Compared to humans and most dogs, we’re tiny. But for an animal with such little feet, your cat’s carbon pawprint is huge. According to a 2017 issue of Forbes Magazine, cats and dogs are responsible for about a quarter of the greenhouses gas emissions caused by animal agriculture. Can cats go green? Well, yes and no. We’re obligate carnivores and need protein from animal sources. But there are still ways to reduce our impact on the environment. Keep reading to find out what they are.
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Can cats go green, Thomasina? I’ve been reading about my cat’s huge environmental footprint, and I’d like to make it much smaller. — Earth-Friendly Cat Mom
Hey, Earth-friendly Cat Mom…
Cats, especially cats who spend time outside, love our planet, and I, too, was horrified when I heard about our environmental impact. Can cats go green? Yes, we can. Since we need protein from animal sources, we can’t go completely green. But there are still ways to reduce your cat’s environmental pawprint.
Cats' Tiny Environmental Pawprint On Birds
Since we’re talking about cats’ environmental footprint, I guess we should discuss cats and birds. I’m friends with a robin, and I know he’d want me to mention this. You’ve probably heard about the study that says cats kill millions (or billions, depending on what you read) of birds.
That’s another one of those cruel myths that make people force their cats to live completely indoors or do even worse to them.
Cats and birds have coexisted for centuries. If our ancestors had killed millions or billions of birds, there wouldn’t be any left.
Not to point fingers (or toes), but the birds’ worst enemy is humans. People kill millions of birds with their cell phone towers, lawn chemicals, development that destroys their habitat and huge skyscrapers with huge glass windows.
The Cats International website says about 975 million birds fly into skyscraper windows and die each year. Lawn chemicals can not only poison birds, they kill the insects they need for food. And clear-cutting land for development takes away their nesting and hiding places.
There’s another reason why it’s a myth that cats kill millions of birds, too. We’re opportunistic feeders and eat whatever’s easiest to catch. Catching a healthy adult bird isn’t easy, not that I’ve ever tried. Our hide-wait-pounce hunting style is better suited to mice and rats than birds. We love to catch bugs, too, and there’s nothing more fun than chasing falling leaves.
Humans aside, the animals birds need to avoid are raccoons, skunks, foxes and possums. They kill way more birds than cats do.
If you’re still worried about cats and birds, put your bird feeders up high where cats can’t get to them, and remove all the plantings around the feeders so cats have no place to hide. And keep your cat in at dusk and dawn when the birds are on the ground looking for food.
Oh, and you can get this collar for your cat. I would find it really annoying. But it will let your cat do everything cats do outside except catch birds.
How Can Cats Go Green? It's Not That Hard!
Shrinking your cat’s environmental pawprint isn’t that hard. But since it means swapping out some products for others, you’ll need his cooperation. He’ll be more likely to get with the program if you make the changes gradually and change one thing he’s used to at a time. And don’t be angry with him if he won’t accept everything you try. Even one change will make his carbon footprint a bit smaller.
So here are some things to try.
♦ Yes, I know they’re really heavy, but buying the largest bags of dry food will cut down on trips to the grocery store and bags to send to the landfill. Most dry food bags are lined with plastic and can’t be recycled. But Wellness and Open Farm have recycling programs. We tried Open Farm once and didn’t like it. But most cats love Wellness dry food. If you can’t recycle your dry food bags, repurpose them as trash or scooping bags.
♦ When possible, buy large cans of wet food. Again, this will cut down on waste. Even recycling uses energy. But beware: many cats won’t eat food that’s been refrigerated, especially if it’s been in the fridge for a few days.
♦ Shop in bulk or buy large quantities of food and litter at a time. This will make your carbon footprint smaller because you’ll make fewer trips to the store.
You can buy vegan cat food, and we trust this brand. But maybe you could give your cat vegan dry food and meat-based wet. Or do it the other way around. That would reduce his carbon footprint while still giving him the animal protein he needs.
♦ Feed quality food with bioavailable ingredients. Remember, cats need protein from animal sources, not corn, soy, beet pulp or powdered cellulose. If your cat has nutritious, satisfying food, he’ll need to eat less and will produce less waste.
♦ Rethink his litter. While it’s a myth that clumping clay litter made from sodium bentonite is bad for cats, it’s definitely bad for the planet. Sodium bentonite is strip-mined, and that doesn’t make Mother Earth happy. Silica litter is made from sodium silicate sand and is strip-mined, too. See if your cat will like litter made from ground corn, wheat or pine instead. You can also get litter made from ground walnut shells, paper, reclaimed wood and even tofu.
♦ No matter what kind of litter you use, getting rid of all those clumps and poop can make your cat’s environmental footprint much larger than it needs to be. And no, you can’t just flush it. Like everything else you flush, it could find its way to the ocean and cause problems for marine life.
Think about reusing the plastic bags food comes in, like the liners in cereal boxes, as scooping bags. Or you could use paper. The other possibility is biodegradable or composting bags made of plants, like corn. They won’t decompose instantly or even quickly, but they’re still better than plastic. Our human likes these bags because they’re big and strong, and the logo’s so cute.
Don’t compost used litter in your yard. It can spread all kinds of harmful bacteria.
♦ Use natural fleas products instead of chemicals, which can be harmful to the earth and your cat.
♦ Try to avoid plastic in collars, beds and toys. And when you’re replacing your cat’s dishes, chose stainless, pottery or glass instead of plastic. The cracks in old plastic dishes hide bacteria that can cause chin acne. And the less plastic we use, the less manufacturers will make.
I hope this helps Earth-Loving Cat Mom, and good luck getting your cat to go green. Except for our food, we’re all green here. Well, not the color green, but you know what I mean…