Nine ways to become a more sustainable pet owner
Read our top tips for reducing your carbon pawprint.
This year, we've launched our new ten-year strategy Together for Animal Welfare. As part of this, we recognise that the climate crisis and the destruction of habitats are a huge existential threat to both animals and humans alike.
We want to help make a positive change for the future and work with other groups to meet the challenge of this climate emergency. Therefore, our new strategy for 2021-2030 has a greater focus on the environment. From working internationally to tackle issues such as the wildlife trade and intensive food production, to the little things that we can all do to be more environmentally friendly - we want to do all that we can to make a difference.
We want to become more sustainable as an organisation and, where we can, we want to help others to do the same. Read on for our nine tips on becoming a more sustainable pet owner:
1. Recycle your old pet food pouches
Most of us now recycle every single day but there are some items which we still have to woefully chuck in the bin, such as pet food pouches. However, pet owners can shop around for eco brands of pet food, toys and accessories that use recyclable packaging. There are also an increasing number of public drop-off locations which will recycle your pet food pouches for you. Hurrah!
2. Recycle household items into pet toys
Another way to recycle is to use items around the home to make your own DIY pet toys. Repurposing old items is a great way to recycle and keep your furry friends entertained at the same time. Even a cardboard box can provide great entertainment or perhaps a cosy place for a cat to curl up. While, toilet roll tubes can make excellent puzzle feeders for a cat, dog, rabbit or birds. The simple paper bag can become a foraging toy for rabbits, and a plastic bottle can even be customised into a treat dispenser!
3. Pass on your unloved toys
We all love spoiling our pets with toys and accessories, and adding novelty to their lives with new toys is fantastic for their enrichment, happiness and health. However, every pet is an individual and each will find different toys engaging and so if you've bought a toy your pet just isn't interested in, rather than throwing it away, why not gift it or swap it with another pet-owning friend or family member?
4. Buy biodegradable cat litter or compostable dog poo bags
Reducing wastage is another easy but important way that pet owners can become more environmentally-friendly. Try switching to biodegradable cat litter or compostable dog poo bags. Tonnes of cat litter and plastic poo bags end up in landfill every year so this small switch could have a big impact.
5. Buy more vegetarian and vegan foods
Consumers have understandably become more environmentally aware in recent years and this extends to the food on our plate. With more and more humans going vegetarian or vegan you might be considering making the same switch for your pet. Dogs are omnivores and can eat a wide variety of food types so they can survive on a vegetarian diet as long as the diet is complete and well-balanced.
Read more: A healthy diet for dogs.
However, cats are strict carnivores and depend on some very specific nutrients that are found in meat - including taurine, vitamin A and arachidonic acid - and so they can become seriously ill if they are fed a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, owners can shop around for brands that only use higher welfare meat and MSC-certified fish. If you're making any changes to your cat's diet or litter, it's important to introduce these changes gradually over time.
Read more: What is a healthy diet for a cat?
Rabbits are arguably the most eco-friendly pet out of the three as they eat a completely plant-based diet. You could try getting green-fingered and growing your own vegetables (for you and your rabbits).
As well as munching on home-grown veggies, rabbits need to eat a bundle of hay which is as big as they are every day. It may be a healthy vegetable to us, but to a rabbit, a carrot is as calorific as a cheeseburger! Veggies should be fed in moderation and be introduced gradually to avoid tummy upsets.
6. Adopt don't shop!
Adopting a pet rather than buying one helps to reduce the number of animals looking for a home in rescue centres. The UK is currently facing a cat overpopulation crisis and so rescuing a cat and ensuring they're neutered can help to tackle this problem.
This is why here at the RSPCA, along with other cat and vet charities, we advise owners to get their cats neutered from four months old to avoid unplanned litters. As a charity, we often see the dark side of the cat overpopulation crisis from unwanted litters of kittens being abandoned by the roadside to elderly cats waiting in our animal centre's care because there are no owners ready to adopt them.
Rescuing a dog from a reputable charity also means that you don't have to worry that you're inadvertently buying from an unscrupulous breeder who puts profits before animal welfare. It also means you can relax knowing that you're not lining the pockets of people who import puppies hundreds of miles from overseas to be sold here in the UK.
7. Lead the way for wildlife!
It's also important to consider our pet's impact on the wildlife around us. The impact of cats on wildlife populations is subject to intense debate but on an individual level, predation by cats is likely to cause considerable suffering.
This is something that ourselves and many cat owners are concerned about so we recommend that owners reduce the opportunities for predating on wild birds and other animals by restricting outdoor access at dusk and dawn when wildlife is most active. You can also attach a bell to a quick-release safety collar to help your local wildlife.
When walking dogs, owners need to take responsibility for keeping their dogs on leads in areas where they know wildlife are present. Dog owners have a legal responsibility to keep their dog under control at all times under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and doing so can help to make sure our wildlife is protected. Sometimes the smallest actions can have the greatest impact.
8. Walk instead of driving
Other than companionship, one of the most fantastic aspects of being a dog owner is how much they encourage you to get up and move. Going on long walks with your dog keeps not only your canine friend happy and healthy but you happy and healthy too.
However, some of us may jump in the car first and drive somewhere to walk our dog before jumping back in the car to go home again. Of course, not everyone has green space on their doorstep and so for those who perhaps live in a big city, this may be the only way to thoroughly exercise their dogs. If not, it's worth considering whether you really need to jump in their car - can you walk to the park instead and help the environment out at the same time?
Read more: 7 ways nature can help keep us happy and healthy.
9. Reduce your plastic use where you can
Images of a turtle injured by a plastic straw, a dolphin trying to eat a plastic bag in the middle of the ocean, or a seal washed up with a frisbee cutting into its neck, all make us realise what an impact plastic can have on the animals we care so much about.
Reducing plastic is a positive step for the environment, and as pet owners, there are simple ways we can reduce our daily plastic use. For example, we can buy ceramic pet food bowls instead of plastic ones, non-plastic toys and accessories and have a go at making our own DIY toys.
For more DIY videos visit our YouTube channel.
Read more about our sustainability efforts
We're a long way from where we want to be but we're making progress. From removing glitter from our greetings cards to bigger projects overseas, we're heading in the right direction! Find out more about our work: