How to make your pet eco-friendly

G Magazine

Pets are great for your wellbeing, but what about their impact on the planet? Are some domestic animals greener than others?

dog and cat

Credit: iStockphoto

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Left to their own devices, our pets are fairly green. Pets don't drive, overheat the house, or hose the footpath.

Yes, they eat, drink and create waste, but for the most part if they have a thumping great paw print it's due to silly things humans do.

We've all heard stories of cat owners leaving the TV on all day to entertain Moggy, and of dog owners taking Fido for a 'walk' by dangling the leash out of the car window and driving slowly.

But increasingly, pet owners are becoming savvier about how we care for our animal friends.

If you're a prospective pet-owner looking for an animal companion with a minimal impact on the environment, a basic rule of thumb is that the smaller the pet, the fewer resources it will consume and the less waste it will create.

So a chihuahua will compare favourably to a cocker spaniel, which in turn outclasses a great dane. Fish, birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, mice and hermit crabs are just some of the smaller pets - with smaller eco paw-prints - on offer.

When thinking about the impact of our pet-related choices, consider this: almost two-thirds of Australian homes contain a pet, about half of those have dogs or cats.

That adds up to about 38 million pets - 20 million fish, 9 million birds, 3.75 million dogs, 2.43 million cats and 3 million other pets.

Last year the RSPCA euthanised 64,400 pets that had been mistreated or abandoned. So the obvious green (and humane) step is to desex our pets to prevent unwanted offspring.

According to Tim Adams, a vet from the Petcare Information and Advisory Service, the next important step is "keeping cats in at night and cleaning up after dogs".

Poo dos (and don'ts)

If left on the street, Fido's droppings can wash into the sewer and ultimately pollute rivers and beaches.

When you clean up, use biodegradable plastic bags so the poo is not sealed for years in landfill. An alternative is a biodegradable cardboard scooper, such as Skooperbox.

Cat owners might consider using shredded newspaper or a wheat-based litter mixes, both of which are biodegradable.

Is there a better way to dispose of animal waste than adding it to landfill? Most health professionals advise against putting untreated animal waste in compost bins since it contains pathogens and parasites.

However, a dedicated worm farm for pet poo can do the job. Alternatively, a specially formulated mixture of grain and non-pathogenic microbes called Shift! can be used on animal waste to make it a safe additive to garden soil. It can also be sprinkled onto the floor of birdcages.

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