The Environmental Working Group just released a study of toxic chemicals in cats and dogs. Turns out, they are loaded with them. In samples from 20 dogs and 40 cats, they found “48 of the 70 chemicals they looked for, including PCBs, PBDEs, phthalates, and heavy metals….” Levels of some of these chemicals were higher than in humans. So EWG has created a new organization called Pets For The Environment to “create a healthy environment for pets and people by demanding toxic chemical reform legislation in the U.S.”
According to Jane Houlihan, VP for Research at EWG, “The presence of chemicals in dogs and cats sounds a cautionary warning for the present and future health of children as well. This study demonstrating the chemical body burden of dogs and cats is a wake-up call for stronger safety standards from industrial chemical exposures that will protect all members of our families, including our pets.” In other words, our pets are like the canaries in the coal mines.
So where do these chemicals come from? Outdoor pets can be exposed to pesticides on a daily basis. But so can indoor animals when we track those pesticides into our homes on our shoes. Fortunately, Michael and I maintain a shoe-free home. Our shoes make it only as far as the shelf inside the back door. So how else might our indoor kitties be in danger?
We don’t cook in Teflon anymore, one of the sources of Perfluorochemicals that poison our pets. But did we opt for the stain-proof treatment when we had our carpet cleaned a few years ago? I can’t remember, but that would be another source of PFCs.
We avoided buying them scratching posts or kitty climbing trees covered in synthetic carpet, but what about the floor carpet that they roll around on on a daily basis? I have no idea what this carpet is made from. We are renters and can’t just pull it up and replace it. Is it dangerous for them? I don’t know.
Flame retardants in furniture are another source of toxins for pets. What is our blue chair covered in? Our futon cover? The cushions on the foot rests? The foamy cat bed that was given to us by our friends who delivered the cats in the first place? How can we know?
We haven’t bought them new plastic toys because, as you know, I’m avoiding new plastic. But what about the few plastic toys we already had? They love this blue ball that came from who knows where. What’s it made of? I don’t know. But it’s now hidden in my Freecycle bag. I don’t think they’ll miss it.
Soots and Arya love the window blinds. Love them so much that I think we’re going to have to replace them (the blinds, not the cats) when we move from here some day. But fortunately, our blinds are made from metal, not PVC as many are. And we don’t have any PVC flooring or doors or shades.
But I’ve written before about the cords they love to chew. Electrical cords are covered in PVC. A few nights ago, I went around and coated some of them with Vaseline sprinked with cayenne pepper as a deterrent. Yeah, gross. Hopefully gross to Soots and Arya too. And we keep them locked out of the room where our computers live.
I’ve also written about the cans of food we feed them, undoubtedly lined with BPA. I am now more motivated than ever to make their food from scratch. I just have to find an affordable source of whole un-plastic-wrapped, free-range chicken. The organic chickens at Enzo’s at Market Hall are $2.89/lb. That’s a lot for chicken, right? We eat so little meat ourselves that we really don’t worry about the price. But these kitties are obligate carnivores. They require much more meat than we do. And we don’t want to go broke feeding them. So I’m committed to taking the time to figure this out within the next two weeks. Please hold me to it!
Environmental Working Group has a whole list of healthy pet tips. They are worth checking out. But still, how can we be sure that we are keeping them as safe as possible? This must be how parents feel about protecting their children. We do the best we can.