In my life, I’ve had the pleasure of adopting five cats. Over the span of the 12 years since adopting my first cats, I have learned a lot about pet ownership through firsthand experience. This has allowed me to develop the way I care for my cats to become not only healthier for the cats, but for the earth.

The world is in a climate crisis, and the consumption of wasteful goods has a harmful impact on the environment. As individuals, we should all be doing our part to keep the earth healthy and to minimize our personal carbon footprints.

We can all find ways to reduce waste in our own lives, but what about when it comes to the lives of our pets? The wellbeing and health of pets should always be put at the forefront, but it’s important to continue to discover ways that we can balance both wellness and sustainability of pet ownership.


UCLA study found that just the food that we feed our pets accounts for about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, which accounts for 25–30% of the United States’ environmental impact from meat consumption.

The biggest thing pet owners can do, then, to be more sustainable, is to feed their pets in an eco-friendly way. Cats and dogs both absolutely need meat to survive, so entirely eliminating meat from their diets is off the table. The next best thing is to feed your pets sustainably sourced foods, preferably organic and local.

Locally sourced meat is not always easy to find, but there are many brands of pet food that use sustainable farming practices as well. The more transparent a brand is about its environmental impact, the more likely it is that they are working towards sustainability. Finding pet food with recyclable (or no) packaging can also help reduce waste.

The Litter Box

The most common type of litter cat owners use is made from small pieces of clay that clump together when wet. This clay can only be sourced by strip mining (an inherently unsustainable practice), is single use, and takes 10 to 20 years to decompose. Luckily, there are much more sustainable ways of cat waste collection.

There are a lot of brands of natural cat litter that people choose to use, but by far the most sustainable option is simply pine pellets. A cat owner can pick up a huge bag of pine pellets (branded as horse bedding) at their local supply store for cheap, many bags lasting over a year for one cat. These pellets are made only of pine wood, which means a natural resource that can easily be returned to the earth.

Pine pellets turn to sawdust when wet, making the cleanup process incredibly easy. Sustainable litter is not only better for the environment but less expensive and easier for the consumer to use, making it the simple choice for anyone looking to raise a pet sustainably.

Going Outdoors

Feral cats and domestic cats allowed outdoors have become nothing short of an ecological disaster. Outdoor cats have accounted for the extinction of over 63 animal species, according to the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

The simplest solution for cat owners is to keep their cats indoors. If your cat has a strong hankering towards the outdoors, there are many sustainable companies that sell cat harnesses and leashes that allow you to take your cat on a walk. That way, you can ensure that your cat is not causing environmental damage while still allowing them safe time outdoors.

Feral cat colonies are harder to control, as there is no one person responsible for them. The best thing we can do to reduce this issue is to enact Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) in coordination with local animal shelters. TNR is the process of trapping a feral cat, getting them spayed or neutered to avoid reproduction, and releasing them back into their colonies.

Each year, thousands of kittens are born in these colonies, because un-neutered cats in heat will more often than not become pregnant. These kittens overcrowd shelters when taken in, or they grow up to be feral cats themselves. With TNR, this issue is reduced, as fewer kittens will be born each year. Further, the reduction of feral cat colonies will contribute to a reduction in outdoor cats’ environmental impact, as there will be less of them to endanger other species.

Pet ownership is notoriously eco-destructive because of the consumption practices that have been used for decades. With sustainability in mind, however, pet owners can control what they purchase, their environmental impact, and still keep the wellbeing of their pet in mind. Our furry friends can be just as happy as always while minimizing their carbon footprint.