The Humane Society of the United States cites a recent national survey reporting that Americans own approximately 78 million dogs and 86 million cats. And while feline-lovers might see this as a reason to break out the tuna since they are, well, top cat, there's a more sobering statistic: more than half of our pets are overweight or obese. But such a large number of Fat Fidos and Tubby Tabbies could also give the nation's pet owners an incentive to be inventive Energy Savers.

If these animals are important—and judging from the sheer numbers they seem to be—it makes sense for humans to help the four-legged stay in shape. It isn't that difficult. If people powered down the big screen TVs and laptops, or unplugged their treadmills and fans, they could spend more time with their furry friends.

During the summer, I often see groups of people out walking their dogs in the evenings or playing ball with their hounds at parks. Such outings benefit both canines and their two-legged pals. And they're getting a double benefit because if folks spend an hour outside with their dogs, they'll be spending less time indoors burning electricity on air conditioners, lights, and other energy-hungry devices.

Cats are a different matter, of course. The number of people I've seen walking domestic cats stands at zero. But just because a cat isn't fond of leashed outings doesn't mean they won't play. Some lively bouts with a stuffed mouse or a string toy can be a wholesome diversion for cat and caretaker.

So Mr. or Mrs. Pet Owner, the next time you are about to reach for the channel changer or log on the Internet to watch the latest cat video, pause—then find your animal friends instead. Go romp or take an excursion. This type of activity could give both of you a chance to savor being Energy Savers. Dog owners may be rewarded with some energetic tail wagging. And cat owners will probably just have to be content knowing that they're doing something beneficial, though that faint sound you hear might not be the hum of air conditioning, but purring instead.

Ernie Tucker is editor of the weekly EERE Network News newsletter and a member of NREL's Communication Office.