I do get asked many questions here at my Cat Hygiene website and of course I try to answer as many as I can. A question that pops up from time to time is, can you use cat litter in your compost? Similar questions that I get asked are, can you use cat litter in your garden, around bushes, shrubs and plants?
The quick and short answer to “can you use cat litter for a compost” is no. There are a number of reasons for this, but suffice to state that most types of cat litter contains cat waste and other toxins, and that can be damaging to plants, other animals and children. You should never use clay based, sand based or silica cat litters of any kind in your garden or compost heap.
As I mentioned you can not use clay based, sand based or any type of silica gel or crystalline based cat litter. These do represent about 98% of all cat litter types sold in the market. Almost every cat owner will use one of these types and those can not be safely used for composting.
Those are full of toxins and they will in effect damage your soil.
Cat Litter Exceptions for Composting
That does of course leave natural or biodegradable cat litters, such as sawdust, pine, cedar, wheat based and recycled paper cat litters. Now these are available but generally speaking are only used by a very small percentage of cat owners.
They can however be turned into compost as I will explain later. That said, even those type of litters need to be treated in a special way. In my opinion the effort taken to do this process properly is just not worth the potential trouble you may get, and certainly not for the amount of compost you will get at the end of the process.
If you would like to find out more detail as to why you shouldn’t use the majority of cat litter to make compost, or even as part of a compost mix, then please read on as I have explained that below in detail.
What’s In Cat Waste?
I know this is not the nicest thing to talk about, but if you are a gardener who wants to make good quality compost, then cat waste is for sure something that you should give a miss. Gardeners do of course use many types of manure for nurturing their garden, but cat poop is not one of them.
Horse manure and even most artificial manures are better than cat litter for composting. You can also simply buy bags of compost and save any of the hassle of keeping a compost heap or barrel.
Cat waste is of course either cat urine or cat poop. Neither are good for your garden in their raw state. As an ingredient in a compost heap they are not really that good for doing that either.
Understanding Cat Poop or Cat Faeces
There are in fact very few diseases that can spread from a cat to a human being. The faeces can however be the source of a large number of infections. That is a big difference and it should be noted as such. Those cat faeces infections are either bacterial/viral infections or parasitic infestations.
For certain if you have to handle poop, then always wear protective gloves. Washing your hands after any potential contact, even with wearing gloves is essential.
Rabies in Cats
The rabies infection affects the brain and spinal cord. Some pets can infect humans with this virus. In almost all cases a cat can be infected by another animal, and more often than not a wild one, carrying the virus in their saliva.
This virus is mostly spread by means of bites. This disease is more common in dogs than cats. Unfortunately once any symptoms appear, rabies is always fatal to both animals and humans alike. This is not a common infection and is much more likely to happen in remote areas where there is a lot of wild life around.
Toxoplasmosis in Cats
If your hands or skin come into contact with cat faeces, and especially if the hands are not washed afterwards, then toxoplasmosis is an infection, which can be caused by a single cell parasite known as toxoplasma gondii. This parasite can only reproduce in the intestines of cats.
Cats can pick this parasite up from eating rodents, insects or being in contact with another infected cat. As humans we can then pick this up from cleaning their litter, by children playing in uncovered sand pits or boxes, or from unwashed vegetables and fruits grown in soil contaminated by cat faeces.
This is highly dangerous, and especially for pregnant women, who can transfer this infection to the foetus, through the placenta. As a result this can result in a miscarriage, or even cause the baby to be still born. It can also cause the baby to be born with congenital toxoplasmosis.
As you can imagine this could be fatal for a baby. Sadly and even if the child survives, it can suffer from blindness, jaundice, convulsions and severe mental retardation.
So for those few reasons alone, it is clearly advisable not to use cat litter that contains cat waste anywhere near your garden. It is clearly not a wise or safe thing to do. Likewise it is not a good idea to have cat poop or cat litter in your compost heap or barrel.
As I mentioned earlier there are just far too many better options for making good quality compost.
Using Natural Cat Litter for Composting
Now I mentioned earlier about the potential to use natural or biodegradable cat litters as a compost or part of the compost heap or bin. Some people insist that they can make good compost by using these, but I would personally disagree with that.
My reasons for doing so is that using cat waste is simply potentially dangerous. I would never use it in my gardens as the risks to children and other animals is too dangerous.
Almost all cat litter is disposed off by bagging it and placing it into a bin, which is then taken to a landfill site. Now that is certainly not good for the environment, and it would be much better if cat litter could be recycled, but that is simply not the case, and for very good reasons.
There are some gardeners, and these are a very small minority who will put cat poop and even used cat litter into a compost heap. They have one golden rule in that they will not use this compost for at least two years. That is because it takes a very long time for the gas in the cat poop to break down completely.
I don’t know many people who want to wait two years for their compost. Personally even then I simply wouldn’t trust it to put on my garden.
Steve is a blogger with an unhealthy cat obsession. He enjoys reading non-fiction books, cooking and cuddles with his cat Fij.