Cat poop in garden

Sometimes I have to comb through the recesses of YouTube to find junked videos and forgotten footage that is just amazing. Sometimes it comes to me. I am the YouTube Treasure Hunter. Every week I brave spider videos, footage of tornadoes and the occasional inexplicable zit-popping upload to find some of the rarest jewels YouTube has to offer.

Oh, there’s gold in them thar hills, but sometimes you just have to wade through a ton of crap to get to it.

This week’s treasure? Crap. This bizarrely bizarre video of a girl taking a shit in class was made for Funny or Die — it’s actually in their contest for best video of the year. But it isn’t so much funny as it is … die. Or weird. Maybe both. Pulling a box of kitty litter out of her bag, she teaches her teacher a lesson (see what I did there?) about not excusing people to go to the bathroom. Speaking of which, one time in seventh grade I had to pee on the outside wall of the jr. high bathroom because a teacher wouldn’t excuse me to go to the bathroom in time. It was that or pee my pants. Granted, I should have used the restroom during recess. But try telling a 12-year-old Jeff Klima to make sensible decisions. Damn. I’m lucky I’m not a “sex offender” or something now.

This journey into the what-ifs of taking a dump in class is unsettling at best — exactly what we at YouTube Treasure Hunter look for. If only this treasure of a video was authentic and not staged; that would be the real gold.

Stay tuned for next Sunday, treasure hunters! I’ve got something that really cooks! No, it isn’t a pizza oven video … you’ll just have to tune in.

  • Preventative planting with chicken wire: Lay chicken wire down on top of your soil or mulch, across the planting bed before you plant. Cats hate walking on chicken wire. Using wire cutters, cut out holes in the chicken wire that are sufficiently large for installing your plants.
  • Bristly material: If your garden bed is already established, you can prevent pussyfooting by mulching the problem bed with sharp-edged pine cones, holly cuttings, egg shells, or a stone mulch. Cats prefer to dig and poop in loose dirt and will be put off by these rough materials. For other areas, you might use a plastic carpet runner with the nub side up to discourage cats perching or lounging.
  • Smelly plants: Some plants give off smells that cats dislike. One such plant, Coleus canina, goes by the common name “scaredy cat plant.” It is also effective if you have trouble landscaping with dogs. Other plants often recommended for keeping cats away from yards are rue, lavender, (which is also a deer-resistant plant), and pennyroyal. You can plant these between your other plants.
  • Electric wire fence: Like rabbits, cats can be kept away humanely with the popular Mr. McGregor Fence, a fence so safe that even ResponsibleConsumer.net recommends it.
  • Water guns: Water is “Kryptonite for cats.” When you catch cats in the forbidden area, you can try squirting them with a Super Soaker or similar water gun. Such action may reinforce the notion that they are unwanted in your planting bed.
  • Water devices: Devices such as Scarecrow Sprinklers detect an intruder’s presence and fire a blast of water at it.
  • Ultrasound devices: Cat Stop is an electronic cat deterrent device that operates on a high frequency that is inaudible to humans but unbearable for cats. Installation is easy. You simply situate the device so that it faces toward the garden. A motion sensor detects the intruder’s presence, and Cat Stop then gives off its high-frequency sound, scaring off the cat.
  • Sound and repellent devices: The SsssCat! repellent device uses sound and a sprayed repellent and is motion-activated. You can also make your own noisy device by placing marbles or pebbles in an empty can that can be upset when a cat walks on a fence. Or, use a sensitive bell or wind chimes that make noise when a cat causes a vibration.
  • Commercial cat repellents: Shake-Away powder bears the scent of the urine of predators that cats fear, namely, coyote, fox, and bobcat. This commercial cat repellent comes in a granular form, which you simply sprinkle around the problem area. The product is advertised as being non-toxic and organic and will not harm your plants.
  • Smelly substances: Cats reportedly don’t like dried blood (as is found in blood meal fertilizer) or citrus. Use peels of oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit in your garden. Some people use mothballs. You can also use cayenne pepper flakes, but those will sting and you may not want to use that on your pet. The “Mythbusters” show busted the myth that lion’s feces and clear bottles of water deter cats.

Dear Bob – I was cleaning up the neighbours cat poop from my lawn this morning and it occurred to me that there must be other cats pooping in my flowerbeds and burying it. Could this hidden cat faeces actually pose a health risk to me as I’m a keen gardener? Joanne – Wool, Dorset

Is Cat Poop Dangerous?

My goal of achieving a cat free garden was always driven by the annoyance I and most gardeners have felt at some time or other when finding cat poop has replaced your carefully nurtured seedlings.

I’ve never really considered the health risks involved but following the above question arriving in my inbox I’ve done a bit of digging and it does not make for good reading.

The first decent article I found on the subject was at The Nest which stated that cat poop carries a parasite called Toxoplasmosis which can be passed on to us. It also mentions that you could end up with roundworm should you touch your mouth after handling any contaminated soil – bad news if you like a smoke while you are gardening.

