Natural Pet Products - Watch Your Carbon Pawprints
One of the biggest motivators among eco-minded people is the impact of our actions on wildlife. Yet all too often, we overlook the carbon "pawprint" left by the choices we make for animals directly in our care. From food and waste, to cleaning products and accessories, you have an opportunity to make eco-friendly decisions that are healthier for the planet and your pets.
Feed Them Organic Food
Instead of supporting chemically-treated agriculture that poisons our land, rivers and streams, opt for organic pet food that your pet will appreciate too. Most commercial dog and cat foods are filled with ingredients they do not need to be eating. In fact, it is perfectly legal and common for pet food companies to use meat from sick, dying and dead animals. If it's not fit for human consumption, it's not fit for dogs and cats either! Conventional dog and pet foods are also filled with sweeteners, artificial colors, preservatives and by-products that have no place in your pets' diet.
Though not an exhaustive list, below are some excellent choices of organic dog and cat foods:
- Newman's Own Organics
- Natural Balance Organic Formulas
- Honest Kitchen
- Castor and Pollux Organics
- Karma Organic Dog Food
Of course, organic pet food is more expensive. Though certainly worth the extra cost of having a healthier pet and planet, you may opt for a less-expensive "natural" brand. Just be forewarned that many dog and cat foods labeled "natural" may contain subpar ingredients. Halo brand natural dog and cat food is one exception that you may want to consider, if you are opting for a non-organic alternative.
Whichever brand dog or cat food you choose, read your ingredients lists and try to AVOID the following:
- Fillers Such as Corn and Rice - empty calories that may also be hard for your pet do digest.
- By-products - non-meat animal parts that constitute a high-protein content minus healthy, digestible nutrition.
- Meat and Bone "Meals" - animal substances created through the rendering process, which involves the boiling down of carcasses so as to utilize as much of the animal as possible (not because it's good for your pet, but because it's good for the manufacturer's bottom line).
- Additives, Sweeteners, Preservatives and Artificial Coloring - like corn syrup, sugar, molasses, beet pulp, propylene glycol, MSG, BHA, BHT, sodium nitrate, nitrate, FD&C Blue No. 1, Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 5.
Making your own pet food is an alternative, however, it is essential that you do your homework to ensure you are providing your pets with the proper balance of nutrition. A diet consisting mainly of a good, store-bought organic pet food is the safest route to go, though you may supplement it with homemade organic foods, like chicken, green beans, carrots, peas and sweet potatoes.
Clean With Eco-Friendly Products
As with products people use to clean our homes and bodies, pet shampoos and cleaners typically contain toxic ingredients, often linked to ill health and disease, not to mention the impact these chemicals have on the earth (and us!) once washed away into our rivers and streams. When bathing your pets, choose non-toxic, biodegradable shampoos. You may also opt for homemade solutions.
Clean their coat and teeth with baking soda. It makes for an excellent dry bath. Simply sprinkle it liberally onto your pet's coat and work through their fur. And to brush the teeth, mix baking soda with water to form a thick paste.
For accidents on the carpet, saturate the area with club soda and let it dry. Sprinkle the area with baking soda and let it set for about an hour, then vacuum. Follow it up with white vinegar diluted in water to help get rid of the smell.
For disinfecting and deodorizing litter boxes, empty the contents and fill with an inch of white vinegar. Let it stand for a few minutes, scrub with a toilet brush, empty and rinse.
For bird cages, wipe down surface areas with either vinegar or baking soda. Rinse well.
For fish tanks, wipe down with non-iodized salt sprinkled liberally onto a damp sponge. Rinse well.
Repel and Kill Fleas Naturally
Though the following suggestions are ideal for ridding your pets of fleas, a more aggressive chemical alternative may be necessary as fleas can give your pet worms, posing a serious health threat. What you can try first is:
- Washing your dog (or cat of if they allow it) and letting the soap and water sit on their coat and skin for up to 8 minutes. This method is supposed to kill fleas.
- Sponging lemon juice onto your pet's coat and skin. Thinly slice a lemon, place it in a bowl and pour one cup of boiling water over it. Let this mixture sit overnight. Sponge liberally onto your pet. Towel dry.
You can also help prevent fleas from setting up camp in your yard by growing Fleabane Daisies, which fleas do not like.
Dispose of Animal Waste Responsibly
Dogs Picking up after Fido feels good. You're doing your part to keep your yard, sidewalks and parks clean. But what will feel even better is picking up poop with a bag that doesn't preserve your dog's waste in a plastic bag. When you toss that bag into the garbage can, it goes straight to the landfill where your dog's perfectly biodegradable and compostable poop is preserved for years to come. Instead, pick up poop with 100 percent biodegradable and compostable BioBags that you can toss right into your compost bin. Just remember to have a special bin for dog feces only, reserved for use on ornamental plants, not edible fruits and vegetables.
Cats Though cat waste can be toxic and should be thrown into the trash, the litter and cat pan liner can and should be compostable. Line your cat's litter box with BioBag compostable cat pan liners and fill with a biodegradable kitty litter. When it's time to change the litter, simply toss cat waste into the the trash, and dump the remaining contents into your compost bin, cat liner included (which incidentally may be the same compost bin you use for your dog's waste as well, again only for use on ornamental plants). When shopping around for a kitty litter, look for ingredients like wood shavings, recycled paper, sawdust, corn cobs, dried orange peels and wheat bran. Swheat Scoop is an excellent brand to try.
Note, if you do not have or want a compost bin, it is perfectly acceptable to flush your dog's waste down the toilet. Though some would say the same of cat waste, some studies show that adding it to our waste water stream can be harmful to sea otters. To be safe, toss cat waste into the trash.
Green Your Accessories
Consuming less is one of the greenest things you can do. Stick to the basics - collars and leashes for dogs and cats, cages and aquariums for birds and fish. As for bedding and toys, there's a lot you can do with what you already have at home. Specifically, try these ideas for your pet accessory needs:
- Collars and leashes - choose hemp over nylon, not only because it's natural but it's more comfortable for your pets too.
- Bedding - instead of buying pet beds, make them yourself out of old blankets and pillows.
- Toys - dogs love tennis balls and socks tied in knots; cats love shoe laces, yarn and ping pong balls.
- Scratching posts - look for one made out of recycled cardboard.
- Pet clothes - as with people clothes, choose natural fabrics for your pets, like organic cotton.
- Fish tank plants - choose real plants over plastic (just be sure you know which plants are safe for your species of fish).
Though pet stores in your community may carry some eco-friendly accessories, you will find a wider selection online. HappyHippie.com and GreenPeople.org are comprehensive directories that make for a good place to start.
Choose Holistic Veterinary Care
As with your own health management, it is best to find a doctor for your pets who shares your interest in pursuing natural alternatives whenever possible.