Being an environmentally conscious pet-owner, you’ve probably wondered if you can compost cat litter. We’ve researched different types of organic materials used as cat litter to learn what materials you can and cannot compost.
You should only consider composting litters that are made from organic materials such as:
- Wood Chips/Sawdust; pine, cedar
- Recycled Paper Products; newspaper, magazine
- Plant-Derived Products; wheat, corn, coconut, beat pulp, soybean
Do not try to compost litter containing:
Most cat litters are not compostable so, it is essential to select litters made from biodegradable materials. Keep reading to learn how to handle used cat litter cautiously and how to dispose of it safely to prevent the spread of pathogens.
Can You Put Cat Litter in a Compost Tumbler?
The best method of composting cat litter, or other animal manure, is by hot composting. Rather than using a sealed tumbler, designate an area outside for a compost pile or bin. You will find that using an outdoor space versus a tumbler will help to make the odor more manageable.
How to Make a Cat Litter Compost Pile/Bin
First, designate an area outside that is separate from your kitchen compost or yard compost. You do not want to risk contaminating other compost piles that might come into contact with humans or edible plants by mixing used cat litter, which can contain dangerous parasites. Try to locate the pile in a sunny area to keep temperatures warm because ideal composting activity occurs between 130°F and 140°F.
Delineate the outdoor area for your pile by using a wire or wooden fence. If using a plastic or metal bin, cut out the bottom of the bin and drill holes down the sides of the bin. Leave the lid intact. Dig a deep hole, large enough to contain the bin except for just the top portion and the lid. Set the bin into the ground.
How to Hot Compost Cat Litter
Now that you have designated a piling area or sunken your bin, you are ready to compost. Start piling with a few inches of leaves, soil, sawdust, or straw. This provides a base that will hold moisture and generate heat as cat litter is mixed-in.
Dump the contents of the litter box onto the pile and add another layer of a few inches of leaves, soil, sawdust, or straw. Mix the contents. Close the lid if using a bin. Continue to dump the litter box and mix it with organic materials for several weeks.
The longer you allow the cat litter to break down, the more confident you can be that dangerous parasites will die off. After approximately 2-years of composting, you can begin to add the cat litter compost to your other kitchen or yard compost piles and your garden soil.
Can You Put Used Cat Litter in the Garden?
Used cat litter, containing your pet’s waste, can transfer parasites and bacteria to the soil and plants around it. Putting used cat litter directly into the garden, especially a produce garden, is generally cautioned against because infected feces may pose harm to humans if any materials that have come into direct contact with the feces are mishandled.
Only consider adding used cat litter to garden soil if the litter was biodegradable and has been processed by compost over a period of 1-1/2 to 2-years. Use caution when handling composted cat litter by wearing gloves and washing your hands afterward.
Transferring Parasites to Humans
A single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii can infect your cat and live inside her body for several years to an entire lifetime. Cats rarely contract a clinical disease from the parasite. But, when transferred to humans, the parasite can cause an infection known as Toxoplasmosis.
Toxoplasmosis can be detrimental to one’s health. Yet, the CDC reports that over 40-million people in the United States may currently be infected with no symptoms ever transpiring.
Pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to Toxoplasmosis and, the disease can rapidly cause eye damage in adults and eye or brain damage in infected newborns.
Proper Handling of Used Litter
Transferring parasites or bacteria from cat feces to humans can occur simply by handling used cat litter or handling other materials that have come into contact with the used litter, such as soil or unwashed fruits and vegetables.
- Wear gloves when transferring your cat litter compost pile from bin to garden.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly after you have cleaned your cat’s litter box.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly after you have handled compost, soil, or plants that have come into contact with used cat litter.
- Always wash freshly harvested produce before eating.
Used Litter as Garden Fertilizer
As we’ve previously mentioned, clumping-type litters containing Zeolite are not compostable because Zeolite does not break down over time. But, research suggests that adding Zeolite to the soil can improve the soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients and enhance plant growth.
When you compost used litter that contained Zeolite clumps of urine, the urine slowly decomposes into the soil creating nitrogen as a waste product. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for growing plants. Remaining Zeolite particles will continue to absorb water to help keep the soil moist. Small amounts of Zeolite are not harmful to your garden.
Only add fully composted, used cat litter to garden soil. Remember to use caution when gardening in soil that contains cat litter compost. Wear gloves while working and, thoroughly wash your hands after gardening.
Can You Dump Cat Litter in the Woods?
It is not a good idea to dump cat litter in the woods because you risk contaminating humans, animals, and water sources with pathogens that could be in the cat feces. If you do not plan to compost biodegradable litter in a designated area, or are using non-compostable litter, bag up the used cat litter and add it to the trash.
How to Select Biodegradable Cat Litter?
There are many options to consider when you shop for biodegradable cat litter:
- How absorbent is the organic material?
- Does organic material eliminate odors?
- Will the material track outside of the litter box?
- Is biodegradable litter affordable?
We can help with your selection. Check out our blog, ‘8 Types of Biodegradable Cat Litter,’ to learn all the pros and cons of eight of the best organic litters available for your cat’s litter box.
If you are interested in tips for keeping a super clean litter box, you’ll find everything you need to know in our blog, “27 Litter Box Cleaning Hacks that will Make You Go “Wow!”