We love our pets. Dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, and other species have become an essential part of more families than ever before—in North America today, pets outnumber people. Pet owners are drawn to their animal companions through an innate desire to connect with other species. But there is a dark side to our domestic connection with animal life: the pet industry is contributing to a global conservation crisis for wildlife—often without the knowledge of pet owners.
In Unnatural Companions, journalist Peter Christie issues a call to action for pet owners. If we hope to reverse the alarming trend of wildlife decline, pet owners must acknowledge the pets-versus-conservation dilemma, and concede that our well-fed and sheltered cats too often prey on small backyard wildlife and that seemingly harmless reptiles released into the wild might be the next destructive invasive species. We want our pets to eat nutritionally healthy food, but how does the designer food we feed them impact the environment?
This book is a cautionary tale to responsible pet owners that we must change the ways we love and care for our pets. It concludes with the positive message that small changes we make at home can foster better practices in the pet industry that will ultimately benefit our pets’ wild brethren.
Peter Christie is an award-winning Canadian science journalist and author who writes frequently about conservation. He is a national Science in Society Journalism Award whose stories and features have appeared in The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, ON Nature magazine, Canadian Geographic, The Ottawa Citizen, The Vancouver Sun, The Edmonton Journal, and The Montreal Gazette. He is the award-winning author of science books for children and young adults, and has worked as a science communications consultant for the World Wildlife Fund, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Royal Society of Canada, the Boreal Songbird Initiative, and the Canadian Climate Forum.
"If you love pets, reading Peter Christie’s new book Unnatural Companions: Rethinking Our Love of Pets in an Age of Wildlife Extinction might be like taking the pill in The Matrix. It is a highly compelling and even page-turning read, but it’s not a comforting one. In it, Christie argues that the pet industry is a significant threat to wildlife conservation."
"Unnatural Companions not only identifies some of the major problems we face by climate change endangering wildlife, but also suggests real ideas for improvement. Pet owners could behave in ways that impact less on wildlife, and the pet industry could protect the species that would benefit from its protection. We who love our pets must be champions for all animals and champion the fight to stop extinction."
"We are devastated when a beloved cat or dog dies, depriving us of a cherished companion. But cats and dogs, along with rats, are the most devastating animal species to biodiversity, while exotic pets—pythons in Florida, for example—massively harm natural ecosystems. Christie paints the complex picture of just how much our love of animals has unexpected and unfortunate consequences."
"Our cuddly cats and our slobbering retrievers give us much joy and affection. The challenge, and what Christie uncovers and articulates so well in Unnatural Companions, is that there are deep reasons as well as hidden costs to our pet addiction, including their ecological footprints—which most of us don't consider, but should."