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 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?
Christie's book is a cautionary tale to responsible pet owners about why we must change the ways we love and care for our pets. It concludes with the positive message that the small changes we make at home can foster better practices within the pet industry that will ultimately benefit our pets' wild brethren.
Chapter 1. The Biophilia Paradox
Chapter 2. Creature Comfort
Chapter 3. Cat War Battles
Chapter 4. Aliens in Eden
Chapter 5. Fire Lizards and Plague Dogs
Chapter 6. The Emptying Jungles
Chapter 7. Cat Got Your Fish
Chapter 8. Nearest and Dearest
Chapter 9. Guardian Dogs and Animal Emissaries
Chapter 10. The Pet-Keeper Conservationist
"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."
– TNC's Cool Green Science
"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."
– Pete Marra, Director of Georgetown Environmental Initiative, and author of Cat Wars
"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."
– Alan M. Beck, Professor and Director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine
"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."
– Stuart L. Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation, Nicolas School of the Environment, Duke University