The Morning Call digs a little deeper and explains that because of Toxoplasmosis the cat poop can be especially dangerous for pregnant women or anyone currently suffering from a weakened immune system such as the old or infirm.

They go on to say that cat faeces also contains roundworm, tapeworm and hookworm but not to worry too much as long you wash your hands and scrub any vegetables you have grown you can reduce the risk of catching any of these significantly – well that’s ok then! – Source

What is Toxoplasma Gondii?

I confess I had not heard of Toxoplasma Gondii until today but according to a paper written a few years ago by Drs. E. Fuller Torrey and Robert H. Yolken and published in the journal ‘Trends in Parasitology’ the infectious part of Toxoplasma Gondii found in cat poop is called oocysts and get this – a single cat can shred millions of these oocysts into the soil where it can survive for as long as 18 months waiting for an unsuspecting gardener to come along.

It takes just 1 oocyst to infect a person.

There are over 80 million owned cats and as many as 60 million ferrel cats in the USA (2013) and according to studies at the University of California that equates to 1.2 million tons of cat poop per year. Torrey and Yolken say that at any given time around 1% of cats are shredding the parasite – that’s an incredible 12000 tons of infected cat poop per year in America.

In other studies it was found that Toxoplasma Gondii antibodies are more likely to be found in people suffering from ailments as far ranging as brain tumours, OCD and Arthritis. Source

Over at the Centers For Disease Control website they warn that getting infected by Toxoplasma just before or during a pregnancy can end up with you passing on the infection to your unborn baby and worryingly, you will have no giveaway symptoms to warn you that you are now a carrier.

While some infants are born with brain damage or blindness most will not have any symptoms but can develop problems in later life including mental disabilities and blindness.

I came across a later study by Dr. Fuller Torrey – this one from 2016 – that found a possible link between Schizophrenia and cat ownership.

Two previous studies suggested that childhood cat ownership is a possible risk factor for later developing schizophrenia or other serious mental illness. We therefore used an earlier, large NAMI questionnaire to try and replicate this finding. The results were the same, suggesting that cat ownership in childhood is significantly more common in families in which the child later becomes seriously mentally ill. If true, an explanatory mechanism may be Toxoplasma gondii. We urge our colleagues to try and replicate these findings to clarify whether childhood cat ownership is truly a risk factor for later schizophrenia. Source

What causes toxoplasmosis?

According to the Cornell University the cat is the only definitive host of Toxoplasma Gondii which means the parasite can only lay its eggs (the oocysts) in a cat. Once a cat catches and eats an infected rodent the parasite is released into the gut of the cat.

Here’s where they multiply in the wall of the intestine and produce the eggs and within 10 days of eating the infected rodent eggs are excreted out within the cat poop.

This will continue for around 2 weeks in which time millions of eggs will have been produced, all of which can survive for well over a year. Source

Removing Cat Poop From Your Garden

Armed with all the above info about how dangerous cat poop actually is, here’s some tips on safely removing any you find in your backyard.

  • Buy some quality rubber gloves and a garden trowel specifically for the job and don’t use them for anything else.
  • Dig up an inch or two of the surrounding soil to ensure you have everything.
  • Never compost it or flush down the toilet.
  • Always dispose of in the garbage – double bagged.
  • Clean the gloves and trowel with a detergent after use.
  • Scrub your hands thoroughly.
  • Always scrub vegetables once harvested and never be tempted to eat any raw.

If you are pregnant you should avoid contact with any cats that visit your garden and take extra precautions such as always wearing gloves when gardening.

Keeping Cat Poop From Your Garden

Prevention is definitely better than cleaning up cat poop so as a gardener what’s the best way to keep cats out of my garden? Unless you are a new visitor to Cats Away you will know I have purchased and tested most of the cat deterrents available and you can read how well (or poor) they all performed here.

For those in a hurry who want the short version – water is your best friend when you need to keep cats out of your garden.

Something like the Contech Scarecrow which detects the cats movement and fires a spurt of water in it’s general direction is enough to ensure that particular cat won’t be returning. At around $50 it’s not the cheapest option but it was by far the most effective and quickest I have tested.

You can also use cat repellent plants in your garden or try these easy to make DIY cat repellent recipes. Another quick and easy fix is to cover any areas of loose soil – cats hate chicken wire and you can use this knowledge to your advantage.

Whatever you do, do not try chasing or shooing the cat away as they know you’re not going to be quick enough to catch them – They’ll just laugh and come back time and again to annoy you.

For Cat Owners

If your cat is an indoor cat and you don’t feed it raw meat then none of the above should worry you because an indoor cat is a safe cat.

If you allow your cat to roam though you run the risk of your cat catching and eating an infected rodent which gives your cat Toxoplasma Gondii which in turn is then passed on to you – or worse, the neighbour who’s enjoying a bit of gardening or their child playing in his sand pit- Source.

If that doesn’t concern you then how about the danger to your cat from other animals, poisons, road traffic, traps, torture, FID?

