Yes, cat litter is compostable – as long as you intend to use it only for non-edible food. Cat litter, much like dog poop, contains bacteria that aren’t very friendly to humans. It could contaminate our food and compromise our health, which is why many pet owners do not go with cat litter composting.
Nonetheless, cat litter is still compostable, so long as you only use the compost for flower beds and plants that don’t bear fruits or veggies, and as long as you follow the instructions on composting properly, you will be safe from harm.
Which cat litter is compostable?
Before you start composting, you should know that the cat litter should be biodegradable to go into the compost bin. Organic ingredients like wood shavings, sawdust, recycled paper, wheat, pine, corn, cedar, and grass seed will do. Clay and silica-based litter aren’t compostable.
If you’re in doubt, check the manufacturer for more information if the cat litter is compostable or not, before you buy it.
How to Compost Cat Litter
So, if your mind is made up on composting kitty litter, here’s how to do it:
1. Get your compost bin
A compost bin is usually found in most stores. You can use any compost bin that’s meant for regular food waste and other types of compostable items specifically for cat litter.
Various harmful parasites that can be found in your cat’s poop include e.coli and various other bacteria, which can make your plants contaminated. A compost bin that will be used for cat litter should last a long time because it takes about 18 months to fully compost cat litter to kill off harmful bacteria.
You can also DIY a compost bin at home. If you’re quite a carpenter, you can simply build a box depending on how many cats you have and how much compost you intend to put inside. You don’t need to make the container too airtight. However, adding a lid is important not just to cover the smell but also so that your pets won’t get their hands on the dirty toxins that they’ve just eliminated.
However, if you’re not much of a DIY person, you can just buy your compost bin from the store. Make sure to follow the instructions by the manufacturer when it comes to using it.
2. Add your ingredients
First, put in some topsoil and sawdust at the bottom, as well as some dry leaves. This will balance out the carbon and nitrogen composition of the cat litter compost and it will also not make it smell too bad. As we all know, cat poop smells awful!
When you consider putting in cat litter, take note that not all cat litter is applicable for composting. You cannot compost the following:
- clay litter
- crystalline litter
These litters, although common and convenient, are not suitable for a compost bin because they have toxins that could harm your plants.
We strongly recommend sawdust, pine, cedar, wheat-based, and newspaper litter. Let’s check out each litter type:
Sawdust is organic but usually hard to find in an urban area. Nonetheless, sawdust as cat litter is one of the viable options. It is best for a single cat household and if you have a lot of time on your hands. With that said, it’s slightly inferior to clay and crystalline litter when it comes to handling smell.
However, sawdust is a common option for people who live in the suburb or rural areas. Cats are typically easier to train in a sawdust litter box due to its inviting and comfortable surface.
Pine or cedar litter
These are yet another eco-friendly option and have natural scents that can easily mask away kitty poop odor. It also has better absorption as compared to regular sawdust and can be bought from your local hardware or pet store.
Perhaps the only downside to pine or cedar litter is the price. Most eco-friendly items are expensive because it takes a lot of environmental certificates and effort to obtain them, and thus, they cannot be mass-produced to avoid impacting the environment.
Another eco-friendly litter type on the list is anything that’s made from the wheat husk. These are renewable and can be obtained from farmers conveniently. Wheat husk produces a clean and odorless scent plus they are good at absorbing cat urine.
If you have a ton of cats at home, you’ll work best with a big sack of wheat-based litter. However, not all countries around the world make such litters yet, but if you do find one at the store, you might want to go and grab it.
Are you on a budget? Why not try recycled newspaper? It has great absorbency when it comes to cat urine but on the odor control side, it isn’t that ideal. This is why not many pet owners use recycled newspaper (or any kind of newspaper) due to the stinky effect.
At any rate, it is still a great option if you want to go green when it comes to disposing of cat litter. Newspaper and any kind of paper can be tossed safely into the composting bin.
3. Start composting
Now that you’ve decided on which cat litter to use, it’s time to combine the ingredients. With your soil, sawdust, some leaves, and whatnot on the bottom of your compost bin, slowly add your cat waste inside. Then, add a layer of sawdust, leaves, and soil to about 1 inch thick.
Leave the compost to start the process by covering it. Aerating the inside of the compost bin is important to speed up the process. Depending on your compost bin design, you can turn the entire container or use a shovel to dig through.
If you feel that the composting isn’t working or if you want to add more speed, why not try vermicomposting? Simply buy a batch of earthworms and they’ll make the task easier for you.
Cat litter compost is usually not that good-smelling, but if you notice a very pungent odor, you can add one more layer of sawdust on top to completely cover it. Ammonia is the source of odor from cat litter and sawdust is a perfect match for the foul smell. You can also frequently turn the compost to add aeration to it.
If your compost bin has reached its limit, you can finally seal it and store it for a couple of weeks to months.
4. Wait for the compost to become ready
Usually, cat litter compost will be usable after 6 months of spending time in the bin. Check the compost by removing the top layer using any shovel or gardening tool. The earthly smell should be present; otherwise, it’s not quite ready.
If your cat litter compost has been in the bin for 18 months or more, it is possible to use it as a soil additive even for edible crops. We know that we mentioned above that cat litter shouldn’t be used on edible crops, but if you wait for more than a year, it could become safe enough to turn into veggie fertilizer.
Other Green Ways to Disposing Cat Litter
In case composting isn’t an option for you, here are other eco-friendly ways of getting rid of Tabby’s litter:
1. Consider biodegradable bags
If you can’t depend on composting, biodegradable bags can be an option for you. It allows you to easily dispose of cat litter. Unlike regular plastic bags, they decompose quicker when on a dumpsite so they won’t give too much environmental impact.
2. Contact your local composting or waste management experts
If you don’t know where to dump your cat litter, you can get help from your local waste management or composting experts in your area. In this way, you’ll know how to properly get rid of your cat waste without harming the environment.
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