It’s no secret that owning pets is not particularly beneficial for the environment: there’s a lot of food, water and other precious resources that go into feeding, bathing and clothing our pets. But thankfully, there are ways to care both for your pet and the planet: simply choose sustainable cat food over wasteful human-grade brands, and buy eco-friendly cat litter like wood shavings instead of harmful clay, and you’ll be a responsible eco-friendly cat owner in no time. But what about cat litter disposal? Should you compost your cat’s waste? Perhaps flushing it is better for the environment? And what about the litter box itself – should you replace your current plastic one with a bamboo box or use it for as long as possible? In this article, we talk about all things eco-friendly cat litter disposal, including which litter to choose and the best disposal options depending on where you live. We also share some do’s and don’ts when it comes to litter boxes and scoops, so read on!
Opt for Environmentally Sustainable Cat Litter
First things first, let’s talk about cat litter real quick. As many pet parents know, clay litter (and this includes crystal cat litter) is not exactly eco-friendly. Sure, it’s natural, however, it’s harvested in ways that are destructive to the environment. Obtained through strip-mining, which is a process that destroys forests, mountains, landscapes and wildlife that come with them, clay litter is anything but sustainable. Another thing to note about this type of litter: because it’s made from bentonite, it doesn’t break down in nature; in other words, it’s not biodegradable. Finally, clay litter is unhealthy both for you and your kitty because it’s dusty. When inhaled, silica dust (which many clay litters contain) can lead to respiratory problems, even asthma.
So, both clay and silica litters come with the following cons:
- They destroy landscapes and wildlife
- Not biodegradable
- Can cause respiratory problems
If it wasn’t obvious by now, we do not recommend using clay litter. Instead, we wholeheartedly recommend switching from clay to eco-friendly cat litter, such as wood pellets, pine, grain, and plant fiber. Yes, biodegradable cat litter tends to be more expensive than standard clay, however, it’s much healthier for you, your cat, and the environment. Also, many types of biodegradable litters absorb liquids faster so there will be less odor, and they tend to last longer than the equivalent size of clay litter. So in the end, the price is about the same.
Some of our favorite eco-friendly cat litters are:
- Wood shavings/pellets
- Clumping sawdust
- Grain-based litters such as wheat and corn
Put simply, if you want the best for your kitty and the environment, it’s only logical to switch to any of the eco-friendly alternatives.
How to Dispose of Cat Litter the Green Way?
Alright, so you purchased some type of biodegradable cat litter; how do you dispose of it the green way?
Basically, there are two eco-friendly ways to dispose of biodegradable cat litter: composting it or throwing it in the trash. Some folks choose to flush their kitty’s litter down their toilet, but we advise against this unless you know for a fact your local waste management is able to kill all the pathogens and bacteria commonly found in cat waste (more on this down below).
Compost If You Can
If you’re looking for a zero waste cat litter disposal system, this is it. Composting your kitty’s litter is ideal if you have a garden as you can re-use it as a fertilizer for your ornamental plants and trees. Now, the idea of using cats’ waste to fertilize a garden may not be everyone’s cup of tea, however, it’s worth noting that animal manure has been used for centuries as a fertilizer for farming. As long as it’s done the right way, it’s perfectly safe and biodegradable. So, how do you go about this?
First, make sure you’re using the right type of litter before composting it. Wood pellets are ideal for this as they’re natural and renewable, although recycled newspaper and grain litters are good too. Second, you’ll need a proper, hygienic compost bin, either made in the ground or purchased in the form of a bucket (we recommend buying it because it’s safer and easier to use). You will also need to use protection when dealing with pet waste, so always wear gloves and wash your hands when finished. Finally, you’ll have to arm yourself with patience. That all said, composting cat litter and waste is not particularly hard – all it takes is some practice and common sense.
- Place your compost pile or bin away from edible plants.
- Add nitrogen to the compost bin such as plant material (fresh grass clippings, leftovers from vegetable salads, dried alfalfa, etc.), or chicken, cow, or horse manure.
- Make sure the compost pile is moist as this will speed up the process.
- Ensure that the compost pile or bin is heating over 145°F. This step is crucial; high temperatures will break down and destroy pathogens found in waste, making it safe for use in the garden (however, you still don’t want to use it on edible plants).
- Finally, let the compost sit for a good while before using it. Many gardeners recommend waiting for one to two years, so the longer, the better.
Note: if you opt for an in-ground composting method, you’ll have to make sure your property is not near a water source because compost can leach into soil and water, contaminating both along with wildlife.
Scoop and Toss The Right Way
Cat litter disposal in the garden is environmentally friendly, but not everyone can do it. If you don’t have a yard or simply enough time or desire to compost your kitty’s litter, do not worry – there are other eco-friendly ways to dispose of your pet’s waste. Simply tossing it in the trash is one of them.
Here is how you can throw away cat litter the right way:
- When scooping, use biodegradable paper bags for cat litter disposal, not plastic ones. Once you’re done, simply toss it in your curbside garbage.
- When changing your cat’s litter completely, empty the box into a newspaper, wrap it and toss it. If you can’t manage to properly wrap the newspaper, just place everything into a big paper bag and then toss it.
Yes, throwing cat litter in the garbage is not the happiest option out there, however, if you use environmentally friendly cat liter, as well as biodegradable bags for disposal, the whole thing will eventually biodegrade. It’s certainly better than using clay and plastic bags!
Flushing the Litter?
Another environmentally friendly kitty litter disposal is flushing it down the toilet. However – and this is crucial – this should only be done if:
- You’re using natural and biodegradable litter
- You have an indoor cat who’s not on a raw meat diet
- You know for a fact that your local waste management uses methods that can destroy pathogens and bacteria found in feline waste.
Why is this important? The biodegradable litter part is obvious – you want something that can break down in nature and not harm the environment. Having a cat that leads an indoor lifestyle is also important because outdoor pets who eat mice and birds (but also a raw meat diet!) can easily contract the Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can cause various health problems in humans. The third condition for flushing cat litter matters precisely because of this – if your kitty has contracted the parasite, their poop will also be contaminated, so by flushing it in the toilet, you’ll contaminate your waterways, killing ocean wildlife and making other people ill too. You shouldn’t flush kitty litter if you live near the coast either.
Other Tips on Eco-Friendly Cat Litter Disposal
As long as you’re using biodegradable litter, your cat’s waste doesn’t have to have such a negative impact on the environment. Aside from using ecofriendly litter and disposing of it properly, you can also do other things to reduce your pet’s carbon pawprint:
- Use bamboo litter boxes instead of plastic ones – bamboo is a renewable and biodegradable resource so it’s much better than plastic. However, don’t throw out the old plastic box until it’s completely worn out! The goal is to use and re-use things for as long as possible so we can reduce landfill waste.
- Invest in metal scoops – plastic scoops may be cheaper short-term, but since they’re not particularly sturdy, you’ll have to keep throwing them out and buying new ones regularly. It’s much more cost-effective to just invest in a durable metal scoop.
- Don’t use liners – yeah, they make things a little neater but they’re such a waste!
- Don’t use plastic bags – it’s worth mentioning again that if you wish to reduce your cat’s carbon footprint, you need to use biodegradable paper bags instead of plastic ones.
- Use natural, pet-safe cleaners when cleaning a litter box – finally, make sure you’re using non-toxic and eco-friendly cleaning products when cleaning your kitty’s litter box.
And there you have it – some of the easiest to follow yet most effective tips on disposing cat waste the green way. Follow at least some of these and you’ll be doing your part for the planet!