Some areas in America and Australia have already passed bi-laws against allowing a cat to roam and as towns and cities get more crowded and the cat population increases you can expect more to follow.

Consider installing a cat containment kit such as this one so that your cat can play in your garden safely and without the risk of wandering off. You will have a cat that lives far longer than a roaming cat and your neighbours will be happy they aren’t clearing away your cats poop every morning.

Cat poop could be a “vast and underappreciated” public health problem, according to Drs. E. Fuller Torrey and Robert H. Yolken – source

For Pregnant Cat Owners

According to the Center for Disease Control you don’t need to remove your cat from your life if you are or are planning to become pregnant. Instead, you should take reasonable steps to reduce your risk of being exposed to Toxoplasma

  • Keep your cats indoors
  • Get someone to change the cat litter for you
  • If the above is not possible be sure to wear rubber gloves and scrub your hands thoroughly once done
  • Keep your cats indoors
  • Avoid any cats not belonging to you, especially kittens
  • Never introduce a new cat into the home during your pregnancy or while trying to become pregnant
  • Keep any outdoor sandboxes covered to prevent other cats using them
  • Keep your cats indoors
  • If you do any gardening or have any contact with soil or sand be sure to wear gloves
  • Always scrub with soap and water after gardening
  • Finally, in case you missed it – Keep Your Cats Indoors
  • Source and more info

Not until I was well into writing my new book, Holy Shit: Managing Manure To Save Mankind, which is about how to manage manure for soil enrichment, did I realize that cats, dogs and horses are a very significant source of valuable fertilizer that we are mostly throwing away. Or, as our friends’ cat, Django, indicates in the photo above, flushing it down the toilet. Until I got to know Django, my attention was focused on farm animal manure and human manure. I was really surprised to find out how much feces, urine, and litter that pets were adding to our overflowing waste stream, let alone realize that cats were learning how to use the flush toilet.

Instead of wringing hands over the problems of livestock manure, the non-farm sector of society might first want to take a closer look at its own problem: manure from pet cats, dogs, and recreational horses— animals that have little or nothing to do with putting food on anyone’s table. According to recent statistics, there are 73 million pet cats in the United States in addition to an equal number of feral cats roaming the alleys and fields (and killing millions of songbirds). There are some 68 million pet dogs and of course millions of strays out there doing beneficial work like killing my sheep. In addition there are some 9.5 million horses and the number is rising.

The numbers I use in Holy Shit to calculate the amount of manure flowing from these pets can only be approximations but they are based on the best statistics I could find. A horse weighing a thousand pounds produces about 20 tons of manure a year including bedding. So unless I can’t multiply any more, 20 X 9.5 million equals 190,000,000 tons of road apples. Pet dogs and cats together produce per year another five million tons of manure. All this waste is good, holy fertilizer. Dog and cat waste is particularly valuable because, compared to most manures, it is higher in phosphorus, the plant nutrient most difficult for organic farmers and gardeners to come by naturally.

Only a small fraction of this manure is being used for fertilizer however. Most of it is going to landfills or to sewage disposal plants as pet owners get rid of the manure by way of dumpster or toilet. Pet owners are supposed to pick up manure when they walk their dogs (which they then flush down the toilet or put in the garbage) but when I walk public park areas, I see droppings all over the place. And of course the urine, which is richer in nitrogen, phosphorus and potash than feces, just disappears into the public grass— or more often, the neighbor’s lawn.

This waste is particularly worrisome now because the cheaper sources of commercial fertilizer for farming are declining. Competing uses for natural gas, our biggest source of nitrogen fertilizer, is driving up prices. Potash deposits in Canada, our handiest source, are declining, and talk of opening up new mines in the rainforest does not sit well with the environmental community. Some specialized phosphorus fertilizers are very expensive. The day is coming when we must start thinking about scrupulously saving our wastes for fertilizer as humans have done, especially in Asia, for centuries.

Django is not going to appreciate this but, as I write in the book, the possible specter of 73 million cats perched on toilet bowls across the nation causes me to shudder. Doubtlessly training cats to go on the pot is rather clever and saves messing with litter boxes. But with the tiniest bit of effort, litter boxes can be dumped into compost piles instead of flushing them down the toilet. I wonder if cats will learn how to flush the pot too. Will they do like children do sometimes, and flush the toilet just out of boredom when master is not around? Or maybe flush master’s slippers down the pot? But whoever does the flushing, let us contemplate seventy three million toilets flushing ten times per day just from cat use. That would take something like 36.5 billion gallons of water. Every day! Now add on the incalculable number of flushes from human use and you have a demand that the experts say would be impossible to meet if the whole world lived like Americans.

What are we throwing away in money? In Holy Shit I use my own way to come up with a figure. You may agree or disagree. Experts say that ten tons of animal manure and bedding per year can adequately fertilize an acre of farmland. Therefore we have enough pet manure in this country to fertilize something like 20 million acres every year. If a farmer is paying out $100 an acre for commercial fertilizer (right now it’s lower than that, last year higher) we’re talking about a value for pet manure of something like two billion bucks. And the cost of throwing it away in the landfill or sewage treatment system is a whole lot more.

