If going zero waste is your ambition, you need to take a look not only at our own lifestyles, but your pet’s lifestyle as well. My experiences with my cat and other animals I’ve been pet sitting for over four years now) taught me that everything from food to litter and poo bags has serious effects on the environment. I’m far from perfect, but here are some small but impactful steps you can take to raise your pet more consciously.
Cook food when possible
Cats and dogs can thrive on a cooked food diet. I buy cheap meat parts at the butcher for my cat, (like chicken hearts or livers) and cook them with grains or small portions of vegetables. This way I keep him happy, make sure he has a variety of meats in his diet, and I use animal parts that are not as popular as chicken breasts or steaks.
Cats need more meat in their diets than dogs do, so for a dog you can increase the ratio of cooked vegetables to meat. If you have leftover food that you won’t be able to eat yourself, you can always cook no-waste meals for your pet (just avoid garlic, onion, salt, and spices). Rabbits are also great pets to help with preventing food waste – they eat any vegetables and some fruit that go bad quite quickly (think lettuce, celery, spinach, etc).
Whenever I eat fish, I buy one with the head still attached and give it to my cat after cooking. It might not be the prettiest or most elegant food, but it’s what cats eat in nature. They can also eat raw or cooked eggs (since they eat raw meat, fish, and eggs in nature, their digestive track is adapted to deal with salmonella or other parasites better than humans).
2. Buy food in bulk
It’s not completely realistic to cook for your pet every day, so whenever possible, buy food in bulk. Websites like Zooplus.nl offer discounts when (the bigger the package, the higher the discount) so you can minimize the amount of packaging that ends up in the trash. As for wet food, I try to buy big cans and keep them in the fridge for a few days after opening instead of buying small, plastic sachets and using one every day. Ecological pooping
3. Ecological pooping
If I walk a dog twice a day, that’s at least two plastic poop bags that go to the trash daily. With 1.5mln dogs living in the Netherlands, it adds up to 3mln plastic bags every day, and 1 billion per year (and that’s only in the Netherlands!). These numbers are shocking, but they can be easily reduced as most of mainstream supermarkets (Action, Ekoplaza, some Alert Heijn shops) already sell biodegradable bags.
For Cats, most of the commercially made litter is made of bentonite clay or silicon crystals, none of which are biodegradable. A more natural choice would be litter made of wood shavings, sawdust, or paper. Make sure you also discard used litter in biodegradable bags (and not in plastic bags).
4. Ditch the cosmetics
I’ve never been a fan of dry shampoos for cats or washing the dogs with perfumed soaps, but now more than even I’m more conscious of what goes down the drain. I myself stopped using cosmetics with chemicals harmful to the environment, and that goes for pets, too. If needed, washing your pet with warm water is more than enough.
5. Use natural toys
Opt for toys made of natural materials like hemp, string, and wood. They’re safer for your pet and for the environment. Dogs also love chewing on beef or pork bones, dried pig ears or chicken legs. It might seem gruesome, but that’s yet another way to make use of animal parts that would otherwise go to waste.
If you’ve ever had a cat, you know that they prefer to play with a cardboard box rather than the expensive toy you bought for them. They rarely need complex, plastic toys or toys running on batteries. See what your cat plays with the most and use that instead. For example, my cat loves to chase around cloves of garlic (because of the rustling peel) and fruit pits. The only downside is that I keep finding them under my couch while cleaning the apartment, but my cat is happy, so I let that slide.