Are our pets bad for the environment? © Getty Images

Are our pets bad for the environment?

Asked by: Rex Legge, via email

In a word, yes. The biggest environmental impact associated with our animal companions comes from producing meat-based pet food, which uses land, water and energy resources, and is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.

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According to one estimate, owning a medium-size dog can have a similar carbon footprint to a large SUV. Plant- and grain-eating pets such as rabbits and rodents have a much smaller impact. As well as food, pets need toys, grooming products and various accessories, which also come at an environmental cost.

To reduce the strain on the environment, buy only the food that they need, and have your pet spayed or neutered to reduce the chance of unwanted litters, which can lead to overpopulation in rescue shelters.

Finally, some cat owners worry about the wild animals killed by their moggy. But while UK cats are estimated to kill up to 300 million prey a year – mostly small mammals and birds – there’s no clear evidence that this causes a decline in wild populations.

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