eco-friendly pet products

Keep your pet — and the environment — healthy and happy with these eco-friendly pet products!

Like most animal lovers, I’m concerned about the state of our environment and the future of our planet. At home, we do our part to be eco-friendly by keeping as much garbage as possible out of the local landfill. We also use biodegradable litter for our two felines, grow our own catnip, and faithfully wash and recycle every cat food tin.

And we’re not the only ones. More people are recognizing the importance of treading more lightly on the earth, and are expanding their eco-conscious outlook to include their animal companions. The pet industry is responding to this growing trend with all kinds of innovative products for dogs and cats that not only enhance animal health, but are also environmentally responsible and sustainable. These products encompass nearly every area of animal care, from food and accessories to pest control, waste disposal and grooming.

The organic movement

Factory farming and current agricultural practices are not sustainable and play a large role in environmental pollution. Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are sprayed on crops and end up in the soil and water supply, while farm animals are pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones. Not only do these toxins harm your dog or cat’s health when he ingests the food, but they’re also taking a toll on ecological systems. It’s not surprising that so many people are turning to organically raised meats and produce for their dinner tables, and are looking to do the same for their dogs and cats.

It’s a lot healthier, and much kinder to the environment. A variety of companies offer organic pet foods made from meats raised in clean, sustainable and humane ways, and fresh produce grown without pesticides and other chemicals. Often, these companies will go a step further and source out locally raised ingredients to minimize the pollution generated by transportation.

It’s important to look for products that are certified organic. That way, you know they were produced to meet strict USDA standards and that they contain no pesticides, antibiotics, or artificial preservatives.

Eco -accessories

Whether it’s a toy for your cat or a leash for your dog, you need to buy accessories and playthings for your companion. Products made from hemp, organic cotton and other sustainable or recycled fibers are becoming increasingly popular. They include colorful collars and leashes, durable toys, dog apparel, and bedding materials. Hemp is especially hip – it’s one of the few crops that doesn’t deplete the soil and can be grown without pesticides. A lot of these companies are also steering away from chemical dyes in the manufacturing process.

Waste not

It’s estimated that America’s dogs and cats produce around ten million tons of waste per year. A lot of it ends up in landfill sites, tied up in plastic bags that won’t break down for years or decades. A great way to ease the situation is to look for poop bags that are eco-friendly and will break down, allowing the waste to decompose naturally (a healthy diet that’s as natural and organic as possible will minimize chemical toxins in your animal’s waste). One company has even designed a waste digester that you bury in a hole in your yard like a septic tank. It reduces dog waste to a ground absorbing liquid through the action of natural enzymes and bacteria.

If you have cats, then you have a choice of eco-friendly litters to consider. Avoid clay products – the strip-mining process used to harvest the clay is very hard on the environment. It also doesn’t break down when disposed of and can sit in landfill for years. Biodegradable litters are a much earth-friendlier (and healthier) choice, and include products made from wheat, corn, recycled newspaper, silica, and reclaimed pine sawdust. Some of these litters, like those made from silica, last longer than average and help cut down on the amount of litter you use. One self-cleaning cat box completely eliminates the need for litter by using recycled plastic granules that are automatically washed and dried for re-use.

Healthy hygiene

Once the warmer weather reappears, fleas and ticks will start hopping again. Commercial flea collars, powders, sprays and medications are among the most toxic pet care products out there – they’re bad not only for your animal, but also the environment, both indoors and out. The best way to avoid them is to keep your animal in good health with a quality diet, so his immunity is strong and he doesn’t react badly to flea bites.

For the fleas that do show up, a number of companies offer safe flea-repelling products and shampoos made from natural ingredients. Beneficial nematodes are an effective and non-toxic way to rid your yard of those unwanted pests.

Regular bathing and grooming can also be eco-friendly. Harsh commercial shampoos are hard on your animal’s skin, and the chemicals get washed down the drain and into the water table when you rinse him off. Thanks to the proliferation of natural and organic shampoos, conditioners, spritzers and other grooming products on the market now, this no longer has to be an issue. Be sure to read labels so you know what you’re getting. And don’t forget holistic groomers – these are folks who use only natural, non-toxic products on their clients, and there are morearound than there used to be even a few years ago.

Clean and green

Spills and accidents are inevitable if you have a dog or cat, but don’t reach for the bleach. Commercial household cleaners usually contain chemicals that can evaporate into the air or end up in the water supply. They can also be harmful to you and your companion. Look for more natural alternatives – nontoxic household cleaners are getting easier to source all the time.

We can’t be perfect when it comes to going green, but there’s lots we can do to make a difference. Thanks to all the eco-friendly pet care products available today, it’s easy to include your dog or cat in your plans to help preserve the planet!

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Ann Brightman is Managing Editor for Animal Wellness Magazine and Integrative Veterinary Care Journal. A lifelong animal lover, she has also been a writer and editor for over 25 years. Ann is a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada and is also a Tai Chi instructor.