Thursday, March 13, 2008

Green Pets

Is there a green pet?

By green, I don't mean a lizard or a toad. I mean, what are the environmental ramifications of owning animals? Here are a few general notes on sharing the green life with your furry household members.

  1. The hardcore PETA people are against it and call it animal slavery. But aren't they against just about everything? These people have clearly never witnessed the royalty-like treatment that the average housecat is given. Yet I feel bad for rats and birds and other little wild things that we trap in cages. At least a cat can go outside and stretch out in the sun.
  2. There are organic foods, but they are quite unreasonably priced, making them out of reach for the average family.
  3. Most responsible humans get their pets from rescue organizations because there are enough unwanted animals to make breeding a generally irresponsible idea.
My five year old daughter wants a bird, specifically a parrot. I am confident that I can talk her down to a parakeet. But do we really want to have a sweet little bird trapped in an itty-bitty cage? To have to cut back feathers so it can't fly away, because it will want to fly away so badly? Oh, and let's not mention the torturous amount of sticky affection it will have to endure from its young, grabby owner.

I am committed to physically caring for this hypothetical bird, so we know it at least won't be dependent on a fickle and forgetful kindergartener for food and water. Even so, is it morally responsible for me to buy my daughter a bird? It seems not, but I remember having a parakeet as a child that seemed chirpingly happy and incredibly bonded to me. Perhaps having an empathetic relationship with animals is the first step to becoming an advocate for them, the way camping teaches children to love nature.

What do you all think? Yes or no on the birdie? Is there a "greener" pet you can recommend?


kh said...

First of all... AWWWW that is so cute. I used to work at a pet store and these were my favorite questions to answer.

I think it's important for humans to interact with animals on a domesticated level, I don't know that it necessarily teaches you to respect them but there is some connection that we have with animals that is mutually enjoyed and important to our existence.

I don't know about the animal slavery issue. It's not like you're making them do the housework or anything! In fact, they make YOU do more work.

I had a parakeet who had free reign in the house. He knew how to get out of his cage, and he would just fly around whenever he pleased. It worked for us. Unfortunately, while I was gone one day he got his foot stuck in the carpeting and was very injured. He didn't live long after that. : ( So, no matter how cruel it seems, they are safer in their cages.

If it is feasible for your family to have a non-caged animal I would recommend it. It's a little extra work but you can interact with the animal more often and they are usually happier. Cats are pretty low maintenance. Male cats tend to be friendlier than females if this animal is going to get poked and petted a lot. So, that's my recommendation.

I don't recommend the bird. If it's just a passing fancy and she will become bored with the parakeet (who you cannot really pet or hold or play with), you've still got a parakeet to take care of for the next 10 years (yes they can live that long). If you're not terribly against rodents, hamsters are very cute pets that you can pick up and play with and snuggle a little bit, so they are less likely to get bored.

That's my take on it.

kh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kh said...

Oh, as far as the pet being "green." All animals can eat regular food. Hamsters and birds are very happy on a fruit, nut and seed diet. Cats and dogs are good with a meat and grains diet. I knew a dog that ate chicken, noodles and table scraps every day to the ripe old age of 15! Cats and dogs should not be vegetarians, though. Other than that, there's no reason why they can't be just as green as the rest of your family.

Joyce said...

I think pets are just good for us, and the animals don't suffer nearly as much in "captivity" as they do in the wild. We've had: hermit crabs (exciting for about 3 days, then just a nuisance), hamsters (cute and cuddly, but they are nocturnal), gerbils (hilariously active and diurnal-they are a good bet!), and cats (much loved and funny for their personalities; they also love to sit on our laps and purr, but about half our relatives are allergic to them).

Emily the Great and Terrible said...

We have two cats already and have had TERRIBLE luck with them. They are both male, both fixed as kittens, but as soon as there is any stressor they start peeing everywhere. No more cats for us. :-(