Cat

Cat

From food to litter to flea control, the trappings that go into keeping your feline friend happy, healthy, and well-fed directly affect the planet. As eco-conscious consumers come to the realization that Mother Earth, unlike Mr. Whiskers, does not have nine lives, the pet care industry—worth an estimated $43.4 billion in 2008 in the US alone—has moved to make green living pet-applicable.[1] But it doesn't stop at buying fancy organic feasts and recycled newspaper-based litter. In addition to making earth-smart consumer choices when it comes to caring for your pet, it's also crucial to have them spayed or neutered to limit stray cat populations.

The not-so-green pick of the litter

In the United States alone, there are approximately 88.3 million cats kept as pets in households across the country.[2] As a result, more than 2 million tons of litter is dumped in landfills each year, the weight of five Empire State Buildings.[3] However, flushing cat feces can also be problematic as it often contains the protozoa Taxoplasmosis gondii, which has recently been linked to sea otter deaths in California.[4]

Clay-based litter is usually made of bentonite or attapulgite/montmorillonite which is mined in unsustainable ways. This litter is also known to contain silica. Although it has not been shown to directly cause problems in cats, studies have found that cats with respiratory illnesses have six times the amount of silica in their lungs than do healthy cats.[5] Alternative kitty litters that are more eco-friendly and contain biodegradable ingredients, such as corn cobs or wheat, eliminate this health risk, as well as lighten the burden clay-based litters have on landfills.

Kitty nibbles and bits

According to an American Pet Product Manufacturers Association (APPMA) estimate, in 2007 pet owners will spend $16.1 billion on pet food—39 percent of total pet expenses.[6] Non-natural or non-organic brands of pet food contain factory farm-raised meat, a process that adversely effects many different aspects of the environment, such as manure and fertilizer runoff polluting water systems, introducing antibiotics and growth hormones into natural ecosystems, and releasing methane, a greenhouse gas, into to the atmosphere.

The 2007 pet food recall

Many consumers (pet-owning and not) are aware of the widespread pet food recall of March 2007. Menu Foods, Inc. recalled 60 million cans of pet food that were produced at two different plants between Dec 3, 2006 and Mar 6, 2007.[7] Two more pet food companies later recalled some of their products as well. Melamine, a small molecule containing nitrogen and usually used for industrial purposes, was detected in wheat gluten that was traced back to a Chinese supplier. Traces of melamine were also detected in the kidneys and urine of deceased cats, linking the contaminant to their deaths. Cats seem to have been more affected by the melamine than dogs.

Fleas and your feline

Every year Americans spend over 1 billion dollars fighting against fleas and ticks, often using products that contain toxic nerve poisons.[8] Case in point: following reports of 7,000 pet illnesses and as many as 12 pet deaths over three years, pet product goliath Hartz Mountain Corporation agreed to phase out flea and tick repellent products containing high concentrations of the pesticide phenothrin. Cats were observed to be particularly sensitive to the chemical. The products were completely phased out by March 2006.[9] A similar incident involving Hartz occurred in 1987.

Stray cats

Stray and feral cats have been found to kill about 1 billion birds and small mammals annually, many of which are already listed as threatened or endangered. Additionally, cats can out-compete native wildlife for resources and spread disease to other populations. Because feral cats are often supported by humans, they have an unfair advantage over wild species. Trap-Neuter-Release programs aim to control the feral cat population (already almost 60 million in the US), thereby limiting the risk to native wildlife.[10]

Glossary

  • silica: Found in common minerals like quartz, sand, and agate, it's naturally occurring, ubiquitous, and chemically unreactive in the environment.

External links

Comments

04/15/2009
10:02pm
ingridscott

We have been using the Yesterday's News litter for our kitties, with great success. We have discovered that we can burn the used litter (& feces) in the woodstove - they are basically wood pellets, so we burn them with a hot fire and it's a good way to reduce waste. Now we have to find a way to compost to a high enough temp that we can dispose that way when it's too hot to have a fire. Anyone know a resource for that info?

04/13/2010
3:27pm
donnaraeii

I just watched one of the programs about making your own pet food. Do you do the same for cats as you do for dogs?
Wouldn't they also need extra minerals,vitamins and such? what food can you make for a cat that helps prevent uti's and others such feline attributes? I found the answer to my question, just had to look a little further. thank you

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