How to make sure your pets are as green as possible

Dear readers,

We think an awful lot about our consumption of various things including food, but what about our beloved pets?

This week's blog is all about being green with our animal friends.  Just so we're clear, I'm a lover of small dogs...

...of big dogs...

...and of most sizes in between.  I have also been known to fall in love with the occasional cat too.

Aww.  Anyway, back to the blog.

If you are going to add a dog or a cat to your household, please get a pooch or moggie from your local animal sanctuary.  Sometimes you can even foster them first to make sure that you're all going to get along.  With an estimated 100,000 stray dogs and up to 2 million stray cats, our animal sanctuaries are bursting at their seams and often animals have to be put down as there isn't enough room.  Because we don't have strays roaming the streets as they sometimes do in other countries, we think it's not a problem here.  There are some really vile puppy farms too.  We have been pet/house sitting for many years and some of the best pets ever have been rescue animals.

House and Pet Sitting
Here's a code for a discount with the membership for the website that we use. 20% off with Cate

Pet food is BIG business and companies will do anything they can to persuade you to part with your cash, but what about the environmental impact and the truth about the ingredients we are giving our pets?  From carcinogenic colourings, put there to make the food look more appealing (to humans!), to all sorts of dodgy meat flavours.  Here's a very alarming clip Crap Pet Food that's been circulating on Facebook.

Apparently you can reduce the risk enormously of your dog getting cancer by giving them fresh veg every day.  Dogs love their veggies too - crunchy carrots are often a big hit and a much better treat than the expensive garbage that comes in non-recyclable bags. They like cabbage and a sprout or two as well.

We are able to recycle so many things these days, but unfortunately, the cat food pouches that are so popular are not recyclable and are creating tonnes of rubbish.  If you are going to give processed food to your pets, it's better to buy it in cans as these can (get it?) at least be recycled.

Make your own
Follow my recipe for turning the solids from stock into 'dog pâté' in an earlier blog Food Waste Free
and there are plenty of other per food recipes around.

Raw diets
Raw meat diets for dogs and cats are becoming more popular, but these do need to be supplemented with rice, pasta and veggies. There is quite a lot of conflicting advice, but remember that most people (manufacturers, vets etc) are paid to encourage you to buy their recommendations.  The Guinness World Record longest living cats (yes two) belonged to an American chap - they reached 38 and 34 years.  His secret...he fed them unusual diets, although apparently this included bacon, coffee and cream...

If you want to give your cat a treat, why not open a tin of fish such as tuna or mackerel (in water).  Please make sure that any fish you ever buy (fresh, tinned or frozen) has this MSC badge on the item.

You can read more about Marine Stewardship Council here.

Foods to Avoid
Chocolate (especially dark chocolate), onions, alcohol, caffeine, grapes and raisins are all poisonous to dogs and turkey can also give you an expensive trip to the vet with your dog on boxing day.  Read on for a few other items poisonous to dogs.  Always check which kinds of bones are suitable for dogs.  Apparently milk isn't very good for dogs or cats either, but I'm a bit confused because of Creme Puff's diet (ancient cat, see above).

There is no relevance to this picture, just an excuse for another photo, (isn't she gorgeous!)

So many dogs prefer rainwater, puddles and streams to tap water.  Keep a bowl outside, (giving it a frequent rinse and a clean to prevent insect larvae, mould or other nasties).  There is some research about animals and allergies with tap water.  Some people prefer to boil and cool it first.

Scoop the poop
No one wants to talk crap, but it's a necessity for any responsible pet owner.  Let's start with cats. If you are going to use cat litter, you do have various biodegradable options.   Some people even use shredded newspaper.  Here are some ideas Eco Friendly Cat Litter.

Or, if you have the patience, you could be a Charles Mingus, (famous jazz bass player) who was so cool that he taught his cat to do its do in the toilet.  Honestly.  If you don't believe me, read all about it Mingus Cat Training Program.

If you have a dog, do what my dad did and train it to 'go' in a specific place in the garden before you take it out, then you'll never need to worry about forgetting a bag.  If you do use a bag (and you NEED to if you are in a park, public footpath, high know what I'm saying), please buy biodegradable bags. We have enough plastic in the world already.  And if you are one of those weirdos who lobs bags of dog crap into trees, please stop it, it's disgusting, you are disgusting and weird.

