Final Up to date on: October 31, 2022 by Crystal Uys
In case you’re contemplating including a four-footed companion to your loved ones, you may be questioning about your future buddy’s potential environmental impression — particularly if cats are simpler on the earth than their canine sidekicks. As a cat proprietor, I’ve questioned this myself! The reply relies upon largely on the scale of the animal and the way a lot they eat. Massive canines similar to German Shepherds require considerably extra meals than smaller breeds like Chihuahuas.
Massive canines are all the time worse for the surroundings than smaller canines or cats in terms of food-production-associated environmental burdens. However once you issue within the environmental prices associated to the manufacturing and disposal of kitty litter, canines who weigh lower than 10 kilos or so could also be higher for the surroundings than equally sized cats. Include me as I stroll you thru the small print:
Why Does the Quantity Canines and Cats Eat Matter?
An excessive amount of the harm we do to the earth is straight associated to the manufacturing and consumption of meals, meat particularly. The extra meat a cat or canine eats, the better their carbon footprint, making an animal’s dimension vital in terms of figuring out their environmental impression.
However let’s begin firstly—with vegetable and cereal farming. All farming has an environmental impression, even once we develop fruit and veggies utilizing natural rules. (Natural farming typically requires tons of land.)
On account of trendy farming’s excessive manufacturing calls for and shoppers’ aesthetic preferences, producers typically flip to pesticides and fertilizers to guard and enhance harvests. Many of those chemical substances trigger critical environmental harm as they accumulate within the soil and contaminate water sources.
Then there are the greenhouse emissions associated to the bodily actions concerned in farming—assume operating equipment and transporting merchandise. And don’t neglect to think about all the pieces concerned in producing and delivering even essentially the most primary packaging.
Meat manufacturing is a spectacularly inefficient strategy to produce meals as this course of primarily will get repeated twice earlier than you should purchase a bag of kibble. Research point out that pound for pound, farming simply 1 pound of beef releases the identical quantity of carbon dioxide into the environment as producing 15 kilos of rice or 60 kilos of corn, peas or wheat.
Put one other approach, producing 1 kilogram of hen requires roughly 43.3 sq. meters of land. (Beef and lamb require way over that!) A complete kilogram of grain, then again, solely calls for a mere 13.4 sq. meters of land.
Meat manufacturing is problematic for different causes as effectively, together with the methane gasoline produced by ruminants like cows. The rumen is a particular abdomen compartment current in lots of grazing mammals. It’s the place meals that hasn’t been utterly digested is saved and begins to ferment earlier than being despatched to the opposite elements of the abdomen to be damaged down and absorbed. Methane gasoline is produced throughout this fermentation course of. However methane soaks up atmospheric warmth like there’s no tomorrow. In keeping with the MIT Local weather Portal, methane gasoline “traps round 100 instances as a lot warmth as carbon dioxide.
What Does This Imply in Actual Phrases?
In 2009, Barbara and Robert Vale, professors who research sustainable constructing and educate at Victoria College of Wellington, printed a e book wherein they crunch the numbers concerning the damaging environmental impression of pet possession — Time to Eat the Canine: The Actual Information to Sustainable Dwelling. Their conclusions have been stunning.
The typical medium-sized canine apparently eats about 164 kilograms of meat and 95 kilograms of grain per yr. After factoring within the quantity of land wanted to supply hen and numerous grains, the Vales calculated it requires roughly .84 hectares of land to feed a canine the scale of a Labrador Receiver. You solely want round .41 hectares of land to supply sufficient vitality to drive a Toyota Land Cruiser 10,000 miles.
Cats are smaller and require far much less meals than the typical canine, however they’re not precisely environmentally pleasant! Feeding only one cat requires .15 hectares of land, only a bit lower than you’d must preserve a Volkswagen Golf up and operating for a yr.
A more moderen research printed in PLOS One reached comparable conclusions whereas describing the phenomena a bit in a different way. After tapping the American Kennel Affiliation for details about the ten hottest canine breeds, Gregory Orkin, writer of this progressive 2019 research, averaged their weights. In keeping with Orkin’s calculations, the typical canine in the US weighs 22 kilos, greater than the typical cat who suggestions the scales at 10 kilos. Canines require 544 kJ (kg BW)-0.75 d-1 of vitality to outlive. The corresponding quantity for cats is 544 kJ (kg BW)-0.67 d-1.
On account of weight variations, the environmental impression of feeding the typical pet cat is decrease than that concerned in holding a mean canine correctly fed. When weight and inhabitants numbers are factored collectively, US canines eat way over US cats.
Companion animal possession has critical environmental penalties—cats and canines collectively eat round 24% of all of the animal-based vitality consumed within the US or about one-third of the meat eaten within the nation. These numbers might sound exaggerated till you notice that round 70% of US households have a minimum of one pet—there’re round 69 million properties with pet canines and 45.3 million properties with cats.
