For those die hard environmentalists who will only keep pets that provide food I commend you! At this point in our lives we have pets and we get a lot of joy from them. Since many of us do keep pets I think it is an important area to share ideas and discuss.
Around 60% of Australians own pets (for more information follow this link). The Australian Companion Animal Council states the rate is similar in the US. The UK is apparently slightly less enthusiastic about pets, with a 40% ownership rate. In Australia it is estimated that there were 4.2 million dogs and 2.3 million cats in 2007.
As many of us are very aware, taking on a pet is a huge responsibility. Not only do you need to train it and walk it (mainly for dogs of course) but you need to feed and care for it too. Costs can add up quickly!
The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that $36.3 million per week was spent on feeding and caring for cats and dogs in 1994. About $4,000 million was spent on dogs and cats throughout the year (see page 9 of this link) in 2007. The main costs were for food and then veterinary services and products came in second (again no surprise there for us pet owners!).
Environmental impacts from keeping petsAs with humans, eating food and consuming 'things' has an impact (or in our pets case, Pawprint!) on our environment. Since dogs and cats eat a meat rich diet it is resource intensive because such a large area of land is required to feed their food. Then there is the excrement that inevitably comes out as a result.
Although I am yet to read the study, there is a somewhat controversially named "Time to eat the dog" that analysed pet food and found a medium sized dog comparable to a 4 wheel drive vehicle driving 10,000 kilometres each year. This is estimated to require an area of 0.8 hectares (2.07 acres) to grow the resources required for the animal. Apparently our Jack Russells, weighing in at around 7.5kg each, require about a third of the resources a large dog (~30kg) does and so are more environmentally friendly. Cats were found to be even more environmentally friendly than dogs.
Benefits from keeping petsThere are many benefits of having pets - including feeling secure and loved. Pets provide many health benefits too, lowering stress with their doting (well maybe not cats!) and constant companionship. Dog owners are likely to be more healthy if they walk their dogs regularly. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, living with pets is thought to reduce the likelihood of eczema, allergies and asthma. So maybe that is why our hearts melt when we see a kitten or a puppy! We are meant to be together on some level.
Please see below for posts that I have written to share my experiences and explore some of these ideas. I will add links as I write new materials so please subscribe or keep an eye out for new installments. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic too!
1. The Strawberry Thief
2. Dog allergies and sustainable meat choices
3. Lizzing Lightly's Homemade Dog Food Recipe
4. Cut my costs in half for the dog food recipe!
5. Bad Habits and Mending Dog Beds