The best way to dispose of cat litter and cat waste is to put it into a bag and throw it in the trash to go to your city or town’s landfill.
That being said, there are some misconceptions about how you can dispose of cat waste and cat litter, as well as some ways to improve upon the way you dispose of your cat litter, which I’ll cover in this article.
BAGGING CAT LITTER & PUTTING IT IN THE TRASH
Cats actually have a significant environmental impact, partially due to the waste they produce and the litter that waste goes into.
Your cat’s litter box must be scooped daily, maybe even more depending on how much your cat uses the litter and what type of litter you use (i.e. paper pellet litter should be scooped more frequently to keep odors down).
The entire contents of the litter box should be changed every week or two (this may vary as well based on your cat(s) and type of litter you’re using).
The most common way cat owners dispose of their cat’s waste and litter is to scoop waste out of their cat’s litter box and put it into a bag, and toss that bag into a garbage bin.
When it’s time to change the litter, that is typically dumped into a bigger bag (e.g. kitchen garbage bag), which then goes into a garbage bin. Keep in mind, cat litter gets heavy, so be sure you’re using a strong enough bag to hold the litter.
You also don’t want to use too big of a litter box or fill it with too much litter, or it will make it difficult to lift and dispose of (you may find a litter box with handles helpful for changing litter).
Tossing litter into a bag and putting it into the garbage is a safe way to dispose of cat waste and cat litter on a regular basis.
However, there are some common questions about other ways to dispose of cat litter, common misconceptions, as well as practices that can be improved upon.
CAN YOU FLUSH LITTER DOWN THE TOILET?
Some litters are safe for the toilet and some are not.
Even if you’ve purchased a flushable litter, read on to consider if you should be flushing it down your toilet.
NON-FLUSHABLE CAT LITTERS
Most mainstream litters on the market are made from clumping or non-clumping clay.
Litters with clumping agents contain sodium bentonite. This mineral will swell when wet, so it can clog your drain.
But even if you’re using a non-clumping clay, you shouldn’t flush it down the toilet as it’s heavy, isn’t water-soluble, and it can build up in your pipes over time and eventually cause a clog.
There are also crystal litters which are made of silica. These silica beads are designed to absorb moisture and will swell when wet, which can cause a blockage in your pipes.
FLUSHABLE CAT LITTERS
There are biodegradable, water-soluble, and litters labelled as “flushable” on the market.
However, that doesn’t mean they should be flushed.
The issue with flushing litter down the toilet isn’t necessarily due to the litter. Of course, you can cause a clog if you flush a non-flushable litter down the toilet or too much “flushable” litter at once.
But the problem is that cat waste can contain the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which can be spread in water and soil.
The water from your toilet goes to a wastewater treatment center and not all treatment plants are equipped to treat water with animal waste in it. So flushing cat litter down the toilet can contaminate drinking water and/or local lakes, rivers, or oceans.
Even if you scoop the poop before you flush the litter, there may still be small pieces that are left in the litter when you flush it.
Even though you may be using a biodegradable or water-soluble litter, or one that specifically states it’s flushable, it’s best not to flush any cat litter or waste.
You can contact your municipalities wastewater treatment plant to inquire about flushing flushable cat litter, or even try Google-ing “flushing cat litter in ________ (your city)” to see if you can find a clearer answer.
CAN YOU COMPOST CAT LITTER?
As mentioned, cat feces can contain the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which can cause the disease toxoplasmosis in humans.
Toxoplasma gondii can be transmitted through soil.
If you have a compost bin in your backyard and use the compost to fertilize your vegetable garden, there’s the potential you could contaminate your vegetables if you put your cat’s litter in the compost bin.
Even if you’re using the compost in non-edible gardens (e.g. flower gardens) or to fertilize your grass, toxic bacteria from your cat’s feces can seep into the soil and contaminate ground water.
That’s not to say you can’t compost cat litter.
You may be able to safely compost cat litter if:
- You use a compostable/biodegradable litter
- You separate feces from the litter and only put litter in the compost bin
It may be safe for you to compost your cat’s poop with the litter if you have a way to kill the parasites found in the feces (e.g. by maintaining a high enough temperature for several days to kill the parasites and using enough carbon (e.g. grass clippings or wood shavings) to break down the nitrogen rich manure).
However, you can’t be sure you’ve killed all the parasites so it’s still best to use compost in ornamental areas (grass, flower gardens, shrub beds, etc.) and keep it away from edible gardens.
If you don’t have an area to compost, check to see if your city has a compost program and if they’ll accept animal waste.
CAN YOU BURN CAT LITTER?
