Checking out my eco footprint, and musing about my cats’ role in our climate crisis

I like environmental footprint calculators. I don’t think they are terribly accurate; but they are good tools for provoking a little thought about how we live and the decisions we make that impact the world around us. The footprint calculator I stumbled across today is from the WWF, an organization I like and have donated to in the past.

My score was 1.55 – which essentially says, that if everyone lived the way I do, it would take approximately 1.55 planets to sustain us all. I signed up for E-mail tips from the WWF while I was at it, so maybe I will learn something and get some new ideas. I had to laugh, though: I’m fairly certain the reason my score was so high had to do with the two little creatures dwelling in my home, namely, the cats.

Yes, the cats. Cute, cuddly little walking hairballs that they are. I’m quite proud of them, and love them dearly; but I’m convinced they are part of the reason why our climate is going berserk. First, they insist on eating only meat, and to keep them from barfing their meals right back up it has to come from tin cans, made by one specific brand (the tin cans I recycle, of course, but still … ). Being pacifists, and utterly lazy, they refuse to hunt; which means they do not dine from locally grown protein sources, nor do they care whether or not their tin can food is organic. I point out bugs to them all the time, and they look at me like I’m stupid; then walk over to their dishes and stare pointedly into my eyes to remind me that my opposable thumbs make me the one to spoon some more of their tin can protein into their dishes (my cats have a weird perspective: to them, it is an empty dish, rather than an empty stomach, that lets them know when they are hungry). I am allergic to them both (don’t get me started about this topic, though – suffice it to say, they were here before I developed my allergies to them; so they are family and get to stay). These allergies, of course, require that I contribute to big pharma so I can actually stand to be in the same home with them. Because they are hairy, and because I do not much enjoy snorting random cat hairs (again, allergies) or wiping up cat yack on a daily basis, I run the vacuum cleaner more than I ordinarily would (actually, were it not for the cats, I would toss recycle the vacuum cleaner and use a broom and mop – I don’t have carpeting in my apartment, just rugs that are easy to shake out). I must admit, there have been times when it’s crossed my mind that hair clippers use much less electricity than vacuum cleaners … but I digress.

As I said, I love these cats. They were both rescued from uncertainty, rather than purchased from ‘pet stores,’ and I endure quite a lot to keep them around. My life is made better by their presence in it, no matter how often I might think about taking the hair clippers to them. But I re-took the quiz from WWF, and they told me I could reduce my footprint by up to 0.15 points if I didn’t have the cats here. Don’t worry: I don’t have plans to recycle the cats (I’m allergic to them, anyway, and couldn’t use their fur, hah-hah); but at the same time, I think while we often discuss the human population explosion, and the negative effects it has had on our planet, I think engaging in a thoughtful conversation about our animal companions would be worthwhile.

In America alone, pet surveys put the numbers of animal companions in the hundreds of millions (including cats, dogs, fish, birds, and other critters). I’m pretty sure these surveys do not account for strays and abandoned animals – like the cats who live with me once were. And, as I said, this is just America … in Europe, there are some countries (such as Germany) where populations are dense, and not just of the two-legged variety. People are nowadays accustomed to seeing living animals toted around as fashion accessories. When you consider the cost involved to the environment to keep all of these animals fed, watered, medicated, dressed in the latest fashions and picked up after (speaking politely), the numbers are staggering. What kind of impact would it make, if we (collectively speaking) were more responsible when it came to our fur (or feather, or scale) bearing friends? If the impact would be a positive one, as I suspect it would be, how might we best go about enacting it so that all concerned would benefit?

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