tabby cat face on a black background with save the earth graphic

How to Reduce your Cat’s Carbon Footprint

Earth Day is a good time to think about our impact on the environment. But have you ever considered the carbon footprint of your furry feline friend? From their food to their litter, there are many ways to make your cat’s lifestyle more eco-friendly. Here are some tips to help you reduce your cat’s carbon footprint.

As pet ownership continues to rise, so does the impact on the environment. According to CNN, pets have a significant carbon footprint. Your kitty’s yearly carbon “pawprint” is about the same as driving a compact car for over 1000 miles. The average domestic cat generates 310kg of CO2e per year 1Pim Martens, Bingtao Su, Samantha Deblomme, The Ecological Paw Print of Companion Dogs and Cats, BioScience, Volume 69, Issue 6, June 2019, Pages 467–474, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz044. However, cat guardians can take steps to reduce their furbaby’s impact on the environment and create a more sustainable lifestyle for themselves and their furry friends.

Understanding Your Cat’s Carbon Footprint

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gasses that are emitted into the atmosphere as a result of human activities. These activities include transportation, energy production, and the consumption of goods and services. When it comes to pets, their carbon footprint is determined by the amount of resources and energy that are required to produce and transport their food, toys, and other supplies. Additionally, pets can contribute to carbon emissions through their waste, particularly if it is not disposed of properly.

How do cats contribute to carbon emissions?

Cats, like all pets, require resources and energy to sustain their lives. This includes the production and transportation of their food, litter, and toys. According to a study by UCLA, 2https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/the-truth-about-cats-and-dogs-environmental-impact the production of pet food alone accounts for 25-30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the United States. In addition to the resources required to sustain their lives, cats also contribute to carbon emissions through their waste. The production and disposal of cat litter can have a significant impact on the environment, particularly if it is not disposed of properly

There’s not a lot that can be done about some of these environmental issues. After all, our kitties need to eat. And, as obligate carnivores, they need to eat meat. And after they eat, they pee and poop in a litter box. But it is possible to care for your cat in a way that has less of an impact on the planet. Let’s take a look at changes we can make to be more eco-friendly cat guardians.

black and white cat on a windowsill

Reducing Your Cat’s Carbon Footprint

Reducing your cat’s carbon footprint is a great way to take care of the environment and your furry friend. Here are some simple steps that you can take to reduce your cat’s carbon pawprint:

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle

Reducing your cat’s carbon footprint can start with the simple act of reducing, reusing, and recycling. You can reduce your cat’s environmental impact by using eco-friendly cat products, such as biodegradable litter, reusable food and water bowls, and toys made from sustainable materials. 

You can also reuse household items, such as old t-shirts or towels, to make DIY cat toys or bedding. 

Recycle packaging. Cat food cans and cardboard boxes can go in your community single stream recycling. Avoid plastic packaging that can’t be recycled.

Shop responsibly: choosing eco-friendly cat products

Choosing eco-friendly cat products is another great way to reduce your cat’s carbon footprint. Look for products that are made with sustainable materials, such as bamboo or recycled plastic, and are free from harmful chemicals. Some companies even offer products that are biodegradable or compost-able. 

Buy eco-friendly toys made with organic catnip and natural materials like bamboo, wool, hemp, or cork. My favorite source for toys, beds, carrier mats and the like is the vendors at cat shows. But a lot of the same items, and some of the same vendors, are on Etsy. You can find eco-friendly toys on Amazon or Chewy but there aren’t as many options. I’ve even found wool toys at Walmart.

Purchasing locally made or sourced items can reduce the carbon emissions associated with transportation and production.

Choose durable products that won’t need quick replacement. It will save on manufacturing, transportation, and packaging waste.

Another way to reduce a cat’s carbon footprint is to minimize waste. This can be achieved by using reusable food and water bowls, toys made from sustainable materials, and purchasing products in bulk to reduce packaging waste.

“Shop” your local yard sales, buy local, Freecycle groups before hitting the stores. My cat stroller I got for free from a friend who upgraded hers. I got two cat trees at a yard sale. I repurposed a baby gym I picked up off a Freecycle post. I’ve yard-saled a lot of carriers. Save money, save the planet, make your cats. happy.

tabby and white cat with a brown nose eating cat food out of a reusable green ceramic bowl

DIY products for your kitty from reused household products

You can go one step further and reuse materials in your house to make things for your cat. Boxes can become beds, play spaces, or scratchers. An old tshirt can become a little tent. A sweater or sock with a hole in it can become toys for your kitty. DIY’ing products for your kitty from reused household products are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and save money too. 

Can you reduce your cat’s carbon footprint by changing Kitty’s diet?

