Owning a pet is an enriching experience for millions of Americans. You may have a dog you love to exercise with or a cat to cuddle with at night, but the responsibility of owning a pet goes beyond your own individual preferences and needs. As My Pet Insurance puts it, “pet ownership means raising and keeping an animal in such a way that the lives of you, your animal, and even the world around you all improve.”
Your pet has the capacity to affect the environment just like you do—except you’re the one responsible for your pet’s actions, not the animal itself. So how can you raise a pet in an environmentally friendly way?
Strategies for Environmental Responsibility
You can start with these simple behaviors and tactics:
- Select pet products that use recycled materials. Many pet products use recycled materials, but not all of them do. If you’re stuck choosing between a pet toy that’s made from recycled plastic and one that isn’t, opt for the former. It’s a small step to take, but an important one—especially as we gravitate to becoming a more active recycling society.
- Choose food that doesn’t harm any ecosystems. Most pet foods for dogs and cats are made at least partially of meat. Dogs and cats need animal proteins in their diet in order to remain healthy, so don’t opt for a vegetarian diet, but do investigate where this meat comes from. Opt for foods that bear a minimal impact on the environment, and stay away from ones that use questionable commercial fishing or farming processes to manufacture their food.
- Reduce the products you buy and keep. It can be tempting to buy your pet all kinds of products to improve their life, such as toys, beds, furniture, and even clothes, but remember that every product you buy uses resources, some of which are not easily replenished. Your dog or cat will still love you if you buy fewer products, so minimize what you buy for them.
- Use biodegradable products when you can. Some products, such as cat litter, come in biodegradable varieties, which break down easily once disposed of. When you can, opt for the biodegradable variants of these products—even if they’re a few dollars extra.
- Reduce your pet’s impact on local wildlife. Your cat or dog may love being outside unsupervised, but when released, their natural instincts kick in, and they’re liable to kill birds, rodents, and other small animals in your area. While predation cycles are natural for the environment, your cat isn’t a natural part of the ecosystem, and too many “unnatural” kills could put a lopsided burden on the ecosystem, disrupting population growth and maintenance for multiple species simultaneously.
- Spay and neuter your pet. As stated by the ASPCA, “By spaying or neutering your pet, you’ll help control the pet homelessness crisis, which results in millions of healthy dogs and cats being euthanized in the United States each year.” Spaying and neutering is the responsible action to take for your pet and the environment you both live in—and it also comes with a number of medical benefits, such as reduced risk factors for various illnesses and complications, and better temperament.
- Adopt from a shelter. According to the Humane Society, “Overburdened shelters take in millions of stray, abused, and lost animals every year, and by adopting an animal, you’re making room for others.” Adopting from a shelter also means you’ll avoid contributing to puppy mills and other for-profit schemes that frequently raise young animals in questionable circumstances. In one move, you’ll keep the streets clearer of strays, prevent unnecessary euthanasia, and go home with a new companion.
These strategies will help minimize the impact you and your pet have on the environment, and many of them will help you save money, too. You don’t have to go crazy with the eco-friendliness of your pet—after all, your pet is a part of the environment too! But any actions you take to protect our ecosystems are beneficial, so take responsibility when you can.