Clumping cat litter safe to compost?

carmen_grower_2007(4/5)January 29, 2011

I can't see what the chemicals are other than the scent and wonder if it would be a danger to the soil in a compost bin.

I have 7 cats so there is lots of it in the winter. In the good weather the outdoors is their bathroom.

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rott

..
Me no like idea. We have too many cats to afford the organic stuff ourselves. We stopped counting the cats and just count the cat boxes.

See link.
..

Here is a link that might be useful: Composting clumping cat litter

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 12:54PM
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gershon(7)

Why buy commercial cat litter? It's just an added expense.

I just use dirt from the garden in a place where I'll plant things I won't eat. I have a strip about 50 feet long and about 18 inches wide. By the time I get to the end, there is no trace of anything in the beginning, so I can go back to the beginning and use it over.

Some will plant edibles in cat litter. Google it before making that decision.

Another idea that would work is to make a compost bin 2 feet high and 3 feet across using 10 feet of hogfence. Each time you empty the litter box, cover it with a bit of composting material. It will take a very long time to fill up, but in the end, you will have a planter full of very fertile soil.

For a long term project, dig a hole about 2 feet deep and 3 feet around. Use the dirt in the litter box an put it back in the hole when done, covering the dirt with composting material. When done, plant an apple tree in it. The poop will be long gone before you have apples. Keep in mind a hole this size will produce about 20 cubic feet of dirt.

For those with dogs, be sure to read up on dog poop. There are a lot more hazards with it.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 10:07AM
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berryman135678

Here is what I built for $15.00 from scrap - second hand wood from the lumber yard.

For litter,
We use Wood pellets (the kind you use for wood pellet heat stoves) from the hardware store for about $4 a 50lb bag. I introduced this to the cats a handfull first week, second week three handfulls, and by the third week all pellets. When they Pee on them they break down to saw dust and the wood absorbs a lot of the oder so no additives needed. The pellets are made by pressing wet sawdust thru an extruder and screen. I couldnt find on the bag that they use anything but sawdust. Then once every couple weeks we pull out good pellets and just dump rest of the whole litter box in my composter for litter only (which is way away from garden and other compost). When the compost is done I will add it to the grass in a year, trying to reduce parasite risks.

The composter is two side when you lift top lid.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 4:06PM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

I wouldn't worry about the litter as much as the cat faeces, which can harbour some pretty nasty things and wouldn't put it in my regular bin.
I'd shove it in a hole with other organic materials, mark it, then plant perennials like fruit trees and ornamentals when it's broken down.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 4:32PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Most kitty litters today have baking soda in them. Baking soda is death to the fungi in your compost pile.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 11:20PM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

Ooops, the ones over here are generally just bentonite.
Can you get a really 'plain' litter? No perfume, baking soda etc?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 1:59AM
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californian

As an experiment I once tried using cat litter to amend the soil in a hole I was planting a tomato plant in. That plant did the worst of all the tomato plants in my garden. I think the clay in it just turns into more of the clay soil I was trying to amend.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 1:24PM
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rott

..
"Baking soda is death to the fungi in your compost pile." Good to know. Thanks. I like fungi in my bins and in my soil.

It did get me to thinking though. Would baking soda be good then for cleaning or treating molds and such where I don't want them? Say, on the bathroom tile?

Maybe time to experiment.
..

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 1:21AM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

*Hijack alert*
rott, baking soda and white vinegar are pretty much the only household cleaners I use.
Cheap, non-toxic to humans, and a biggie for me, they don't smell like much.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 5:19AM
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brittanyngoodwin_gmail_com

baking soda, as well as vinegar is amazing just as feijoas said. there are many uses. you should definitely look into them, everyone!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 3:59PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; USDA z8a, HZ10, Sunset z30)

This is an older thread, but I'll add a little to it.

First of all, there is nothing particularly unsafe about cat litter, especially if the cats are indoor cats. Also, I've got birds, squirrels, possums, and raccoons pooping all over my yard, so throwing cat poop out there is of no concern by comparison.

I had never heard that baking soda was so bad for fungi. Pure baking soda is probably not that nice, but it's mainly going to act as a acid/base buffer when mixed in the soil.

Now, the bentonite-based cat litters have been a surprise to me, when used outside. We've just been tossing the used clumps on the ground cover. The ground cover stays lush BUT the clumps just don't go away! We see white mudballs out there that are years old! They get rained on repeatedly, and they just stay there. So the idea that used bentonite is OK for compost piles is less a matter of chemistry and bacteria, and more a matter of mud/clay. Provided you can get it mixed in, which is hard, you're just going to end up with sticky, muddy, clayey compost. I'm not going to heave it on my groundcover anymore. I think I'm going to dig a separate hole for the stuff.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 3:36PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

I'm still not planning to compost my cat litter, but the type of litter that I use would far more lend itself to composting than bentonite litters.

For the last year I've been very happily using a cat litter system that uses extra large SAFFLOWER seeds as the litter. They use extra large because there is a grate beneath the litter to allow the urine to drain to a separate reservoir, rather than soaking the litter with it.

