Environmental Impact of Pets and What to Do about It.

November 2, 2017


Pets impact the environment.
Most of us don’t realize how our pets impact the environment or the damage dogs and cats cause to our world. As much as we love our pets, we should help them decrease their environmental footprints.

Yesterday, I walked down my very long street, passing numerous dogs and their owners along the way. The ones I passed carried poop bags to clean up after their pets. But in the short time I walked, the odor of several poop piles emanated from the grass beside the sidewalk. I live in a community that stresses the importance of pet responsibility where biodegradable poop bag stations are placed in convenient locations for residents to use.  Simple for dog owners to clean up after Fido quickly and easily, right? Obviously not, because some people abdicate their responsibility to our community and to the environment.

Dog poop isn’t the only way that dogs and cats negatively impact the environment.  Consider these suggestions to help keep your pets from destroying our planet.

Dogs Impact the Environment.

Always Clean Up after Your Dog

It doesn’t matter how well-cared-for your pet is, dog poop is toxic. Pet waste contains E. Coli and other harmful bacteria, such as fecal coliform bacteria, which causes kidney disorders, intestinal disorders, cramps and diarrhea in humans. The Center for Disease Control confirms that pet waste can spread parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, ringworm and Salmonella. Think about this if you leave dog poop in your own yard. Every time it rains, the poop washes away and ends up in lakes and rivers via local storm drains.  Carry a bag with you when you walk your dog. Shovel your own yard to keep it safe for playing children.

Quality Pet Foods Create Less Waste

It is a fact that cheap dog and cat foods contain waste products, chemicals, and many ingredients of little or no nutritional value.  Whatever is in the food the pets eat will impact the location where his waste ends up. Ultimately, those chemicals may end up in our water systems. A high-quality pet food containing only natural ingredients not only is safer for the environment, the animal will excrete less poop.

Leash Your Dog and Keep Fluffy Indoors

Dogs running around off-leash create havoc. They dig up flower beds and get into garbage, as well as leave their waste all over. This is unfair to the dog as well as the environment. Keep dogs in fenced yards or on leash.

Cats love flower beds because the ground that has been dug up for plantings is soft enough for them to cover their own waste. If your flower bed became a cat’s bathroom, you understand the problem. Remember the bacteria in pet waste!

Cats kill birds. Felines are responsible for billions of deaths of birds and mammals in the United States each year. The domestic cat has also contributed to the extinction of 33 species of wildlife worldwide.  Outdoor felines are the primary host for toxoplasmosis, a nasty disease that causes serious health issues for pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system. Cats spread that disease and others, such as ringworm or hookworms, when they use children’s sandboxes for their bathrooms. Indoor cats live longer than those allowed to roam at will.

Spay or Neuter Your Pet!

If you have ever owned a female canine in heat, you know that your yard turned into a wailing wall of unhappy, lovesick male dogs or cats wanting to romance your female pet. They pee and poop in your yard or your neighbor’s yards and lift their legs to spray on anything nearby. They howl at all hours of the day or night. The noise and stench from the animals drive everyone crazy. If you are living with the intact female attracting all those guys, you are dealing with other problems.

Medically, it’s better for your female dog or cat to be spayed before her first heat. Mammary cancer risks increase with each “heat.”  Neutering a male dog before the age of 6 months eliminates the chance of testicular cancer and decreases the risk of prostate cancer.  Why take the chance. Protect your pet’s health by neutering him as soon as the veterinarian believes he is old enough.

What happens to all those puppies and kittens that will result, should Fluffy or Fido escape? Millions end up in shelters and are eventually euthanized because of the lack of enough people to adopt them. Those numbers would decrease, if pet owners would spay or neuter their dogs and cats. If you want a puppy or kitten, adopt from a shelter. You will save a life,  won’t contribute to more unwanted pets, and your pet won’t impact the environment in a negative way.

Choose Pet Toys Carefully!

Choose eco-friendly toys so dogs don't destroy the environment.Many toys sold in stores are made of man-made materials laced with chemicals. When your pet grows tired of the toys or destroys pieces of them, they may end up in a landfill somewhere – another attack on the environment.  Eco-friendly toy choices satisfy both pets and the environment.

You can easily make your own dog or cat toys or buy them. The only toys I purchased for my large dogs were balls, disks, Nylabones® and Kong® toys. I primed the Kong® toys with peanut butter to keep the dogs busy when we left them alone. Dogs never tire of playing chase with a ball.  I made tug toys out of men’s athletic socks and filled them with polyfill stuffing. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be environmentally conscious, and your dog won’t care what it cost.

Our cats own a few commercial toys but they don’t destroy their toys, making them long-lasting options. I sew little snakes and an octopus with dangly legs from fleece and fill them with catnip. One of my cats sleeps with all of her catnip toys but if you prefer to buy toys for your kitty, plenty of eco-friendly options are available. For some cute environmentally-safe pet toys, click here.

Go Green with Fluffy’s Litter

Cats impact the environment.If you want to reduce your cat’s carbon pawprint, begin with a biodegradable litter box.  Amazon carries a good supply and you can access them here and eco-friendly cat litter here.  Rethink that clumping clay litter. The clay sediment in it is permeated with a silica dust, considered carcinogenic.  The sodium bentonite used as a clumping agent in the product can poison cats through ingestion over time as they clean themselves.  Yes, it makes for easier cleanup for you, but it’s definitely harmful to your pet.  Be careful with cat litter with fragrance. Some cats really dislike that and will stop using the litter box because of the odor.  We ran into that problem with our Lucy and now only use fragrance-free litter.

Cats and dogs can be responsible inhabitants on the planet with a little help from their human friends. Following just these few simple suggestions will help you do your part to protect our environment, as well as help Fido and Fluffy to be good citizens.

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