~

Just out this week from Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont

Mewsings

Most of us know that animal manure can act as a great fertilizer for crops. This is mainly due to its nitrogen content, a beneficial nutrient for soil. That said, pet parents should think twice before attempting to compost their pet’s feces. Find out why composting cat poop isn’t generally recommended.

It starts with diet

Cats are carnivores © Mr.UmerFarooq / CC-BY-SA-4.0

You’ve heard of using cow and horse manure as a fertilizer…

…So why shouldn’t you use cat poop near edible crops? The answer lies in your feline’s diet. Because cats aren’t herbivores like cattle and horses—but are instead obligate carnivores—their feces carry harmful bacteria.

Can you compost dog poop? The answer is also no—dogs being omnivores poses a threat for edible crops, as well.

Biodegradable vs. compostable

Litter-Robot biodegradable waste drawer liner

If you have a Litter-Robot, you may also use Litter-Robot biodegradable waste drawer liners. There’s a good reason our waste drawer liners are biodegradable instead of compostable. Sure, it would be convenient to pull your liner out of the waste drawer and toss it in the soil to fertilize your crops. But, as noted, that would pose some very serious health risks to you and your family—and this is why the liner is not compostable.

You might be wondering about the specifics of biodegradable vs. compostable items. To put it simply, all compostable items are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable items are compostable. It really boils down to the amount of time it takes for an item to break down and decompose safely into the environment:

  • Biodegradable items break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass within a “reasonable amount of time”; however, they sometimes leave behind metal residue.
  • Compostable items break down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass in about 90 days, and leave no visible, distinguishable, or toxic residue.

Is composting cat poop ever a good idea?

If you’re willing to put in the work, you might consider composting cat poop to fertilize your lawn or flower gardens—anything that isn’t edible.

The Spruce lays out some valuable tips for composting cat poop and dog poop for flowers and perennial plants. Practice hot composting to kill off as many pathogens as possible:

  • First, don’t use clay-based litter, as it won’t break down in your pile; use pine- or paper-based litter.
  • Minimize the stinky odor by keeping the compost contained in a large plastic trash can with a lid. The lid should have no holes, but you’ll want to cut the bottom of the can out and drills holes along its side.
  • Dig a hole deep enough to sink the entire trash can into. This way, worms and other decomposers can easily get into the pet waste and start helping break it down.
  • Add a layer of shredded newspaper, fall leaves, or straw into the bottom, then start layering in your pet waste with additional straw. Secure the lid.
  • Keep the contents of the can moist, as this will encourage decomposition. You can also mix the contents every week or two to speed it up.
  • Let the compost sit for at least two years. This should be enough time for all the harmful bacteria to die off.

So, is composting cat poop and dog poop worth it? That’s up to you to decide. Composting and reducing waste is an admirable endeavor, but you have to be smart about it. The bottom line is, keep all pet feces away from anything intended for consumption!

Recommendations

Composting dog poop and cat poop? Yeah, it’s a thing. And to many, it might seem like a logical idea. After all, we use cow and pig poop as manure. However, improperly composting dog and cat poop can be dangerous. It’s especially hazardous if used as manure for edible plants.

The Possible Dangers of Composting Dog Poop

There are several reasons why we throw out dog waste and don’t leave it around or immediately add it to our gardens:

  • Dog poop can pollute surface and groundwater.
  • It smells bad.
  • Dog feces can attract flies and pests.
  • It can create dangerous living conditions for our pooches.
  • Dog feces can transmit harmful parasites and infectious diseases.
  • Compost bins also harbor mold and fungus spores which can cause allergic reactions.

Flies may not seem like such a bad addition to your garden, but dog waste can carry parasites that are a much bigger danger to humans. These pests include roundworms and ascarids – the number one danger associated with composting dog poop. Not only can they be ingested, but they can also lay and hatch eggs in the human intestine.

This affliction is called Visceral Larval Migrans. The eggs then migrate through the afflicted person’s bloodstream, attaching to the liver, lungs and other organs. The eggs can even stick to the retina, a condition called Ocular Larval Migrans, which can cause blindness. Allergic reactions are also possible. And all compost bins contain fungus spores and mold, which might cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

The Potential Hazards of Composting Cat Poop

Composting cat poop can also be dangerous, if not more hazardous than adding dog poop to your compost bin! Cat feces can pass on toxoplasmosis. This illness is harmful to anyone, but can also cause serious issues in pregnant women. The disease can harm the nervous system’s of a fetus, causing brain damage, blindness or other afflictions.

The Toxoplasma gondii parasite eggs can stay alive in the soil for as longs as 18 months. While the parasite can only be carried by cats, the eggs can also harm humans, pigs, cows and other mammals. So animals who eat improperly composted cat feces can become infected. Then if humans eat the undercooked meat of infected animals, those humans can catch the disease.