I just dump the urine into the toilet every day or three, and scoop out cat poop into the toilet any time I notice she's laid a fresh one. If I want to "freshen" the litter I spray a little dilute bleach water on it.

One four pound bag of safflower litter lasts me two to four months between whole box cleanings.

I happily compost chicken poop and horse poop, but I steer clear of the dog and cat stuff. However, were I of a mind to compost cat litter, this safflower stuff would compost like nobody's business!

Here's a photo of the box after the last full change, on December 21. I was so proud of the job that I did cleaning the bathroom and the kitty box that I posted a picture on Facebook. :)

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 3:54PM
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gonebananas_gw

The clumping bentonite is probably sodium bentonite so there may be a bit of sodium leaching (exchanging) at first though likely not enough to cause problems. It is used routinely as well-drilling "mud" and is often run off or discarded onto or around nearby vegetation with no obvious harm that I recall seeing.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 4:33PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; USDA z8a, HZ10, Sunset z30)

I think the bottom line is that clumping cat litter is a poor choice for composting. Because it clumps. Unfortunately, the clumping is what makes it convenient for litter.

The fact that bentonite from mining is allowed to run off into nearby vegetation is interesting. As I said, my clumps don't "hurt" the vegetation, but they certainly don't help it. They just lay on top of it and around it. Think soft rocks. The runoff bentonite is probably also not in the form of clumps, so it may permeate the soil better. Perhaps acting as a kind of sealant.

Safflower seeds? Are they even absorbent? Certainly wonderfully compostable.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 6:46PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

I haven't ever tried to get the safflower seeds to absorb anything, because the way this litter system works is to DRAIN, not absorb.

Urine drains through the litter and through a grate under the litter all the way down into a small reservoir at the bottom of the box. That way it can just be dumped, rather than accumulating ammonia odors.

People who have to test their cat's urine also find it a lot easier to collect it from the reservoir rather than inserting a needle into the cat's bladder. But I've not had personal experience with that.

I also use a heck of a lot less litter this way. We used to have bags of clay litter going in and out of the house every other week at least. I even injured myself trying to tote an economy bucket from the grocery store.

With this stuff and one cat, one four pound bag lasts for a few months. Four pounds is far easier for me to manage than a 40+ pound of clay litter.

And you could easily compost the infrequent amounts of used safflower seeds, if you really wanted to.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 7:12PM
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Lloyd

"I was so proud of the job that I did cleaning the bathroom..."

Any chance you're for hire?? ;-)

I hate doing the kitty litter cleaning thing, I should look into this. I've never even heard of this system up here.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 7:22PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

---- "I was so proud of the job that I did cleaning the bathroom..."
-- Any chance you're for hire?? ;-)

No, you wouldn't want me to clean! I've always got so many projects going that I rarely manage to keep even my house picked up. I only pulled off that deep clean of the bathroom to make things extra nice for Christmas.

But I do a fair job of designing stuff to be easier to clean. I designed that bathroom, with its wall-mounted toilet (smaller profile, no base or exposed tank to get dirty), recessed trashcan and facial tissue holders, and other practical features, including the finding that kitty litter system.

I ran across the system on the evil internet ;-) after trying and being disappointed with three other methods, including an automated system with very expensive litter refills. It's not in any stores--I think it might even come from Canada.

Just google Smart Cat Box and find the one with safflower litter. It made me happy--I have an aversion to odors and this is the only box that stays clean enough. Plus, the safflower that happens to get out is far more pleasant on bare feet than sharp clay litter!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 7:55PM
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toxcrusadr

The clay litter really is like a super clay, the worst stuff for gardening. :-[

I'm in favor of using organic litter and then composting the used litter in a separate bin or pile. Sawdust based litter seems to be the best for general use, but there's corn, wheat and newspaper based ones too. My only complaint about most of them is that they don't clump as well as the clay.

We use a little plastic bucket (like a paint bucket) to scoop into from the litter box, and then carry it outside. Works pretty well. When it's too cold to go out, the toilet is right there and the organic based litters can be flushed, whereas they don't want the clay at the sewage plant. So it's better all around.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 10:24AM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; USDA z8a, HZ10, Sunset z30)

The safflower seed idea is pretty interesting and creative. So really it just acts like a scent seal over the pool of urine underneath? I too really dislike lugging litter bags from the store. I do have to wonder though. When they get wet, don't the seeds try to sprout? Seems like a tray of small, smooth pebbles might work the same way. The advantage of those is that one could just hose 'em off when they get very dirty.

It sounds like you're still using a small amount of litter though. What's that for?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 12:52PM
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gonebananas_gw

I have used a lot of the cheapest kitty litter as a clay source for gardening and it works fine. It is dried ground clay that disaggregates as soon as it wets. The more expensive kinds of kitty litter (fired clay?, Fuller's earth, and clumping) would work far less well, though can still have some horticultural benefit.

Clay is a bit of inconvenience to a sewage treatment plant but they readily can handle a moderate amount. Our drinking water treatment plant (using muddy river water) backwashes the clay from its filters into the sanitary sewer system and this much vaster amount routinely goes to the sewage treatment plant.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 4:12PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

Wow, some really interesting questions that I hadn't considered about the safflower!

