Composting clumping cat litter

dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)January 11, 2011

Is it possible to compost this stuff? I am wondering if I sank a bottomless bucket, with a lid and used it for the kittie litter? I would not use this stuff in the veggie garden, but hoped that worms might break it down. It would be easy to put layers of other material with the litter but really, I don't know what the litter is made of. Any suggestions for me?

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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Use a non-clumping sort if you want to compost it.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 10:29PM
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connie_cola(DE 7)

This site says that there are some natural litters that come in clumping varieties. The decision to bury the stuff should depend on what it's made of - not just the fact that it clumps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitty Litter Alternatives

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 10:50PM
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Thanks for the cat litter info. Most of the organic brands are too expensive for this budget.

As for the regular, cheap stuff, I wouldn't compost it. Just the artificial scents alone make me itch.

I'm not so sure about the expected contents that comes with cat litter either. I compost the dog stuff but that toxoplasmosis is a critter of a different kind. It requires 160 degrees F for ten minutes to kill off according to the CDC. I'm not sure that my usual 130 F for a week and then a year with the worms will do it.

two cents

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 12:49AM
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Rott, I switched over from using "Tidy cat" clumping litter to something called 'Feline Pine". Yes it is a litle more expensive but I use less of it. I scoop it the same way I used the clumping litter so only the clumps are removed. A very nice alternative in the long run.

The main thing I miss about not using my former litter is having the bucket afterward. I use them for all sorts of purposes around the house.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 9:46AM
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I don't have a cat, but I have gotten some empty containers from freecycle. One man's junk is another man's treasure! And not even off-topic that I mention it here ... I use them to bring compost/composting stuff to the beach.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 9:29PM
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Yes, I miss the buckets. The cheapo brand I've been getting at the local bulk club went from buckets to lamo bags. It's still the cheapest around which is important since I stopped counting cats and just count the cat boxes.

I still have a bunch of buckets but at some point they changed the plastic and the newer ones break down quicker in the sun.

I got some pickle buckets from a butcher/deli but they seem to break down easily too after being exposed to the elements.

Perhaps I'm too hard on my freebie buckets. Maybe I should ask for my money back.

two cents

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 12:24AM
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Recently, I was emailed by a woman that uses finished compost as cat litter for her cat, and apparently works wonders...

Worth a shot I guess, although I imagine there's plenty of cats that wouldn't be into it.

According to her, the benefits were:
-significantly cheaper
-good at absorbing urine
-doesn�t smell
-doesn�t require scooping
-has next to no tracking
-is easier to clean up
-avoid the landfill, of course.

Anyone here have experience to support this?

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 12:58AM
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I once got my mother some cedar litter because I liked the smell and she was experiencing difficulties. She liked it just fine but her cats just thought it was something to roll and play in.

Compost litter sounds dangerous to me with all my different personalities here.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 1:04AM
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I've mentioned this on a previous thread, but.... The wheat based kitty litter (Swheat i think its called) works great for me... I only have one cat and don't have to use tons of the stuff, so the extra cost isn't that much of an issue. It is marketed as both compostable and flushable. There is no nasty smells (wet litter smells like fresh baked bread), low on dust, and tracking hasn't been a problem. It also seems like you use a whole lot less than traditional clumping litter. My primary motivation behind making the switch was because I was just plain old sick of throwing the litter in my garbage. Also on the 'green' front, it is a byproduct made of compressed wheat chaff, so it is grown rather than mined like clay based litter.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 8:38AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Rott, if the scent makes you itch, can you imagine what the cats think? Their noses are much more sensitive than ours. I dislike the smell of all the deodorized products on the market now - garbage bags, laundry detergent, cat litter, and many personal care products.

I use the plain old clay unscented cat litter and have used it for years and years. I dump it out in the wild areas of the yard - tossing and scattering it. It pretty much disappears over time. I am also experimenting with using it as a soil amendment, to improve water-retention of my sandy soil.

