How to Green Your Pet

| March-April 2010

  • Green Pets

    image from, Photo-illustration by Stephanie Glaros

  • Green Pets

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.”

Elizabeth _2
3/22/2010 1:20:27 PM

Giving your pet your leftovers is a good idea, as long as you do NOT allow him or her to eat these foods: TABOO FOODS: -ALCOHOL (depresses brain function, can cause coma) -COFFEE (caffeine can cause increase in heart rate & trigger seizures) -CHOCOLATE (can be fatal, causes vomiting) -GARLIC (breaks down pet's red blood cells, leading to anemia & possible kidney failure) -MACADAMIA NUTS (just a few can cause tremors and temporary paralysis) -ONIONS (cumulative damage to hemoglobin) -GRAPES (and raisins: can cause kidney failure) -SUGAR SUBSTITUTES (vomiting, weakness staggering, collapse) -ASPIRIN (one baby aspirin can kill a cat, but is OK for dogs, as needed)

Elizabeth _2
3/22/2010 1:19:19 PM

RICE: Most dog foods, including wet & dry, are filled with rice, either white or brown. Rice is a known "binder" in the diet, meaning it can bind up a pet and make him or her constipated. Cut back on allowing your pet to eat so much rice, and you'll see a big difference. Yogurt is also binding. PROTEINS: Cut back on high-quality proteins (mostly red meat) after your pet is 5 years old. High-quality proteins are too difficult for a pet to assimilate in the kidneys after that age. Most older pet deaths are caused by kidney failure!

KC in KC
3/22/2010 11:04:31 AM

I started making my dog's food a few months ago when he kept getting serious intestinal upsets (all over my beige carpet, might I add) and I finally figured out that it is some ingredient in the dog food. I was using very expensive natural, organic dog food--kibble and canned--and haven't identified yet what's in it that he can't tolerate. But since I started making him basically a stew twice a week, he's just fine. My vet said he can eat essentially what humans eat, but limited portions, so I boil hamburger meat or chicken, white rice (tried brown rice, back came the health problems), carrots, sweet potatoes, a red bell pepper, a half an onion, then run the immersion blender through it so he can't pick out the carrots. I check the seconds bin at our natural foods co-op and get the sad-looking veggies that they can't sell on the regular displays. I figure they're still organic, still healthful and HE isn't going to fuss because they're a little limp or brown. Plus, this saves me LOTS of cans each week and that makes me very happy. The cat? A different prospect. Cats need almost all protein and can't use carbohydrates, as I understand, so I still use canned food for The Ace of Kittehs. But I use the large cans so I at least use fewer cans than if I were opening those itty bitty "pate" cans. (fer pity's sake. Pate. AND can't you SEE the food coloring in that crap?) My previous cat and dog lived to be 18 and 19 respectively, so I know from pet health. KC in Kansas

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter

click me