Pets give us their companionship, loyalty and love. They delight us, improve our health, teach children about responsibility and remind us that we live in an eco-system alongside other animals. I for one, couldn’t imagine life without them. But pet ownership also goes hand in hand with a duty to manage their effect on wildlife and the environment. This means more than picking up dog poo in the park (in biodegradable plastic bags!) or putting a bell on your cat.
- It can begin by adopting an animal from one of the many shelters around Australia. This reduces backyard breeding. There are literally thousands of lovely dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, etc, temperament tested and in need of homes. Many rescue organisations are staffed by dedicated volunteers who devote their lives to helping these animals. If you can’t adopt an animal, consider donating to your local shelter. When my kids were younger they would save up from their allowance, and every holidays take their money boxes to the local shelter. After counting out the change, they would then take a tour to see the animals.
- Desex and microchip! This goes for dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets – pretty much everything. Even my horses are micro-chipped. Geld colts and don’t breed your mares. Only serious, show breeders should bring more animals into a world already groaning with neglected and unwanted animals.
- Keep cats inside, or in an outside cattery. Bells aren’t enough. Cats are deadly predators, and hunt even if well-fed. Roaming cats get hit by cars, injured in fights, catch fatal diseases (such as feline AIDS) or get lost. Keep dogs from wandering free. I live in a rural area, and this is a big problem. I’ve seen the heart-breaking damage domestic pets wreak on other animals. Sheep, goats, echidnas and wombats attacked by dogs. Possums, bandicoots and native birds killed by cats.
- Recycle. Don’t be tempted to buy the latest, cutest pet accessories. Avoid plastic. Check what you already have around the home. Worn blankets, sheets and towels are great for bedding and easily washable. Home-made toys such as boxes and natural twine with a few knots are good for cats. Old shoes, tennis balls and soft toys can be more fun than store-bought for dogs, though make sure there are no sharp pointy edges or easily removable parts first.
- Second-hand shops and markets are treasure troves for toys and bedding, as well as used carry crates and feeding bowls. And of course, newspaper and natural fibre-based cat litters (such as walnut shell or paper based litters) are a great green option for environmentally-minded cat owners.
- The meaty diet of dogs and cats carries a big carbon footprint. Excess packaging also has a negative impact on the environment. Buy Australian made dry food to reduce food-miles, and consider brands like Nature’s Gift, that have a good environmental track record. Consider paper-packaged pet-food, buying from butchers and buying in bulk to reduce waste. Add left-over vegetables to your dog’s diet. Feed more raw meat like bones, offal and chicken wings. I’ve noticed many itchy skin issues improve with more raw food in the diet. Australian sardines are full of good oils, low in mercury and are a sustainable seafood. Free-range eggs are packed full of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
Here at Pilyara we try to balance doing the right thing by our animals and the environment. Do you have any handy tips or thoughts on sustainable pet ownership? Please share 🙂