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
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
If you have a self-cleaning litter box, you may also use Litter-Robot waste drawer liners. There’s a good reason our waste drawer liners have a biodegradable additive instead of being 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!