Cat parent Marina Barry is always on the hunt for ways to reduce her kitty, Bootsie’s, carbon pawprint. “We must take care of the Earth,” she says. “I feel like we have to do more.”
Marina and experts say you and your cat can help save the environment — and even money — by taking some simple steps. Here are five pawsitively easy ways to go green.
Go enviro-friendly with waste management
Start with how you handle your cat’s poop. Use biodegradable litter made from recycled paper or plant-based material that decomposes like wheat, grass seed and corn.
Marina uses Catalyst Pet litter created from sustainable softwood. She says, “I have satisfaction knowing I’m not contributing to the vast amount of garbage that stays in the environment for a long time.”
Catalyst upcycles the wood they use to make the product. “We collect clean, unused wood chips from local producers — that would otherwise end up in the landfill — and convert them into high-performing cat litter,” says Jonah Levine, a Catalyst team leader.
You can also buy biodegradable cat waste bags and litter boxes made from cardboard, bamboo and paper.
Make trash a treasured toy
Could the junk you just cleaned out of a closet make a good kitty toy? You can save money, keep your stuff out of a landfill, repurpose it and perk your cat’s curiosity.
“Look around your house for old clothes, towels, sweaters, water bottles or toilet paper rolls,” says integrative veterinarian Dr. Carol Osborne. “You can take a toilet paper roll, cover it with a sheet or an old sweater and put a couple of things inside that rattle, like buttons or peanuts. Those things stimulate your cat’s instincts.”
Don’t forget the irresistible cardboard box. “Cats can hide, climb and chew on them to satisfy their instinctive needs,” says Samantha Bell, cat content strategist from Best Friends Animal Society. “My cats love to bat around upcycled waste like plastic bottle caps and crumpled paper.”
Look for signs and seals of sustainability
The 2021-2022 American Pet Products Association’s “National Pet Owners Survey” revealed that 8% of cat owners purchased food made from sustainable and humanely sourced ingredients. And nearly half of all pet owners are willing to pay more for ethically sourced, eco-friendly and BPA-free pet products.
How can you tell if what you’re buying is sustainable? Look for third-party seals of approval showing companies or products that have passed an accreditation or certification process.
Some of Purina’s cat foods carry the Marine Stewardship Council stamp of approval showing they’ve been certified for using sustainably sourced seafood.
“At Purina, we’re looking at sustainability from the entire life cycle of our products, from the farms where we source ingredients and how we make pet food in our factories to the packaging that makes it into a pet owner’s home,” says Nida Bockert, senior director of portfolio innovation, optimization and sustainability at Purina. “We are committed to doing our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at every step.”
Catalyst is accredited by the Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC). The nonprofit organization helps companies improve their sustainability through profitable environmental and social practices. The PSC accredits companies that pass their verification process.
“We have a powerful message: You don’t have to sacrifice performance for sustainability,” Jonah says. “Our motto is right on every package: ‘Love your pet, change your planet.’”
Jump online and research businesses. The Nature’s Logic website is filled with earth-friendly seals, awards and accreditations the company earned.
Triple T Studios’ website says its Tiniest Tiger round, horizontal cat scratcher is made from recyclable corrugated cardboard. The company also makes eco-friendly kitty toys and donates to help global big cat conservation projects.
Recycle that bag, can or box
Is the container your cat’s food or litter comes in recyclable? Check the product’s packaging, your local rules and find those recycling bins. You might be missing an opportunity.
The PSC found an estimated 300 million pounds of pet food and treat bags are churned out each year in the United States, but more than 99% aren’t recycled.
Many cat food cans are also recyclable. “Aluminum can be recycled over and over again, and recycling the cans instead of recreating them from raw materials uses 95% less energy, making it worth our energy to put them into the right bin for recycling,” Nida says.
Bootsie is on a special diet, and Marina ensures the containers don’t end up in the garbage. “I have a special toothbrush I use to clean the cans out. I scrub it, let it dry and put it in our recycle bin.”
Spay, neuter and adopt
Cat overpopulation puts a strain on the planet. By spaying your cat, you can help reduce the chances your one female cat might create a litter of six more. If your cat is an unneutered male about town, he could end up being an absentee father to many generations of kitties.
“When you spay and neuter, there are fewer cats, especially stray and feral cats. You’re going to have a lower carbon footprint because there are fewer pets in the world that must be cared for and less cat waste,” Dr. Osborne says.
It also means fewer cats euthanized. Best Friends found that in 2021, more than 2.2 million cats entered U.S. shelters, and more than 240,000 were killed.
“The best way to be as green as possible in the cat world is to adopt your cat from a shelter or rescue,” Samantha says. “Give a home to a cat in need and create an open spot for another cat’s life to be saved.”
Marina adopts rescued cats and makes sure they’re spayed or neutered. “I think it’s vital,” she says. “I want to be mindful of generations to come. It’s a no-brainer.”
Before You Recycle
Don’t just toss a bag or can into the recycling bin. You need to clean it first so it doesn’t contaminate other items it comes into contact with in the bin.
Just follow these quick steps:
- Clean — remove all food waste. Give it a good rinsing out if it’s a container. For cardboard, the EPA says to make it “spatula clean.”
- Dry it if it was wet.
- Flatten it if it’s a box.
Compost or flush cat poop?
Think composting your cat’s poop is a good way to help the planet? Stop right there. You could actually be harming the environment.
Cat waste may carry viruses, bacteria and parasites, like Toxoplasma gondii. Most home compost piles don’t get hot enough to kill these pathogens, and they can spread through soil and water.
Endangered Hawaiian monk seals, sea otters and other wildlife have died from toxoplasmosis, the disease caused by the parasite. The CDC says cats are the only known definitive host of the organism, which can also be devastating for certain people if they’re infected.
Some commercial composters may process waste at high enough temperatures to kill dangerous pathogens.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tells Catster, “The proper way to dispose of pet waste is to secure it in a bag for municipal waste management to send to a landfill.”
Some water treatment plants may not kill Toxoplasma, so check your community’s rules before flushing cat feces down the toilet. If your cat stays indoors and eats a commercial diet, the risk of contracting the parasite is lower.
See more tips at: epa.gov/recycle/how-do-i-recycle-common-recyclables