Are Cats Higher for the Atmosphere than Canine? Components to Contemplate

Bengal Cat on plank outdoor

In the event you’re contemplating including a four-footed companion to your loved ones, you is likely to be questioning about your future buddy’s potential environmental affect — particularly if cats are simpler on the earth than their canine sidekicks. As a cat proprietor, I’ve questioned this myself! The reply relies upon largely on the dimensions of the animal and the way a lot they eat. Giant canines equivalent to German Shepherds require considerably extra meals than smaller breeds like Chihuahuas.

Giant canines are at all times worse for the atmosphere than smaller canines or cats relating to food-production-associated environmental burdens. However if you issue within the environmental prices associated to the manufacturing and disposal of kitty litter, canines who weigh lower than 10 kilos or so could also be higher for the atmosphere than equally sized cats. Include me as I stroll you thru the main points:

Why Does the Quantity Canine and Cats Eat Matter?

Quite a lot of the injury we do to the earth is immediately associated to the manufacturing and consumption of meals, meat particularly. The extra meat a cat or canine eats, the better their carbon footprint, making an animal’s measurement vital relating to figuring out their environmental affect.

However let’s begin at the start—with vegetable and cereal farming. All farming has an environmental affect, even once we develop fruit and veggies utilizing natural ideas. (Natural farming typically requires tons of land.)

Resulting from fashionable farming’s excessive manufacturing calls for and customers’ aesthetic preferences, producers typically flip to pesticides and fertilizers to guard and enhance harvests. Many of those chemical substances trigger critical environmental injury as they accumulate within the soil and contaminate water sources.

Then there are the greenhouse emissions associated to the bodily actions concerned in farming—assume working equipment and transporting merchandise. And don’t neglect to think about every part concerned in producing and delivering even probably the most primary packaging.

Meat manufacturing is a spectacularly inefficient option to produce meals as this course of basically will get repeated twice earlier than you should purchase a bag of kibble. Research point out that pound for pound, farming simply 1 pound of beef releases the identical quantity of carbon dioxide into the environment as producing 15 kilos of rice or 60 kilos of corn, peas or wheat.

Put one other manner, producing 1 kilogram of rooster requires roughly 43.3 sq. meters of land. (Beef and lamb require way over that!) An entire kilogram of grain, however, solely calls for a mere 13.4 sq. meters of land.

Meat manufacturing is problematic for different causes as nicely, together with the methane fuel produced by ruminants like cows. The rumen is a particular abdomen compartment current in lots of grazing mammals. It’s the place meals that hasn’t been utterly digested is saved and begins to ferment earlier than being despatched to the opposite components of the abdomen to be damaged down and absorbed. Methane fuel is produced throughout this fermentation course of. However methane soaks up atmospheric warmth like there’s no tomorrow. In response to the MIT Local weather Portal, methane fuel “traps round 100 instances as a lot warmth as carbon dioxide.

tabby cat eating cat food out of bowl inside
Picture Credit score: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

What Does This Imply in Actual Phrases?

In 2009, Barbara and Robert Vale, professors who research sustainable constructing and educate at Victoria College of Wellington, printed a guide through which they crunch the numbers concerning the unfavourable environmental affect of pet possession — Time to Eat the Canine: The Actual Information to Sustainable Residing. Their conclusions had been stunning.

The typical medium-sized canine apparently eats about 164 kilograms of meat and 95 kilograms of grain per yr. After factoring within the quantity of land wanted to supply rooster and numerous grains, the Vales calculated it requires roughly .84 hectares of land to feed a canine the dimensions of a Labrador Receiver. You solely want round .41 hectares of land to supply sufficient vitality to drive a Toyota Land Cruiser 10,000 miles.

Cats are smaller and require far much less meals than the common canine, however they’re not precisely environmentally pleasant! Feeding only one cat requires .15 hectares of land, only a bit lower than you’d have to preserve a Volkswagen Golf up and working for a yr.

A newer research printed in PLOS One reached comparable conclusions whereas describing the phenomena a bit in another way. After tapping the American Kennel Affiliation for details about the ten hottest canine breeds, Gregory Orkin, creator of this revolutionary 2019 research, averaged their weights. In response to Orkin’s calculations, the common canine in the USA weighs 22 kilos, greater than the common cat who ideas the scales at 10 kilos. Canine require 544 kJ (kg BW)-0.75 d-1 of vitality to outlive. The corresponding quantity for cats is 544 kJ (kg BW)-0.67 d-1.

Resulting from weight variations, the environmental affect of feeding the common pet cat is decrease than that concerned in protecting a median canine correctly fed. When weight and inhabitants numbers are factored collectively, US canines devour way over US cats.

