Is it ecological to have dogs and cats? I know – what question is that! How can I dare to ask such a thing? You can’t imagine life without our hairy friends. Nevertheless, more and more people who are turning to ecological lifestyle and/or veganism are asking themselves the question: does my little «ball of hair» pollute and how can I reduce its negative impact on the planet? How to do with pet food? Can my dog or cat be vegan?
3 basic ecological gestures
We must not forget that every human activity has an impact on the planet. Especially if we consider the fact that we are numerous and that we all love animals, we can quickly see that owning pets will also have some impact on the environment. So, how to find a good compromise, that is to have animals and not create additional pollution? There is already one thing you can do: NEVER buy an animal. If we buy pure-bred animals from individuals who have made them their “trade” we create a demand and increase the availability of these dogs on the “market”. If we want an animal, it’s because we have affection to give, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what its origins and appearance are. Instagram and social media are popularizing some “trendy” animals as if they were a gadget. Every year we have a new «fashionable» breed and new breeders create massively new dogs for sale… And in this way, we double the number of cats and dogs in this world.
Sterilize and do not abandon
The second thing we absolutely must do is sterilize our pets. Because of these «trendy» animals on Instagram, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find houses for «mixed» dogs. So if your pet gets pregnant with the dog next door, chances are you’ll have a hard time finding a home for him. Since a dog became a gadget, we want the best version available… So there are thousands of abandoned dogs in shelters, because they’re not photogenic enough. But people also abandon their purebred dogs, because eventually they realize that what was supposed to be a toy is actually a living being requiring a lot of care. And some breeds really demand a lot, because they are extremely vulnerable and prone to various health problems. So if you don’t have an animal and you want to find one, don’t forget three obligatory ecological actions: adopt, sterilize and don’t choose the animals only according to their breed.
Cats are carnivorous, dogs can adapt
If you now have a hairy family member at home, there is a question that many people who are trying to live a more «ecological» life ask themselves: what about pet food? And, can my dog/cat be vegan? The shortest answer is: NO, the cat cannot be vegan or vegetarian, and the dog can, but only once it is adult.
Dogs and cats are domestic animals that can no longer live far from human dwellings. They are animals that have evolved with us and their survival depends on our care. Cats have managed to keep a little of their independence. It was also desired by humans – they were not fed, so as to keep their instinct of hunter and mouse-eater. And the dog had a protective function – so that the men kept them close to their home and fed them. The digestive tract of these two animals evolved differently. The cats retained the digestion of a carnivore. They need a large amount of animal protein to function, they are not able to create it (like taurine for example) unlike dogs and humans. They also need a lot more protein than dogs to function normally. On the other hand, by eating the food rests of humans, dogs adapted to an omnivorous diet. And, apart from puppies that need meat to develop their vital functions, an adult dog can even become “vegan”, but only if it is fed professional food. For information: if we feed a cat with a “plant-based” diet we will kill him – he will develop serious heart disease. Moreover, in England, there is even a law that stipulates that anyone who feeds a cat with the vegan diet will be punished for torture on animals.
Homemade pet food or from the pet store ?
You will tell me: if for centuries dogs could eat the rests of human food, maybe I could make them food by myself, at home? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Historically, when dogs ate our leftovers, we didn’t really care about whether they were going to live for 3 or 10 years. In recent decades, dogs and cats have truly become a “part of the family” and everything is done to ensure that they live the longest and healthiest life possible. For this, the food must be developed by professionals. In addition the dog and the cat have very specific needs that we will not be able to balance ourselves (unless we consult a specialist in animal dietetics – but well, you can imagine the cost). It should also be noted that it is not desirable to give cat food to dogs and vice versa. Their needs for vitamins, amino acids and even the amount of protein is so different that it can even be toxic to them. Cats will not be able to digest the amount of fiber present in dog food and dogs will not be able to digest the amount of protein present in cats.
Major brands or “organic” foods?
If our cats and dogs are truly members of our family and we want them to be healthy, we need to turn to “organic” foods. Major brands – even those found in veterinarian cabinets – are a mass production industry whose food creation procedures are more focused on mass production than on true nutritional values. The pieces of meat are super processed, to the point of losing their nutritional value. What is more, we add a lot of chemicals to increase the amount of vitamins and minerals, but also to make them more attractive to animals. I read an article where a veterinarian said that he had a dog food supplier who boasted that with the sauce they had invented, they could even make animals eat pebbles.
But then vegan or not?
For cats, the answer is already established: neither vegan nor vegetarian. The cat will suffer from the digestion of the plants and its needs for animal protein are very high. For the dog – once they have completed their growth phase and you are vegan and you really don’t want to be tied to animal suffering – buy vegan food certified by veterinarians. And if you want to keep dogs and cats alive for a long time, don’t try to feed them with home-made food.
And the ecological impact?
Now back to the first paragraph: what is the climate impact of dogs and cats? There is a lot of research and the results vary. Of course, the large number of domestic animals that have to eat meat creates a significant carbon footprint. Scientists therefore advise to choose small and medium breeds of dogs… And for those who prefer cats – good news – because of their small size, their negative impact is very low. But there are more benefits to having animals than negative effects. Already there is an important advantage for our health, because animals relieve our stress and dogs push us to walk. But ecologically, we can also make other profits. If our dog is really part of our family: let’s take it with us for the holidays. In this case, we will have to travel more locally, which will reduce the pollution generated by tourism aviation – and that is not the least important.
Finally, there is this observation among scientists. It would be interesting to also start to choose animals that feed on plants, such as guinea pigs or rabbits. UCLA researcher Gregory Okin even finished his research with this joke: Let’s buy ponies:) Not only are they eco-friendly and cute, but they can also be used as lawnmowers.
This post is also available in: French