No, I don't think that the seeds really "seal in" the scent. The main defense against odor is the fact that the urine goes away every couple days rather than sitting and collecting in the fines of clay litter.

Also, the hole of the reservoir where the urine is collected is quite small--only slightly larger than a quarter. Unless you had air moving over the top and maybe heated the urine, not many molecules are going to escape into the air for you to smell.

So I dump it every couple days, and sometimes add some water with a little white vinegar to dissolve the salts that seem to form from the urine.

Regarding the seeds sprouting, I looked up what it takes to grow safflower, and apparently it takes 8 to 15 days for emergence in soils with good water holding capacity. Since these safflower seeds are exposed to air all around and the urine drains so quickly through, a few of them might be wet for only five minutes at a time before drying out again. Apparently, that's not enough for the seeds to absorb water and break dormancy.

Round pebbles would probably work just fine, so long as the weight didn't damage the plastic grate beneath. But there would be the cleaning. Also, when removing fresh cat feces, the litter tends to adhere to the cat poo, which means if it were small rocks, might not be advisable for the septic or the plumbing.

Hmmmm...I never considered that these safflower seeds could sprout in my septic system. That might be something to think about.

I think the purpose of the litter is really for our small domestic cats, which have an instinct to scratch in something to bury their waste. I've read it's because they have to conceal their presence from larger predators.

I *have* heard of people eliminating the litter box (and the litter) altogether by teaching their cat to use the toilet. But to me that seemed a bridge too far.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 4:51PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I used some natural clay litter which the cats had not used. It worked out ok, but a little bit goes a long way. It made the soil harder. I had to use more OM to soften it up. If you were composting all your clay cat litter over time, I think you would be unhappy with the result even in extreme sand soil. I would go with the sweet wheat litter. I did that for a while, but some wheat beetles came into the house. I used the newspaper pelts, but that makes the compost too gloppy. So, now I don't compost any type of cat litter. The cats poop in the garden anyway, so it is not a matter of keeping the cat poop out of the garden. I remove as much as can, but what can you do when the cats are bound and determined?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 8:32PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

The cat litter, without any feces, could be composted although is is a quite expensive material for that. It is not, however, a good idea to put cat or dog feces in your compost pile because of the potential for parasitic worms and, especially form cat feces, toxoplasmosis.

Here is a link that might be useful: Why not to use pet feces in your compost

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 7:06AM
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Centurion_(Verde Valley AZ Z8)

Interesting thread.

Like berryman posted last year...I use wood pellets. And alfalfa pellets which are sold for horse feed. Wood pellets are 5 bucks for a 40 lb bag, and alfalfa pellets about 14 bucks for 80 lbs. Feces goes down the toilet or in the garbage, but pellets go into the compost bin. The pellets hold up several days, but as they break down into dust, I scoop them out and they go into the bin.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 11:09PM
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lazy_gardens

The clay does NOT improve your garden soil, unless you have an excess of sand.

Like Centurion, I'm using locally produced stove pellets and a DIY double litter box with a screen. Urine and sawdust from the wet pellets sifts through, for adding to the compost heap. Feces stays in the top box and get flushed.

I tried locally produced grass pellets but they didn't fall apart as well as the sawdust in the stove pellets.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 4:33PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

Hi, We have to switch cat litter because one of my two cats is asthmatic and the clay litter has too much dust. We bought a new type of clumping litter made from corn. It says it is flushable (I would not try that), so I'm wondering if it would ok to compost? I'm not sure I would also compost the poop or throw that in the toilet and flush it. But the urine clumps, if I compost them, would it be beneficial for my compost or detrimental (because of the urine)? I love the idea of using a natural product and not throwing more stuff into a landfill. And if I can get good compost material out of it, even better!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 9:07PM
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HIWTHI

Just the idea of my plants taking up my cat's urine is a real turn off for me.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 11:08PM
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RpR_(3-4)

Cat urine is no different from human urine, both are sterile.

I put kitty litter in my compost heap at times but I roto-till my compost into the soil.

Cats have allergies and many scented litters are pure hell to those cats.
The unscented litter covers any odor as well as the scented.

I tried organic litter, the cats tracked it far worse than clay and I had annoying little flies in the closed cat litter pail.
Went back to clay, no more bugs.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 12:18AM
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buford(7 NE GA)

Our current litter is unscented, but apparently the dust is one thing I have to try to eliminate (along with any air freshners, smoke, cleaning fumes etc). I know when people get horse manure it's shoveled from the stall with the hay which also has urine in it so I would think that cat urine would be similar. I don't use the compost on any edibles, so I'm not concerned about that. My cats have a pretty good diet (probably better than mine), and are healthy, so I'm not worried about germs. Any more than I am when I clean out the box now.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 8:19AM
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toxcrusadr

I always tell people who are concerned about germs that healthy soil has about 10 billion microbes per GRAM anyway. Yet, somehow we don't die even though we're surrounded by it. It's best not to eat it, same goes for compost and used cat litter. Observe that simple rule and you'll be fine. :-D

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 11:17AM
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