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Your family... Pets

Fast & Easy Info

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    There are approximately 91 million pet cats and 74 million pet dogs in the U.S. , as well as almost 17 million pet birds, 139 million pet fish, and various assorted pet reptiles and other animals.
  • Though many people enjoy taking their dog for a walk, not everyone picks up the poop. Some communities can attribute as much as 20% of the bacteria that contaminate their local watersheds to dog doo.
  • Women evidently do a better job of picking up after their dogs than men!
  • People who have exotic pets like snakehead fish and boa constrictors wreak havoc on the natural environment when they release these animals into the wild. They can compete for food, devour other animals in the ecosystem, and sometimes threaten people.
  • It's against the law to buy an endangered species as a pet, unless it has been bred in captivity.
 
 

Dollars and Sense

  • Purchase "safe" pets. Domesticated animals like dogs, cats and birds are not endangered; they usually make the best pets. Exotic species, like parrots, fish, lizards and monkeys, should be bred in captivity if they are sold as pets, not smuggled illegally out of the Amazon River basin , as many are. Ask store owners to give you proof of where exotic animals came from before you buy them.
  • Get pets from animal shelters. Many pets that are abandoned or abused need good homes. Some pets end up at shelters simply because their mothers weren't spayed or neutered and had too many offspring to be cared for by their owners. Before you turn to a breeder, check out your local animal shelter. You'll help control animal populations and make unwanted animals feel loved.
  • Consider herbal and "natural" alternatives to commercial pet care products. You can find alternative food, soaps, flea treatments, bedding, and toys on-line and in many pet stores.

About Fleas

Fleas can make you and your pet miserable if they infest fur and the household. Fortunately, fleas are not attracted to a healthy pet. Advocates of "natural" pet care claim you can avoid giving your pets chemical flea treatments by supplementing their diets with raw garlic, brewer's yeast (be careful of allergies), or B vitamins-all of which give the skin a smell that drives fleas away. You can also try an herbal flea collar as an alternative to the chemical brands that contain phosphate insecticides. Experiment with different approaches until you find one that works for your animals. I have found that as long as my dog and cats are healthy, I only need to protect them against fleas about four months a year (the summer months). In the ten years we've had furry creatures, none of them has ever contracted fleas. Mother Eart h News has more information on natural flea control here.

Kitty Litter

Here's what you need to know when you're choosing kitty litter:

Is it biodegradable?
Can you flush it down the toilet?
Is it easy to maintain?
Is it odor-free?
Is it free of chemicals, perfumes and dyes?
Is it safe for you, your cat, and the environment?
Can you afford it?
Does it produce a minimal amount of dust and/or tracking?
Will your cat like it?

Start with what it's made from. Clay has been a popular ingredient in commercial kitty litter because it clumps when it gets wet, making it very easy to remove. Unfortunately, clay creates a lot of dust, which gets into cats' lungs. Also, clay is strip-mined, which devastates the environment. Some clumping-type of clay kitty litter can't be flushed, as it will clog pipes.

Silica gel is an odorless, highly absorbent mineral that can last for up to a month, as long as you filter out the poop. It's not dusty; it is flushable.

Recycled newspaper litter is biodegradable, flushable and dust-free, but it gets soggy when it gets wet.

Plant-based litters are made from corn kernels, ground-up corn cobs, corn husks, wheat, and kenaf. Especially the corn-based litters are supposed to be highly absorbent, not dusty, and flushable.

For more alternatives to clay/silica-based kitty litter, visit PetSmart.

Attention: Pregnant Women

An infection called toxoplasmosis is caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Babies whose mothers are exposed to this parasite can be born with a variety of mental or physical health problems, such as retardation, epilepsy, or blindness. Because the parasite is present in cat feces, pregnant women are urged not to change litter boxes.

For Your Shopping List

  • Pet Promise sells "natural" foods for dogs and cats
  • Nature's Pets offers natural pet foods, flea treatments, and animal treats for dogs, cats and birds
  • Robbins Pet Care specializes in holistic health approaches for dogs and cats
  • Flushable Poop Bags, made of polyvinyl alcohol, give you the option of flushing bag and dog poop down the toilet. The polyvinyl alcohol will break down in water in about 30 days, and the poop will be treated at your local sewage system.
  • Biodegradable Poop Bags from Our Green House allow you to bury bag and poop in your backyard after you bring Fido back from his walk. Evidently, both would degrade over time.
  • World's Best Cat Litter offers cat litter made from corn.
  • Smart Bomb sells herbal pet shampoos and insect sprays.

to top...

In My House

We have one dog, a mutt named Heaven, and two cats, Midnight and Nike. Midnight is ten; Nike is seven; and Heaven is two. Midnight is allergic to almost everything, so she gets a special diet that Nike ends up eating, too. I'm just too busy to feed my cats different foods, and Nike seems to thrive on the same thing that keeps Midnight going. Heaven eats a natural-based diet that's a mixture of antibiotic-free meat and organic grains. Midnight and Nike share one litter box. We use non-clumping litter, which makes it easy to scoop out their poop and flush it down the toilet instead of throwing everything in the trash. We use the plastic bags our newspapers come in to pick up Heaven's poop when she's out on a walk. I might try the new flushable doggie bags sometime. I will NEVER have time to bury the poop in the backyard.

What Else?

Natural Pet Care: How to Improve Your Animal's Quality of Life, by Gary Null

Veterinarians Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs: Safe and Effective Alternative Treatments and Healing Techniques from the Nations Top Holistic Veterinarians, by Martin Zucker (there's a companion book for cats, too)

Here's information on what the U.S. Humane Society calls "the crisis of pet overpopulation"

Help protect monkeys and other primates from the illegal pet trade

For more on natural dog care, check out the Whole Dog Journal

To see what's in your dog's food, drop in to The Dog Food Project

And if you've got cats, read their cat food label here .if you dare.

 
 

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