A white long-haired cat sitting in an old brown open suitcase

Plastic-free pet supplies for dogs, cats, rabbits and more

Is there an answer to plastic poop bags? Find out below and discover ways to give your furry loved ones the best plastic-free lives you can.
Photo of Phil Byrne with dog
By Phil Byrne    |      Published:  09 May 2018    |      5 minute read

There are about 51 million pets in the UK – roughly 8 times the entire population of London. They give us a lot of happiness. In return we give them a lot of things: pet products like squeaky toys, animal treats and even clothing. Many of those things are made of plastic or come in plastic packaging.

From feeding and entertaining them to carrying and cleaning up after them – your pet can end up fetching you mountains of unwanted plastic waste. Too much of this stuff doesn't get recycled and hangs around in the environment, posing a threat to wildlife.

A Pug dog lying flat and looking sad

Don't despair. We can reduce the plastic paw print of our pets. Whether you've got a dog, cat, rabbit, rodent or other non-human member of the family, read on for our plastic-free tips for pets.

1. Avoid plastic food pouches

Wet food for dogs and cats is a bit messy. It's obvious why single servings wrapped in plastic-aluminium pouches have become popular. So popular, that billions of them are ending up in landfill each year. Fewer than 1 in 20,000 food pouches are recycled, according to an article published in The Times newspaper – making them more of a burden than single-use coffee cups.

Buying paper-wrapped dried food in bulk is a better option. Lily's Kitchen uses recyclable aluminium trays and tins instead of pouches for its wet food supplies.

A hungry labradoodle puppy waiting next to his food dish
Did someone mention food?

2. Make your own luxury pet food

Surely the quickest way to more cuddles, kisses and lap naps? Butcher's off-cuts, greengrocer veggies, boxed porridge oats... No matter which animal you're catering for, there are lots of plastic-free options. You can even up your environmental score by selecting organic ingredients and minimising the meat in your pet's diet. Consult your vet before making any drastic changes. There are plenty of tips and recipes online. Our favourite is bunny gardening for beginners, which teaches you how to grow most of your pet rabbit's favourite foods.

A brown rabbit outside in a yard
They're talking about my organic preferences again, aren't they?

3. Buy eco-friendly pet toys

Some pets have more toys than children do (and some of those toys may well have been stolen from children): teddy bears, pet puzzles, you name it.

Look out for toys made from hemp, bamboo and wood from sustainably managed forests. Hemp and bamboo are often labelled as environmentally friendly. In comparison, cotton requires large amounts of water, pesticides and cheap labour. You can find stuff like hemp dog bones, canvas squeaker toys and sisal-wrapped scratching posts. Sisal is a natural plant fibre like hemp.

Thinking of getting a rodent? Go for a wooden exercise wheel for your hamster or gerbil. And do you really want to be hunting for tiny poops that have escaped while Hammy's been running around in his plastic-prison ball? Instead, get the kids to make a playpen from cardboard boxes like in this YouTube video. That way, you know exactly where to find the poop.

Hamster running around on the carpet in a hamster ball
I choose the red pill. Get me out of here!
Credit: jackiembarr

4. Make your own cat or dog bed

Why waste your money on items liable to come wrapped in plastic or contain hidden plastic? Be original and use an old suitcase, worn pillows and a used bed sheet – it'll even smell of you, which your pet should love. There will be plenty more creative ways to make sure that Fido or Felix get a good night's sleep minus the plastic pollution. Tweet us with your ideas.

A grey short-haired cat resting on someone's bed
You sleep in the suitcase. I'm fine just here.

5. Plastic-free hair removal

As much as we love our pets, we don't want to be wearing them around the office or on a night out round town. But those rollers that remove pet hair from clothes come with plastic-coated sheets that we end up chucking in the bin. Thankfully there is an alternative way to remove hair from fabrics and furniture - the rubber glove solution. Even better than that? Reduce the amount of hair your pet sheds by brushing regularly.

A small hairy little brown dog in the arms of its owner
She's going to wish she never wore that black top.

6. Bag yourself a major coup (or coop even)

Some plucky people like to keep their own hens. If you're feeling a little broody, this entry is just for you. From living green roofs to re-purposed old water tanks, when it comes to deciding on eco-friendly chicken coops, you really don’t have to put all your eggs in one basket. Need some inspiration? Check out this Pinterest page.

Rabbits and guinea pigs don't miss out either. Find your nose twitcher a hutch made from sustainable wood.

A hen outside
Don't even look at me until you've removed that plastic feeder

7. Don't get fleeced by eco labels

Recycling old plastic bottles into fleece jumpers and pet supplies has got to be eco, right? Not so. People doing sciency things have discovered extremely small pieces of plastic in our oceans. Apparently, these bits have come from, you guessed it, products made from recycled plastic. Meaning this stuff is finding its way into the ocean anyway. Worse still, it draws in toxins like a sponge – which marine animals then ingest.

A dog in a fleece jacket and overcoat
Do I look like I had a say in this?
Credit: Wonderlane

8. Doggy shampoo (all bar the plastic)

No one likes the smell of wet dog. Unless of course it's a mutt freshly bathed in organic shampoo. They even have their own soap bars now. There's a plastic-free method in the madness.

A big brown dog being bathed
A little bit lower. Up a bit. Perfect.

9. Take the lead on plastic-free accessories

Let your best friend lead you down the right path, literally, with an environmentally friendly hemp collar and dog lead. Failing that, get a dog that takes itself for a walk – otherwise known as a cat. Hemp is strong, washable and antimicrobial. It's the eco warrior of the plant world: great for the soil, naturally resistant to most pests and less water-needy than other crops.

Hungry for more? Dish up your pet's favourite food in one of these bamboo and rice husk bowls. You can also get glass water bottles for animals like rabbits, guinea pigs and rodents.

A border collie dog follows a ginger tom cat
This does not mean we're friends. Keep up.

10. Compostable poop bags – good or bad?

Let's clean up this mess right now.

Brits are more crazy about dogs than any other pet. 26% of households have one. There are approximately 9 million pet dogs in the UK. They produce 1,000 tonnes of poo a day. That’s the equivalent of 666 Toyota Prius cars pooped out every 24 hours.

That means a mountain of plastic poop bags. So should you buy compostable ones? The easy answer is yes, if you dispose of them in the correct way (ie compost them).

They're more environmentally friendly than standard single-use plastic ones (the compostable bags are made from plant starch instead of climate-changing petroleum). But compostable bags need oxygen and light to break down. Unfortunately, the vast majority of poop bags end up in landfill where there is no light and very little oxygen. Basically they'll mummify and, like regular plastic, stick around for absolutely ages.

There isn't a perfect solution right now. As well as smelling bad, dog faeces can contain nasty parasites, which has led to warnings against both composting it and flushing them down the toilet.

Don't lose hope. It takes guts to get ahead in this world, or a by-product of them apparently. Want to read about pooch poop powering a street lamp? You can even watch Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs make a cup of tea from dog-waste biogas.

Biodegradable dog poop bags
Don't get too excited. You still have to pick the stuff up.

11. Adopt rather than buy

Bonding with an animal at a rescue centre and taking it home with you – don't tell me that doesn't make your heart all warm and fuzzy. Adopting means that you're lowering the demand for breeding new pets. Fewer pets mean using fewer resources like food, toys and shelter. And that means less plastic waste.

A black and white cat looking at a laptop screen
So he thinks he's getting a new cat. Internet history > Delete.

Plastic pet hates?

Are we barking up the wrong tree? Have you got any other solutions? Tweet us about your own plastic pet hates.