Many Americans are jumping on the eco-friendly bandwagon, and with good reason. Never before have environmental issues such as global warming, dwindling natural resources, pollution, overpopulation, habitat destruction and disappearing wildlife felt so urgent and immediate. As we find ways to make our homes, lifestyles and businesses more environmentally friendly, are there ways we can also "go green" with our pets?
Absolutely. From choosing the right pet and making responsible care decisions, to taking care about the food and toys we buy, animal lovers can do many things to help protect the environment while providing a happy home for their pets. The following tips are just a start.
- Adopt an animal from a shelter -- which will help combat overpopulation while driving "backyard breeders" and cruel puppy mills out of business. Check out such online services as www.Petfinder.com to begin your research.
- Spay or neuter your pet -- which will help prevent the birth of unwanted puppies and kittens.
- Keep animals indoors -- which will protect native wildlife and help stop the spread of disease.
- Buy pet toys, beds and other products made of environmentally-friendly, sustainable materials (see more on this below) -- which will help protect the environment.
- Purchase pet food that doesn't have chemical preservatives -- which will protect both your pets and the environment. To find eco-friendly pet foods on the Web, check out sites such as Eco-Pet and Natural Pet Market. A list of natural and/or organic pet foods can also be found at EcoBusinessLinks. One caveat: it's always a good idea to consult your veterinarian or an expert in animal nutrition before changing your pet's diet.
- Use natural pet care and cleaning products -- which will protect both your pet and the environment. Read product labels carefully.
- Consider filtering your pet's water -- which will protect your pet.
- Use child- and pet-friendly de-icing products on walkways and porches in winter -- which will protect both your family and your pet.
- Use eco-friendly cat litter, such as products made from wheat or recycled newspaper -- which will protect both your pet and the environment.
- Never flush cat litter down the toilet -- not doing this will protect drinking water and the environment. According to experts, cat feces can contain Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can survive in soil for more than a year and also contaminate drinking water and sewage systems that drain into the ocean. California scientists suspect the parasite is related to recent sea otter deaths.
- Buy biodegradable, compostable bags -- which helps protect the environment -- for the disposal of dog feces.
- This year the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association unveiled a list of some of the "hottest" environmentally friendly pet products available, in celebration of Earth Day. These products are considered environmentally friendly because they are organically grown, made with biodegradable or environmentally friendly materials or help save energy.
- Smarty Cat Certified Organic Catnip.
- Biodegradable Pet Waste Bags with Dispenser and Refill Pack
- Ruffin' It Organic Cotton Collars and Leashes
- The Brush Buddy brush and towel combination for dogs(made using recycled material)
- Simple Solution® Naturals Biodegradable Training Pads, Stain and Odor Remover and Pet Bathing Shampoo
- Ocean GEOtronic, a state-of-the-art temperature regulating device for aquariums
- Doggles Hemp Harness Dress, Hemp Carrier and Hemp dog toys
It is easy to feel powerless in the face of huge global issues such as environmental degradation. If each of us takes just a few steps to help, however, we can join together to make a big difference.
Going "green" with your pet is just one step in the right direction.
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Faye Rapoport DesPres is a freelance writer specializing in pet care, family and outdoor activities. She lives with her husband and five cats, and has a website at OurPlaceToPaws.com.