How to Keep Eco-Friendly Indoor Cats

eco-friendly indoor cat
eco-friendly indoor cat
Image credit: Julia Marchand

For those of us who live on busy streets, letting our cats run wild is not an option. But anyone striving for a sustainable home should still consider ways to keep their felines in harmony with the natural world.

I’ve found that environmental responsibility for cat owners mainly comes down to these basics: ingredient sustainability, production location, product biodegradability and packaging recyclability. Once these qualifications are met to my standards, each product I consider for my cats has to then pass one final test: do my kitties approve?

Eco-Friendly Food for the Cats

For ingredients, look for recognizable, whole-food ingredients. Remember that cows use more resources than chickens to raise, and some seafood is overfished. Check FishWatch.gov to find out if the fish in your pet food is from a safe population.

Consider where it’s made. If your cat food is created across the globe, then getting it to you is an environmental drain (unless it comes via sailboat!). Also think about the amount of packaging it comes in and how easy that is to recycle.

Our family’s favorite cat food is Wellness. We have been feeding this food to our boys for years! Their dry cat food is already naturally GMO free, and Wellness is working toward gaining the same standard for their wet food.

Green Litter

The average kitty litter includes silica dust, which has been linked with upper respiratory issues, and bentonite clay, which forms the clumps, and may cause gastrointestinal distress. This clay is also non-renewable and is typically harvested via strip mining, an environmentally destructive process.

We sought a kitty litter that would meet the aforementioned basics – sustainably sourced ingredients, biodegradable and made close to home with recyclable packaging. It took us awhile to find our favorite, so here are our opinions on the brands we tried:

  • Yesterday’s News – With just two ingredients – corrugated mixed paper and wood pulp – this litter is biodegradable and met most of our criteria. However, the litter box felt moist no matter how well we cleaned it.
  • World’s Best Cat Litter – This compostable litter (made from corn) does come in recyclable packaging, so it passed the human test. Sadly, it failed miserably when it came to the cat test. When we tried it, our well-trained kitty was suddenly favoring the bath mat over the litter box, so we moved on. Turns out, Atlas may have known something we didn’t until I started research for this article; much of the corn is genetically modified.
  • Swheat Scoop – Made in the U.S. from non-GMO wheat (occasionally including durum or barley if wheat is in short supply), this biodegradable litter is our top choice. The packaging is recyclable, the litter box smells fresh and the boys are happy. It even clumps without the help of clay. Two paws up!
  • Cedar or pine litter – Years ago we tried a litter made from cedar. We loved the fresh smell and its biodegradability. Seek out a brand with recyclable packaging and wood shavings that are sustainably forested or the waste product of another industry. Or, source your own! A local carpenter might be able to offer you some free sawdust.

One final litter tip: while many brands are biodegradable, you should not add soiled litter to your regular compost. Cat feces can carry bacteria that could be harmful if used to fertilize a food garden. If you do compost your pet waste, research and create a separate composting system that will only be used in non-food gardens.

Feeling really adventurous? Toilet-train your cat to eliminate the need for litter!

cute kitty
Image credit: Julia Marchand

Safe Entertainment

Organic catnip is a favorite around here. Grow your own to source at home, but don’t let the kitties harvest it all before it’s ready!

You can whip up your own toys by stitching cloth scraps into small rounds and filling them with a mixture of dried catnip and organic rice.

Cats famously snub fancy toys in favor of trash (like bottle caps or empty toilet paper rolls), so save the effort and go straight to the source. We had great success dropping kibble into an empty egg carton and watching our boys try to paw it out.

In a pinch, never underestimate the magnetic powers of a good old-fashioned cardboard box. Our cats also love paper bags! Both of these options tend to show up at our house from time to time and are completely recyclable.

Do you have any great eco-cat tips? We would love to hear them in the comments!

Julia Marchand writes about sustainable living for eBay, where you can reduce your carbon pawprint with products like Wellness cat food (here). You can Follow Julia on Google+.

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