Your dog or cat may be adorable, but pet ownership can have a sizable ecological paw print. Pet foods are often filled with industrial meat products that would horrify environmentalists. An article in New Scientist (Oct. 24, 2009) about the new book Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living estimates that it takes two acres of land to create the chicken and grain that a medium-sized dog eats each year. According to the book’s authors, Brenda and Robert Vale, that’s twice as resource-intensive as building and fueling an SUV driven 6,200 miles per year. A cat’s impact is just a whisker less than a compact car’s.
There are some simple ways to make sure your pet treads a little lighter on the earth. Re-evaluating how much meat your pet really needs is a good first step, as is thinking about the source; a cat that eats fish scraps, for instance, doesn’t have the footprint of one that dines on canned kitty pâté. In an adjacent editorial, New Scientist editors also suggest that owners give pets their leftovers, which would reduce waste from humans. (We suggest checking with a veterinarian to determine which foods are appropriate.) Consumers could pressure pet food manufacturers, as well, to offer more ecofriendly products. “Sustainable lifestyles require sacrifices,” write the New Scientist editors, “and even cats and dogs can be made to do their bit.”