IMO The whole toxoplasmosis and cats issue is overblown. Firstly, exposure to raw or undercooked meat is the greatest form of transmission of the parasite. Cats contract it by eating an infected rodent, so if your cat(s) aren't eating rodents, they won't get it. Even if your cat is infected, they are not normally shedding the parasite. Even if they are shedding it, it is transmitted to humans by touching your mouth after handling the kitty box or cat feces in the garden. I use gloves when changing the box and make it a practice of never touching my face unless my hands are clean!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 11:57AM
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I'm not so worried about toxoplasmosis as I am about perceptions. I get grief from some neighbors just by composting. Apparently it's my fault they have rats in their yard.

No our cats don't go outside and they aren't getting undercooked meat. I've seen some indications that toxoplasmosis is rather ubiquitous and when you consider the effect on rodents and how some people bond with their cats, I wonder if all of us cat people don't already have it.

Now explain that to the legions of lysol wielding moms and anti-bacterial soap users. Sometimes it seems like hygiene is a religion.

Regarding the scented cat litters, we're solely price driven. I'd love to go with something compost-able but that costs. I'd have to ramp up my composting operations to handle the increased volume but that's just a burden I'd have to bare. I watch the prices and they're improving and maybe one day I'll be able to convince my CFO - I'll probably get permanent cat box duty - that we should do it.

Maybe that bread smell will sell my wife on it. We tried an experiment with the used newspaper stuff but the rabbit got ill and the cats wouldn't use it.

two cents

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 12:41PM
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I wouldn''s made of clay and contains a lot of baking soda in some cases. The clay won't really break down and the baking soda can kill your plants. Some of the natural brands may be better. Also, clay used for cat litter is usually strip-mined which isn't a good thing for the planet either.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 12:39PM
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Rott, thanks for giving me a huge laugh with your statement " It's still the cheapest around which is important since I stopped counting cats and just count the cat boxes."

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 6:14PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

There was a thread on this in another forum. But let me add some words here. We've used cheap clumping cat litter for several years. Without thinking about it, we just would dispose of it in a large semi-wild bed out back. BIG MISTAKE. Years later, the stuff is still icky and clumpy and gooey. It basically attracts water, clumps (as advertised) and doesn't easily dry out. If it did dry out, it would probably be like cement. As it now is, you can hardly walk on that bed anymore. It has ground cover over much of it (Asiatic Jasmine) that seems to have survived the gooey clumps, but it remains pretty disgusting. There is no evidence that, in the course of several years, the stuff has broken down into the soil. Many-year old gooey clumps are still laying on top of the soil.

The stuff is likely made of the mineral bentonite. You look up bentonite, and you find that it is prized as a civil engineering sealant. You don't want sealants in compost!! It may or may not have sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) added for odor control. Now the small amount of baking soda that ends up getting thrown on the bed from our two cats should easily wash away. It's quite water soluble. Except it gets bound up in the bentonite. So it isn't the chemical properties that make it bad for compost. It's the physical properties.

I see absolutely no advantage in trying to put this stuff in a compost pit, and have witnessed real disadvantages. We're now disposing of it in a creek bed where, after a strong rain, it slowly washes away. For cat care, it's great stuff. For soil care, it's really really nasty stuff.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 3:48PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Dan, I assume it will never break down being a mineral sand or clay won't ever break like organics will. All you can do is remove it.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 4:50PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

It is definitely clay. And yes, bentonite chips are used for things like sealing water well casings or abandoned borings and wells. It swells when wet and will hardly pass water at all. The worst clay on the planet as far as gardening.

dan, have you considered that the cat waste is going into the stream the way you are disposing of that? It does not sound like a good idea. JMHO.

Any clay or silica based cat litter is a no-go for composting. Only the wood, paper or grain based ones will compost.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 5:54PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

No problem with the cat waste going into the stream. They're indoor cats, so they're disease free, and this is a creek that gets runoff from local roads, as well as donations from resident squirrels, raccoons, possums, outdoor cats and even an occasional coyote, as well as all the folks who walk their dogs down there.

As far as "breaking down" goes, sand and gravel won't "break down" ether, but they are entirely permeable and will have no effect on a garden bed. In fact, the natural bed around the creek (which is a flood plain) is all sand, silt, and gravel deposited by previous generations of high water. Little organic stuff in it, if you dig down. But the bed is lush with growth.

