What’s my pet’s carbon footprint?

...and how to reduce it

written by

Ioana Mihala

Reading time: 5minTable of contents

Pets are a huge part of our society, all around the world. In 2018 there were more than 470 million dogs and 370 million cats registered as pets. We all love our furry and feathery friends as they bring joy and unconditional love into our lives. When it comes to the environment however, what is our pet’s carbon footprint and how can we reduce it?

Pet’s carbon footprint

The biggest environmental impact is caused by the diet. Most pets have a meat-based diet, which we know requires a lot of land, energy, and water. According to studies, pets consume up to a fifth of the world’s meat and fish, which leads to a high pet’s carbon footprint. On one hand, the pet food industry doesn’t produce enough sustainable products. In some countries commercial dry pet food has a higher percentage of animal meat in it than human foods. On the other hand, especially in Western societies, overfeeding and food waste is a common problem. The exact carbon footprint depends on the type of animal, size, and, as mentioned, the diet. In an unsustainable scenario, a dog’s carbon footprint is twice that of a 4x4 car.

An info graphic depicting the carbon footprint of various sized domesticated pets.
What's the carbon footprint of your pet?

Food

Even though a pet’s carbon footprint is so high because of the diet, we don’t have to immediately transform our pets into vegans. We all want our companions to be healthy and happy and there are sustainable ways to make that happen:

Buy sustainable food products for your pets. On the Thegoodshoppingguide.com and www.ethicalconsumer.org you can check out how most known dog and cat food brands are ranked according to environmental and ethical factors. 

Try out vegetarian and vegan options and see if your furry friend likes it. If it doesn’t work or you are generally worried about the nutrients intake consider insect proteins. Products made out of insects it’s the latest innovation in terms of sustainable pet food because of its nutritious values and the very low greenhouse emissions in the production (96 % less than beef products). Yora and Tomojo are two European brands selling these new products, it is expected that in the near future more pet food companies would follow suit.

“We just have to get over the ick factor [...] Once you overcome your preconceptions it’s actually quite tasty. It has a slightly mushroomy flavour. I’ve tasted quite a few insects in my trials because I don’t think I should feed a dog anything I wouldn’t eat myself.” But Neish, Yora Founder

⦁ Sadly veganism is not an option for cats but is for dogs. Co-founder Matt's energetic running partner and best friend Luz the Labrador is on a diet of Lukullus Vegan dry food.

Buy, when possible, in bulk to avoid throwing away extra packaging

Feed your pets yummy leftovers and make them delicious eco-friendly treats, here are some vegetarian dog treats and cat treats recipes to get you inspired. If you decide to cook your pet’s food entirely yourself, it’s advised to consult a vet to ensure the right balance of nutrients.

A dog eating from his bowl outside in the garden.
Feeding your pet on sustainable, vegetarian, vegan or even an edible insect diet is the most significant step you can take to reduce your pet's carbon footprint.

Cleaning up

It can be a bit crappy, but we also have to take care of our little friend’s food outputs. Use biodegradable or compostable poop bags - here are a few of the current best eco-friendly options. Ideally, you shouldn’t throw it away in the regular trash as it ends up in a landfill. Cat poop also contains a toxin called “Taxoplasma gondii”, so avoid flushing it away because it often doesn’t get killed in the sewage treatment and ends up in the water.  If you have a garden you can get a pet-waste composting bin or even make your own - not to be used afterward however on edible plants! You could also take it to a compost facility that accepts pet waste, or in some countries, such as the US and the UK, you can even hire pet waste removal companies to do your dirty work. Use green litters made from natural materials which are better for both the environment and the health of your cat.

Choose green products not just for cleaning up, but also when cleaning your companions; try organic or natural shampoos. All of which help reduce your pet’s carbon footprint.

A dog poo bin complete with bags, a dust pan and brush.
Use biodegradable or compostable poop bags to reduce your pet's carbon footprint.

It’s playtime!

Play with your pets, spend time with them outside! If you have a close by errand don’t just automatically jump in the car, take your dog for a walk with you. Get creative with the toys as well, you can repurpose materials you have lying around and make unique playthings for your companions. Just google the name of your animal and “DIY toys” and you will find crafty ideas to entertain every animal, be it a dog, a parrot, a guinea pig, or a fish. And of course, if buying a toy, a leash or a bed always go for a durable and eco-friendly product.

A cat up on its hind legs playing with a ball on a string.
Recycle old children's toys into pet toys or buy durable and eco-friendly toys.
Two young puppies poking their heads through a hole in a gate.
Safety Hand

Reduce your pet's carbon footprint

Choose the best sustainable diet for your pet: vegan, vegetarian, with insect proteins, or with organic products.
Scoop the poop and throw it away properly.
Choose eco-friendly products and accessories or make them yourself.
Read all our impact guides, live a sustainable life and apply everything you can to your pet as well.
Just enjoy every moment with your furry, feathery or slimy friends!
Buy food in bulk to minimise packaging and trips to the shops.
Compost your pet waste for your non edible plants.
Use organic or natural shampoos when washing your pet.
Use biodegradable or compostable poop bags

Sources & further reading

Peer Reviewed Research Section
  1. The Ecological Paw Print of Companion Dogs and Cats - Bio ScienceExternal link
  2. 8 Tips for Planet-Friendly Pet Care - B The ChangeExternal link
  3. Dogs, Cats And Climate Change: What's Your Pet's Carbon Pawprint? - ForbesExternal link
  4. How big is your pet's environmental paw-print? - The Sidney Morning HeraldExternal link
  5. The truth about cats’ and dogs’ environmental impact - UCLA NewsroomExternal link
  6. This surprising innovation could cut your pet's carbon pawprint - World Economic ForumExternal link
  7. If You Use Biodegradable Poop Bags, You Need to Read This - The Dog PeopleExternal link
  8. Ethical Cat & Dog Food Ethical Comparison Table - Ethical CompanyExternal link
  9. Dog Food - Ethical ConsumerExternal link
  10. The Best Organic, Eco-Friendly, and Sustainable Dog Toys - K9 Of MineExternal link
  11. Best Biodegradable Poop Bags - Pet StrugglesExternal link

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