SciSun: It’s Only Natural   Leave a comment

We’ve all been there. Walking along, enjoying a pleasant Spring day, when on the ground right in front of us is a big pile of dog poop. Or one day you discover a cat has decided your rose garden is the perfect (Purrr-fect!) place to use as his private toilet. So we step over it, or pick it up, or get angry that someone’s pet is making us pick up after them – it’s a nuisance and disgusting and really rude of the animals owners, but after all, it’s all natural and what harm could come from a few pets pooping in the environment.

Well, a lot of harm. Because the diet of our cats and dogs has changed over the generations they’ve lived with us, they’re not the same animals as the wild wolf or bobcat. Some pet cats like to think they’re still wild, but they’re just fooling themselves.

We’re not talking about the stray dog or loose cat that doesn’t seem to have a home; as species, dogs and cats have been domesticated – lived with men – for tens of thousands of years, and in all that time their behavior and possibly even physiology – basic physical processes – have changed to they can better live with humans and enjoy the food and shelter we provide. That’s one reason why coyotes and lions just don’t make good pets. So the wild diets these species historically ate have been replaced with canned animal-and-grain-by-products, and crunchy-beef-flavored-kibble-bits. While most many of the ingredients in pet food is good quality (note to self: Try to forget definition of ingredient ‘rendered-meat-meal-slurry’), there are lots of other things in there, including chemicals and preservatives and artificial colors and assorted additives and even parasites and diseases carried over from some of the food sources – that cats and dogs are now generally used to, but like all contaminants, eventually pass through the body and end up somewhere.

And that somewhere can cause a lot of problems for the environment:

> Modern pet food contains so many nutrients, it can cause algae blooms if it enters a stream, lake, or other natural water system. The algae plants (generally green or blue-green algae named cyanobacteria), which in a healthy ecosystem are an important food for other animals, grow almost out of control until they chock out the sun and oxygen from reaching other aquatic species.  If the thick concentrations of algae continue, all life in the lake could die.

> Dog and cat poop can carry multiple parasites and diseases that might not harm the pet, but could be passed on to other animals.  Infectious organisms usually need host animals to survive until they are transmitted to their next unsuspecting victim.  And most of these diseases and parasites can affect humans, causing anything from flu-like symptoms to temporary changes in the brain to death. 

> The Environmental Protection Agency – the US Government Department responsible for tracking and controlling many hazardous materials – has classified dog and cat waste as an dangerous pollutant, joining the list of oil spills, un-controlled chemicals, and all those other things that require wearing a HAZMAT suit to clean up.

So whenever your dog does ‘his duty’ (We said dooty!!) remember to pick up the poop, and at home bury the waste in approved containers that dissolve the material or seal in bags and place in the trash. It doesn’t help to leave poop to ‘naturally’ decompose on the ground – eventually the organic waste will break down, but leave behind any pathogens and chemical contaminants. Plus it will probably kill your lawn. If you have a cat, train him to go in the litter box; then it’s up to you to remove the poop and place in the trash. Despite how smart your cat might be because he learned to use the toilet all by himself (!), approximately 50% of all Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) – an Endangered Species – have been found infected with Toxoplasma gondi, a parasite which needs to pass through the intestines of cats to survive.  (Probably not the best career choice with that). 

Trying to avoid toxic cat poop, Ivy and Kit Sea Otter tried out the 'Mini-Ocean 6000'.   It was something they had on their bucket list.

Trying to avoid toxic cat poop, Ivy and Kit Sea Otter tried out the ‘Mini-Ocean 6000’. It was something they had on their bucket list.

The only ways the eggs of this protozoan could have reached the ocean and affect Otters, is by flushed water flowing through our city sewers and into the rivers that eventually go to the ocean.  Taxoplasma eggs can live up to a year, and typical water treatment used in our cities won’t kill these microorganisms.

Dog and cat poop on the sidewalk or our lawns or in the garden isn’t just a gross inconvenience, it’s an ecological hazard that could pollute the water, leave toxins on the ground, and pass on parasites and disease that kill wildlife. Making good decisions that benefit and protect our environment includes being a responsible pet owner. It’s only natural.


Michonne Says:  This is a lot of talk about poop.  I never think about it much.  It just seems to happen.  


Posted May 26, 2013 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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