “Pet foods are pressure-cooked under very high temperatures and then extruded under high pressure which ruins many nutritional components that then must be replenished, commonly with synthetics.” Most butchers will charge next to nothing for bones, chicken carcasses and necks and other meat offcuts that are normally thrown out, and you can then spend your savings on a good organic dried food. For healthy organic pre-prepared pet food try Sassy Treats (www.sassytreats.com.au) or Baliz (www.balizwoofwoof.com.au). There are many differing opinions on whether dogs and cats can become vegetarian or vegan, but Sandy Anderson from Veganpet (www.veganpet.com.au) says she has found vegan alternatives which pets can be weaned onto, which would drastically reduce your moggy or hound’s eco-footprint. Deborah Alcock, from the Natural Pet Store (www.naturalpetstore.com.au) believes that “best way to feed your pet to lower the environmental impact is to feed a balanced home prepared diet sourced
from locally grown or organic produce”.

» Here, kitty kitty

Domestic cats alone are thought to kill 3.8 million native Australian animals each year. The CatBib (www.catgoods.com) hangs around the neck of cats and prevents four in five cats from killing wildlife, however they shouldn’t really be out hunting natives in the first place. Always have a bell on cats, and keep
them indoors at night.

» Grooming and fleas

To treat flea problems a holistic approach is best, making sure you not only wash the pet, but also the bedding. “Ensure the environment has been vacuumed then spray with a spritzer of tea tree and lavender to kill any remaining flea eggs. Putting pet bedding out in the sun regularly is also excellent for killing flea eggs,”
says Andrea Flanagan from Carma Critta. Zen Shampoo (www.carmacritta.com.au) for dogs is made from
certified organic castille shampoo, plus Enviro Pet wash (www.envirocareearth.com.au) is greywater-safe and does not replete the natural oils that maintain a healthy coat for any four-legged pet. “It’s important to know that essential oils and cats do not mix… Neem oil [a natural insecticide] is safe for cats as long as it is 100 per cent,” says Flanagan.

» Limited accessories

Our furry friends don’t really need that novelty outfit that’s made in China; opt only for necessities. For collars, leads and bedding, go for natural fibres such as hemp, which requires little energy to grow and is also anti-fungal. The Natural Pet store has a completely biodegradable organic dog bed, where even the zipper
will biodegrade. For toys, a 2 L soft drink plastic bottle filled with treats will keep most pets amused for hours and can be recycled when worn out.

» Toilet time

Many local councils have rules on picking up pet poo – and for good reason: when left, they wash into sewers and pollute rivers and beaches. To pick up doggydoos on the go, use a biodegradable cornstarch bag, or the Skooperbox (www.skooperbox.com), made from recycled paper. To dispose of pet waste produced in your home, you might like to set up a special compost using Bokashi microbes to reduce odor and accelerate the breakdown until you can use it on the garden. There are many kitty litters on the market made from recycled paper or other easily biodegradable and compostable materials, all of which are safe to flush down the toilet. All animal waste can contain parasites and pathogens, so it’s not recommended to use this compost on edible gardens.

» Keeping them cool

As the mercury rises, don’t leave the air conditioner on for your pets, just make sure you have a pet bed in a shady spot that is off the ground allowing air to flow freely underneath. For really hot days try Carma Critta’s Chill Pillow made from organic cotton and wheat – put them in the freezer for a few hours and then put under the bedding. You can add ice cubes to their water or try a homemade frozen pet treat to keep them amused and cool at the same time!