Five Steps to a Green Canine and Feline Footprint

photo courtesy of Nedda Wittels

by guest writer Nedda Wittels

Help Yourself, Help the Animals, Help the Earth.

How can having a greener footprint benefit our animals? Here are some thoughts and insights that have changed the way I care for my animal family members.

1. Feed Your Animals Naturally

Have you ever read the labels on your cat and dog food packages? Admittedly, you may need a magnifying glass to do so, but it is well worth the $10 or so investment to discover what you are actually feeding them.

Unfortunately, most of the pet foods readily available and promoted on TV are really full of things that no animal should be eating: chemical preservatives, artificial flavoring, meat by-products, and so on. Do you know what the big, long, barely pronounceable words in the contents list actually stand for? I challenge you to look them up online and discover what you are feeding your animals.

The expression, "You are what you eat " is correct, and today we and our animals are sicker than ever before. A lot of it has to do with what we are eating.

It’s time to tell the corporations that we want to feed our animals natural foods, not foods filled with industrial waste products. Companies are getting rid of industrial waste by putting it into your pet’s food.

Feeding organic foods (and some "all natural" foods) will mean healthier dogs and cats. Animals need foods filled with nutritious substances that are readily available to their bodies.

For example, what is a "meat by-product"? Do you ever see it in the meat section of your supermarket? Do you know that it’s the parts of the slaughtered animal that is considered unfit for human consumption? If humans shouldn’t be eating it, neither should our animals!!

Do you know WHY some pet food have artificial flavorings? Because no animal would touch the food if the real flavoring wasn’t covered up. Dogs and cats use their noses to determine what to eat. So they are being tricked by the contents of the food into eating things they would not otherwise consume. Also, pet food companies want to addict your pet to their foods so that, if you try to feed them something better, they won’t touch it.

A greener world to me means that animals are killed for consumption with kindness and love and appreciation and honor and gratitude, and their body parts are consumed the same way, and our family animals are fed the highest quality of diet so that they remain healthy.

2. Preventing Dental Problems Naturally

If your dog or cat has suffered from gum disease, heavy tartar, and has needed dental surgery, you know how expensive this is for your pocket. But do you also know that using all those drugs – antibiotics, anesthesia, other medications, and medical equipment – causes pollution? Are you aware that there is a big problem getting rid of medical waste?

Help your pets and the environment by using natural products that will keep their teeth and gums healthier. I know of two such products that you can choose from, both available online. Using either of this products on a regular basis makes a gigantic difference for your animal, for your pocket book, and for the planet.

The two products are PetzLife Oral Care (spray and cream) and Leba III (spray only). Both are made from natural substances, not chemicals. PetzLife has a much stronger flavor, but is less expensive than Leba III. I’ve tried both of these with my cats, and they work equally well. However, Violet (Siamese) much prefers the Leba III, and when using homeopathic remedies, I feel better using something with a milder taste so it won’t interfere with the homeopathic process.

3. Natural Cat Litters

Are you still using cat litters made from clay or from man-made substances? I realize that keeping cats indoors has the challenge of maintaining a sanitary environment while allowing your felines to eliminate body waste in their preferred way. I’ve actually heard that some cats can be trained to use the toilet seat, but frankly, for most of us, just making sure they are happy with their litter box is a big enough deal.

So how can you make things greener in the litter box department?

Self-cleaning litter boxes use electricity. I don’t recommend them for that reason alone. They also can injure cats if they start up while the cat is using the box.

The main thing is to find a cat litter that is made from a natural, renewable resource and that biodegrade easily. I know of two that meet this requirement. "Swheat Scoop" is made from wheat. "World’s Best Cat Litter" is made from corn. Both can be flushed into a city toilet because they will completely degrade. Both clump quite nicely. Both are pretty easily available where I live, but if you can’t find them, be sure to ask in stores where you shop to get those stores to start carrying them.

  • [Editor’s note: we did a little digging into this suggestion and found some controversy. Cat feces carry a bacteria called Toxoplasma gondii that is not treated in municipal sewage treatment plants. This is a particularly big deal in places like California, where the sea otter population is facing health difficulties . So far, the state of the art advice seems to be to lock cat poo into a plastic bag and send it to the landfill. Composting is discouraged for the same reason — the parasite may not be killed and may leach into local waterways. There is no consensus on this, by the way. I wish we had a really green solution, but that’s where it stands at the moment. Anyone out there with a bright idea?]

4. Toys Without Chemicals or Poisons or Cruelty to Other Animals

Most of the toys we buy for our animals do not come with labels saying what is in them, on them, or even what they are made from. Isn’t it time you started asking the companies what they are using to create toys that your animals hold in their mouths and chew on?

