So I rescued a kitten! Yes, I did the cliched lockdown thing & got a cat. It was actually an idea I hyjacked from my boyfriend a few months ago, thinking that I could do with a little friend to come home to. So I put my name down for little Barclay at the RSPCA Stubbington Ark.
He is 5 months old & rather lovely. We are becoming pretty good friends although he is terrified of strangers but we’ll get there. As soon as I knew he was coming home with me I wanted to buy him all the things: toys so he wouldn’t be bored, treats to make him happy & cat trees to climb. It dawned on me quite quickly that buying brand new mass-produced stuff that he might never use isn’t the most sustainable.
The Everyday Waste
When it comes to our pets, it’s the things we buy to make our own lives easier as well as the things we think our animals need that is the problem. As well as the usual food packaging & (for cats anyway) the litter, we have to be mindful of the manufactured plastic items. The toys, beds, climbing trees, all the things we are convinced they will love. On my first trip to the pet shop, I’ll admit I was suckered into it all!
For food, tins are always better than pouches when it comes to recycling unless you are able to feed your pet a raw diet from a low waste provider. I haven’t been able to look it to this to a large extent only because Barclay has tummy troubles. I am having to feed him a special sensitive food for now. It comes in pouches & recycling these is tricky.
Litter was easier & after looking at what is actually in standard commercial cat litter, I started to look at alternatives like wood pellets & shavings. I will always pick the clumping variety for convenience & of the wood-based litters I have tried, the best one I found is Natusan. It’s easy to deal with & dispose of. Also, if you live in the London area, you can subscribe to their collection service. You can buy the litter on its own or as part of a kit. The kits include a cardboard litter tray & box. On collection, they pick up everything & compost the waste. Natusan is more expensive than most but if you are able to take advantage of their monthly subscription & composting service, it’s worth the money in my opinion.
As with anything you choose for your pet, a lot rides on what they prefer. Barclay will use both the fine litter & the granules but I know that some cats are a lot fussier. I am giving an alternative here but your pet will ultimately have the final say!
Do you need to buy it?
It’s so easy to get caught up in a buying frenzy when stocking up for your new pet. I speak from experience here. I managed to reign it in a little but not before buying a new pet bed & a few plastic toys. Thankfully Barclay uses them all but I still feel a bit guilty for buying the toys that I could well have made or thought more carefully about where I bought them from.
When making any purchase, the Buyerarchy of Needs by Sarah Lazarivic is an excellent visual way to make us think about that purchase. With most items, aside from the essentials, buying new should be the last resort.
This can be applied to stocking up on stuff for new animal buddies. Make a list of what you need, minus the essential items like food that will be repeat purchases. Then go through the buyerarchy when considering each item. Think about the following, working from the bottom to the top:
- Use what you have. Have you had pets before? Maybe you still have items that they used like bowls or carry crates. Old blankets & cushions can also be used for bedding. How about making another use of something you already have? Barclay is more than happy drinking out of an old plant saucer I found in the back of the cupboard (cleaned of course!).
- Can you borrow or swap? Do family or friends have things they can spare? I was able to use a carrier that my sister had from when her dog was smaller. The pet carrier is one of the most expensive items on the list so that was a huge bonus. All that was needed was a clean & a bit of spraypaint for the slight rust on the door but it came up good as new.
- Thift. Try e-bay or other second hand websites & charity shops. This bit can be tricky but it is possible to find good quality pet accessories second-hand. Who hasn’t bought something for their pet that they ignored or never used?
- Can you make it yourself? Pet toys can be made at home. Most cats love a cardboard box so my boyfriend made a maze-fort for his kittens out of 5 boxes. It’s genius & they love it! They will likely grow out of it but it can then be broken down & recycled. Cardboard tubes & loo rolls can be used to make a whole host of toys from puzzle feeders to balls. YouTube is a great resource for ideas. If you’re handy with a sewing machine or needle & thread, try sewing up a batch of toys. Just make sure they are sturdy enough to withstand more than a little chewing & discard or mend them as soon as the stuffing starts to show.
- Finally, if you are buying new, try to make it the best possible for your budget. I opted for porcelain bowls & the biggest litter tray I could find so that I wouldn’t need to replace it. I also allowed myself to indulge in a new bed & scratching post. If your budget allows, there are sellers on Etsy who make items for pets like trees & toys. Make sure you check what the items are made of.
Do we really need more stuff??
I’ve applied the Buyerarchy to pets since it’s a hot topic in my house right now but it can be used for anything: clothing, furniture, you name it. It’s a little different to the 7 Rs in that it looks at the stuff we bring in rather than the stuff we throw away. However, it’s important to view both processes in the same way, as tools that enable us to be more mindful of our consumerism as a whole.
Ultimately, the question remains: do we really need more stuff? It’s not just the ultimate disposal of those items we must consider, it’s the manufacturing of those items in the first place. I feel that the COVID-19 lockdown has made us all think about stuff, even if all we’ve done is have a clear out. Rewearing last years clothes or repurposing old items should start to become the norm, or at the very least, an acceptable way to live.
I realise I have detracted a little from the purpose of this post but since I have written about buying stuff for a new cat, I feel that I need to address the issue of consumerism as a whole. Global warming as well as the issue of fast fashion & mass production & the impact on human beings & the environment is still a huge problem right now & we need to keep doing our part.
If you too have recently become a pet owner, congratulations! I hope you enjoy your new addition. I’d love to hear from you about your experiences & any tips.