People are more concerned than ever before about how we negatively affect the environment. We have already made significant lifestyle changes by buying electric cars or eating more plant-based foods to lessen our environmental impact.
It is not just people that have a carbon footprint. Another important family member living in our homes to consider is our cats and dogs.
Cats and dogs are the most popular pets around the world. There are estimates that in the western world, around 70% of households own at least one pet, and this figure is rising year after year.
The US has around 78 million pet dogs and 85 million pet cats. If you think about this number on a worldwide scale, it is clear that they must have a big impact on the planet.
How do cats and dogs impact the environment?
One of the biggest reasons cats and dogs are bad for the environment is because of their diet. This considerable number of animals needs a lot of food.
Cats and dogs are carnivores, which means their food contains animal products. Meat and fish production has a negative impact on the environment.
It is estimated that cat and dog food totals 30% of emissions for all meat consumption in the US alone. This is a massive proportion of meat eaten just by our pets alone, which brings into question the impact this has on global emissions.
How is meat production bad for the environment?
Over 1/3 of global emissions are due to food production. These gases speed up the planet’s warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere. This results in climatic changes, rising sea levels, and catastrophic weather events.
Animals like cattle, pigs, and sheep, and the food they eat, total 57% of all food production emissions. Producing this meat leads to deforestation, biodiversity loss, and forest fires, all damaging the environment.
The world has a target to keep global warming below 1.5 Celsius. This goal is slipping away as the UN states we are closer to seeing a global rise in temperatures of 2 -2.9 Celsius. Food production is a big driver of this temperature increase, and our pets are taking a large share.
What can we do to make the food we feed our pets eco-friendlier?
The number of pets is unlikely to decrease, but we can do things to lessen their impact on the environment. This should be with sustainable solutions that are easy to implement and will work for many people.
1. Choose dry food over wet food
Wet food production produces 690% more greenhouse gas emissions than dry food. This is because dry food’s water content is lower than wet food’s, meaning it has more nutrients per gram. This means emissions are reduced in your pet’s production, transport, and even waste. A simple and cost-effective solution that could make a significant difference for the planet.
2. Try insect-based pet food
Insects could be the answer to the problems faced by meat production and the environment. Bugs are high in complete proteins, easy to digest, and full of essential vitamins and minerals. The smaller size of insects makes them easier to transport in large quantities.
Beef production leads to 12.5 times more greenhouse gas emissions than insects. Farming insects leads to less soil pollution, 3.75 times less water usage, and 10 times less land needed than meat, poultry, and fish farming.
Many brands like Yora Pet Food and Green Pet Food sell insect-based dog and cat food. This is to lessen our pet’s environmental impact and provide a hypoallergenic alternative to regular pet food.
3. The future of lab-grown meat
Slaughter-free meat, or meat is grown in a lab by scientists, could be another future solution to the world’s meat problem. The cultured meat grown by the Californian company Upside Foods was recently approved for human consumption by the FDA. The company grows animal cells, which produce real meat. They liken this process to the yeast and microbes grown when brewing beer.
The large-scale introduction of lab-grown meat would be positive news for people and pets alike. This would cut emissions, reduce water usage, and lessen the land needed for farming.
4. Switch to plant-based pet food
A plant-based diet is rising due to how this reduces our negative impact on the environment. If everyone ate a plant-based diet, we’d need 75% less farmland than we use today. That is an area in size similar to the US, China, Europe, and Australia combined.
This dietary solution can also help with the diets of our pets. Many vegan pet food brands, like Wild Earth, are currently available, providing high-quality, well-rounded food for cats and dogs.
5. Think about your choice of pet
We could make an informed and conscious choice about the pets in our homes. Smaller pets such as hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs are herbivores, so they do not eat meat.
This lessens their environmental impact as they already eat a plant-based diet and create less waste. If you own a dog, you could throw away 700 plastic bags a year by simply cleaning up their business.
Final Thoughts on Are Cats and Dogs Bad for the Environment
The meat found in many pet foods would have been destined for the landfill, where it creates harmful emissions. These offcuts of meat like offal, fat, and bones are sometimes unsuitable for human consumption but fine for our pets.
If humans continue to eat meat, at least our pets are eating food that is already going to waste.
We have, however, fed our pets better quality meat, which is good news for them but bad for the planet. Over 26 million people could benefit if we repurposed just 25% of the meat given to cats and dogs in the US.
The solutions listed above are positive steps we can make now to lessen our pets’ impact on the world.
Our pets must be considered when considering humanity’s environmental impact. There are changes we can make to their diet, as well as our own, which can help to protect the planet.
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