Updated: Mar 11, 2020
Having a pet is great, but of course it can be a large responsibility. You have to feed them, walk them, love them, and try to prevent them from creating any more unnecessary waste! So, that last one is new, but this post is going to be your guide to living more sustainably with a pet!
A little backstory:
We got our boy just over a year ago from the shelter (we will come back to this detail). He’s a chunky, lover boy who loves cuddles, walks, tennis balls, and treats. This was our first pet as a couple and jumped right in. We bought him a leash, collar, harness, food and water bowls, and a few toys and I have a few regrets that I want to help you with.
I wish we would have done a little more research on products first like finding an eco-friendly brand for collars and leashes and ditched the new toys and made upcycled ones instead. The main issue though was that we agreed to adopt him one day and the rule at the shelter was that we had to come in the very next day to pick him up. And with him being our first pet and us being totally unprepared, we got whatever items we could find that didn’t require a week or more of shipping.
Nonetheless, we learned from our mistakes and I want to share with you a few tips on how to continue to live sustainably with a dog (and maybe a few tips for cats as well).
1. Adopt don’t shop:
One of the most sustainable (and ethical) ways to choose a pet is to adopt one from the pound or shelter or even from a friend. Avoid breeders and pet stores as they are not sustainable or ethical. They breed dogs unnaturally and the demand for these new and more expensive dogs just means that more and more animals are going to be on this earth. More dogs that need food and water and more dogs that will be put down when they begin to be too much for shelters to take care of. Don’t contribute to this demand, chose a shelter instead.
2. Eco-friendly poop bags:
I am new to picking up dog poop since we used to live in a rural farmhouse growing up. We didn’t have a need to pick it up. I felt so guilty using plastic bags to get the job done. I would only use it for a few seconds and that bag would be on earth longer than me. So, I did a lot of research and found some amazing bags! I wanted to find the perfect one and I think I did just that. You can read my full review here or watch it on YouTube.
Also, don't use a bag to pick up your cat's poop. If you don't just place it right in the trash can, use a grocery bag you probably already have lying around. If this still isn't good enough of an option, try a small bin with a lid next to your cats litter that you can use only for cat poop and then empty it when it's full.
3. Find a sustainable collar and leash:
There are a lot of brands out there that make animal accessories out of sustainable and plant-based materials. Unfortunately I do not have one (continue reading why in #4), so I don’t have any recommendations, but these sites have lists of awesome brands you can choose from:
4. Don’t buy new products unless you need them:
Like I mentioned above, we did not buy a new, sustainably made collar and leash for Denahi. He doesn’t need one. His items are still in great condition and work just fine. Yes, buying sustainably made items it much better than synthetics, don’t buy new items unless you need them. Just because they’re not sustainable does not mean you should throw away perfectly good items. Wait until you actually need to replace an item!
Not only should you just buy items when you need them, but also avoid buying random things for your dogs: sweaters, bandannas, toys, etc. Sure, they are cute, but try to remember why you are living more sustainably. Buying knick-knacks for your pet is quite frankly a waste of materials and money.
5. Make your own treats:
There are a ton of simple recipes on the internet. Everything from biscuits to cupcakes. This can save you a lot of money and is much healthier for your pup so you’re not feeding them a bunch of artificial ingredients. Plus, they can be fun flavored, fun to make, and you just get that pleasure of knowing you created something special for your fur baby. Other simple treats that don’t require making anything are:
6. Make your own dog/cat toys:
Making toys for your critters is super simple, you just have to know what your pet likes. Cats tend to like bells, feathers, string, and other things of that nature:
- Tie a bunch of yarn or string to a stick for them to play with. Add some feathers if you already have some, try to avoid buying new items
- Turn some of that yarn into fluffs/puffs. Loop the yarn around your hand maybe 20-40 times, tie a string in the middle and cut the loops to make it into a puffball. Add this to another string to attach to a stick
- If you have old bells or beads, you can tie those to a string as well
Dogs tend to like balls, socks, and other things they can chew and tug on. I have even gone to my local sports complex and found old tennis balls lying around so we don’t have to buy new ones. Denahi is also pleased with old socks, sticks, and frozen carrots make great chew toys as opposed to rawhides (and it’s vegan!):
- Cut up an old T-shirt and braid the strips together to make a rope that your dog can tug on
- Put tennis balls in the bottom of two large knee socks and tie the open ends together. Now you have a toy for them to tug and chew on!
- Find old stuffed animals at the thrift store, just made sure they don’t have beads in them!
7. Try to find any supplies second hand:
Items like litter boxes, toys, leashes, collars, cat trees, etc. can all probably be found second hand. Check your local thrift stores as well as Facebook market places or even neighbors or family members. You never know who might have extra.
8. When buying new, aim for sustainable materials:
Metal water and food bowls, leashes and collars made out of natural fibers, cat trees out of wood and natural fabrics, etc. Try to avoid plastic even if you have to buy new, this one seems pretty obvious.
9. Your pet doesn't need to be fancy:
What I mean is, your pet doesn't need the largest bed or cat tree, they don't need a retractable collar or a poop bag holder on their leash, and they don't need automatic feeders. Not only are these products usually very expensive, but they are almost always made out of plastic. I understand that some of them are very convenient, but think about the costs on a larger scale for a want versus a need. You pet just needs the basics to live. And as long as they get love and play time, I am sure they will be happy with whatever you have for them, even if it is the bare minimum.
10. Plastic-free packaged food:
Now this can get tricky for animals. But, one easy way is if you buy wet food for your cat or even puppy, get the stuff in a can versus a tiny plastic cup. Just remember to rinse it before you throw it in your recycling bin. If you can, try to find a brand that comes in paper or even has a mission to reduce their waste as much as possible. Now, I am not going to get into diet (feed your animals how you see fit), but you can buy and prepare food for your animals which means less packaging. Just make sure you consult a veterinarian so that your pet is still getting proper nutrition.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed these 10 easy ways to continue to live sustainably even with a pet. If you have any other ideas, don't forget to leave them below for all to enjoy and use!