Easy Tips To Be a Green Pet Owner: Start With Health & Happiness

There are roughly 78 million dogs and 86 million cats as pets in the U.S., according to the American Pet Products Association. As much as we love our four-legged family members, they can add up to a lot of squeaky toys, processed food and environmental impact over the years.

In fact, owning a medium-size dog can have as negative an impact as owning two Toyota Land Cruisers, New Zealand researchers Robert and Brenda Vale discovered. Furthermore, the World Conservation Union now lists cats as 100 of the world's most invasive species, contributing to millions of endangered species yearly. These statistics might sound shocking at first, but they don't have to be. There are plenty of simple, healthy solutions to optimize your pets health and happiness while reducing their carbon pawprint.

Dog Owners: They're Omnivores, Take Advantage Of It!

Although cats are carnivores, dogs can eat a variety of foods and still maintain optimal health. The Guinness Book of World Records reported that the world's oldest dog, Bramble, lived to be 27 by subsisting on a vegan diet. Byproducts, used to create common pet food ingredients, come from the same CAFOs (Contained Animal Feeding Operations) that mass produce our processed meats, yet only scraps are used to make dog chow. If you feed your dog processed food, you may want to consider switching to organic, or even supplementing with safe human food (see Modern Dog Magazine for some healthy options).

Reliable and organic dog food include Sojos, Newman's Own, and Blue Buffalo. PetSafe also notes in their blog that many pet foods only contain a 7 to 12 percent ratio of water, which can have negative effects on your dog's ability to digest it. You don't have to impose a strict vegan diet on your dog to go organic and recycle your own food, but every little bit helps.

Cat Owners: Consider the Endangered Species List

Although our collective love of cats has pretty much kept the Internet afloat over the years, they aren't always fun and games. Cats have a killer instinct and, no matter how well fed they are, the moment you let them out the front door only one thought comes to mind: hunting. A study by the University of Georgia used approximately 2,000 hours of footage featuring house cats roaming the streets to determine that even the most pampered cats kill simply for the sake of killing. This included everything from mice to chickens.

The Audubon Society estimates that, after suburban sprawl, cats could be one of the most dangerous secondary predators for naturally evolved, endangered species of birds. A University of Wisconsin Professor estimates that cats could be killing 8 million to 219 million birds yearly in Wisconsin alone, and cats have been largely responsible for the decimation of at least 30 species of birds in Hawaii. Although it's nearly impossible to gauge the havoc your cat could reap, it's best to keep them indoors. If your living space is small or your cat is used to the outdoors, just remember it's safer for your cat, too. You can still give them outdoor time with a cat run or harness.

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