By Janina Castro

As the humans of companion animals, we’re living in extraordinary times. Many of us are working from home, so we now have the time to slow down with our animal kiddos.

I’m among those who are now permanently on a work-from-home arrangement. I get to spend it with my four rescued cats, so being at home also means that I can take the time to groom them, watch them to do their business around the house, and figure out what their favorite games are.

Instead of breezing through daily rituals at the end of a work day, I get to hang out with them whenever my eyes need a break from looking at a screen. For the past several months, we all got to slow down for more quality bonding time.

Meanwhile, shopping for their much-needed supplies has moved online. We also share our home with a couple of foster cats up for adoption, so it was crucial to regularly top up our cat food litter pellets, and other supplies. It’s been nearly a year since I set foot in a pet shop because all our supplies get delivered every few months. There are many days when I miss wandering the aisles of cat treats, scratching posts, and cat dancers.

There were a lot of nuances to get the hang of when I shifted to buying all our supplies online. Which website do I check? Which shops are nearest me? How do I ship it all with as little waste as I can while keeping the cost down?

Quick online shopping tips

Finding a reliable online shop can be challenging, but once you’ve found one, it’s totally worth it. Every pet parent has different needs, so I would say that there’s no one best online website. What you can do is to know what your needs are, explore other similar websites, compare prices, and ask around for recommendations.

1. Research

I’ve looked around at Pet Warehouse, Petshop.ph, and even the online websites of shops like Pet Express and Bow&Wow, but it would also help to look up family-owned and independent stores to see if they have what you need. This way, you get to help a little store stay afloar while pleasing your kids.

2. Find stores nearby

It also helps to look for shops that are near you. This helps save on the delivery fee and amount of time it takes to deliver. Plus, shorter delivery distance will help reduce your carbon emissions. It’s a win for the planet, too!

3. Buy in bulk

If you can, you might even be able to buy in bulk straight from the distributors of the food. With more people buying in bulk, the pet shop I bought from sold out a lot quicker. I was stumped until I decided to message the company directly and look for their distributor in my area. Now, I buy straight from the distributor without worrying about them running out of stock.

Let’s love local!

Try to find locally made products. Plus points if they have their own advocacies!

1. Alpas Pet Accessories

This store sells abaca rope toys for dogs and cats, made by their partner community Gawad Kalinga Smokey Mountain.

2. Purrniture PH

This store responsibly sources cardboard for customizable cat furniture. Revenus fund SNIP, short for Spay-Neuter-Inform Project. they help spay and neuter community dogs and cats around Metro Manila to manage animal populations.

3. Alaga PH

This store supports local artisans through handcrafted pet pods for cats and bunnies.

Managing purchases

While choosing from online stores, I had to think twice if we really needed the extra treats, toys, and imported cat trees. It got me thinking: If my cats didn’t really need it, they why buy it? Whenever I buy nonessentials for them, I challenge myself to just buy from the best possible places.

Let’s challenge ourselves

If we’re going to spoil our furbabies, we can try to buy more meaningfully. Choose brands that give back to society and help others out through advocacies.

If our animal companions don’t need anything right now, consider donating to animal welfare groups, community cat groups, and animal shelters in their name. You might even want to consider donating to support local conservation NGOs, since their efforts help prevent pandemics in the future.

Careful consumption

A long-term solution to preventing future pandemics would be to protect the habitats of wild animals, speak up against the illegal wildlife trade, and support conservation efforts. Overconsumption is a driver of climate change and our heating planet has been affecting the spread of diseases around the world, according to a 2020 article published in conservation.org. Sounds a bit daunting, but we can do our part by choosing to buy less and only what we need for our furkids.

Choose wisely

If you want to make a purchase, try to prioritize brands that are local, environment-friendly, and committed to continue finding more ways to lessen their environmental impact.

Support small businesses

There are also a lot of skilled people who are unemployed right now. I’ve been looking for a decent cat tree for my foster kittens, somethings sturdy enough for outdoor use. While online, I heard about Joseph Dellomas, an OFW who lost his job and he was making custom crates out of palo-tsina. I asked if it was alright for me to commission a cat tree from him and he agreed! Now, I have a tidy little cat tree for my foster kittens, plus I helped support a local maker.

Challenge fave vendors

We could also take this opportunity to challenge the local brands and shops that we already patronize. We can ask them how they could be more environmentally friendly. Can they offer their products in bulk? Maybe they can remove some excess packaging?

Even a simple request for them to ship supplies in a reused box instead of a plastic bag can make a difference.

Knowing what matters

I once thought that being home more often would mean more toys and treats to keep engaged with my furkids, but now we spend more quality time by playing with their favorite toys (no more new toys that they would forget under the bed), making homemade cat treats, or just chilling around watching movies together. With the new year rolling in, it’s a good time to figure out how we can live better, for both the animals in our lives and the planet that we all live in.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s January-February 2021 issue.

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