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Pet Paw Prints.

For those who believe in reducing their carbon footprint, have you ever stopped to wonder about the carbon footprint of your pet? It is estimated that a single cat causes almost half a tonne of greenhouse gas emissions each year, with each dog causing around 1.75 tonnes, so if you are looking to reduce your own carbon footprint, you would do well to look at the carbon pawprints your pets are also leaving behind.

There′s actually a lot you can do to reduce your pet′s environmental pawprint.

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Faeces (poo, exctrement, poop, number 2 etc).

It′s more of a problem than most people realise, especially if you live in a built-up area. More people equals more pets, and the abundant concrete means more runoff, which gets washed into water courses and ponds, the bacteria that thrive on them starve ponds of oxygen and kill aquatic life.

Cat faeces can also harbour nasty parasites such as toxoplasma gondii, which has even been known to survive sewage treatment and kill sea life.

All of which means the best solution is not to let dogs or cats defecate where the poop can get into the drains. If you′re a dog owner, you′ll already know to bag it and bin it, but how about using biodegradable dog poop bags, made from corn starch, as a green alternative?

Cat Litter

There are green options for cat litter, too. Avoid the clay stuff: it swells, hardens and doesn′t rot, so it both takes up space and is horrendous to dispose of. What′s more, it′s liberally dusted with silica, a known carcinogen and cause of respiratory disease. It′s not even good for cats: it gets in their fur, which means it gets in their mouths. It′s far better to use litter made from recycled material such as sawmill scrap or waste from wheat or corn. It′s biodegradable, flushable, lighter and less smelly.

Fleas

Avoid flea and tick repellents containing DDVP, diazinon carbaryl, permethrin or propoxur. These are nerve toxins that can build up and poison wildlife and pets alike. Add to that the various chemicals that make up the bulk of the product and that produces a nasty concoction.

Try citrus extracts such as D-limonene and linalool - both natural alternatives - and make regular use of a flea comb. And while cats plus outdoors equals fleas, it does help to vacuum regularly. Dog food flavoured with brewer′s yeast and garlic is also a natural flea repellent.

Wildlife

Then there′s the impact pets can have on wildlife. Keep your cat indoors at night when it is likely to hunt. You might also consider putting bells around its collar - the sonic variety are most effective in alerting birds. Finally, keep your cat entertained: this reduces that nasty instinct for recreational killing.

Dogs should be kept on a lead when walking and it′s well worth keeping in mind that a well-trained dog is likely to wreak less havoc than an unruly one.

Exotic Pets

Keepers of exotic pets should be aware of the damage to native species that accidental releases have caused. They can prey on local wildlife and spread disease - the Chinese mitten crab and the American signal crayfish in the Thames are two examples of the damage alien species can do. So it follows that you don′t flush fish down the loo, even if they′re dead, as they can spread disease.

Finally Pet Food

As for food, try switching to organic: commercial pet food often contains unhealthy additives and preservatives. There′s more choice than you′d think: indeed, there′s a growing range of eco-friendly pet products at pet shops and online.

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