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March 30, 2011

Love your pet, love the planet

Eco-friendly tips for better pet care

L. Sara Bysterveld

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You love your pet and you want to give them the best — but sometimes figuring out how to do that while also leaving the smallest possible footprint on the earth can be confusing. Cat litter, dog waste pick-up bags, even where you get your pet and what you feed them all have an impact on our environment.


Christina Smith was spurred by the sudden death of one of her Isle of Skye Terriers to think more carefully about the her pet care choices. “I became more aware and concerned about the toxins that I was exposing my pets, myself, my family and friends to, and also the effects that these choices might be having not only on our health, but on the health of the planet.” she says. 

“Finding healthy food options, and environmentally friendly grooming products has become easier in the last few years and is not a concern for me. What to do with all the poop remains a question.”

She is not alone. Holly Montgomery is the co-owner and operator of Tail Blazers, health food store for pets (Copperfield location), and she says that when all other considerations are equal, pet owners will almost always choose the more environmentally friendly option.

Of course, given the benefits of pet ownership — companionship, mental health, exercise — the furry creatures still come out ahead in a risk/benefit analysis. Walking the dog can also offer an earth-friendly alternative to driving to the gym. Fortunately, what is healthiest for your cat or dog is often also the healthiest option for the planet.

Take food, for example. As Montgomery puts it, “companies that take steps, and spend the money, to produce healthier foods are also the companies that are careful to reduce their packaging and choose ingredients that are local and from environmentally sustainable sources.”

Meanwhile, “companies that make ‘junk’ foods are usually only interested in the bottom line and not the impact that their foods have on the health of pets, or the health of the planet.”

A good example of a local company that sources their ingredients carefully is Champion Pet Foods, makers of Orijen and Acana. Not only do they use only locally sourced ingredients, they also examine the welfare of the animals raised for meat as well as the environmental sustainability of the farming methods.Montgomery points out that there are dozens of option for locally made treats for pets, as well as several local pet food options.

Pet owners’ next biggest concern tends to be waste management. Unfortunately, conventional cat litter is clay-based, and production requires the mining of that clay. These litters contain silica dust, which is not healthy for your cat’s lungs nor yours. After the litter is disposed of, it sits in the landfill and does not decompose. A better choice would be natural cat litters that are corn, wheat or pine based. They are not only biodegradable but also sewer and septic safe. Examples include World’s Best Cat Litter, Swheat Scoop and Scoopable Feline Fresh by Planetwise Products.

Montgomery asserts that there are so many biodegradable dog waste pick-up bags on the market that there is really no excuse to buy one that’s not.

There are plenty of toys, bedding and accessories such as leashes and sweaters on the market that are made from recycled goods — pop bottles, bike tires, cotton. Choose recycled over non whenever possible. And for the health of your pet and that of our waterways, choose grooming products that are paraben- and phosphate-free and non-toxic.


Take me home: Adopting a dog or cat in Calgary

Adopting a pet is a great way to help an animal and keep unwanted critters off the streets. As an added bonus, you get an animal that may be more mature and whose personality is already known. Here are some local organizations that offer cat and dog adoption.

❖ MEOW Foundation offers a foster-to-adopt program to ensure a good owner/cat fit, and takes in only stray or abandoned cats.

❖ Pawsitive Match Rescue rescues dogs from life-threatening situations in Canada, USA, Mexico and Turks and Caicos and helps them find a home in Canada.

❖ Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) rescues stray animals from First Nations and rural areas and places them in loving homes.

❖ Looking for a specific breed of dog available for adoption? A good list of breed-specific organizations can be found at


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