Reducing Pets’ Paw Prints

The importance of practicing natural pet care.

A cat and dog enjoy being in nature while lying in  a field of buttercups.

(Lyudmyla Pokryshen /

There is a movement towards living a greener life by improving one’s carbon footprint. It is great to take positive strides towards this, but don’t forget about cute little Fido. He too leaves his own carbon paw print­.

It is easy to reduce the carbon paw print of house pets. With a bit of savvy and awareness, you and Fido will be happily contributing to a greener planet. Here are some simple steps to take.

Improve your pet’s dietary footprint

Americans love their pets so much, they are the largest group of pet parents in the world, according to a study in PLOS ONE. Yet this comes with a price; since pets eat meat, they contribute to the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gas, including methane and carbon dioxide. In fact, they constitute 25 to 30 percent of the negative impact on the environment.

No, Fido need not be vegan! There are dog and cat foods that contain less resource-intensive proteins than beef, according to the Animal Humane Society. Go for pet food that is made from poultry, rabbit, or sustainably-sourced fish. There is even a pet food that is made from protein-rich insects! 

Animal by-products like bone or organ meat are also planet-friendly pet foods, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Another green tip is to reduce the use of pet food packaging. Buy your pet food in bulk, or buy it loose and store in your own reusable containers, according to The Wildlife Trusts. Look for recycled packaging if available.

A Golden Retriever lies beside his eco-friendly food bowl.

(Chendongshan /

Pamper your pet with eco-friendly products

Aside from food, your pet needs lots of accessories. Be it a bed, toys, food bowl, shampoo, and fur treatment, Fido needs a lot of TLC. 

When it comes to tick and flea collars, avoid products with tetrachlorvinphos and propoxur, as well as permethrin and amitraz, recommends NDRC. They are dangerous to both humans and animals. In fact, avoid tick and flea collars altogether and opt for anti-flea and tick pills.

Also refrain from buying shampoos and pet products that have artificial dyes, fragrances, parabens, mineral oils, and sulfates, warns the Animal Humane Society. Aside from irritating your pet’s skin, these chemicals end up polluting the waterways.

As for pet accessories, go for stainless steel food and water bowls as opposed to plastic. Choose biodegradable: eco-friendly pet beds are made with bamboo and bedding is made from recycled paper, while pet toys and collars are now made from recycled plastic. 

The Wildlife Trusts recommends recycling items around the house to make toys. For example, knotting up an old T-shirt can become a great pull toy for a dog.

A dog lies beside his eco-friendly dog toys.

(Switlana Sonyashna /

Pick up after pooch

Dog feces contains dangerous bacteria that often ends up in the waterways and seas, according to USA Today. This makes dogs the third or fourth highest contributor to bacteria in contaminated water.

Since dogs have dangerous coliform bacteria in their gut that includes E.coli, salmonella, and giardia, please pick up after your pet, especially if you live near a river or beach. The rainwater and snow carry the feces into storm water and it ends up in the water system. Also use a biodegradable doggie bag when you pick up after pooch. Some plastic takes up to 1,000 years to break down in a landfill.

It is not recommended to compost dog manure, especially if it will later be spread near a vegetable garden, however it is actually dangerous to compost cat manure, according to the Animal Human Society. Cat feces contain toxoplasmosis that can cause disease in humans, so do not flush cat feces down the toilet.

Cat litter is also an issue as it is made from bentonite, which is strip mined. There are more eco-friendly products around including wood shavings and ground corn cobs.

A cat lies beside a litter box filled with environmentally-friendly wood shavings.

(Yuliya Alekseeva /

When Fido has an accident....

Every pet owner has to wipe up after their pet. It is recommended to use a natural household cleaner to do this, as many store-bought cleaning products are toxic, according to the Animal Human Society.

Instead, swap those synthetic products for white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or baking soda mixed with water. Another option is to use liquid castile soap. And when you wipe up, go for reusable towels as opposed to paper towels.

A dog lies beside natural cleaning products.

(ThamKC /