I’m a proud pet parent, always have been and as I was playing with my dog I wondered if there was a way for my pets to be part of my eco-friendly lifestyle? Half of me believes that there probably isn’t much to improve on because their actions are not destructive to the Earth the way our actions are. It was challenging because pets are not consumers, rather we consume and buy things for them. They like us have basic needs: food, water, shelter and good health; everything else is optional and can be considered a luxury. So, this is the mindset that I used to approach the question of whether pets can be zero waste. So how can we make these luxuries eco-friendly, I’ll address a few things regarding food, health, and a miscellaneous category.
I care about the quality of food I put in my mouth and this concern is also for my furry children. Thankfully there are tools that help us to stay aware of food recalls and alerts through the internet. It helps to do some research as to what are good quality food brands. That part is not the hard part for me, it’s knowing what human foods are safe for them to have. I am notorious for giving them table food and scraps. Therefore I wanted to consolidate some of the most common foods into a user friendly table that I could copy, print, and share. This table is provided below and has been color coded to make it easier to read. The top row is in reference to dogs (blue) and the bottom row in refers to cats (pink), the left columns are safe and the right columns are toxic. (DISCLAIMER: this list is NOT all inclusive!)
* Unsalted cashews/peanuts
* Corn off the cob, quinoa
* Cooked eggs
* Cooked animal meats without spices
* Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, bananas
* Peanut butter
* Unsalted/unbuttered popcorn
|* Almonds,pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts|
* Chocolate, cinnamon
* Garlic, chives, onion, leeks
* Ice cream
* Alcohol, coffee, caffeine
* Citrus stems/leaves/oils/seeds
* Grapes, raisins, avocados, cherries, mushrooms
* Yeast dough
|* Baked carrots|
* Steamed asparagus, broccoli, green beans, chopped greens
* Cooked animal meats
* Cooked eggs
|* Onions, garlic|
* Raw dough
* Dog food
I also encountered some contradictions when it came to raw meats and milk or other dairy products. Some sources say raw meats are good for pets but I agree with those who warn against this due to the risk of parasites or bacteria being introduced into your pets. Also dairy is a gray area because it can cause some stomach upset if your pets are lactose intolerant. Personally I have allowed my cat and dogs to lick a spoon sized amount of milk but even that is not too common of a treat for them.
Now that we know what foods we can give our pets, we have to decide what kind of treats we would like to make for them. I will admit I opt for the easy and preferably no cook treats and recipes. For warm weather treats, the possibilities seem endless but for winter weather snacks I dread the idea of burning their treats. Regardless there are recipes that don’t require baking. Here are two quick, easy, no bake recipes you guys can try and easily alter to your preferences.
- Summer pops Ingredients: yogurt or water and diced fruits e.g. blueberries. Pour plain yogurt with diced fruits into molds and place in the freezer. These will keep your pets cool & hydrated.
- Snack bites Ingredients: oats, peanut butter, banana, and diced apples. Mix everything in a bowl to make a dough like consistency and rolled them into small balls for bite sized snacks. You can either give them like this or freeze them as well.
My dog loved the second snack and to our surprise my boyfriend’s dog didn’t. It was strange because he did like peanut butter & apples but for some reason he didn’t like this concoction. Either way you guys give it a shot and mix up a tasty combo for your pets. I found plenty of other easy recipes on the internet, just look out for those toxic ingredients.
There is a hype about using essential oils for human ailments and so this way of thinking is transferring into pet care. Remember that essential oils although natural also have side effects and need to be respected. They are highly concentrated and always should be diluted. Also be aware that our pets have better smelling abilities and are probably more sensitive to those aromatherapy diffusers. Furthermore, most literature lacks support to claim any health benefits for our pets who receive essential oils. Generally essential oils are not advised for pet care.
Having said this, there are a several natural ingredients that are not bad for pets, but they are not particularly effective either. Instead they fall into a gray area that requires special consideration and careful monitoring just in case the pet does develop an adverse reaction. Coconut oil/milk is one of those substances, also apple cider vinegar and I refer to both of these as being used externally. My dog gets very dry rough paws during winter here in Colorado, one possible remedy is applying coconut oil on his paws because it’s safe if he licks it off his paws. Diluted castile soap and diluted apple cider vinegar can be used to make a shampoo. Again, the key thing is to monitor the pet for any reactions e.g. mood/behavior changes, rashes, itching, and just like with humans do a small patch test.
A few last tips and pointers that may seem like common sense, but I will mention just in case. Some pet parents allow their pets to be outdoor and indoor. When they are outside it is important to provide them with shade and water and these can be done while keeping to zero waste principles. Dogs houses can be expensive, not biodegradable, flimsy, but more importantly their one size fits all can be a problem for those doggies that fall outside of the “average” pet category. My family and I spent two days and successfully built a big doghouse for my then puppy so he could grow into it. That was 3 years ago, and it still stands, sturdy and in good condition, I didn’t even put any wood sealant!
For water receptacles, plastic may seem like the best choice because it’s cheap and easy to clean but there are better options. These are ceramic, silicone, stainless steel, and bamboo bowls. I dislike how yucky and stinky the plastic bowls become, I have instead switched to stainless steel bowls. They are easy to clean and indestructible. This was important to me because my power chewers would bite their plastic food bowls and I hated the thought of them eating plastic.
Those who have powerful chewers will appreciate finding ways to save money on toys and while keeping them busy. I mentioned on a previous blog that upcycling old clothes into pet toys is both money saving and satisfying to your pets. I’ve done several rope toys from old towels, I’ve used the shoelaces for my cat’s toys, and old shirts to transform into beds for my Chihuahua. The fact that I save money can give old shirts a new purpose really makes me feel proud of myself. Again, the possibilities are only limited by the imagination.
Lastly, let’s talk about cat litter. There are many options out there each with their advantages and disadvantages. I will not tell you choose this brand over another brand, but I do hope you look at the ingredients and consider a more biodegradable earth friendly option. I’ve tried several, e.g. cat litter with clay, newspaper, pine and wheat. Of all the options I have tried, I enjoy Wheat Scoop the best. However even if you want to make the change to a biodegradable litter and it’s hard because your cat doesn’t like it. To increase the probabilities of a successful transition, gradually introduce it by mixing small incremental amounts to their current litter box.
In conclusion, the way to implement zero waste principles to the way we care for our pets is by analyzing how, what, and where we shop. Ask yourself the following questions What kind of quality food do they eat? Consider healthy homemade snacks/treats instead of store-bought ones. What materials are their houses or toys made of? Can you upcycle something you already have into a dog toy? Avoid essential oils and seek appropriate health advice. What types of cat litter can you buy in bulk? I hope this article helped give you ideas on ways that you can be more eco friendly when it come to taking care of your pets.