April is National Pet Month, so here are five ways to make sure your furry companion is as kind to the environment as you are.

We owe a lot to our little furry friends. They give us companionship and unconditional love, help us to destress and are responsible for a considerable amount of online joy (where would the internet be without pictures of kittens?).

Being a pet owner can be hugely rewarding, but you might be surprised to learn that our moggy mates and puppy pals aren’t as kind to the environment as they are to us. According to the authors of Time to Eat the Dog?, it takes 0.84 hectares of land to keep a medium-sized dog fed. In contrast, running a 4.6-litre Toyota Land Cruiser, including the energy required to construct the thing and drive it 10,000 kilometres a year, requires 0.41 hectares. A cat’s eco-footprint (or should that be pawprint?) is the same as a Volkswagon Golf.

And that’s just food. Things like cat litter, bedding, cleaning products and toys all add to a pet’s environmental impact. But don’t fret for Fido just yet! There are many ways animal lovers can take a more eco-conscious approach to pet ownership.

  1. Give them greener goodies

Anyone that’s ever owned an aloof, snobby cat or exuberant, playful pup will know that pet toys can be a major source of wastefulness; they’re either outright ignored or destroyed within seconds. And what happens to them then? Into the bin and then on into landfill. Try to avoid plastics and opt for rope-based toys, or plastic toys that contain recycled material, instead. Green & Wilds has a great selection. Look for sustainable or recycled materials in bedding, too.

  1. Choose kinder kitty litter

According to eco-friendly cat litter company Natusan, over 2.4 million tonnes of cat litter ends up in landfill every year in the UK. A lot of cat litter is clay-based, which means a lot of energy has gone into creating a product which will simply fester in landfill sites for years, taking its time to break down. Choose natural cat litter instead, which breaks down easily and comes from sustainable sources such as saw dust. Or if you feel like treating little Fluffy, invest in a special ‘cat commode’ with reusable cat litter. If you’ve got a dog, opt for biodegradable waste bags when you scoop that poop!

  1. Reign them in

Cats and dogs are naturally curious creatures, and their adventures can often lead to the destruction of wildlife and other animal habitats. Keeps dogs on a lead when you’re out and about to stop them stomping over plants and snuffling up smaller animals, and consider keeping your cat inside. Millions of animals (birds, mice and squirrels, for example) are hunted and killed every year by our feline friends, so while it might not be feasible to keep them indoors all the time, limiting their outside time will help reduce this impact. Plus, it’ll help them live longer – evidence shows that while indoor cats live for an average of 15 to 17 years, outdoor kitties have an average lifespan of between just two and five years.

  1. Look at their diet

There’s a reason cat and dog food looks a bit gross – it is! Most conventional pet food brands consist of reconstituted animal by-products from environmentally-demanding slaughterhouses, so it’s much better to choose natural and organic pet foods which use meats that are raised in eco-friendly ways, are minimally processed and preserved with natural substances. Also, reduce the amount of red meat you serve your pet pal – mankind’s demand for beef and pork is putting strain enough on the planet without adding our pampered pets’ wants to the mix. Chicken, fish and dried food will do them fine, unless your vet says otherwise. In fact, vets say that some insect-based pet food may be better for them than prime steak!

  1. Reduce, reuse, recycle!

We’re all familiar with the green mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ when it comes to products and goods, but the same ethos can be applied to pets, too! Help reduce the environmental impact of more animals on the planet by neutering or spaying your pet, reuse a friend’s pet for walks or cuddles instead of getting one yourself if you’re not sure of the commitment, and recycle someone else’s pet by getting one from a shelter or home when you do decide the time’s right.

The bottom line

There are many wonderful reasons to give a pet a loving home, but small as they might be, their impact on the climate can be big. These simple steps will help to minimise their environmental pawprints, helping to preserve the planet for humans and animals alike.

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