Thanks for reading! Again, all these hazards are great reasons why you should properly dispose of soiled cat litter and pick up your dog’s poop!

Is soil with cat poop and urine safe for planting tomatoes?

Hi and thanks for contacting Ask an Expert.
Yes, is the answer to your question. The feces and urine from the cats contain microbes and parasites that are unsanitary for vegetable growth. If the garden box is small, remove all the soil, really ALL the soil and replace it with clean soil.
Aside from the health issues for you and your family if you eat the veggies grown in this soil, the soil may be unsuitable for the plants to grow in. Heavy urine concentrations kill most plants.

This question was addressed by the Multnomah Extension Office in Oregon regarding cat feces in an asparagus patch and here is their response:

“The main problem with cat feces is the parasites that may also infect humans. Roundworms and other internal parasites can be present in the feces and end up in the soil and on your plants. Toxoplamosis is also a concern, especially for pregnant women. This organism can live in the soil for years and is known to cause serious birth defects. Children and people with compromised immune systems are also at risk from cat parasites.

Please wear gloves when working with this soil. The situation is unfortunate but you can remedy it. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

With the number of pets people have, the safe disposal of pet waste has become a real problem for local governments. When you put it in a plastic bag and send it to the landfill, for instance, it just sits there forever until the bag is broken. And it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out the bacterial hazard this type of waste, in these types of quantities, poses to our water table.

But what if there were methods to make old cat litter and dog waste into compost? Of course, the compost wouldn’t be used on food crops or on any food-producing areas. It can, however, be used on ornamentals safely. A caveat: you should be experienced in composting before you try this. So if you have never composted before, break yourself in with composting regular garden material so that you have a good grasp on balancing carbon and nitrogen and how composting actually works. But, if you are an experienced composter, here is how you would go about composting used cat litter and dog waste.

Pre-steps before composting cat waste

The first thing you would need to do is switch your kitty to a biodegradable litter. This would be pellet litter made from recycled newspaper, pine, or litter which is made of corn or wheat. These types of litter are also healthier for your cat. This is because most clay-based litter contains silica dust and chemical additives which can cause trouble with your cat’s digestive system over time.

Composting biodegradable cat litter should always be done with real caution because of the risks of potential pathogens which can be found in cats that eat birds and rodents. The cats can become infected when they eat birds or rodents which are infected with Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite can cause toxoplasmosis which can be fatal to infants and adults with deficient immune systems, and you can catch it from cleaning the litter box and not washing your hands afterward. Therefore, when composting the litter, always wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when finished.

How to compost cat poop

There are steps to composting cat litter correctly, and the process isn’t an especially complicated one.

  • First of all for a definite, place your compost pile away from any food growing areas. If you use a bin, make sure it is at least 1 cubic yard/ meter in size. This will keep your pile accessible and easier to turn. A smaller bin is harder to work with and doesn’t heat up as fast or as sufficiently too. In this case, bigger is better.
  • Choose the litter you’re working with carefully. You can’t use clay litter or litter with deodorant crystals. Your litter has to be 100% composed of plant-based material in order to break down in the compost bin.
  • Even though there is nitrogen in cat waste, you will have to add more nitrogen to make your compost work. The carbon in the litter is too heavy for the nitrogen in the cat litter to balance unaided. You will need to add any of the following sources of nitrogen: natural seed meal fertilizers, plant material, fresh grass clippings, dried alfalfa; either fresh cow, chicken or horse manure and even leftover veggies from making your salads can be used. As these extra sources of nitrogen decay, it will aid in the composting process.
  • Make sure you keep the compost pile moist. Keep an eye on it to make sure it is breaking down, and add what is needed when it’s needed to keep it in balance. The other important thing to know is to let the compost sit for at least two years before using it.

However, if composting all of the waste seems too overwhelming to start, you can always flush or dispose of the poop itself and just compost the litter. That’s a great start and a wonderful way of making the earth a little greener.

How to compost dog poop

If you have a dog, then you have dog waste and depending on how big your dog is, you might have a LOT of dog waste. You probably bag it up or put in in a container until it becomes full; and then take it out to the trash at the curb. But there is another option- a pet poop digester. This is a composting system which turns dog doo into liquid, which dissolves into the surrounding soil and is eaten by microbes. Occasionally a usable compost will build up which you can harvest and use safely in ornamental garden beds, provided the interior of the bin reaches at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit and that you hold off on making new deposits for 8 weeks before harvesting the compost.

How to make a dog poop composting digester:

  • Take an old (or new) plastic or metal garbage can and drill holes all over and around the sides but leave a few inches at the top intact. This is the area that will be above the ground.
  • The next step is to cut the bottom off of the garbage can with a reciprocating saw or another tool that will accomplish the job.
  • Dig a huge can-shaped hole in the area where you’re going to place the can. You will want the can to be above the surface but not to where any of the holes are visible.
  • Put the can in the hole; fill in around the outside of the can with soil to keep the can in place. Put some rocks in the bottom for drainage too.
  • Add a dose of septic starter to the garbage can after you’ve made several deposits from your yard cleanup. If the bin smells worse than you think it should, you can try adding one part sawdust to two parts waste to help things compost well.
  • Make sure that you keep it moist to compost properly. Add more septic starter every few months or as needed to keep things composting.

