Categories: ownership

Carbon footprint of domestic cat is half that of a dog

Would you like to know the carbon footprint of your domestic cat? Or dog or goldfish? You might not but you can find out the carbon footprint of almost anything in a new book, How Bad Are Bananas? written by carbon consultant, Mike Berners-Lee. He is the brother of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Internet. Mike Berners-Lee is a Professor and Fellow of the Institute of Social Futures at Lancaster University.

Carbon footprint of domestic cats. Upper image: in public domain. Lower image: Maine Coon kittens by Helmi Flick published here with her permission.

A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by a product, service, organisation, event or individual and it is expressed as a “carbon dioxide equivalent” (CO2e). The carbon dioxide equivalent means the climate change impact from greenhouse gases caused by the item in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same impact over a 100 year period. Mike Berners-Lee expresses the carbon footprint in the amount of grams or kilograms that an event, individual or in this case pet causes.

He says that an average-sized cat has a carbon footprint of 310 kilograms a year. An average-sized dog as a carbon footprint of 770 kilograms a year. However, a Great Dane has a carbon footprint of 2,500 kilograms a year. As a contrast or a reference, a goldfish has a 25 kilogram a year carbon footprint. Astonishingly the average person has a carbon footpring of 9,071,847.4 grams. Yes that is 9 million grams or 9,072 kilograms per year (2005 Warwick University Carbon Footprint Project Group). Although the calculation is going to be contested.

As for a selection of inanimate objects (please buy the book for a lot more), their carbon footprints are set out below:

  • Lightweight plastic carrier bag: 3 grams
  • Heavyweight bag for life: 50 grams
  • Nappy, reusable, line-dried, washed at 60 degrees centigrade in a large load, passed onto a second child: 60 grams
  • Nappy disposable: 130 grams
  • Nappy, reusable, tumble-dried and washed at 90 degrees C: 165 grams
  • A bunch of flowers picked in your garden with no inorganic fertiliser: 0 grams
  • A bouquet of flowers of five Kenyan or Dutch roses, five Dutch lilies and three Kenyan gypsophila: 32.3 kilograms.
  • Black tea: 22 grams
  • Black coffee, instant: 49 grams
  • Tea with soya milk: 47 grams
  • Tea with cow’s milk: 71 grams
  • Black coffee, filtered: 87 grams

The footprint of cats and dogs is mainly put down to the food they eat. The fact that they are carnivores ensures that they have a bigger carbon footprint. If you feed them chicken rather than beef their carbon footprint decreases and overfeeding increases it.

There may be a hidden benefit in living with a pet cat. They make it more difficult to go away on holiday and that’s going to save a hell of a lot of carbon because flying has a huge carbon footprint. Having a child rather than a pet results in a very much larger footprint.

Wikipedia carbon footprint video

This is the first time that I have embedded a video from Wikipedia. I do not know how reliable they are. Videos sometimes disappear but, sadly, I do not have any control over it. If this video has disappeared I apologise.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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