10 ways to be an eco-friendly cat owner

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22 April 2021
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If you’re keen to take a more sustainable approach to caring for your cat, here are 10 simple ways to reduce their ecological paw print.

Growing awareness about the importance of living sustainably means that many of us have actively taken steps to reduce our carbon footprint. Perhaps you already make an effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle, shop locally, or eat seasonally. But, when it comes to being an eco-friendly cat owner, it can be hard to know where to start. The good news is that just a few small changes can make a big difference — and really help to reduce your cat’s ecological paw print (EPP). We’ve put together 10 top tips to help you become a more eco-friendly cat owner.

1. Adopt a cat

“Adopting a cat rather than buying helps to reduce the amount of cats looking for a home in rescue centres,” says Alice Potter, the RSPCA’s cat welfare expert. “The UK is currently facing a cat overpopulation crisis and, as a charity, we often see the dark side of this, from unwanted litters of kittens being abandoned by the roadside to elderly cats waiting in RSPCA care because there are no homes ready to adopt them. Rescuing a cat can help to tackle this problem.”

Don’t be put off adoption if you have your heart set on a cute kitten or favour a particular breed. Rescue centres across the country have both adult cats and kittens that are looking for homes, and some pedigree rescue and rehoming centres specialise in particular breeds.

Did you know?

There are around 11 million pet cats in the UK, as well as feral and stray cats.

2. Think about the benefits of neutering

It’s wise to get your cat neutered from four months old so that you can avoid unplanned litters. Sarah Elliott, Cats Protection’s central veterinary officer, says: “Neutering cats is important as it helps to control overpopulation and neutered cats tend to stay closer to home.”

As female cats with kittens are more likely to hunt and disturb wildlife, this is a particularly important way to reduce your cat’s EPP.

3. Choose biodegradable litter

Clay-based litter is bad news for the environment. Not only does it have to be mined, which leads to deforestation and loss of wildlife habitats, it’s not biodegradable or compostable, so once it makes its way to landfill, it won’t decompose.

Natural alternatives, which are made from wood or plant-based materials, are a kinder option — and they can be safely composted or, in some cases, even flushed down the loo. Paul Trott, UK marketing manager at Catit, says that they have recently launched two types of Catit Go Natural! Litter: one is made from sustainably-sourced wood offcuts and the other from pea husk fibres. Both of these are clumping litters, which is another important way to reduce waste. Removing clumped waste daily means that the remaining litter remains clean and fresh for longer.

Top tip!

Why not write a list of the products you buy for your cat and see how many you can upgrade to more eco-friendly items.

4. Buy in bulk

Almost all products that you buy for your cat will require some form of shipping or transportation, even if you’re able to buy them locally. Buying in bulk is a simple way to reduce emissions, minimise packaging, and save money in the process. Most types of food and litter will last for a long while if stored correctly and you’ll never have to worry about running out of supplies.

5. Protect local wildlife

Sarah Elliott says: “Not all pet cats hunt, but there are a few steps you can take to reduce hunting. Aim to keep cats indoors during the early morning and evening when prey is most active, fit your cat with a quick-release collar with a bell attached, and provide opportunities for your cat to exhibit hunting behaviour. To avoid stress and frustration, encourage them to play with fishing rod toys, as this may reduce their motivation to seek out prey.”

Did you know?

It is estimated that cats kill around 200 million wild animals each year in the UK.

6. Avoid plastic

When shopping for cat accessories, avoid plastic whenever you can. Ceramic or metal bowls are a good alternative to plastic dishes, and food that comes in cans or foil trays is easier to recycle. You could use empty toilet roll tubes to make a puzzle feeder to keep your cat stimulated. For more information on how to make a puzzle feeder visit: icatcare.org/top-tip-make-a-puzzle-feeder

It’s also a good idea to use biodegradable bin bags and pet waste bags, instead of carrier bags or black bags, when emptying cat litter trays. It’s easy to overlook this, but even biodegradable cat litter won’t degrade when it’s wrapped in plastic.

7. Make your own cat bed

All cats seem to love sleeping on your favourite clothes, so why not make them a bed out of an old jumper?

“We know that cats love to sleep a lot but that doesn’t mean that we have to buy a new, brightly-coloured bed,” says Dr Sarah Ellis, head of cat advocacy at International Cat Care. “The fabric and dyeing industry uses a lot of water and creates a great deal of pollution.”

Sarah explains: “Cats love a doughnut-shaped bed as this makes them feel secure, and you can make one by taking an old jumper and sewing the ends of the two sleeves together to make a tube. Sew up the bottom part of the jumper, which usually sits around your waist, then stuff the whole thing, including the arms, with old clothes or pillow stuffing, to create a doughnut shape. Finally, stitch up the neckline to hold all the stuffing inside. If your cat prefers a bed with a roof, simply stretch an old t-shirt over an empty cardboard box. Leave one side of the box open and use the neckline of the top to create a porthole window which they can use to climb in and out.”

8. Make your own cat toys

Give plastic cat toys a swerve and recycle household items to create brilliant toys for your feline friend. Old cardboard boxes and toilet roll tubes can be turned into castles and puzzle feeders. If you fancy getting crafty, there’s loads of inspiration online for simple toys you can make — your cat will love them and you’ll be helping the planet.

Eco-friendly brand Catit have some helpful and easy-to-follow tutorials of DIY cat toys you can make on their website, including ones you can stuff with catnip.

Visit www.catit.com/uk/make-a-happy-fish-plushie to see how to make a cool cat fish toy.

9. Reuse or recycle

Before you splash out on new equipment for your cat, particularly expensive cat trees or carriers, check out local listings to see what’s available second hand. There’s every chance that you’ll be able to pick up activity centres or scratching posts at a bargain price. Alternatively, you may be able to share some accessories, like cat carriers, with a friend or neighbour — and you could even organise regular toy swaps to add variety to your cat’s playtime.

Don’t forget, it’s easy to make your own activity centre from cardboard boxes — and we all know how much cats love boxes! Dr Sarah Ellis says: “Everyone’s wheelie bins have been full up with cardboard boxes, especially during lockdown. You can join these together to make hiding places, space tunnels to explore, and tee-pees. It’s the best, and cheapest, entertainment for cats.”

Find out more about how to make a cardboard cat castle at icatcare.org/54723-2

10. Opt for sustainable food

The trend for premium pet food means that many brands now use choice cuts of meat or fish in their recipes. In the past, pet food manufacturers relied on the off-cuts or offal which were a by-product of the meat industry, but the focus on premium, often organic, ingredients means that we’re farming additional cows, sheep, pigs, poultry, and fish to feed our pets.

Some sustainable cat food brands are now beginning to use these offcuts or by-products as a way to reduce waste, while others are looking at alternative sources of protein. Hagen is soon to launch a new eco-friendly cat food, called Catit Nuna, made from insect protein, which is designed to reduce the ecological impact of farming. There’s also a range of treats, which are a great way for fussy eaters to try it out. “There are three varieties: one is made from insect protein and chicken, another is made from insect protein and fish, and the third is made purely from insect protein,” explains Paul Trott. “The insects are safe, clean, easy, and sustainable to farm and as cats already catch and eat insects as part of their natural diet, it’s an excellent, eco-friendly alternative to established protein sources.”

Fact!

Just one 5kg bag of Catit Nuna can save 98kg of carbon dioxide — the equivalent in emissions of driving from London to Dundee!

For more information on Catit’s new sustainable product ranges visit catit.co.uk