Q: I have a dog and two cats, and they go through a lot of litter, food, you name it. Is there anything I can do to make taking care of them a little easier on the environment?
A: Funny to think our harmless balls of love could be doing anything to hurt the ecosystem, but they are. Or actually we, as pet owners, are. With all the plastic bags used for poop-and-scoop and kitty litter that we toss every week, not to mention toxic cleaning products (yes, Rover can make mistakes) and not-so-earth-conscious edibles, we're turning our pets into little eco-monsters. Luckily, there any many ways to get Mittens back to her green roots.
Let's start with the back end. Whether in a box, cage or backyard, all animals do it. In fact, T.O.'s pet population produces 15 to 20 thousand tonnes of poop waste every year (including litter, cage chips, etc). Many of us fill our feline friends' "powder rooms" with chemical-laden, non-biodegradeable clays that don't readily decompose and therefore hog landfill space. It's true that, come October, all litter (and cage bedding) can go in the green bin, but don't try composting the stuff in your own yard.
And as convenient as it seems, the clumping kind is the worst for your dear Fluffy. (If it clumps in the box, it can clump in his belly and make him sick, an especially dangerous scenario for kittens.) Most clay litters, clumping or not, kick up silica dust, which can cause respiratory problems in both cats and humans. (Pregnant women should not change litter at all to avoid potential exposure to parasites).
But there are alternatives. Swheat Scoop ($10.99-$15.99/14-lb bag at Annex Pet Supplies on Bathurst, and various Global Pet Foods and Pet Valu stores) is flushable, biodegradeable as well as clay-, chemical- and fragrance-free and can be added to home composters once scooped. Ecofresh ($9.99/10 lbs at Annex Pet Supplies) and Yesterday's News (from $7.49/10 lbs at Pet Valu and Global) are made of recycled paper pellets. For the scoopable variety, try corn-based World's Best Cat Litter ($14.99/7 lbs at Annex Pet Supplies). Hamster and bunny owners should look for cage liners made of recycled or reclaimed wood, like CareFresh (Global Pet Foods or Annex Pet Supplies from $6.99).
Dog lovers can make scooping more earth-friendly, too, with biodegradable and compostable Bio Bags (from $5/25 at Bark 'n' Scratch on Danforth, and Annex Pet Supplies).
Need to clean up an accident without resorting to noxious chemicals? Nature Clean makes a pet odour and stain remover spray ($7.50/1L at Grassroots on Danforth or Bloor), as does Earth Friendly ($8.99/650ml at the Big Carrot). Zeolite is a non-toxic negatively charged mineral that absorbs barn-sized odours, so it should work for your critter ($5.50/kg at Grassroots).
Maybe your pet got himself a little dirty in the process and needs a good bath (without all the chems and fragrances). Annex Pet Supplies carries herbal Vetbasis shampoo ($14.99). Bark 'n' Scratch has soap-free, biodegradable Earth Bath (from $16). Grassroots offers an organic pet shampoo by Soapworks for $7.50.
Of course, our loyal friends need to eat. Most conventional pet food brands are loaded with additives and preservatives and support the bottom (read rancid) end of the not-so-earth- or animal-friendly meat industry. Yes, several mainstream pet food makers are trying to market their foods as more natural, highlighting their lack of dyes or the addition of antioxidants. A good start, but there are better options. In fact, there are too many for us to name! But we'll give it a go.
Homemade 4 Life All Natural Pet Food (starting at $2.79 for an 8 oz can of cat food at Global Pet Foods) is made with whole human-grade ingredients. Karma is a 95 per cent organic dog food ($19.59/4 lbs at Global). Get your dog or cat into the raw food diet (the original way, really) with Healthy Paws food (starting at $3.69 at Annex Pet Supplies and Global). Wellness is loaded with fresh veggies and human-grade meat (starting at $15.99/2.2 lbs at Annex Pet Supplies). Even the bigger chains like Pet Valu carry a slew of premium alt-meals, like Paul Newman's Own Organics ($12.99/3 lbs) and Wysong ($9.99/3 lbs). Or, if you have the time, make your own (see www. pet-grub.com, or for sick pets, www. 2ndchance.info/homemadediets. htm).
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