Companion animal possession has critical environmental penalties—cats and canines collectively eat round 24% of all of the animal-based vitality consumed within the US or about one-third  of the meat eaten within the nation. These numbers may appear exaggerated till you understand that round 70% of US households have at the very least one pet—there’re round 69 million houses with pet canines and 45.3 million houses with cats.

The USA has the most important companion animal inhabitants on the earth. And we may feed round 62 million folks with the meals and vitality that goes into meals manufacturing for US pets.

And issues will in all probability worsen as worldwide developments in pet possession proceed. Whereas companion pets have been widespread in North America, Europe, and Australia for many years, the apply is changing into more and more widespread in growing and middle-income nations. Because the variety of companion animals stored in houses all over the world will increase, so too will the magnitude of those animals’ environmental affect.

There additionally seems to be a shift in values underway, altering the way in which many consider cats and canines. In response to Orkin, the humanization of companion animals may very well spur extra environmental destruction as pet homeowners start demanding higher-quality cuts of meat for his or her cats and canines.

What About Poop and Kitty Litter?

Our animal companions aren’t doing us any favors within the poop division, both. The common human poops out about 0.147 kg capita-1 d-1. That quantity is round 0.042 kg cat-1 d-1 for cats and 0.15± 0.07 kg canine-1 d-1 for canines. Cats are inclined to weigh a lot lower than canines and subsequently produce much less waste on common.

Canine and cats collectively are chargeable for about 23% of all poop excreted within the US—people are chargeable for the remaining. Companion canines and cats produce as a lot waste because the human inhabitants of a state across the measurement of Massachusetts, most of which leads to landfills the place it decomposes, releasing methanea serious contributor to international warming—into the environment.

After which you’ve gotten the environmental affect of all that kitty litter. Sadly, most research evaluating the environmental affect of pet possession solely think about the results of feeding companion animals, failing to account for elements equivalent to the prices of manufacturing and disposing of kitty litter, that are fairly substantial when you think about the harms attributable to strip mining for clay, the assets expended within the packaging and transporting of litter associated merchandise and the contribution non-biodegradable litter makes to our rising landfills.

Clay and silica/crystal-based litters are merely not biodegradable, placing most cat homeowners within the disagreeable place of including to landfill waste and contributing to international warming every time they modify their cat’s litter.

scooping cat poop out of clumping litter
Picture Credit score: Boibin, Shutterstock

There are a couple of methods to get began when you’re critical about lowering your cat’s environmental affect. One is tremendous easy—the others require a bit extra dedication and planning. The quickest and best option to scale back your cat’s environmental affect is to make use of biodegradable luggage to eliminate waste if you clear or change the litter. You’ll be able to simply discover small biodegradable poop-disposal baggies at most grocery shops. And there are tons of biodegradable trash luggage and cat pan liners to select from.

Switching to biodegradable litter is a extra concerned choice, however it may be an excellent alternative in case you have the curiosity, the cash and your cat tolerates the change. There are tons of biodegradable choices available on the market produced from sustainable merchandise equivalent to recycled newspapers, dried tofu and wooden chips. There are clumping and non-clumping varieties in addition to fragranced and unscented selections. You’ll be able to even compost un-peed or pooped on components of used litter to noticeably restrict any cat-related landfill contributions. Simply keep in mind to solely sprinkle compost with cat litter on nonedible crops.

In the event you’re actually critical about minimizing your cat’s environmental footprint, think about buying pet meals from an organization that explicitly elements the safety of the earth into its enterprise mannequin. There are a number of pet meals makers, equivalent to Open Farm, that adhere to robust sustainability and transparency requirements and others, equivalent to The Trustworthy Kitchen, that function as B firms pledged to issue components equivalent to sustainability and justice into their enterprise fashions.

And carbon offsets are a considerate and tremendous sensible option to give only a bit to the world and to thank the earth (and your fellow human beings) for the privilege of welcoming a furry companion into your life. (Right here’s a hyperlink to an article with a couple of recommendations on find out how to discover a respected carbon offset program that aligns together with your values).


Cats are usually higher for the atmosphere than canines relating to the most important offender — meals manufacturing. As a result of cats are smaller than most canines and subsequently typically devour much less meals and produce much less poop, cats have much less of a unfavourable affect on the atmosphere than canines. That’s nice information when you love cats as a lot as I do!

However then there’s the nightmare that’s kitty litter, with its problematic connections to strip mining and preponderance of non-biodegradable parts, making it not possible to say cat possession is something near earth-friendly. Utilizing biodegradable kitty litter, buying cat meals and treats from firms that function in line with sound sustainability ideas and investing within the occasional carbon offset can go a great distance in the direction of lowering the unfavourable affect cat possession has on the atmosphere.

Featured Picture Credit score: Seregraff, Shutterstock

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