The experts say that you should refer to “carbon dioxide equivalent” (CO2e) when discussing carbon footprints. This refers to the measurement of how much gas contributes to global warming relative to carbon dioxide. Are you interested in that? Here’s a bit more: you calculate the carbon dioxide equivalent of a quantity of gas by multiplying the mass of the gas in tons by the gas’ global warming potential. It is a term which includes all gases causing global warming.
Anyway, I think it useful to get that bit of science out of the way. A domestic cat has the CO2e of 310 kg (annual). In comparison, a Great Dane has the carbon dioxide equivalent of 2,500 kg. This means that they have an environmental impact equivalent to 2,500 kilograms of carbon dioxide being pumped out every year.
Eco-conscious Carrie Johnson and her husband Boris Johnson’s Jack Russell cross, Dilyn, has an approximate annual CO2e footprint of 350kg. A Chihuahua dog has CO2e of 100 kg. The average dog, say a medium-sized labrador, has environmental impact equivalent to 770 kg of carbon dioxide being pumped out into the atmosphere annually.
There’s quite a lot of talk about carbon footprints of various activities and in this case our pets. Clearly smaller animals have a smaller CO2e mainly because they eat much less. Cats eat about 10 times less than the average spaniel but, as you can see, they still leave a considerable CO2e. And of course domestic cats damage the environment by killing wildlife which doesn’t help in terms of their popularity among the anti-cat brigade.
Cop26 is about to occur in Glasgow so this article is timely. Veterinarians in the UK and America say that there is a pet obesity crisis or epidemic. This indicates that, in general, companion animal care givers are overfeeding their companions. The first thing people can do is to feed them less or in a more precise way.
There is a gradual drift towards vegan pet food including vegan cat food. This is a contentious issue. A lot of cat owners including expert cat owners think that you cannot feed a domestic cat vegan cat food but I think you can provided the manufacturers add the requisite nutrients and there are such things as plant proteins. Also, you can buy cat food made from insects and cats eat insects so that is directly applicable. In point of fact, domestic cats eat plants from time to time. We know that because they grass and snow leopard each quite a lot of vegetation.
I’m not saying that domestic cats can be vegans. They can’t. But I think you can artificially create balanced cat food from non-meat products.
The reason why it’s advisable to avoid non-meat products is because the carbon footprint of creating meat is very heavy. Turning meat into food is environmentally unfriendly. The Brazilian rainforest is burnt down to grow crops to feed farmed animals which graze on more burned forest. These animals are then slaughtered in facilities which emit global warming gases and the meat produced therefrom goes to feed people and pets. The whole process is damaging because of it’s high carbon dioxide equivalent.
Apparently chicken is less damaging to the environment to produce than beef; therefore chicken dog and cat food is less damaging.
We also cannot ignore cat litter made from clay or wood. Clay-based cat litter is mined and mining damages the environment. The machinery that produces clay-based litter also has a carbon footprint.
The companion animal with the lowest carbon footprint is the humble tortoise surviving off a bit of lettuce!
It is important, though, to factor into the equation the indirect benefit to the environment that cats and dogs bring. For example, I’m referring to the fact that cat and dog owners will usually be less likely to travel by air on holiday because their cat or dog anchors them to their home. This certainly applies to me. We have all read about the negative impact air travel has on the climate. Therefore you have to offset the carbon dioxide equivalent with the change in lifestyle that living with a companion animal brings to their owners. This different lifestyle has a smaller negative impact on the environment than a non-pet lifestyle I would argue.
Some linked articles (there are more – please search):
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- Eco-Friendly Cat Ownership
- Feral cats are a highly efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical pest control
- It’s about even in terms of the environmental impact of cats and dogs