A cat engaging in sustainable pet care, sitting on a white background.

Going Zero Waste With Pets

Have you ever wondered how much waste having a pet creates? Short answer: a lot.
From the basics like poo bags and food cans to toys and all those fancy pet accessories we don’t really need, pets give us a looot of room for waste.
I’ve tried my best to collect in one article all the tips and tricks to transform your pet care into a zero waste one!

1. Make food from scratch

Remember that one little piece of meat left from the night before? Or that half plate of rice or pasta you cooked last night? Just add some veggies and meat, add broth and make it boil. Dogs will absolutely LOVE this, and it gives you the possibility to use leftovers without worrying about it.
Cats might be pickier, but if you try to raise them feeding them with real food, they’ll embrace it (and maybe try to jump on the table to steal it).

Some omnivore animals can eventually adapt to a more eco-friendly vegetarian or vegan diet, but do make sure to keep their meals adapted to what a healthy diet is for them.
If you can’t make food for your pets from scratch, why not buy in bulk or in recyclable cans?

What about treats?

As for regular food, it’s almost too easy to make treats. Like humans, pets have preferences in flavours too! My cat, for example, hates tuna and fish in general but loves meat and chocolate (which, of course, he can’t eat).

2. Get compostable poo bags

It’s fundamental for a dog to go out and stretch their legs a bit, but that often means we have to pick up after our furry friends. Sometimes they don’t make it to the park and it’s on us to clean after them. Poo bags are mostly made from plastic and thrown away… sadly.
In this case, it’s important not to toss our pet’s poop in the compost bin, as it can lead to major diseases: in most cities, pet waste is incinerated. We can contribute by not sending plastics to the incinerator. A couple of biodegredable poo bags can be bought on the Ethical Superstore, Natural Collection, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lily’s Kitchen, Petco

As for babies, pets have a huge environmental footprint if we don’t take care of the “trash side” of having a pet. If you have a garden, you can go for a EnsoPet kit or a Pet Poo Wormery, that transforms your pet’s poop into compost.

3. Use compostable cats’ litter

If you live in an apartment and your cat cannot always go out, you’ll probably be using a litter box.
Litter is mostly made out of bentonite clay, a clay with high adsorbing powers, even if there are other types of litter with silicon crystals that keep the smell level low.
The ecologic alternative is litter made out of paper, wood shavings, sawdust and pellet: this type of litter is completely biodegradable and highly adsorbing (make sure not to use a plastic liner though!).
As you’ve seen above, pets waste should NOT be thrown in the general compost bin or in the toilet, but in a dedicated pet compost.

4. Do not wash your pets with anything other than water

(seriously, they don’t need it.)

Pets have a self-cleaning system (especially cats) and washing them often can lead to skin diseases, itching, redness and hair loss.
If your dog loves to roll in the mud, wash it with warm water and a little bit of very diluted soap. Cats just loathe bathing, so this shouldn’t be a problem.

5. Use an eco-friendly brush for long-haired animals

Whether it is a cat, a dog, a hamster, a rabbit,… Try to brush its hair with a bamboo brush or a completely metallic (and recyclable) brush. If you have an old brush you don’t use anymore, it can work just as fine. The hair can then get composted.

6. Toys, toys, toys!

Every pet needs some toys: you can easily make them out of old stuffed animals (make sure they’re without dangerous ingestible parts), pieces of wood, yarn, cleaned femur bones or antlers…
An eco-friendly alternative to the ones mentioned before are natural hemp toys, such as those from HempTopia, Purrfectplay, or Honest Pet Products (they make a donation for no-kill animal shelters with every purchase you make).
Parrots love wooden toys that make them think a little bit, and for hamsters, you could build some toys (bridges, wheels, stairs) with a little help from a carpenter.
If you can’t buy your toys zero waste, buy them to last!

7. DIY for a place to relax

My dogs have been lucky enough to receive a handmade wooden doghouse: we stuff it with old blankets and sweaters in winter, and for insulation it is useful to cover the pavement with felt, trying to make it as warm as possible.
For cat pillows and houses, I’ve sewn my cat an old cotton stuffed sweater. First of all, you have to find a good old sweater, then some old clothes to cut in pieces to stuff it.
Step three is using thread and needle to sew the bottom end of the sweater and the end of the sleeves together. The last step is to sew the sleeves all around the central part, creating a sort of oval shape with stuffed sides. You can even use an old wooden box combined with a pillow.
Cats love shady and quiet places to sleep, so try to put their bed in a nice spot. 🙂

8. Accessories

Try to buy a collar and a leash that are either second-hand or made to last from hemp and metal, as well for bowls: try to buy metal or ceramic ones, as they will last longer (and they’re easier to clean!).
For collars and leashes, I suggest those from EarthDog or SaltDogStudios.

As for every detail of a zero waste life, it’s fundamental to keep searching and reading, looking for better solutions to everyday problems.
It may seem impossible to make a step forward and transforming our pets care into zero waste ones, but I hope these tips will help you out reducing your pet waste 😉

Images credit: Charlie Deets, Sarandy Westfall, Ryan Walton, Frank Lam — thank you.