For those of you still reading, there are some other alternatives for Dog Waste.

If there's an area near you that's pretty constantly shitty, contact your local council (usually the town council) and hound (like it?) them to put a poo bin in.  This worked for me recently and my friend who lives near the area formerly known as dog crap alley says that it is miraculously cleaner since a bin was installed.   Better still, help light your local community, (if you're lucky enough to live in Malvern) and support this brilliant invention for Dog Poo Power.

Don't spend a fortune on it - make your own from an old duvet / pillow / blanket and make a couple of covers from old sheets / duvets covers etc.  Here are a zillion ideas for a Homemade Dog Bed, or buy a pet bed in a charity shop.  We know one dog who loves her cardboard box with a blanket.  It's a big box (Great Dane size).  Don't wash the dog bedding too often either, because although we like clean bedding, doglets don't.  Hang it on the line on a windy day and when you do wash it, use an environmentally sound washing powder (preferably non scented).

Re-use a broken suitcase for a cool DIY dog bed.

It's the same with towels, these don't need to be over-.washed.  Hang them to dry, shake off the mud and reuse them until they walk to the washing machine by themselves :)

Some, generally smaller, skinnier dogs do need a coat in the depths of winter, but most dogs don't need (or want) a coat, hat or a Christmas jumper.  They look cute, but I think that it's actually quite mean to dress them up.  Having said this, we house sat for one of the best dogs ever and if he didn't have his coat on at bedtime, he would bark because he wasn't warm enough. Miss him like mad.

Flea Control
I started looking into this and it was very gross.  The bottom line is that flea controls contain pesticides and some people say that the fleas are becoming immune to them anyway.  There are some alternatives including pumpkin seeds and cider vinegar which are worth a look.  Here are some further ideas Non-toxic Remedies. Beware of nasty things like weed killer in gardens too - terrible for insects, pets, humans and the planet.  Totally unnecessary, just ask my garden.

Some dogs, (think spaniels and labradors), don't notice that it's actually raining, they want their walk in rain, sleet or snow.  Other dogs refuse to put a paw out if it's more than spitting.  Take my advice go with their flow.

Places to walk
Dogs aren't that dissimilar to me in that they far prefer to walk in woods and fields rather than being dragged around the shops.  Here's a link to a previous blog about Woodland Walks - dogs love to be in environments that are more natural than high streets.

Pick up a ball at a charity shop and have your money go somewhere useful.  Don't feel over-guilty about having made that impromptu purchase of a dog or cat stocking from a supermarket,  but at least consider the packaging, gimmickry and the animal's dignity before you do it again.  (By the way, I am guilty as charged, having done exactly this about thirty years ago).  We regularly house sit for a cat who Loves to play the 'string' game.  Some previous sitters had bought him a shop version which he was terrified of.  I pulled it apart, taking away the terrifying element and leaving the stick and string and he was delighted.  Children and cardboard boxes...? 

Planet Paws will give you all sorts of pet health information ranging from diet and recipes to exercise and training.  Although in terms of human health, don't let the home page (a picture of a dog licking a human face) put you off ;)

Birth Control 
Please be responsible and get your pets neutered, especially cats as they are harder to keep an eye on.  It is now the law in England and Wales to have all dogs over the age of eight weeks microchipped.  It's also your responsibility as an owner to keep the database information up to date.   With some new laws regarding sterilisation, education and registration, Holland now clams to be completely free of stray dogs.  Dutch - Stray Dog Free.  There also an interesting article about Dutch dogs (how they get things right there) in a magazine called K9.

With Bells On
If you have the hunting, tiger type, give your cat some responsibility and the birds etc a chance by getting a bell to give the poor wildlife some warning.

Shampoo and Set
As I'm four weeks into my own experimental 'no poo' (not shampooing my hair) I think you'll be able to second guess my feelings about dog grooming parlours.  If you've seen me within the last three weeks and five days, you may have noticed that I've kept my hat on.  Now you know why.  It's going reasonably well and I'm quite excited about what exactly the next two or three weeks may bring.  It is perhaps a ridiculous Green NY resolution, but so far I have saved a fair amount of shampoo, water, plastic bottles, time and effort and I have also saved up some more 'crazy woman' credits for the Daily Mail should they wish to interview me again.  Bring on the challenge and save your pooches the pain of the parlour.  If I don't need a regular shampoo, they certainly don't.