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Best ways to be a sustainable pet owner

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Read on for some inspo on practical ways you can be an eco-friendlier pet parent.

Best ways to be a sustainable pet owner
Being a doggy/kitty/bird parent is one of the most rewarding and loving experiences any one of us can have. With all the love and cuddles that we get from them, the least we can do is also make sure that we’re doing all we can to keep the earth in good shape for them.

We’ve compiled a list of ways that you can start and maintain sustainable habits when taking care of your little guy or girl. Remember: don’t pressure yourself to get every one of these things done all at once. Take everything one step at a time.

1. Adopt, don’t shop

From the top, the best way to be a sustainable pet owner is to adopt. This option is, of course, meant for readers who are currently at the beginning of their pet-owning journey. By adopting you would be saving an animal that might not have found a home and adding it to your family. South Africa’s growing population of homeless animals is a very serious issue and adopting an animal is a very helpful way of alleviating this. According to welttierschutz.org, “The risk of rabies is high and stray dogs and cats are reproducing uncontrollably.” A pet adopted from the SPCA, for example, will have already been sterilized, had its first vaccination, and had a de-worming”. So, by adopting you would be supporting organizations that are doing the work to make sure that animals are well taken care of and have proper medical care.

2. Consider getting a smaller pet

We’re going to go ahead and assume that the majority of the people reading this are not considering buying or adopting exotic animals like tigers and monkeys (which would be some of the least eco-friendly pets to own). But most are probably looking into getting something like a cat, dog, or bird. While all of these do make lovely pals, maybe also consider a smaller, less conventional pet.

Rabbits, hamsters, and chickens are some of the most eco-friendly pets to own because they use up very little land and pretty much eat plant-based diets.

We understand that if you live in a flat or aren’t Joey and Chandler from Friends this might be a bit of an awkward option for you. But if you live in a free-standing house with a bit of outdoor space, consider it.  

3. Buy sustainable pet food

Considering what you’ll be feeding your pet is very important because food plays such a major role in ensuring your pet stays healthy. Take the time to find companies that make the kind of food that is good for your pet while also being gentle on the environment. Faithful to Nature has a great selection of pet food from local suppliers. Or support Absolute Pets whose range includes foods that will donate R1 to animal welfare for every bag sold.

4. In general, support local

When in doubt, it’s always better to support a local business that produces its products locally. Take the time to find out about pet stores that are close to your specific neighbourhood and support that small business. Some great places to start are Pet Heaven, Crazy Pets and Vondi’s.

5. Use a shampoo bar for your dog

You might have already made the switch to bar shampoo for yourself, but have you considered doing this for your dog as well? While we don’t recommend you use human shampoo on your pet, we do recommend you finding an animal-friendly alternative. Shop Zero sells a great, natural shampoo for your dog that is sans chemicals and single-use plastic.

6. While we’re talking about cleaning up…

The dark side of pet ownership – poo cleanup. We have to talk about it. You might have been going through life picking up your dog’s poo with little plastic bags or using non-compostable kitty litter all this time and that’s ok because maybe you didn’t know any better at the time. But you’re probably here for good reason – you want to be a more responsible pet parent. You want to find out how to dispose of your pet’s waste in a way that doesn’t, well, cause a backup on Mother Earth.

You have a couple of options: Use compostable bags for cleaning up the poo – taking care to not add this to your vegetable garden but rather a rose bush or something like that. If you have a bit of a garden, dig a small hole and bury it there. Make sure that the kitty litter that you are using is biodegradable and has no chemical additives.

7. Ditch the plastic toys

Once you become a pet mom or dad, you will be surprised at how many ways you can find yourself using single-use plastic items. A lot of pet accessories tend to fall under this category. So, invest in toys and accessories that are biodegradable and/or recycled. Get creative with what you’ve already got. Your cat is probably more interested in the box that the toy came in anyway. Shinga Vet has a range of eco-friendly toys for both cats and dogs.

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