How To Safely Dispose of Cat Litter
In this article I am going to explain some of the very best ways to dispose of cat litter. These methods are those that will improve the environment, keep you and your family safe, and also help keep your cat(s) and kittens safe as well.
The method of disposal is always determined by the type of cat litter that you are using. Cat owners will be aware of some of these, but perhaps not all of them.
As such I have listed these below, with a brief explanation of each.
The most common used cat litters are the clay based litters in either the clumping or non-clumping forms. Between these two types they account for about 90% of all cat litter use.
As such they count for 90% of all the cat litter disposal. Almost all of that ends up in a land fill somewhere. The last estimate was that around 5 million tonnes of cat waste is disposed to land fill sites in the US alone.
The reason cat owners use this clay type is because that is what manufacturers sell at affordable prices. These are very good at absorbing moisture and pretty good at controlling smells and odors.
Cats also like clay litters, and they will remain being the number one choice, unless something better comes along.
Cleaning and Disposing of Cat Litter
When it comes to cleaning a litter there is the daily routine of removing your cat's poop, and if using a clumping litter, removing the lumps caused by cat urine coming into contact with the clay. Then there is also the routine of replacing and changing out all of the cat litter.
Depending on the litter type, the regular full replacement of litter can either be a 1 week, a 2 week or a monthly task. If you are not sure how often to clean out a cat litter, then check out my detailed article on how often a cat litter should be changed.
So there is the daily task of removing poop and clay clumps, and then a bigger task of fully changing out the litter and cleaning the litter box. The important thing is that all of that, in one way or another, needs to be disposed of.
When cleaning any cat litter, gloves should always be worn, due to the known human risks of handling cat waste.
Can Cat Litter be Recycled?
Different states have different types of bins for getting rid of waste. In many areas a "brown bin" is used for recycling of food waste. Cat litter can not go into and should not go into these bins.
Cat litter as a general rule can not be recycled and can not be used as a compost for the garden, or taken to a composting center. Some natural litters can be used for composting as long as the poop has been removed.
How To Dispose of Cat Litter?
The safest way to get rid of it, and to dispose of it safely, is the trusted plastic bag. The plastic bag should then be tied tightly as this will keep odors to a minimum. It also helps to keep other cats away from the scent. That then goes into the normal bin for the general disposal of waste.
Many cat owners use two bags. They put the daily waste into a bag which is inside another bag, until it gets full enough to go into the bin.
Does Litter Decompose and Can it be used as Compost in Gardens?
The answer to both of these questions is no. Litter does not decompose and it should never be used as a compost. It is very difficult to find a way of disposing of cat litter in an environmentally friendly manner.
It is clear that many cat owners would like that to be the case, but the reality is, that most cat litters are not made that way.
There is of course biodegradable litter, and instinct tells us that it should be able to be used as a compost. However it only makes this based on the fact that all poop has been removed.
Even when that has happened, it is still only recommended that it be used on flower gardens, and not on vegetable gardens.
These natural or biodegradable litters are often referred to as "green litters." They include litters made from wood shavings, recycled newspaper, shredded newspapers, and other plant like materials. Now clearly these are made from more natural products and can be classed as green, or environmentally friendly.
The problem is that once these have been used as a cat litter, then those natural products have been affected. I certainly would never put that mixture anywhere near anything edible like a vegetable garden. You then also have to consider, other animals and children who may be near to your gardens, or even playing in them.
The biodegradable litters clearly do decompose, and as such some people will use it for composting. That is in my opinion to ignore the fact that it has been soaked by urine. You can check out a more detailed article on composting cat litter by clicking here.
Can You Flush Cat Litter Down the Toilet?
The answer to this is absolutely no. I have done a complete article on why you shouldn't do this, and you can read the full article on flushing cat litter by clicking here. If you don't have time to do that, then I have briefly summarised the main reasons below.
Clumping clay litters swell when moisture comes into contact with the clay. Should you flush any of that down a toilet, there is a very strong chance that it will swell up pretty quickly, and cause a major blockage.
In addition to that, cat feces "may" contain, or is likely to contain a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii. This is harmful to humans, and we do not want that getting into the main water supply, or sewage systems. You can check my full article on the health risks of cat litter on humans by clicking here.
As you may know all sewage goes through a waste plant treatment.
However these parasites often found in cat waste cannot be killed during this waste plant treatment. As a result it is actually very possible that you could be putting the general public at danger without even knowing it.
There are some cat litters that the manufacturers clearly state that their litters can be flushed. For example some litters made of wheat and corn are claimed to be able to be flushed. That said, even though the actual litter can be flushed away, the poop still gets into the main water system.
Can You Throw Cat Litter Outside?
A number of cat owners quite innocently add cat litter to their gardens, believing that it acts a good compost. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as I have explained above. All cat litter should be bagged and disposed off in the normal waste collection.
Some people have also been known to scatter cat litter outside to deter rats and mice. That is also not a good idea. I have written a full article here on cat litter and deterring rats and mice.
What Can Be Used In Place of Cat Litter?
A few cat owners would prefer to use some other material rather than what is in commercial cat litter. Long before cat litter was produced on a commercial basis, cats used ashes from the fire and even crumpled paper.
Cats originated in the desert, and as you can imagine sand was a very handy outdoor toilet. In fact outdoor sand pits are still a huge attraction for cats who happen to be in their vicinity.
Many buyers prefer to use some type of wood pellets. These are also cheaper to buy, but the problem of poop and urine soaked wood pellets still exists.
Again these will naturally decompose in the ground, but again until they do, they are still a risk to other pets and children in that area.
Consider a Cat Poop Disposal System
There are a number of cat poop disposal systems on the market. These are designed to hold used litter in a safe and odor free way.
A hugely popular choice is the Litter Genie Plus Ultimate Cat Litter Odor Control Pail, available at Amazon and is a huge best seller.
Typically this pails can hold up to around 2 weeks worth of cat litter. They keep the odor inside the system and most of these are designed to fit in your bathroom, under the kitchen sink and in other small spaces.
It is particularly useful for apartments and basements, where taking out the trash can be a real chore.
Most of these also lock and that ensures that children and other pets can not get inside and cause a mess or come into contact with used litter.
Can You Dispose of Cat Litter without Plastic Bags?
Yes that is possible and some cat owners will dig a hole in their garden and deposit old cat litter there. Plastic bags are mainly used for convenience. You can not for example just dump litter straight into a bin. The odor would be awful and it would attract other cats and animals.
Cat Litter and the Environment - The Guardian