This composter should be placed well away from any of your other compost areas and vegetable gardens. It should also be placed at least 100 yards away from any body of water.

If you’d prefer a less DIY solution, there are commercially-available systems for under a hundred dollars which connect to your sewer line, and others which work just like the above digester but don’t require drilling or sawing.

For safe composting

There are some things to remember when practicing safe composting. You need to always wash your hands when handling any pet waste. Keep any tools or clothing you use to process dog and cat waste separate from other clothes and tools. Use extra care if there are children around. Make sure your animals are on an appropriate parasite control program for your safety also. Importantly, do not put cat poop in with the dog poop. Cat’s feces can carries the eggs of the toxoplasma and dog poop doesn’t.

Composting pet waste can be accomplished if you do it wisely and use caution when handling it. It’s just one more solution for being green.

Composting Pet Waste – The Ultimate Pet Waste Disposal System

Composting Pet Waste

We’ve all been told that dog and cat waste has no place in the compost pile. However, there’s something inherently wrong with carefully filling plastic bags, which take roughly a thousand years to decompose, with biodegradable poop that is three quarters of the way to compost already.

  • Landfills are Bad Places for Poop
  • The Alaska Study
  • The Scoop on Composting Poop
  • Guidelines for Composting Pet Waste
  • Biodegradable Bags vs Compostable Bags

Landfills are Bad Places for Poop

Nine times out of 10 these bags are bound for the landfill. Not only are landfills filling up too fast, they are not designed to handle biodegradable wastes well. They are a problem being put off for future generations if gas and leachate systems should ever fail.

The real question is not whether a composting pet waste disposal system will make compost, it is whether or not the compost is safe to use in a garden growing food.

On one of the forums I follow a fellow gardener says it perfectly:

Not using YOUR dog or cat manure isn’t to protect you or your family. It’s to contain, except for your family, any disease YOUR dog or cat might have. It’s to protect ME from any disease YOUR pet might have already given YOU. A good rule if you sell what you grow.

The Alaska Study

The average dog excretes about three quarters of a pound of waste a day. Do the math and you have about 274 pounds a year. Not too big a problem. But when you add all the dogs in town to the mix it adds up.

In Alaska this is literally a mountainous problem. It’s estimated that the pooches of Fairbanks and Anchorage alone generate roughly 20 million pounds of dog waste a year.

Mushers, those intrepid northern souls who travel by dogsled, naturally have many dogs. A modest sized musher’s kennel would be home to 20 dogs. With 20 dogs to pick up after, at 274 pounds of poop per pup, you end with an annual dung heap weighing 5,480 pounds – close to three tons.

Hauling all this to the landfill is a poor solution. So USDA, NRCS and the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District teamed up with the mushers to fearlessly explore composting dog waste.

The Scoop on Composting Poop

The Alaska Study found composting to be a workable way to handle dog waste. They tested big piles in pallet made bin systems, smaller piles in wire enclosures and even composted pet waste in the typical municipal home owners backyard plastic bin. All yielded a good finished compost. However the smaller scale composts may have a few more pathogens in them due to lower composting temperatures.

Composting dog waste:

  • Removes raw waste therefore avoiding surface and ground water pollution.
  • Destroys pathogens and produces a good safe soil amendment.
  • Done on-site reduces hauling and saves money, energy and landfill space.

The Alaska study did not include cat poop so does not recommend composting cat feces. However, I am prepared to say why not. The only serious consideration is the type of kitty litter you use. Look for a biodegradable brand and toss the scooped poops in with your separate pet waste compost.

The Alaska study found that maintaining a large hot compost system required a minimum of 10, preferably 20 dogs.

Most of us do not have that kind of dog livestock. For us it is more appropriate to go with a smaller composting pet waste disposal system. Even using one of the small plastic compost bins you can often get through your town is an acceptable way to composting pet waste.

Guidelines for Composting Pet Waste

You want to channel all the pet waste into one bin – one whose finished compost will not be used on your edible crops.

The guidelines for a composting pet waste disposal system are:

  • Use your finished compost on your ornamental and landscape garden areas. Do not use this compost on root, stem and leaf vegetables. You could safely use it however on berry bearing shrubs and fruit and nut trees.
  • The C/N ratio of dog and cat poop will be similar to human feces – which depending on diet is about 6 to 10. This means 6 – 10 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.
  • Ideal composting is a C/N ratio of about 25 – 30. You’ll get this with about two scoops or shovels full of pet waste to one of a high carbon material like straw or sawdust.
  • Compost from a pet waste disposal system can be high in salts. These will balance if you allow the compost to cure for several months before using. Curing involves just letting a pile sit for a while.
  • If your dog or cat is sick as a precaution don’t add that poop to the pile during their illness. You could flush it for the duration.

