How Green Is Your Pet?

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To be honest, pets are not a topic I would normally touch with a 10 foot pole. Ours is a pet-less household, not because we are bad people (really!) but because we travel way too much and for too long for a dog, and because I am violently allergic to cats. Leaves birds, which my son loves and the idea of putting them in a cage is just completely reprehensible to him. We do have lots of ants in the house, but I somehow think they aren’t generally considered pets.

Yet, FabMo’s monthly focus for April is pets and the expectation is, that there will be a blog and that I will be writing it.

So here I am, the never-had-a-pet person, writing about pets. So, dear reader, please, be kind, as I know not what I speak of.

First, the bad news

Pets, it turns out, have a really big environmental impact. Less so the ants, or the hamsters, but the meat eating pets like cats and dogs. Now, I am not going to annoy you with the notion that you should raise Scooby and Felix vegan. Generations of farmers in my family tree taught me as much. However, there are ways to minimize the impact your pets meat eating habits have on the environment.

If you have read a few of my blogs you know that there is no writing without data, statistics and other cool and geeky stuff, so let’s get it over with: research done at UCLA shows, that the furry meat-eaters create the equivalent of about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, which has about the same climate impact as a year's worth of driving from 13.6 million cars. Meat-based diets require more energy, land and water to produce, and do more environmental damage in terms of erosion, pesticides and waste, the study notes. If you want to dig into the data yourself, here is the link to the study.

Let’s bring these numbers alive a bit (source):

  • Cats and dogs account for 25 to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the U.S.

  • If cats and dogs occupied their own country, that nation would be fifth in the world for meat consumption.

  • America's pets produce about 5.1 million tons of feces in a year, as much as 90 million Americans.

  • Dogs and cats eat about as many calories as the population of France in one year.

I don’t want to go into further details of pet-ish diets, other than summarizing what other people suggest:

  • Be as strict about you pet’s diet as you should be about your own. Scooby and Felix don’t do any better with a few extra pounds than you do. In fact, a few extra pounds on a small animal can lead to serious health complications.

  • Pet food does not need to be made with meat that is “human-grade”, e.g. organ meat, that people tend to shun, is perfectly fine for animals. Who says that? Not me, but Dr. Cailin Heinze, a veterinary nutritionist at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Pet food, she says, made with organ meat is perfectly fine and that human-grade meat isn't necessarily healthier for pets. I actually don’t doubt that one minute, organ meat, is still eaten by humans in many places, e.g in my southern German hometown blood and liver sausages are a popular seasonal dish (i am personally, not a great fan of the blood sausage, but the liver sausage, with mashed potatos and sauerkraut - yum!).

  • But back to Dr. Heinze (good German name!), she also points out that one should avoid fancy pet food with ingredients from all over the world. I mean no insult, but does Scooby really have to feast on doggy food made with lamb meat important all the way from New Zealand?

  • The next one should be easy: what’s good for the human food container, is good for the pet food container: recycle whenever possible.

  • The next one should be easy as well, but as many a heated discussion on Nextdoor and other such places have shown, it, apparently, is not. Yet, here we go with a topic that aggravates us petless people especially: please scoop the poop, into a biodegradable baggy, then actually take the baggy and dispose of it properly (leaving it by the wayside DOES NOT count as proper disposal!). Allegedly the fully loaded biodegradable baggies can be flushed. You might want to check on that before clogging your toilet, though.

Back to our Favorite Not-For Profit

Somehow we need to bring this around again to FabMo, which, after just having talked about poop, seems a bit daunting. Alas, it is not, because there is one more thing we need to talk about: pet entertainment. And here is where we can use those wonderful rescued FabMo fabrics - or maybe even the remnants of the fabulous FabMo fabrics - to make pet toys.

Bunting: yes. Cup cake for kitty: NO!

Bunting: yes. Cup cake for kitty: NO!

I don’t have any of my own creations to show you and not necessarily for a lack of pet or a lack of trying - more for lack of success. My attempt to make a dog bed (whatever for??) out of upholstery weight 8” squares stuffed with fabric scraps resulted in a monster of a bed, good for approximately two fully grown Great Danes, that was so heavy that I could barely move it. Then I made a frisbee out of outdoor fabric and added a lead line sandwiched between the fabric layers on the outer edge to give it some weight - for better aerodynamics - only to have Hannah almost faint on me when I told her. Dogs, she told me, would somehow manage to get to the lead line and to get the lead into their bodies. I have no reason to doubt her, in fact, I can clearly see it now in my mind’s eye.

Thus my career as petless pet toy maker ended rather abruptly.

So, good thing, that we have the Internet for inspiration where googling “DIY dog toys” yields a whooping 212 million hits and “diy dog toys fabric scraps” a significantly fewer but still unmanageable 14 million hits. And that’s just dogs.

To get you started, here are some wonderful ideas: - truly, what ever did we do before Pinterest? Here is another: And just for kicks, here is one specializing on cat toys:

Happy crafting and playing with your furry friends!

Tina Baumgartner