For example, if a chew toy is made from plastic, what off-gassing is occurring from that plastic that your animal is breathing in as s/he holds it in her mouth? If the toy is made from animal skin (otherwise known as leather), has it been processed with chemicals that might poison your animal – even long term, accumulating over a lifetime? Some rawhide chew-toys contain chemical poisons that can make your dogs very sick.

You will find many articles online about safe toys for your dog. When you read them, also think about the environment. If a toy is safe for your animal, is it also safe for the environment? What is involved in the creation and production of this toy?

5. Household Cleaners and Your Animal Friends

There has been much written about how using environmentally safe cleaners in your home are helpful to the environment. Please also consider that using they create a safer and healthier environment for you and your animal companions.

  • [Editor’s note: The GOforChange Green Guide has some home-made cleaner recipes, which I’ve adapted over the years from one of my favorite books: "Clean Home, Clean Planet." All you need is baking soda, vinegar, olive oil, castille (vegetable) soap, water, and essential oils for a nice smell. with those ingredients and a few simple recipes, you can make your own non-toxic cleaners for pennies.]

I only use non-scented laundry detergent and no fabric softeners. I do this because I became allergic to the artificial scents and some of the other chemicals in these products. But once I had removed them from my home, I began to realize that whenever I purchased new items made from cloth I was bringing more chemicals into my house.

All fabrics – whether in new clothing for people or pets, whether in draperies or furniture, whether in cat or dog beds, carpets, cat trees, and so on –  are full of formaldehyde to preserve them in the warehouses before we even get to see them in the stores. In addition, to make fabrics non-flammable, they are sprayed with neurotoxins. Neurotoxins are chemicals that can destroy or badly damage the nervous system.

Please consider that those doggie and kitty noses are closer to the carpet, the bed, and the chair cushion than your nose is.

I propose that you can reduce your carbon footprint by choosing natural products that are safer, healthier, and chemical free. Don’t you owe it to your beloved animal friend and to yourself to do this? Otherwise, these toxins can build up in the liver and contribute to ill health.

So start now creating a healthier, greener world right in your own home. Vote with your wallet. You and your animals will all benefit, and so will the Earth, our Mother.

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There Are 3 Responses So Far. »

  1. What do you suggest for stray cats — True Hunters and Breeders in my community who also lure humans to feed them. The food humans leave seem to attract rodents in my observation. And the cats are very wild!

    Some say set out traps and let Animal Control take them. Another trapped and had vet treatment, then set free again.

    Who is acting humanely here?
    What is ‘green’ in an urban jungle?

  2. Hi, Frank,

    You raise some excellent questions and I have no simple or easy answers for them.

    The so called “domestic” feline (short, medium, and long-haired varieties) originally existed as a wild animal in Africa, just like lions. They came into contact with humans in “ancient” times because the graineries in cities attracted rats and snakes and other animals who ate the grain. The grain eaters attracted the cats, who ate them. Humans welcomed the cats because they served our needs – protecting the grain and us from the rats and snakes. It was a win/win in those days. On large farms today, cats still often “work” in barns protecting grain.

    Today, there are so many cats living on their own in cities because humans – people like you and me – have abandoned them. We have left them unspayed and unneutered and dumped them into the streets to somehow survive on their own. Their bodies are designed to reproduce twice a year with 3+ kittens each time. So we have created the situation you are describing.

    Sending these cats into the wilderness (country) to live is not the answer, as they don’t know how to survive there. It would be cruel to do this. Killing them, which is what many shelters do because they are unplaceable and because the shelters are overwhelmed, is not an act of kindness, but of overwhelm.

    A current popular solution is to “spay/neuter and release,” since so many of them are wild and find living indoors completely terrifying. This is why they are being fed on the streets. It’s not the best solution, but it’s the best that we have come up with for now. This will ultimately reduce their populations – IF we stop abandoning animals and IF we neuter and spay all our feline pets.

    The ulimate solution is for each of us to ACT RESPONSIBLY by not adding to the stray cat populations and by not allowing our feline family members to reproduce.

    Meanwhile, it is important that we offer these cats whatever resources we can provide them.

  3. p.s. The cat in the photo with me at the top of this article was a young purebred Siamese who was abandoned – unspayed – to the streets. A kind woman started feeding her through a fence near her bus stop each morning. One day, she found an opening in the fence, lured Violet through the fence with food, and brought her to the veterinarian for examination. Violet was HALF her normal body weight – a very serious health problem. She survived only 4.5 years living with me, probably due in part to her body never fully recovering from her period of starvation.

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