Our cats’ biggest impact on the environment is their meat-based diet, which requires a lot of land, energy, and water. Pets eat up to a fifth of the world’s meat and fish. It might sound easy to just reduce the amount of meat in your cat’s diet. But cats are obligate carnivores. They MUST eat meat. Unlike people, or even a dog, a cat can not live and thrive on a vegan diet. But there are still changes you can make to your cat’s diet to help reduce their carbon footprint. 

Look for eco-conscious brands that have made a commitment to lower their environmental impact. The Pet Sustainability Council is a place to start. 

Look for brands that use responsibly sourced ingredients, packaging made from recycled materials, and offer recycling for bags and pouches through Terracycle

Do not overfeed your cat. Keep your pet at a good weight. Obesity is epidemic for felines. If your cat is at the proper weight, great job. If Kitty could lose a few pounds, reduce food and treats. 

Choose eco-friendly cat food that is made with sustainable ingredients, such as insect-based protein. If insects are too much of a stretch, you can choose a protein source like chicken or rabbit that has less impact than beef or lamb. Look for seafood that is sustainably harvested such as sardines or mackerel instead of large fish like tuna.

Choose eco-friendly cat litter

Another area where you can make a change in Kitty’s impact on the environment is the litterbox. 

One simple starting point is to reduce the amount of litter you put in your litterbox. Are you overfilling the box? Kitty only needs 2-3 inches of substrate in the litterbox. Reducing a  scoop or two per box per change can add up to significant reduction on the amount of litter you use.

Change your litter

Switching to a biodegradable or compostable litter can significantly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Traditional clay cat litter is not biodegradable and can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills. Also, clay litter is strip mined and destroys the environment.

You can reduce your cat’s carbon footprint by choosing a biodegradable litter made from sustainable materials. You have many to choose from. There are litters made from wood shavings or pellets made from scraps of the lumber industry, ground walnut shells, coconut shells, wheat, tofu, soy, bamboo, newspaper, or corn. Even grass seed can be used as litter.

But what good is a biodegradable litter if you dump it in a plastic bag before you take it to the landfill, you ask?  Good question. I always thought I was being “green” because I was reusing my grocery bags for litter bags. Then when my state outlawed plastic bags and I had to think about what I wanted to do I had that same realization. The wood litter I use won’t break down because trash bags don’t break down. Well, it turns out there are biodegradable trash bags on the market. They are a lot more costly than a free shopping bag or a traditional trash bag, but I’m saving a lot on litter so I guess it evens out.

Composting litter?

One other option that removes the cost completely is composting. Yes, you can compost cat litter. You don’t want to use the compost on food crops unless it has been sitting for a couple years. It should be safe to use in landscaping after 6 months to a year. That sounds like more work than I’m willing to do. I guess I’ll spring for the biodegradable bags.

Can’t you just flush it? Generally speaking no, most municipal water/sewage systems don’t allow it. Cats can have toxoplasmosis, a parasite that can affect marine life. Even if you have a septic system, flushing cat waste isn’t recommended. It will unbalance your system with unpleasant results. 

Use green cleaners

Using green cleaners is another way to reduce your cat’s carbon footprint. Many household cleaners contain harmful chemicals that can be harmful to your cat and the environment. 

Related Post: Household Cleaners that are Cat Safe

One way to reduce your cat’s carbon footprint is to switch to natural cleaning products for their living space. Traditional cleaning products often contain harmful chemicals that can be harmful to both Kitty and the environment. Purchase cleaners that come in refillable containers to reduce waste. Grove is a good brand to consider.

Look for alternatives with plant-based ingredients or consider making your own with ingredients such as vinegar or baking soda. Beware, most of the make-your-own recipes are heavy on essential oils. Double check them with a reputable source that is not an essential oil producer or marketer. Many, if not most, essential oils are not safe around cats. 

Spay/neuter your cat

Unless you are a preservation breeder, spay or neuter your cat. Spaying or neutering your cat is not only important for their health and well-being, but it can also help reduce their carbon footprint. Reducing overpopulation reduces the drain on the environment.  

Unwanted litters of kittens lead to increased resource consumption and waste. Additionally, spayed or neutered cats are less likely to roam and hunt wildlife, which can also have a positive impact on the environment.

green infographic earth day

Conclusion

Overall, reducing your cat’s carbon footprint requires a combination of small changes and conscious choices. By making these changes, cat owners can help reduce their pets’ impact on the environment and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Reducing your cat’s carbon “pawprint” might seem like a small step considering the magnitude of the environmental crisis, but lots of small steps together can have a significant impact on the environment. By following the tips provided in this article, cat owners can reduce their cat’s carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.

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  • 1
    Pim Martens, Bingtao Su, Samantha Deblomme, The Ecological Paw Print of Companion Dogs and Cats, BioScience, Volume 69, Issue 6, June 2019, Pages 467–474, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz044
  • 2
    https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/the-truth-about-cats-and-dogs-environmental-impact

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