Get a group of pet owners together, and the conversation inevitably turns to poo. Pet owners, like new parents, love to trade war stories. I won’t go into detail, but if you’re a pet owner, you know what I’m talking about. But while you’re swapping those horror stories, consider chatting about the most eco-friendly ways to dispose of your pet’s business. Here are a few tips for a variety of pets:
None of us responsible pet owners would ever dream of not scooping our dog’s poop (right?), but once Fido goes, where should the poop go? According to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the average dog can produce around 274 pounds of waste per year. Considering that quantity, the worst thing you can do – other than leave it behind – is to scoop it up with a plastic bag and toss it in the garbage. The best option is to use a biodegradable bag, tote it home and flush it, allowing your dog’s poop to be processed through the sanitation system. Another sustainable option is to compost your dog’s poop. You can invest in a composter or make your own, but note that you can not use dog-waste compost in food gardens because of harmful pathogens.
Here’s the scoop on kitty litter: Clay and clumping cat litters contain a number of toxic chemicals that can get on your cat as she goes. Later, when your kitty cleans herself, she licks up those toxic components. Clay litter is strip-mined and is not biodegradable. In fact, a non-profit organization, Cats Against Clay, fights the use of this type of litter. An array of eco-friendly options are available, from recycled newspaper to wheat. However, even “flushable” options should not be flushed because our sewage treatment plants can’t process the dangerous parasite Toxoplasma gondii – which can infect humans and is particularly dangerous to pregnant women. For this same reason, composting kitty litter is discouraged.
For those of you with rats, gerbils, or other small pets, eco-friendly disposal methods get a little trickier because bedding and litter are the same thing. Like kitty litter, it’s not recommended to compost or flush small animal feces because of the risk of spreading disease. Instead, consider replacing your pet’s litter with an eco-friendly alternative like LifeMate’s Hemp Small Animal Bedding. Or, if you happen to compost with worms, small animal droppings can feed the worms. But don’t collect wild rodent droppings, which might contain the Hantavirus.
The simplest eco-friendly option for bird cages is to use newspaper. Many of the commercial products – tear-away liners, corn husks, walnut shells, etc. – are wasteful and potentially harmful. Don’t subscribe to the paper? Use your junk mail or check with your neighbors to see if they’d pass along their day-old newspaper. One caveat: Watch out for glossy or coated pages, which might be printed with ink that is toxic to birds.