Many people who live outside of the city and don’t have a waste removal service picking up their garbage each week will have a burn pile. Before you add litter to that burn pile, you must first be aware of all of the ingredients in your cat litter.
Although a paper pellet cat litter or wood pellet cat litter will burn, you want to be sure there aren’t any toxic ingredients that will be released into the air when burned. Clay-based litter will not burn.
Technically, dried poop will burn as well, but it’s best to separate that from the litter and either compost it or throw it in the trash.
HOW CAN YOU REDUCE LITTER WASTE?
Let’s look at ways to reduce your household’s litter waste.
USE BIODEGRADABLE LITTER
Most big-brand litters on the market are made from clay, which may be clumping or non-clumping clay. This may be what is most convenient and cheapest for you to purchase, and what your cat is used to, but switching to a biodegradable cat litter can significantly reduce your household’s footprint.
When you think about how often you should be replacing litter (every week or two…maybe 3, depending on the litter and litter box use) you’ll be going through a 20 lb bag of litter pretty quickly. Now imagine a 20 lb bag of cat litter going right into the trash, that’s a lot of heavy waste coming from your household each month.
If you don’t have a compost bin in your backyard that stays far away from edible plants, you’ll still be disposing of your biodegradable litter in the trash, but it has the opportunity to decompose in the landfill.
There are several natural and biodegradable cat litters on the market, such as:
- Paper pellet cat litter
- Corn cob cat litter
- Wheat cat litter
- Wood pellet cat litter
- Grass seed cat litter
- Tofu pellet cat litter
- Coconut cat litter
Although these types of litters may be more expensive and not as convenient (there can be a learning curve to using non-clumping litter), they’re better for your health, your cat’s health, and the environment.
USE BIODEGRADABLE BAGS
Instead of throwing feces and used litter into a regular plastic bag, go with a biodegradable option.
A simple option is to use a brown paper bag.
Most brown paper bags are compostable and biodegradable.
There are also biodegradable pet waste options on the market, such as these (which are technically doggy waste bags but they can work for cat poop too), and these compostable litter bags with handles.
But keep in mind, the verdict is out on how truly biodegradable or compostable these types of bags are (source).
USE A LITTER BIN
Some people use plastic grocery bags to dispose of litter each time they scoop. When scooping litter daily, that’s a lot of plastic bags being tossed with the litter.
To cut down on how many bags you use when scooping the litter box daily, invest in a litter bin.
These make it easy to toss scooped waste and keep the odors in the bin.
When one bag is full, you can simply toss the bag.
STOP USING CLUMPING LITTER
Clumping litter does make it much easier to separate dirty litter from clean litter when scooping, but it contains sodium bentonite. Yes, sodium bentonite is a mineral and is natural, but it’s commonly obtained by strip mining, which has a huge environmental impact.
REDUCE LITTER PACKAGING WASTE
It’s not just the litter that increases your household’s waste, but also the packaging that litter comes in.
Look for brands that package their litter in cardboard boxes or paper bags, rather than plastic containers or bags.
And if you’re able to lift bigger bags of cat litter, and have a way to get them home, opt for bigger packages of litter when buying. Instead of buying two 20 lb bags of cat litter, buy a 40 lb bag; it will cut down on packaging a little bit.
DON’T USE LITTER LINERS
Litter box liners are designed to fit in the bottom of a litter box and have litter poured on top.
They help stop odors from absorbing into the litter box and to make litter clean up and changing easier. However, they cause a lot of unnecessary waste.
To help reduce litter waste, skip using litter box liners and stick to frequently changing the litter and washing the litter box to keep odors at bay.
USE ECO-FRIENDLY CLEANERS
Take your eco-friendliness one step further and reduce your environmental footprint by using eco-friendly cleaners when washing your litter box each week or two.
Not only are chemicals like bleach bad for the environment, they can also be toxic to your cat. Your cat may also be sensitive to any bleach scents (or other harsh chemicals used for cleaning) lingering in their litter box, which may lead to your cat pooping outside the litter box; a habit that can be hard to break.
Instead, use something natural and eco-friendly, like vinegar, to clean your cat’s litter box each week. This will help kill odors and bacteria in your litter box and won’t be toxic to your cat.
Of course, be sure to rinse the litter box well after cleaning it to get rid of any smells (your kitty has a sensitive nose).
USE AN ECO-FRIENDLY LITTER BOX
When it’s time to buy a new litter box, opt for a more eco-friendly option, such as a litter box made with recycled materials, or one that will last you a lifetime.
>> On top of that, go for a stainless steel litter scooper like this one.
I hope this article has helped you determine how to properly dispose of cat litter 🙂