How Is Your Carbon Pawprint?

Evening Bean
Evening Bean

Jelly Bean always has a pretty good Earth Day.

He conserves a lot of energy by napping as much as possible, so much energy that he could probably cash in what he conserved to get himself some really good treats, or even some quality ‘nip. He even cuddles up with a brother or two so they could all stay warmer and drop all their extra furs in one place instead of all over the house, necessitating more angry growling by the sweeper monster and the energy it uses (but he’s not sharing his treats or nip, if he gets them).

And he knows he uses sustainable litter in his box—he’s really gotten to like the wood pellets because he can dig and dig and dig in the box and make a lot of noise and not get dust up his nose and sneeze, and then later he can toss an unused wood pellet out of the box and play with it, a great example of reuse! Litter pellets become toys, and sustainable toys at that.

And then he’s got his raw diet from local sources, even though his human had to drive to go and get it she buys it in such huge quantities it almost makes him faint to think of all that food right there in the kitchen, even if it is frozen, and on the other hand he eats less so she doesn’t have to drive as often. And he had the water in his bowls and his fountain filtered by his human.

He’s feeling pretty good about himself and his carbon pawprint today. He should even probably get some sort of an award for all his hard work and sacrifice.

Now it’s time for another nap while he waits for the phone call from the award center.

Things you can do to help your cats with their carbon pawprints

Our cats can only use what we give them to use, so it’s up to us to help reduce waste and use products that are recycled or have the least impact on our environment. In making sustainable choices we often reduce another part of their carbon pawprint and our own carbon footprint—sustainable products are often less toxic so we reduce the toxic load on our four-footed household members as well as ourselves, inside the house and out.

One of the biggest changes you can make for the environment is to stop using clay litter. Clay for cat litter is strip-mined, one of the most environmentally destructive types of mining because it works from the soil surface down to the mineral creating a huge pit, piling the overburden in other areas that often cause landslides or destroy streams, and the pit itself is often not remediated. On top of that, the litter itself can’t be recycled in any way and always ends up in a landfill. Moving away from clay litter is also good for your cats and you because clay contains silica, a known carcinogen, and the dust is a fine particulate, known to be an irritant to sensitive mucous membranes, like the sinuses and lungs and can lead to respiratory illnesses.

When I had eight, ten, twelve…or more cats in the house I used more litter than I can estimate, regular and scoopable, always clay. Right about the time I got tired of carrying home 40 pound bags of clay litter every week I decided I was going to look for an alternative. I started with recycled newspaper litter, then a few years later the owner of the Agway where I shopped told me about wood stove pellets which worked even better and were less expensive. I also tried all the plant-based and silica gel crystal type litters I could find but always came back to the wood or newspaper pellets to avoid the scent, natural or artificial, that came along with other litters, and the issue with dampness in my basement causing mold or mildew developing on the litter and reducing clumping ability. I have slipped a bag of clay litter in here or there when I needed litter and it was all I could find but we’ve all gotten used to the pellets.

So if you use clay, consider the alternatives you find in the store where you shop. Carefully try them to avoid any possible litterbox issues, always making changes gradually for your cats and leaving a box of the litter they’d been using handy.

Aside from litter, consider these habits for your pets, yourself and the environment:

  • Try to buy goods in larger quantities or in bulk to reduce driving, reduce cost and possibly reduce packaging.
  • Choose items that have recycled, recyclable or sustainable packaging.
  • Use pet waste bags for cat litter or doggy clean ups that are biodegradable and made from a renewable and/or sustainable material.
  • Clean litterboxes and litter areas as well as the rest of your house with safe, non-toxic cleaners and odor eliminators, even using common household substances in place of purchased commercial cleaners.
  • Likewise with pet grooming products like shampoos, stay with non-toxic products made from natural sustainable ingredients that are certified safe for pets.
  • And use brushes made of recycled rubber, plastic and other recycled materials.
  • Use flea and tick products carefully, only when necessary, avoiding any excess product that might be flushed down a drain or spilled on soil in your yard where it could run off into a stream.
  • Choose accessories such as collars and leashes and beds made of upcycled, downcycled or in any way recycled, sustainable or renewable material such as cotton, hemp, recycled polyester or rubber.
  • Choose certified organic catnip and treats, or make and grow your own.
  • Recycle household items for cat toys like cardboard boxes, paper and paper shopping bags—if your cat hasn’t done that for you already.
  • And no kidding—recycle a pet — adopt a cat from your local animal shelter or a rescue.
  • And most important: have your cat spayed or neutered to avoid the burden an overpopulation of homeless pets has on society and the earth.

Also read an Earth Day essay from a few years ago.

Browse some rescued cats and kittens!



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Inspired by felines you know! Visit Portraits of Animals


© 2016 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!



From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

6 thoughts on “How Is Your Carbon Pawprint?

  • June 30, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Bernadette I use the Breeze system with pellets and and pads which are just like puppy pads… first group of 4 cats I used clay littler because I didn’t know any better and they all developed various illnesses, two of them had chest tumors. I have used scoopable litter with little dust but stopped because it was still clay and I tried a system made from grass but it really smells so I went back to the Breeze system It isn’t perfect but much more healthy for the cats and they kick the pellets out of the box but they don’t stick to their feet and get ingested and there’s no dust. Now I’m looking into raw food. They ate dry before we got them as we adopted them when they were seniors and their people went to nursing homes. They eat wet food but my vet feeds raw exclusively so I am going to try that – a company named Darwin ships from PA and I can get 10 oz to try out. One of the 15 year olds is hyperthyroid now so I would like to make her life as healthy as possible even at this late date. Thanks to Bean for the information.

    • July 8, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Karen, I went through the same path with litter choices. I’ve never heard of the Breeze system–I’ll look into it. Your vet sounds awesome! I didn’t have a problem with my seniors with raw food, but I eased into it, and prior to that I used tiny bits of raw meat as a treat. I’ve also mixed it into canned food little by little. There’s a food that’s not raw but it’s good, though it includes ingredients we may not like, and I use it alternately with my canned and raw diets–FreshPet beef and chicken in the roll. They love it, and it’s better than most canned foods. It’s a very fine pate and your seniors may like that as well.

  • April 22, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Bernadette, About two years ago the Director of the Heart of the Catskill’s humane society where I volunteer suggested Tractor Supply Company Equine Pine Pellets (bedding), it’s pure pine and runs about $5.50 for a 40 pound recycled plastic bag. I stock up- the cats like it and the worst case scenario is a little sawdust. If you were to purchase the same pine pellet type product at one of the larger pet chains the cost would be double for half the amount at Tractor Supply.

    • April 22, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      Anne, I’ve used that product too, and so do many in our rescue and even at the clinic. It’s a little too sawdusty for me, and doesn’t work well in my damp basement. The hardwood woodstove pellets hold together longer and I don’t get as much sawdust, but I still get a few bags of the equine bedding when they are out of the hardwood pellets. Either way, the savings is great! And wood has enzymes that break down urine that handle the smells better than any clay. I’d swear a 40# bag of wood pellets wasn’t as heavy as a 40# bag of clay too, unless it’s just that I’m so tired of carrying clay after all these years!

  • April 22, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    Great article, Bernadette.


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