Have you ever looked at your pets and asked yourself why you actually have them? Much of the time the answers will involve them being a friend, cute, really cool, the best thing ever, etc. etc. All the answers are likely related to seemingly selfish needs. You are not normally saving a dying species or doing anything for the greater good really….Ok, you may have saved one or two animals from a life destined in a shelter, but it’s a small token.
In most cases pet ownership is neither good for sustainability or for personal finance. It’s costly and bad for the environment. We do it for us, almost simply because we, for some odd reason, like them!
I hope at this point I have not annoyed you too much. I LOVE animals. If I could, I would have an unlimited amount of pets, a menagerie of each and every kind of domesticated animal I could get my hands on. I know it is selfish in essence but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is wrong. Breaking down almost everything a human does can bring it to some selfish notion, so I don’t think we should or need to stop owning animals at home. However, I do think we all have a responsibility to make that ownership more sustainable for our finances and our environment.
I wanted to take a look at a few areas and see where we could all improve. I am mostly focusing on the two best friends, dogs and cats. They are by far the most popular pets in North America and Europe.
Pets eat a lot and that is one of the biggest expenses. If you believe what you read then it seems the canned pet food industry is an unregulated horrible one! Whilst dead dogs and cats are not likely used any more other euthanized animals, dead, dying, diseased and all sorts of terrible animals parts are used in pet foods. The point is this food is unhealthy for your animal and could contribute to making them sick, costing you more in the long run. An alternative is to buy high quality, high nutrition food, but this is super expensive. The best route is obviously making your own food. Bones, good quality meat and raw veggies with brown rice are a good start. Good quality meat could be costly, thus pushing even further and helping your animal go vegetarian or vegan could be a better choice. It may even allow you to grow most of their food in your own back yard.
Most toys won’t break the bank but they travel from a small Chinese, or far away factory, to the pet store. They are often made from plastic and probably won’t last long. Dogs love plain old sticks! You can make small bean bags from dried beans and old clothing, An old piece of (clean) rope or string can be a great pull toy. Cats love stuffed socks and most things feathery. Just get creative and re-use old items to extend their lifetimes and save cash. If it’s biodegradable all the better. The pets likely won’t mind what it is; you see how much they love cardboard boxes!
Health and health care
As mentioned in the food section, taking your pets health seriously will help you save money and sustain a reasonably drug-free, more natural pet. A proper diet will keep their insides working correctly and teeth reasonably clean. Extra teeth cleaning can be done with a home made tooth paste and washing your pets with home made skin friendly products (baking soda with water and essential oils can work well). Keeping pets active, taking them out to run, fetch, play, teaching them tricks or whatever else you can do, will help your pet keep their weight under control and have good strong heart, lungs, and muscles plus keep their brains active. It’s debatable whether your pet needs insurance, but taking them for check ups and keeping an eye for possible illnesses and complications is essential. Veterinary costs are unregulated in the USA so shop around and get recommendations from friends and family to avoid paying too much.
Pet waste is a tough subject. Healthier stool should result from a natural diet and this is somewhat helpful no matter how it is disposed. Still the dilemma to flush, throw away or even fertilize depends on many factors. You can flush dog poop in most places but cat poop has toxins that can affect marine life so that needs to be thrown away. If going to a landfill, the array of green dog waste bags are not really needed. Instead just the reuse of old news papers and bags is probably the best bet. Dog poop can, with help of some systems, be put into compost heaps and used for your garden. Just don’t ever leave it on the ground for kids to slip on and get in their eyes as this is disgusting and may cause blindness!
Limit your pets
It’s easy to end up with a mini zoo in your home but if you want to keep sustainable and even healthy it is best to just limit to a few. The more cramped the conditions the less healthy things will be for you and the animals and the more concentrated waste will be produced.
Always, always adopt / rescue
Animals from breeding facilities are still in extremely high demand. Although not every breeder is a puppy mill style affair any breeding of animals on a larger scale will lead to a lack of care and potential long lasting physical and mental health issues. The industry needs some serious downsizing, in my opinion.
Of course it makes it hard for those that feel they need a pedigree. Mixed breeds generally are healthier anyway possibly because of the introduction of more mixed genes but maybe for other reasons too. We don’t need pedigrees and don’t need new borns when so many animals are out there being rescued and eventually euthanized because homes can’t be found.
Put your breed expectations and age expectations out sight and always opt for adoption from a local humane society shelter or an Adopt-A-Pet drive.
Your pet’s health, your local environment, and your wallet are tough things to balance but never something you should ignore. Hopefully this post got you thinking a little and I recommend you do some more research and start experimenting.
Good luck my fellow animal lovers.
This is an article written by Forest Parks. Forest writes about frugal living, lifestyle, finance and more over at his site FrugalZeitgeist.com.
SPF Notes: In the dog food link above I demonstrate how high end, high quality foods are actually less expensive than the cheaper alternatives! Also, if you do feed your dog raw diet it is totally compostable. I would not recommend adding it to your compost heap per se (smell) but there are systems that you insert into the ground and cover where the dog poop composts away to nothing.