Biodegradable Bags vs Compostable Bags

The issue dog owners face is poop collection. We’ve often solved it by collecting droppings with any one of the plastic bags that come to us in normal everyday use. While this is a form of reuse those bags make composting pet waste challenging.

I spoke with Rose at EnviroWagg in Colorado. She runs a dog waste composting program that involves collecting and then composting canine doo from several parks and dog day care facilities in her area. They sell their Doggone Good Compost at various events and retail outlets in their area.

A huge part of composting pet waste is dealing with the plastic bags. They have to send the bagged poop through a grinder to open the bags and begin the compost process.

Even though the places where they collect the waste provide biodegradable dog waste bags the grinding is essential. At the end of the process they still have to screen their product to eliminate the bits of “biodegradable Plastic”.

What is the Difference between Biodegradable and Compostable?

Regular Plastic bags take about 100 years to break down and will protect your dog poop in a mummified parcel in a landfill for the duration.

Biodegradable Bags

Most if not all Biodegradable Bags still have the large molecules of plastic in them but they also have an additive that allows them to fragment. Essentially the bags breaks into tiny pieces but it will still take a good long while for the actual molecules of plastic to decompose into CO2 and H2O.

These bags take around 12 to 18 months to fragment. This will seriously slow down your pet waste disposal system.

Compostable Bags

Compostable Bags are usually corn based and break down the same as compost – in 40 days or so. In theory you would not have to open them – but my guess is that doing so will speed things up considerably.

For larger scale pet waste disposal systems dealing with bags from a whole park a compostable bag would be a huge advantage as the resulting compost would have no plastic contaminants. Currently the down side of this is cost. Compostable bags cost about double what the regular biodegradable bags cost.

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Composting cat litter is a great way to become more eco friendly. It can be a greener way to dispose of used cat litter, and the finished compost will provide you with free fertilizer for your household plants.

If done correctly, it can really be a great win for the environment. Since so much cat litter is used each year, keeping it from ending up in the landfill is a big plus.

Before you decide if you should compost your cat’s litter, there are a few important things to consider. This includes your cat’s lifestyle and what cat litter you use. Your cat’s lifestyle is surprisingly a deciding factor when it comes to composting cat poop.

Can you compost cat poop?

Composting cat poop is controversial, because it could contain a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite can have a negative effect on the health of humans and wildlife. You can read more about this issue here.

Not all cats carry this parasite, so this is where your cat’s lifestyle comes in. Cats usually become infected due to hunting, so if your cat is an indoor cat, composting the cat poop should be ok. Your cat needs to have been indoors for at least two weeks before you start the composting process.

Compostable cat litter

Not all kinds of cat litter can be composted. For the composting process to work, the litter needs to be biodegradable. Clay and silica based cat litter do not fall into this category, and and are not suited for this purpose. Below is a list of some natural alternatives that can be composted – that also happens to be more eco friendly.
Biodegradable cat litter:

  • Wood pellet cat litter, and other wood based litter options
  • Grass seed cat litter
  • Wheat cat litter
  • Coconut cat litter
  • Corn cat litter

Can clumping cat litter be composted?
The same applies to clumping cat litter as non-clumping litter. Clumping is not a problem, as long as the cat litter is biodegradable, and does not contain clay or silica.

Step by step cat litter composting guide

For a beginner, the easiest way to start composting cat litter is cold composting. Cold composting means that the compost does not need to reach higher levels of heat to decompose. This is also the most passive form of composting.

Supplies for composting cat litter

You will need:

  • Composting bins
    • One small composting bin, to keep next to the litter box
    • One larger enclosed composting bin, for long term use
    • Tip: Find out how to DIY an enclosed composting bin, or read about tumbler composting bins on Eartheasy.com
  • Green material for nitrogen
    • Vegetable and fruit scraps, crushed eggshell, tea and coffee grounds, plant or grass clippings
  • Brown material for carbon
    • Shredded paper, cardboard, sawdust
  • Garden soil
    • This speeds up the process and can help with odor

How to compost cat litter using the cold composting method

  • Set up your composting bins.
    • Place the small bin close to the litter box for conveniency. This way, it will be easy to scoop the used litter right into the container when cleaning the litter box.
    • The larger composting bin should ideally be placed in an outdoor location. If you have a yard or a balcony, those are great options.
  • Cover the bottom of your small bin with brown materials (shredded paper, cardboard or sawdust).
    • Add more brown material after adding new used litter. This will help with odor control.
  • Cover the bottom of your larger bin with garden soil. Next, add a layer of brown material, ideally cardboard or sawdust. Now the large bin is ready to start the composting process.
    • Add a layer of green material (see supplies section).
    • Add a layer of brown material on top of the green one.
    • Add a layer of soil on top of the layer of brow materials. Putting the soil on top will help with odor control, and keep animals from taking an interest in your compost.
  • Empty the used cat litter from the small bin into the larger bin as needed.
    • Add fresh layers of brown material and soil on top of the cat litter each time.
  • To help with the decomposition process in the large composting bin, you need to aerate the compost.
    • You do this by stirring the compost 1-2 times per week. For example when you add more cat litter from the small bin.

