Composting Cat Litter

Composting cat litter seems like a great way to reduce waste and close the loop at home. But not all cat litters can or should be composted. Here’s what you need to know about composting different cat litter materials safely and effectively.

Can You Compost Cat Litter?

The short answer is: it depends on the litter material.

  • Plant-based litters made from biodegradable materials like paper, wood, wheat, or corn can be composted. The organic matter will break down over time.
  • Traditional clay cat litter should NOT be composted. Clay is not biodegradable, so it will not break down.

Compostable Cat Litter Brands

Some top compostable cat litter options include:

  • Feline Pine – Made from kiln-dried pine, a renewable wood source.
  • World’s Best Cat Litter – Plant-based litter made from whole-kernel corn.
  • Okocat – Wood and paper-based litter made from sustainable forests.
  • CATMATE – Wood pellet cat litter made from reclaimed sawdust and wood shavings.
  • Swheat Scoop – Wheat-based clumping litter.

Can You Compost Cat Poop?

While the plant-based litter itself can be composted, composting cat feces comes with some precautions.

Cat poop can contain harmful pathogens like Toxoplasma gondii that can infect humans if ingested. While high temperatures reached during composting can destroy pathogens, it’s better to be safe.

Do not use composted cat litter or feces on vegetable gardens or edible plants. The risk of contamination is too high.

Best Practices for Composting Cat Litter

Follow these tips for safe, effective composting of plant-based cat litters:

  • Compost cat litter separately – Keep cat litter compost separate from other compost piles. This prevents contamination.
  • Monitor temperatures – Maintain high temperatures of 130-150°F in the cat litter compost pile for optimal pathogen destruction.
  • Allow ample time – Give the composted cat litter at least a year to thoroughly breakdown before using.
  • Do not include in municipal programs – Do not place cat litter into city green bin composting programs, as these are not equipped to handle pet waste.
  • Compost at home – Backyard composting works best for cat litter disposal. You have more control over the process.

Are Compostable Litters More Eco-Friendly?

While litters like wheat and corn are compostable, there is debate over whether food-based options are wasteful compared to paper and wood pellets.

Paper and wood cat litters may be a more eco-friendly choice since they make use of waste materials instead of using up valuable food crops.

The Bottom Line

Composting cat litter is possible for plant-based, biodegradable litters – just take precautions. Stick to backyard composting and keep cat litter compost separate. Clay litter, however, is not compostable. Consider switching to a greener, compostable cat litter brand.

Composting cat litter does come with some valid concerns, particularly when it comes to food-based litters. Here’s a deeper look at some of the potential downsides of composting certain cat litter materials.

Food-Based Litters: Wasteful or Worthwhile?

Litters made from wheat, corn, and other grains are clearly compostable. But some argue that using food crops for cat litter is wasteful when people around the world are starving.

However, supporters of grain litters contend that:

  • The crops used would otherwise go to waste or be used for lower purposes like animal feed.
  • These litters provide a valuable second life for agricultural byproducts.
  • Food-based litters are renewable and sustainable. The crops will grow again next season.

So whether or not grain litters are an advisable choice comes down to your stance on the complex “food vs. fuel” debate.

The Problem with Clay Litters

Clay is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to cat litters that end up in landfills. Traditional clay litter, including clumping and non-clumping varieties, are not biodegradable or compostable.

Some downsides of clay cat litter include:

  • Not renewable: Clay is a finite resource mined from the earth.
  • Energy-intensive production: Clay litter requires extensive mining and energy inputs to produce.
  • Not compostable: Clay will not break down, so all clay litter ends up lingering in landfills forever.
  • Dust and tracking: Clay litters produce a lot of dust that cats track all over your home.

Clearly, clay is one of the least eco-friendly cat litter options available today. Making the switch to a compostable plant-based litter is a positive change.

The Compost Contamination Concern

As mentioned earlier, composting cat feces does come with some risk of contamination from bacteria and parasites. Some argue that even composting separately can’t remove the risks entirely.

Potential risks include:

  • Toxoplasmosis – Common parasite in cat poop that causes flu-like symptoms in humans.
  • E. coli and salmonella – Can arise from cat feces and contaminate compost.
  • Persistent chemicals – Flea collars and medications cats ingest can leave trace chemicals.

These are valid concerns, and caution is warranted. But proponents of composting cat litter argue that following best practices minimizes the risks enough to make composting cat litter worthwhile.

The choice comes down to your comfort level with the small contamination risk versus sending tons of clay litter to landfills each year.