April 22 is Earth Day. It is useful to think from time to time about how we can help protect the environment and reduce our cat’s carbon footprint. There is no doubt in my mind that people are waking up to the environmental damage caused by human consumption particularly with respect to the air that we breathe and the oceans that we rely upon for sustenance.
There are four key products through which we can use our best efforts to help protect the environment (1) cat food (2) scratching posts and boards (3) cat toys and (4) cat litter.
Feel free to add your thoughts which are most welcome. Being environmentally friendly can get complicated.
There are 4 issues with respect to cat litter and the environment (1) the biodegradability of the product so that when it is thrown away it breaks down quickly and does not despoil the ground where it has been thrown away and (2) the packaging it comes in (3) whether it can be composted for use in the garden and (4) whether cats should be trained to use a human toilet instead.
I have done work on this previously. My impression is that cat litter made of wood or newspaper and not clay is slightly more environmentally friendly. If you would like to, you can read about my ideas by clicking on this link.
In my experience, cat litter often comes in paper bags which are biodegradable. When it is thrown away it is often put into plastic bags which take a long time to biodegrade. How do you dispose of used cat litter? My research indicates that there are biodegradable dog poo bags on the market. You can buy bio bags which are made out of a resin from plants, compostable polymers and vegetable oils which break down. I would suggest those if you are really into eco-friendly cat ownership. However, this idea entails more purchasing of items which in itself is arguably bad for the environment.
Used clay-based cat litter is not compostable in my opinion. I have written about this as well and you can read the article if you click on this link. Wood-based cat litter is compostable as I understand it, but there is the question of toxoplasmosis. The oocysts of this disease are very hardy and they can survive for over a year. This would mean, on the face of it, that they are present in the compost when the compost is ready to spread in your garden and therefore you would end up spreading toxoplasmosis oocysts on your garden which could jeopardise the health of playing children. For this reason I would advise against composting cat litter.
Nowadays you can buy recyclable plastic cat litter trays. They are made of biodegradable plastic substitute. You can search for them online. There are also cardboard cat litter trays.
There has been a lot of discussion about training your cat to use a human toilet. We see lots of videos online on this. It is certainly environmentally friendly from the perspective of not using cat litter and all the incumbent problems for the environment that that entails. However, I am drawn once again to the knotty subject of toxoplasmosis. The cysts could be in your cat’s faeces which can find their way to the oceans if your cat uses your toilet. It has been found that toxoplasmosis has affected ocean wildlife. I have discussed this subject in a previous post which you can read by clicking on this link (whales) and this link (sea otters – written by Elisa).
In conclusion on cat litter I would recommend a non-clay-based cat litter and disposing of it using biodegradable bags with your usual waste.
The issue here is plastic of course. We need to avoid using conventional plastic. My research indicates that since the last time I researched the subject you can now go online and purchase cat products which are better for the environment. Online retails sell biodegradable cat products such as cat toys and bowls. You have to be careful with cat bowls, however. Bacteria can reside in well used plastic cat bowls which can cause conditions such as feline acne. It is recommended that cat owners buy ceramic or metal bowls. These are environmentally friendly because they will last a lifetime.
Perhaps the ultimate way to protect the environment under this heading is to make your own cat toys. Homemade cat toys are just as good as commercially produced ones from the cat’s perspective. There are a nice way to recycle things such as paper and cardboard boxes et cetera.
The issue with respect to cat food is how the environment is affected by the animal representing the core ingredient of the food. For example, beef is less environmentally friendly than chicken. Therefore, ideally, a cat owner should buy chicken-based cat food. As for cat food based on fish, the cat owner should look for seafoods which are sustainably harvested such as sardines or mackerel instead of tuna. You can even select organic cat food nowadays. You can search for these items online.
Cat Scratching Posts
Cat scratching boards made of cardboard are popular. They rest on the ground and I have several of them in my house. My cat loves them. I also have a conventional cat scratching post. The cardboard scratching boards can of course be recycled. They could be improved if they came in two halves because invariably both ends of the board get scratched while the middle does not. I should be able to turn it around to maximise usage which will also benefit the environment. However, these are environmentally friendly because they can be recycled. There are other products made of cardboard which are also eco-friendly such as a hammock.
Cat scratching posts have a long life. The life can be extended by repairing them yourself with old bits of carpet.
I hope this makes some people think about eco-friendly cat ownership.