Pets and the Planet

As you can see from the photo, I enjoyed kittens when I was a little girl.  We had a dog, too. Watching pets is a great way to learn about animal behavior. Being responsible about pets is one way you can help the Earth.

As a young person in a house with pets, you may have a say into the choice and care of pets. Pitch in and help with pets. Learn by taking care of them. Educate yourself and think about the following:

Before your buy a pet, make sure you are willing to put in the time to take care of it. That means exercising it, feeding it, and caring for it if it is ill. You’ll need to play with it, too! Most animals need interaction with the world and with others…that means you!

If you have cats, keep them indoors. Outdoor cats are major predators of wild songbirds, lizards, and other wild animals.

Even if your cat is usually an outdoor cat, try to keep it indoors, or in a garage, or under watch during bird migration.  During migration, many songbirds travel thousands of miles. Many of these birds are rare. They take a dangerous journey. They arrive tired, hungry, and unfamiliar with your yard. They are easy prey for cats. Many of these bird populations are in decline because of habitat loss. They don’t need another problem—cats.  So, when is songbird migration? Ask birdwatchers in your area. Generally, the peak periods for migration in our area (Indiana) are  April 21st-May 21st, and August 15-September 15th.  Farther south might start earlier and farther north might start later.   For us, May 7-17th are absolutely peak, so if you can keep those cats under watch or indoors during that time, that would be a big help.

If you take your dog for walks, use a leash. Learn how to work kindly and well with your dog. This is especially important in wild areas such as parks. Your dog dashes off—oh, what fun! At least it is for the dog. But what about all the creatures in that forest? Dogs can kill wild animals. They can frighten and stress wild animals, taking up energy the animal needs to survive and raise its young.  It is especially important to keep dogs from running through parks with forests and grasslands in the summertime. Ground nesting birds such as warblers need these areas to raise their families. Teach your dog to run and jog with you down the pathways provided for people and pets. Play with your dog on open lawns and areas cleared for this kind of play.

Never release an unwanted pet into the wild.  Never release a pet into the wild. Some people tire of a pet, or can’t take care of it anymore. So they let it go into the wild because they don’t want to kill it. This is a disastrous choice for the pet and for all the wild animals in the area.  Released pets usually cannot care for themselves in the wild. They don’t have the wild skills. Even worse, they may have diseases that infect wild animals. (This happens with rabbits and turtles, and other species.) Or, they may reproduce and take the space and food that wild animals need. This has happened with many kinds of fish such as guppies and goldfish. Fish such as these are released into streams, where they eat wild animals, and all the food in an area. As a result, other fish become rare or even go extinct. In the Galapagos Islands, released pets are killing off rare birds and reptiles. This is a common problem on islands. The bottom line is, if you cannot take care of your pet, find another home for it. Call a pet store. Post a notice. Take it to a local humane society. Don’t just release it. 

Choose domesticated pets, not rare ones from the wild. Choose common pets that you know are bred in captivity and are suited to be pets. Don’t buy some rain forest animal just because you think it’s cute.

Don’t buy—adopt. Every time you see a cute puppy or kitten or bunny, you may want to hug them and love them and take them home.  Yes, it’s tempting, I know!  But how many pets do you need to have? Loving a few pets well and taking care of them kindly is far better than acquiring lots of pets. Food for our pets is harvested from the ocean and cropland. This food could stay in wild areas for wild creatures or feed hungry people. Think about keeping pet numbers reasonable. Spay and neuter cats and dogs. Pick up your pets from a shelter—give these animals a home instead of buying at pet stores. 

Try a pet or loan a pet. Before you get a certain kind of pet, talk to someone who has one. Offer to “pet sit” for a week or two. That way, you can see what it’s like to have a hamster or kitten before you commit to taking care of one. Ask a pet store owner if you can “rent” a pet—pay a small fee to try it out yet return the pet if it does not suit your home or family.

By taking these steps, you can help pets and the planet. We can all work towards a world where every pet is wanted and cared for properly and there is still room for wild animals, as well.

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