You live naturally. You eat organic, cover the floor with hemp rugs and clean with vinegar. But where do you turn when you want to share this lifestyle with your pets?
“There’s a definite trend in the pet industry to go as natural as possible,” says Leo Malantis, president of Earth’s Balance, a company based in Bedford Park, Illinois, that manufactures and sells natural pet products. While Malantis notes that “it takes an act of God to get [natural products] into some pet stores,” hemp leashes, organic kitty litter, natural shampoos, stool composters, and dozens of other environmentally friendly pet items are prevalent in animal-supply catalogs, on the Internet, and in natural products stores.
In fact, natural pet care has become so popular it’s moved beyond the healthy lifestyle crowd. “Owners want to give their pets things they don’t have to have a degree to administer—that they can feel safe administering,” Malantis says.
Hot trends to watch for in natural pet care
Probiotic pet products. These beneficial bacteria digest organic waste and convert it to carbon dioxide gas. Taken internally, the bacteria colonize in the digestive system and break down proteins. Put a probiotic liquid such as Earth’s Balance G-Whiz in your dog’s water, and not only will his breath smell better, but his waste will be odor-free, won’t stain carpets, and won’t burn grass. These wonder-bacteria also chow down on fleas and skin flakes to eliminate itching. And because skin flakes are the chief component of dander, a probiotic powder such as Earth’s Balance Dander Free eliminates dander and the human allergies associated with it.
Bach flower essences. The same flower and tree bud essences that relieve stress and help care for a host of human psychological problems work just as effectively on animals. According to Diane Stein, author of Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats (Crossing Press, 1993), animals can’t overdose on Bach flower essences, but there are varying theories as to how much should be given each day. Stein recommends one drop, daily, on the animal’s tongue, lip, or gum, unless the stress is acute.
Odor eaters. While no one yet has come up with a way to minimize the stench of wet dog fur, new products significantly improve your pet’s odor. Environmental Care Center’s De-Odor Rod contains ionic materials that attract and absorb ammonia and bacterial gases. These rods work particularly well next to litter boxes. (And for those who want resource-friendly litter, there are natural options made of wheat hulls, peanut and corn shells, compressed pine sawdust, and shredded newspaper.) Products with yucca extract can reduce ammonia and hydrogen sulfide odors in the litter box by converting them to carbon dioxide and water. Chlorophyll-based Oxyfresh Pet Oral Hygiene Solution added to drinking water makes your pet’s breath minty fresh.
Stool composters. Dog stools can be liquefied with enzyme composters such as Ryter’s Lim’nate or the Doggie Dooley Pet Waste Digester System, or you can try Millennium Lawns’ Dogonit, a spray made with microbes that break waste down into miniscule nutrients and turn Fifi’s droppings into lawn fertilizer.
Natural pest control. Citrus extract, also known as limonene, works as a natural pest control, as does neem oil. Look for natural flea collars that contain citronella and cedar oils or pyrethrum flowers, a relative of the chrysanthemum. Yeast and garlic added to your pet’s food can also serve as pest repellents and promote good coats. Shampoos made with citronella, lemongrass, peppermint, tea tree, and citrus oils clean fur and repel pests.
Telepathic animal communication. In Communicating With Animals: The Spiritual Connection Between People and Nature (McGraw Hill, 1997), Arthur Myers writes that human/animal communication is “a movement that has, in the past ten years, been quietly exploding,” and “it largely involves people who lay no claim to psychic, mystical powers. They are just ordinary folk.” Hundreds of professional animal communicators around the country offer workshops. If you want to try animal communication on your own, here are some tips from pioneer Penelope Smith, author of Animal Talk: Interspecies Telepathic Communication (Beyond Words Publishing, 1999): “Take the animal into a quiet place and visualize something, such as walking on the beach. Get the animal’s attention and let it know you want to communicate with it. Then send your mental picture out into the room and into the animal’s body, either verbally or silently. Afterward, open your mind and imagine what message the animal is sending back. Finally, let the animal know you’ve received and acknowledged the communication.”
Hemp products. Hemp is the politically and environmentally correct pet accessory these days. Dozens of companies, including Everything Earth, GoodHumans, and Planet Dog, sell leashes, collars, toys, dog beds, and blankets made of hemp.
Birds and bunnies
Photographs courtesy of Albert, Fred. Barkitecture. (Abbeville Press, 1999) Tucker, Toni, and Judith Adler. Zen Dog. (Clarkson Potter, 2001)