10 top tips for sustainable cat ownership

Trying to be more eco-friendly in daily life?

Owning a pet has many impacts on the environment – from the products you buy for them, to their car trips to the vet. But as a responsible owner, there are plenty of things you can do to make greener choices and minimise your cat’s carbon pawprint.

1. Use sustainable cat litter

If your cat uses a litter box or tray, the cat litter you choose can have a lasting impact on the environment. Traditional clay-based litters may be the product of environmentally destructive strip mining, so do look for sustainable cat litter that’s made from biodegradable materials, such as paper, wood, walnut shells, corn or grass. Eco-friendly cat litters made from recycled wood and recycled paper are also available. With any wood-based cat litter, look for a FSC-certified product that comes from sustainably managed forests.

If you have enough storage space, buying cat litter in bulk can also help reduce the overall amount of packaging required, as well as the number of trips back and forth to the store or supermarket. And when you’re clearing out and refreshing their litter tray, opt for compostable bin bags and cat litter liners, to avoid creating plastic waste.

2. Make more sustainable cat food choices

Another of our cats’ biggest impacts on the planet is their diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need to eat meat, and rely on the nutrients that it provides. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make more sustainable choices when it comes to feeding them, such as swapping some of their beef meals for (less intensively produced) chicken or fish; or sourcing food in bulk and buying locally, which can help reduce both packaging and travel impacts.

Bear in mind, too, that expensive cat food isn’t necessarily the most sustainable option: pet foods that contain by-products of the meat industry, rather than prime, human-grade cuts, can help reduce food wastage. And always resist the temptation to overfeed your cat, however longingly they might look at you! Not only is this a waste of resources, it’s also bad news for their health.

3. Recycle cat food packaging

Look for cat food in packaging that can be readily recycled, such as aluminium tins, cardboard boxes, compostable bags or recyclable plastic.

If you’re lucky, you may find a zero-waste or pet store in your area that sells loose pet food you can bring home in your own bags.

It’s long been tricky to recycle cat food pouches, as these tend to be made of layered plastics and aluminium that can’t easily be separated – so they often can’t be placed in local authorities’ recycling boxes. Many manufacturers are currently working on more sustainable cat food packaging, however, while some neighbourhood recycling facilities do accept pet food, baby food and cleaning pouches. The recyclenow.com website can help you find recycling points in your area.

4. Choose eco-friendly cat products

When it comes buying your cat a new gift or treat, remember to shop sustainably. Opt for eco-friendly cat toys made from natural and biodegradable materials such as wool, bamboo, wood or cork, rather than plastic. The same goes for equipment such as food bowls, cat beds and grooming accessories.

5. Make your own toys for cats

Recycling, or upcycling old items is even better than buying new – and could save you cash. For example, you could recycle everyday household waste such as bottles, boxes, loo rolls or old fabric to make your own DIY cat toys. Meanwhile, around 70-80% of cats respond to catnip – so why not try growing your own at home?

6. Opt for a draught-proof cat flap

Speaking of sustainable cat equipment, you might like to think about fitting an eco-friendly cat flap. A durable, draught-proof design that doesn’t flap about in the slightest breeze will minimise the amount of heat lost from your home, energy efficiency.

7. Pass on old pet products

Our cats can be fussy creatures – so if they get bored with a once-loved toy, try putting it away for a while before bringing it out again. But if your pet has never quite taken to that cat tower you bought them, or they seem to have permanently lost interest in their old fishing toy, don’t just chuck these items out. Unwanted but serviceable cat toys or equipment could be passed on to friends and neighbours, donated to local rescue shelters, or given away on neighbourhood sharing sites and apps like Freecycle, Freegle or Olio.

8. Reduce your cat’s impact on wildlife

Being skilful and instinctive predators, our cats aren’t good news for local wildlife. It’s estimated that cats in UK may catch and kill as many as 100 million small animals each year. Despite this, the RSPB wildlife charity reports that there is no clear evidence for pet cats having a negative impact on native wildlife populations. Cats may cause greater harm, however, if their territory happens to include rarer habitats such as heathland, or areas where wildlife is already scarce and scattered.

If your cat is a prolific hunter and you’d like to reduce their kill-rate, you may want to consider getting them a collar with a bell. And if you enjoy looking after garden birds, you’ll obviously need to make sure any bird feeders or nesting boxes are positioned well out of your cat’s reach. A high bird table on top of a smooth, unclimbable post works best! Growing some tall, dense plants in the garden, such as prickly holly bushes, could also provide refuge and perching spots for birds.

9. Rehome a rescue cat

If you’re thinking about adding a new cat to the family, why not consider taking in a rescue animal that’s already in need of a home? With many abandoned felines out there, adopting an adult cat will help ease pressure on rescue centres – as could fostering cats on a temporary basis, if the centre could do with a helping hand. You can use Petplan’s handy rehoming centre search to find animal shelters in your area.

10. Look after your cat’s health

Keeping your cat active, feeding them a nourishing diet, and making sure they’re up to date with veterinary check-ups and recommended vaccinations will all help your beloved pet stay well. And in the long run, this could also help reduce the carbon impacts of intensive veterinary treatment. By covering your cat with Petplan, you’re already taking a proactive step to support their future health – and it means you’re only a click away from great petcare advice, insurance cover or making a claim.

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