Cat litter, for the most, isn’t exactly biodegradable, especially if it is made of clay. Thousands of tons of such clay litter are dumped into the landfills and some even end up in the oceans because of irresponsible litterbugs. This affects marine life and pollutes the oceans badly.
With that said certain types of cat litter can be decomposed and thus, are safe for composting. However, not all litter has that kind of composition. So, do you want to find out how to dispose of cat litter the green way? Read this article to find out more.
- 1 Importance of proper cat litter disposal
- 2 Do not flush cat litter
- 3 Safely compost cat litter when possible
- 4 Feed your cat with natural and healthy foods
- 5 Use Biodegradable Litter
- 6 Use the right cat litter bag
Importance of proper cat litter disposal
When cat litter isn’t disposed of properly, it will have grave effects on the environment and humans. Here’s why cat litter should be managed properly:
- Cat litter contains toxic components that aren’t good for the soil, humans, and cats
- Many cat litter is made from toxic materials, especially commercial ones
- Most cat litter doesn’t decompose so they end up in the landfills for a long time
- If cat litter isn’t disposed of properly, it could clog waterways and pollute bodies of water
With that said and done, how do you get rid of cat litter in an eco-friendly way? Below are several tips that you should know about, whether you have a single cat or multiple felines at home.
Do not flush cat litter
First of all, flushing cat litter is a no-no to the environment and human health. Toxoplasma gondii is a type of parasite that comes from cat poop, which is toxic not only to humans but also to ocean creatures such as seals and sea otters. When you flush your cat litter down the toilet, this parasite gets released into nature as well.
Even if you think your immune system is okay when it comes to fighting parasites, some people could still be at risk for toxoplasmosis caused by this certain parasite. On top of that, you’re causing sea creatures to get sick just because you are trying to get rid of cat litter in the most convenient way.
Moreover, even if you do have an organic or all-natural cat litter that’s advertised and marketed as “flushable”, don’t take your chances. That’s because it could still become a drainage problem and could ruin waterways and sewages, causing floods to worsen. Not all septic tank systems around the world are built to break down cat litter.
So, the bottom line here is to not flush kitty litter down the drain. Instead, look for other ways to dispose of cat litter.
Safely compost cat litter when possible
This only applies to compostable cat litter. Cat litter that is made from biodegradable or plant-based materials is safe to use for your garden. Clay litter, on the other hand, doesn’t qualify for that, which is why it is important to choose your cat litter carefully (explained below).
Composting cat litter is not an easy process because we wouldn’t want any of the bacteria and diseases harbored by cat poop to get into our plants and soil. To be on the safe side, cat litter should only be used on non-edible plants such as flower gardens and the like.
With that said, cat litter composting is only applicable in solid soil areas. If you live near the beach, this isn’t exactly a good idea because of the likelihood of the cat litter traveling from your compost area to the sea. This, in turn, pollutes and harms marine life.
As mentioned above, sea otters and seals are at risk when you dump cat litter into the sea. Although a properly-secured composting bin is okay if that’s where you live, make sure it’s tightly sealed.
So, do you want to try composting cat litter to reduce the need for landfill space? Here’s how:
1. Purchase a biodegradable litter
The first step is to buying kitty litter that is made from natural ingredients. Anything plant-based, such as wood (recycled wood is a plus point), recycled newspaper, and grass, all qualify as biodegradable, and therefore, compostable kitty litter.
On the other hand, various other options for biodegradable cat litter exist in the market but are relatively new. For instance, you can have coconut, corn, and wheat-based kitty litter in case grass and recycled newspaper types aren’t available at your local pet store.
2. Ask your local composting expert
Experts know what’s the safe level of pet litter for composting. For instance, they might advise you to use a specific type of composting bin that breaks down the waste easier. If you don’t have one or don’t know much about it, the best solution for that is to either put the scooped waste into a biodegradable bag or a paper bag.
