We’ve all got to pull together to tackle climate change. And we’ve heard rumours that cats wanna be part of it too! So, today we’re exploring how to be an eco-friendly cat owner by sharing steps you can take to ensure your cat-related purchases and practices are as eco-friendly as possible.
As humans, there are loads of things we can do. Many of us already try to reduce our carbon footprint in small but meaningful ways. You know the kind of stuff: travelling by train instead of car or aeroplane, making the switch to green energy, reducing our plastic waste or reducing our meat consumption. But the question is, what can our feline friends do? How can a cat become a climate activist?
Well, firstly it’s worth defining some of the problems. Cats may receive presents and toys, use huge quantities of cat litter, eat meat-based food wrapped in single-use plastics. Altogether, the average cat produces around 400 kilograms of C02 each year, quite a lot in fact!
The good news is that answering the question: how to be an eco-friendly cat owner isn’t that hard – you can make some pretty easy changes to reduce that carbon pawprint. And as we like to say, planet, people and pets all stand to gain! So, let’s jump in.
Top 5 tips how to be an eco-friendly cat owner
Here are our top 5 tips how to be an eco-friendly cat owner:
- Adopt your cat from a shelter (if you don’t already have one)
- Get your cat neutered
- Don’t overfeed your cat
- Choose the right kind of cat litter (hint: a natural fibre one!)
- Swap up their diet and try out insect-based food
Adopt your cat from a shelter – if you don’t already have one
In the UK alone, roughly 2.7 million animals end up in shelters. Of these, 1.2 million are cats. Yet despite this, cats continue to be bred for sale in pet shops and by other breeders. As we’ve already mentioned, each cat produces 400 kilograms of C02 each year – we don’t need more cats than there already are!
If you’re looking to welcome a cat into your home, getting in touch with your local animal shelter is the best way: you’re not only giving a new home to someone that really needs it, you also help decongest shelters and avoid participating in the pet breeding industry which in recent years has grown to massive proportions.
Have your cat neutered
The leading factor for the huge population of cats is that many of them are not neutered. This means lots of kittens (which we love, but which should have good homes, rather than ending up abandoned, on streets, or in shelters). In the UK, it’s estimated that there are a quarter of a million stray cats in our towns and cities.
This is not good news. Unfortunately, as pointed out by leading animal welfare groups, our fluffy house cats aren’t equipped for life in the wild. Since it’s our duty of care to make sure the cats we bring into our lives have a happy, healthy and long life, we need to take responsibility. So we’ll say it again – getting your cat neutered is an uncomplicated and quick procedure. Most importantly, it helps avoid unwanted kittens and helps keep the total cat population under control.
You might be wondering if it’s natural and good to neuter cats. Castration isn’t nature’s usual course. But, let’s remember that there’s nothing that natural about how humans have domesticated cats over the past centuries. We feed cats, offer a warm place in our homes and provide medical care and lots of love. If all this wasn’t the case, we might well leave cats to their own devices – but in this instance natural selection would play its part: the weak, old and sick animals would die and the population would remain under control.
In fact, since conditions in our cities and towns support cat populations so well, the issue of overpopulation has led to many sad instances of mass cullings of cats. This is a common practice in the UK and across the globe. In the US in 2019, 1.4 million animals were put down in shelters. This is always saddening to hear, and is a result of overpopulation due to a lack of neutering in the first place. The good news? These practices are in decline, with a 90% decrease in euthanasia of animals in shelters since 1970!
Don’t overfeed your cat
Overfeeding is a big issue. 28% of all cats eat more than they need. And as cats get overweight, they don’t like to play or exercise, further exacerbating their health and weight problems. But what’s more, cat food produces huge amounts of carbon emissions and for that reason, we don’t want to use more than we need! The land use and emissions associated with the meat production, processing and transportation of all this food is really significant.
Add to this that a fat cat, as iconic as the image might be, is not necessarily a happy cat. Obesity shortens a cat’s lifespan and causes health issues including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and liver failure.
So if you’re considering how to be an eco-friendly cat owner, always make sure you read the recommended portion sizes on the food you serve – and as hard as it is – don’t overindulge on the treats! You’ll be saving money, saving the planet, and very likely saving the life of your cat!
Cat Litter – get the natural one!
Another major source of environmental pollution comes from cat litter. Pretty much every household uses cat litter. It’s convenient, easy and cats seem to like doing their business there! However, as we’ve written elsewhere, we use a huge amount of cat litter in the UK every year (2 million tonnes of the stuff!).
Whilst getting rid of all this is a difficult job in itself, environmentally-speaking, the big issues comes from the production of cat litter. According to a Swiss consulting firm specialising in sustainability, it’s the production and distribution of litter which accounts for most of its carbon emissions.
How to be an eco-friendly cat owner? First of all, you probably want to check if you can get your hands on any locally-produced cat litter. Finding a local producer will reduce the C02 associated with transportation of this heavy stuff across long distances. Next, you might also want to consider the material the litter is made of. There are great options for litter made from plant-based fibres, such as wood fibres which can reduce the C02 emissions associated with cat litter by more than 80%.
Try insect-based cat food
Crickets, grasshoppers, spiders and even dragonflies… Whatever you think of them, insects are quickly becoming one of the most promising and popular sources of protein around the world, especially in food cultures that aren’t typically used to eating them. And, as it turns out, they might be the solution for low-carbon, high-protein food for our cats too!
Why would you want to change? Well, as we’ve written about before, our traditional food systems require an awful lot of space, water and feed to grow the meat used for pet food. All this puts pressure on the land and on local ecosystems. Insect farming is a great alternative since they need much less of all these. Less space. Less water. And less food.
A Dutch insect farm – the largest in the world – estimates that compared to beef, insects use just 2% of the land, 4% of the water for each kilogram of protein produced. What’s more, insects can typically be raised on human food waste. This offers the possibility of creating a closed-loop and circular food system where leftover food is reinvested in feeding insects for our tables or dog and cat bowls.
And what about health? Can insect-based cat food compare with the industry standard? It seems so! Insect-based pet foods can certainly meet the natural nutrient requirements of cats and dogs, though we always recommend getting a vet’s advice if you’re switching up your pet’s food. Recently, the British Veterinary Association suggested that ‘some insect-based foods may be better for pets than prime steak’. We wonder if that’s only the case if you serve your insects medium rare?
Which brings up a good point: what do cats have to say about insect-based foods? The answer is, of course, every cat’s different. But why not give it a go? Chances are your cat will love it just as much as their existing diet of traditional chicken, fish, pork or beef.
What else can I do?
Whilst these are our top 5 recommendations on how to be an eco-friendly cat owner, there’s always more you can do. If you’re ready to take the next step and completely offset your cat’s carbon emissions, sign up to Climate Pets today!