The USA has the most important companion animal inhabitants on the planet. And we may feed round 62 million folks with the meals and vitality that goes into meals manufacturing for US pets.
And issues will most likely worsen as worldwide tendencies in pet possession proceed. Whereas companion pets have been frequent in North America, Europe, and Australia for many years, the observe is changing into more and more frequent in growing and middle-income nations. Because the variety of companion animals stored in properties all over the world will increase, so too will the magnitude of those animals’ environmental impression.
There additionally seems to be a shift in values underway, altering the way in which many consider cats and canines. In keeping with Orkin, the humanization of companion animals may very well spur extra environmental destruction as pet homeowners start demanding higher-quality cuts of meat for his or her cats and canines.
What About Poop and Kitty Litter?
Our animal companions aren’t doing us any favors within the poop division, both. The common human poops out about 0.147 kg capita-1 d-1. That quantity is round 0.042 kg cat-1 d-1 for cats and 0.15± 0.07 kg canine-1 d-1 for canines. Cats are inclined to weigh a lot lower than canines and subsequently produce much less waste on common.
Canines and cats collectively are accountable for about 23% of all poop excreted within the US—people are accountable for the remainder. Companion canines and cats produce as a lot waste because the human inhabitants of a state across the dimension of Massachusetts, most of which leads to landfills the place it decomposes, releasing methane — a serious contributor to world warming—into the environment.
After which you may have the environmental impression of all that kitty litter. Sadly, most research evaluating the environmental impression of pet possession solely contemplate the results of feeding companion animals, failing to account for components similar to the prices of manufacturing and disposing of kitty litter, that are fairly substantial when you think about the harms attributable to strip mining for clay, the sources expended within the packaging and transporting of litter associated merchandise and the contribution non-biodegradable litter makes to our rising landfills.
Clay and silica/crystal-based litters are merely not biodegradable, placing most cat homeowners within the disagreeable place of including to landfill waste and contributing to world warming every time they alter their cat’s litter.
There are just a few methods to get began in case you’re critical about decreasing your cat’s environmental impression. One is tremendous easy—the others require a bit extra dedication and planning. The quickest and best strategy to cut back your cat’s environmental impression is to make use of biodegradable baggage to eliminate waste once you clear or change the litter. You’ll be able to simply discover small biodegradable poop-disposal baggies at most grocery shops. And there are tons of biodegradable trash baggage and cat pan liners to select from.
Switching to biodegradable litter is a extra concerned possibility, however it may be an amazing alternative if in case you have the curiosity, the cash and your cat tolerates the change. There are tons of biodegradable choices available on the market constituted of sustainable merchandise similar to recycled newspapers, dried tofu and wooden chips. There are clumping and non-clumping varieties in addition to fragranced and unscented selections. You’ll be able to even compost un-peed or pooped on elements of used litter to noticeably restrict any cat-related landfill contributions. Simply bear in mind to solely sprinkle compost with cat litter on nonedible crops.
In case you’re actually critical about minimizing your cat’s environmental footprint, contemplate buying pet meals from an organization that explicitly components the safety of the earth into its enterprise mannequin. There are a number of pet meals makers, similar to Open Farm, that adhere to robust sustainability and transparency requirements and others, similar to The Sincere Kitchen, that function as B firms pledged to issue components similar to sustainability and justice into their enterprise fashions.
And carbon offsets are a considerate and tremendous sensible strategy to give only a bit to the world and to thank the earth (and your fellow human beings) for the privilege of welcoming a furry companion into your life. (Right here’s a hyperlink to an article with just a few recommendations on tips on how to discover a respected carbon offset program that aligns together with your values).
Cats are usually higher for the surroundings than canines in terms of the most important offender — meals manufacturing. As a result of cats are smaller than most canines and subsequently typically eat much less meals and produce much less poop, cats have much less of a damaging impression on the surroundings than canines. That’s nice information in case you love cats as a lot as I do!
However then there’s the nightmare that’s kitty litter, with its problematic connections to strip mining and preponderance of non-biodegradable elements, making it not possible to say cat possession is something near earth-friendly. Utilizing biodegradable kitty litter, buying cat meals and treats from firms that function in line with sound sustainability rules and investing within the occasional carbon offset can go a good distance in the direction of decreasing the damaging impression cat possession has on the surroundings.
Featured Picture Credit score: Seregraff, Shutterstock
Cat mother to Ivy – a feisty little rescue kitten that’s her one and solely little one. For now! All through her life, she has been launched to the particular love that may be discovered within the bond with a cat. Having owned a number of felines, she is greater than sure that their love is unmatched, unconditional and in contrast to some other. With a ardour to teach the general public about all the pieces, there’s to find out about felines, their habits, and their distinctive personalities, Crystal is devoted to creating positive that each one cats and their homeowners know the significance of acutely aware residing – and loving!