It is also important to know that you shouldn’t just dump kitty litter into your municipal or city landfill or composting container without permission. Kitty litter isn’t like other compostable items because it has a different composition and a potentially harmful parasite mentioned above.
Local composting experts or even pet organizations in your locality will give you tips and guide you to composting cat litter the right way.
3. Be patient
Composting takes a lot of time to fulfill. Any pet waste, including cat litter, will take about 2 years before you can use it. That’s because the composting process needs a lot of time and heat to keep the parasites away so that it becomes safe compost for your plants.
Feed your cat with natural and healthy foods
Cat poop quality comes from the food you give to them. If you’re only feeding your feline friend with commercial brands filled with preservatives and unnecessary fillers, there’s a big chance of their cat litter not being eco-friendly either.
Processed pet foods have a lot of preservatives and this makes their cat litter more difficult to break down as compared to if you feed your cat with a raw diet. Although we understand that not everyone has time, effort, and budget to always stick to a raw diet, by feeding your cat with more natural foods, their waste won’t stay for too long in a landfill as compared to eating a lot of preservative-filled cat food.
Use Biodegradable Litter
As mentioned above, biodegradable litter is the best choice if you want to easily dispose of cat litter. These are made from plant-based products and not clay. Most of them also don’t use fragrances so they aren’t filled with toxic ingredients.
Although these are usually more expensive than traditional clay litter, they’re a worthy investment to save the oceans from harm while allowing your cat to do their business safely without many clean-up problems.
When looking for eco-friendly cat litter, you should look for the following:
1. Natural ingredients and materials. This means that the materials used for cat litter should come from natural resources. Biodegradable cat litter ingredients/materials that you can find in the market include:
- grass seed
- corn and grain
- wood, preferably recycled wood
- walnut shell
When your cat litter is based fro natural ingredients, when it gets thrown into the dumpsite, it will decompose as opposed to clay or crystal cat litter. Aside from that, biodegradable cat litter is compostable, as we mentioned above, so it’s a healthy addition to your garden – just keep it away from edibles like fruits and vegetables.
2. Free from toxic chemicals. To ensure that your cat litter is eco-friendly when you dispose of it, look for products that are free from dyes or fragrances to make sure they don’t leak out chemicals into the soil or water systems. If you intend to use cat litter for composting, having even small bits of chemicals is just unacceptable.
3. Dust-free. In the past, clay litter was developed to take the place of dusty and crusty sawdust and sand. But because clay litter isn’t eco-friendly when it comes to mining for the material, it is slowly being replaced by plant-based products. When buying cat litter, make sure it doesn’t create dust so it won’t affect the air quality in your home (and the environment, in general).
Use the right cat litter bag
Biodegradable bags are the most common way to get rid of cat litter and send it off to the local landfill or composting department. However, you should choose your biodegradable bag carefully, as not all of them are truly biodegradable.
Some of these bags do degrade but it still takes them about 3 years or so once they’re out in the landfill or sea. So, when in doubt, look for a biodegradable litter bag that meets the ASTM international standards to make sure it is legitimately biodegradable.
If you are still in doubt about biodegradable bags, you can also use a paper bag or old newspaper wrap to dispose of your kitty litter. Just make sure that the kitty litter is separated from your other trash so that it doesn’t leak out and cause pathogens to spread, along with potential diseases that may come from it.
Name: Rebecca Tarvin
Discipline: Integrative biology
Degrees: B.A., Biology, Boston University, 2010; Ph.D., Biological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin,2017
Rebecca Tarvin is broadly interested in integrating studies of natural history with molecular genomics and phylogenetics. Specifically, she aims to elucidate causal genetic mechanisms underlying novel traits, characterize phenotypic diversification at macro and micro-evolutionary scales, and identify factors that promote and constrain biodiversity.
She also likes to write about eco-friendly lifestyle and other material alternatives that are eco-friendly, aside from other ways to save Mother Earth