A well balanced compost should not smell bad. The compost should feel moist as a sponge, but not wet. If it is too dry, you can add some water to it. If the compost is too wet, you can add more brown material such as shredded paper into the mix.

How long does it take for cat litter to decompose and turn into compost?

Using cold composting process for the used cat litter, you should expect it to take at least a year. Hot composting could take only a few months, but you will have to put a little more effort into the process.

What can you use the finished compost for?

An added benefit of making your own compost, is that it can be used as a fertilizer. However, since you will be composting used cat litter, you should not use the compost for edible plants. A good way to use the finished cat litter compost, is as a fertilizer for plants in flower pots or raised garden beds.

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Cat Feces In Compost: Why You Should Not Compost Cat Waste

Everyone knows the benefits of using livestock manures in the garden, so what about the contents of your cat’s litter box? Cat feces contain 2 ½ times the amount of nitrogen as cattle manure and about the same amount of phosphorus and potassium. They also contain parasites and disease organisms that present significant health risks. Therefore, composting cat litter and its contents may not be a good idea. Let’s find out more about cat feces in compost.

Can Cat Feces Go in Compost?

Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that causes disease in humans and other animals, but cats are the only animal known to excrete toxoplasmosis eggs in their feces. Most people who contract toxoplasmosis have headaches, muscle aches and other flu symptoms. People with immunodeficiency diseases, such as AIDS, and patients who are receiving immunosuppressive treatment can become seriously ill from toxoplasmosis. Pregnant women are at significant risk because exposure to the disease can result in birth defects. In addition to toxoplasmosis, cat feces often contain intestinal worms.

Composting cat litter is not enough to kill the diseases associated with cat feces. In order to kill toxoplasmosis, a compost pile would have to reach a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73 C.), and most piles never get that hot. Using contaminated compost carries the risk of contaminating your garden soil. In addition, some cat litters, particularly scented brands, contain chemicals that don’t break down when you compost cat waste. Pet poop composting simply isn’t worth the risk.

Deterring Pet Poop Composting in Garden Areas

It’s clear that cat feces in compost is a bad idea, but what about cats that use your garden as a litter box? There are a few things you can do to discourage cats from entering your garden. Here are a few ideas:

  • Spread chicken wire over the vegetable garden. Cats don’t like to walk on it and can’t dig through it, so other potential “toilets” will be more appealing.
  • Lay cardboard coated with Tanglefoot at entry points to the garden. Tanglefoot is a sticky substance used to trap insects and discourage wild birds, and cats won’t step on it more than once.
  • Use a sprinkler with a motion detector that will come on when a cat enters the garden.

Ultimately, it is a cat owner’s responsibility to make sure that his pet (and its pet poop composting) doesn’t become a nuisance. The best way to do this is to keep the cat indoors. You might point out to the cat owner that according to the ASPCA, cats that stay indoors contract fewer diseases and live three times longer than those that are allowed to roam.

How to Stop a Cat From Using Your Yard for a Toilet

cats image by Maksym Dyachenko from Fotolia.com

It’s annoying when your lawn or garden is used by a cat as a toilet. Whether these are neighbors’ pets or feral animals, it is not a pleasant aroma and can be a health hazard. A cat digs into the ground prior to urination, which can also damage plants in the area. It may take trial and error to find what works as a repellant, and it may take more than one method.

Grow plants that cats don’t like. The I Must Garden website says cats particularly don’t like rue (Ruta Graveolens). Rue is a perennial plant that grows to approximately 2 feet wide and high, with attractive yellow flowers. Another option is to plant rosemary around the perimeter of a lawn, as this also repels them.

Remove existing cat feces and the soil around it with a spade. Cats mark their territory by depositing pheromones from their scent glands and will continue to return when their scent remains. By removing this, the cat may go somewhere else.

Provide a constantly clean kitty litter box, if it’s your own cat who is the culprit. Cats like kitty litter and may then prefer the box instead.

Spray or spread various spices or scents around the yard. The Adopt A Pet website suggests trying cinnamon, citrus peels, fresh coffee grounds, orange or lemon citrus oil, garlic cloves, vinegar and red wine vinegar. Gardening Know How suggests cayenne pepper flakes or ammonia.

Lay chicken wire on top of an area where cat feces recur. The wire will prevent the cat from digging into the ground.

Use a commercial cat-repellent product. Homemade products, such as rosemary mixed with water, may also work

Install sprinklers that are triggered by motion. Cats hate water, but this method is also expensive.

Cover an area where a cat keeps going with stones. Cats won’t go where they can’t dig.

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