sustainable pets

What Are the Most Sustainable Pets? A Look at How Pets Can Be Sustainable

Jane Marsh - February 4, 2023

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Pets undoubtedly enrich our existence. The companionship they provide is a source of joy, amusement, and comfort. Studies have even shown that owning pets can reduce blood pressure and heart rate!

With such a profound presence in our lives, it’s no wonder people share their homes with pets. It’s important to recognize, however, that we also have a responsibility to live sustainably.

You can do your part to be an environmental steward by reducing your pets’ impact on the natural world. By following practices such as using biodegradable dog poop bags, choosing alternatives to plastic toys, and feeding your pets sustainable food, you’ll help ensure a greener future for everyone on the planet.

Keep Your Cats Indoors

One way to make a huge environmental impact is to keep your cats from roaming. As one of the greatest threats to local bird, reptile, and small mammal populations, outdoor cats have wiped out several entire species that can never be brought back.

In addition to creating a healthier ecosystem, keeping your cats in the house or in an outdoor space called a catio has the following benefits:

  • It protects them from predators: They’ll be kept away from coyotes, dogs, and other cats.
  • It keeps them away from cars: Your cats will be safe with you instead of wandering on the road.
  • It shelters them from bad weather: They’ll be insulated against the heat and cold, enjoying a cozy bed instead.

Plus, indoor cats live an average of 12-15 years, while outdoor cats have an average life span of less than three years. So, you’re not just helping the environment — you’re helping your pet, too!

Choose Alternatives to Plastic

There are many better options than plastic when it comes to pet supplies. Here are a few ideas:

Bones Instead of Plastic Chew Toys

This delicious treat is sure to be a hit with any dog and is much more sustainable than a petroleum-based chew toy. Plus, it helps clean your dog’s teeth, gives them something to do when they’re bored, and satisfies their urge to chew.


You can even play fetch with a bone or stuff it with peanut butter to keep your dog entertained for hours. Depending on how much your dog likes to chew, it can last a long time.

Make sure to give your dog large bones rather than small ones that could splinter easily, and only feed them raw bones, which aren’t as brittle as cooked ones.

Other Sustainable Toys

Look for pet toys made of plant-based materials like cotton, hemp, or bamboo, or choose one made of recycled materials. Firehoses that are no longer usable are often repurposed as chew toys – not only for house pets but also for wild animals in sanctuaries and zoos. Evidently, they’re a big hit!

You can even make toys yourself. Cats enjoy simple things like feathers on a stick. Dogs will happily play tug-of-war with an old T-shirt that has a few knots tied in it. Don’t forget about the classic laser pointer when it comes to entertaining a cat, either! Just be sure you dispose of the batteries responsibly when the time comes.

Eco-Friendly Grooming Supplies

Aside from being better for the environment, brushes and combs made of wood or metal will last longer than plastic ones. If you buy a plastic bottle of pet shampoo, conditioner, or medicine, rinse it out thoroughly and recycle it when it’s empty. You can also usually recycle the paper boxes in which flea and tick pesticides are packaged.

Green Containers

Opt for metal, glass, or ceramic when shopping for bowls for your pets’ food and water. They have a lower carbon footprint and are much harder to chew up, meaning you won’t need to buy another for a very long time. That’s an environmental savings, too.

You can also buy ceramic or steel litter boxes, which are easy to clean and don’t hang on to odors as much as plastic ones.

Reptile owners can choose ceramic or coconut hideaways instead of plastic ones. An easy, do-it-yourself hideaway for a snake or lizard is a terra cotta flower pot with a hole in it.

Biodegradable Poop Bags

It’s understandable that you need something more substantial than a piece of paper to pick up after your dog on a walk. Luckily, there are bags made of materials that are sanitary and fully break down in the soil, water, or compost. If everyone used this type of bag instead of plastic ones, it’s estimated that 0.6% of the world’s plastic consumption would be reduced.

Spay and Neuter Your Pets

What are the most sustainable pets? The answer is spayed and neutered animals.

Having your animals fixed goes a long way toward reducing the burden of pet overpopulation. There are already countless homeless pets, all of whom have a carbon footprint. Ensuring your pets don’t contribute to this growing problem is part of being a responsible pet owner.

As an added bonus, dogs and cats who have been fixed have longer lifespans, so you can enjoy even more time with them.

Adopt From a Reputable Source

This is true for all pets, including birds and reptiles, whose native populations are often reduced by poachers. Millions of birds are captured to be sold as pets every year. Only buy or adopt animals that were captive-bred, not caught in the wild.

If you’re purchasing a dog or cat from a breeder, double-check that they aren’t coming from a puppy mill. The ideal choice when looking for a new pet is to adopt one from a shelter or animal rescue.

Feed Your Pets Sustainable Food

Pet food made with animal byproducts is more sustainable than the kind made with premium cuts of meat. Why? Because many people are picky, but dogs and cats will happily eat chicken feet, organ meats, and skin. These products are highly nutritious for them and would be thrown away otherwise, contributing to landfill waste.

Also, keep an eye out for pet food that comes in paper bags rather than plastic ones. You can either use it as a trash bag when it’s empty or recycle it like any other paper. 

An emerging idea for helping the environment is to create sustainable pet food out of invasive species. Invasive species are animals that get introduced to a new area, usually by humans, and upset the balance of the ecosystem by outcompeting native species for resources like food, water, and shelter. They sometimes overhunt native species or introduce novel diseases to their new home.

By feeding invasive species to our pets, we can solve two problems at once. Some pet food companies are already getting to work on this by creating dog food made from Asian carp.

The Takeaway Message

Pets have been a wonderful addition to people’s lives for thousands of years and their population is growing along with ours. The good news is that it’s possible to raise animals in an eco-friendly way.

What are the most sustainable pets? The answer is that almost any pet can be sustainable if you keep a few fundamental ideas in mind.

As environmental stewards, we have a responsibility to clean up after our pets, choose sustainable foods and supplies for them, and not let them roam outside without supervision. If we follow these practices, we’ll be living in harmony with our furry friends for years to come.


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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.