This Is The Surprising Effect Of Cat And Dog Food On The Environment

Pet ownership has been on the rise for some years now, with estimates indicating that around 68% of the US population, way over half, has a pet at home.

Source: Jessica Wolf/UCLA

As the benefits of pet ownership have become more widely publicized, which will have no doubt have contributed to this ever growing industry, the responsibility of pet owners to make sure that they are caring for their animal companion correctly, without harming the planet in doing so grows along with it.Gregory Okin, a geographer at UCLA, recently analyzed the number of pets in the US and their pet food consumption. He came to the surprising conclusion that the fluffy companions in the US consume a quarter of all animal-derived calories in the country, meaning that if they were their own country, they would be the fifth largest meat consumers in the world.

Source: Patricia Marroquin/UCLA

The environmental cost of animal products, from the carbon dioxide produced to the land required to keep them, all have a big global impact.While Okin states that this is clearly important, he described in an interview that pet owners should hesitate to be too worried by his findings:

If you are worried about the environment, then, in the same way, you might consider what kind of car you buy ... this is something that might be on your radar. But it's not necessarily something you want to feel terrible about.

Source: World Wide Health Center

While the huge canine population of the USA is omnivorous and could theoretically survive on a meat free diet, their feline counterparts most definitely cannot.Cats are carnivores and need meat to survive.One way to combat this problem, suggested byCailin Heinze, a veterinary nutritionist at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, is to feed these four legged companions with animal byproducts, such as offal and organs, which are often shunned by humans.

Source: Thinkstock

For those who find it morally difficult to let their pet eat meat, Heinze always puts the animal's health first, and explained:

There have been a few times in my career where I've honestly said to my clients, 'We need to find a new home for your pet and you need to get a rabbit or a guinea pig or something like that.'

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