Very good point about this bentonite being "the worst clay on the planet as far as gardening". I don't think that came out strongly enough earlier in the thread.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 8:47PM
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ColesvilleEd(9 / Silicon Valley)

I use alfalfa pellets, cats are fine with them and a lot cheaper than kitty litter (just paid $22 for 50 lb bag at garden supply store, cheaper at feed store). Pretty easy material to work with the scooper, wet pellets fall apart and you can sift out the dry ones if you're frugal. Great in the compost pile.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 11:30PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

I've thought about alfalfa pellets. But I have to wonder that if the litter is organic, when it gets wet, doesn't stuff grow on it? As in, mold and bacteria? Yes, I know you're supposed to get rid of the parts that are wet, but if it doesn't clump, that's not as easy. I suspect one would just end up heaving the whole tray every four or five days, whether it was wet or not. If I threw that on my pile, I'm guessing it would be enormously popular with the wild animals around, except for the fact that it sort of smells like cat.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 6:45PM
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ColesvilleEd(9 / Silicon Valley)

If there are dry pellets when I add spent litter to the compost pile, they get wet when I spray the pile with water (and they puff up like little sponges). Within 24 hours the pile is hot... haven't noticed any varmints (not that we don't have them).

But alfalfa pellets are surprisingly easy to work with. After the poop is separated out, I use the scooper to sift out the powdered alfalfa that is left over after pellets get wet. It sometimes clumps, but you just have to stir a bit to get it broken up enough to sift. I just sift over an old kitchen trash can that has a lid, then throw undissolved pellets back into the litter box.

Now that I found out the garden supply place sells 'em, and I don't have to drive clear down to Cupertino, I probably won't be sifting as much. My pile always needs green.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 10:32PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

One other thing worth noting about alfalfa pellets is that they often use bentonite as a "binder". I suspect that's why they puff up when they get wet. Probably not a lot of bentonite, but to the extent that bentonite wants to find other bentonite to clump with, might not be a smart thing to put in a garden.

But if you use it in your compost, and your compost looks OK, that's all that counts.

Then again, it seems not to be a particularly smart thing to put in a horse or a rabbit. But their digestive systems are probably more dynamic than my compost pile!

There was some discussion about this a while ago --

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 2:27PM
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ColesvilleEd(9 / Silicon Valley)

My grandmother used to say "You've got to eat a peck of dirt before you die" (which meant don't worry too much about that food you just picked up off the floor). I'm sure that goes double for horses.

The compost does look good, maybe I'll figure out how to take / upload / post a picture of it.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 5:04PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I usually use the plain unscented clay litter, but last summer a friend's cat died and he gave me a big bag of clumping cat litter. Now you got me worried Daninthedirt - I've already thrown a little out in the back, and wonder if they'll end up as gooey clumps that never break down out there! Will have to check this out...

I've read that you can also seal a man-made pond with bentonite clay, in lieu of the rubber liner.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 7:38PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

Terrene, we dumped that stuff out there for several years, so it built up. You probably don't have much to worry about. But I think you'll be surprised at how those clumps just never seem to want to go away! You can hit the clumps with a hose sprayer, and try to wash them away, but it takes a lot of spraying, and the spraying often just flattens them out!

And Ed, that's important info about real experience with alfalfa pellets and compost. I like evidence, and it sounds like you have it.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 11:25PM
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topsiebeezelbub(z7 Al)

Nobody mentioned Yesterdays and compostable.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 6:19PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

My only complaint about Yesterday's news is the pellets were so big that you couldn't use any kind of a sifting shovel. It didn't really clump anyway.

The product I liked a few years back was called PaPurr. It was waste paper fiber (the stuff too short to be made into paper, IIRC) and was in the form of tiny beads and irregular bits. It clumped pretty well and was siftable like any fine litter. I can't find it anymore, sad to say. It was the perfect litter.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 12:22PM
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priswell(9 CA)

We no longer have our cat, but while she was alive, we used stove pellets. Stove pellets come in 40lb bags for $10 or less. Pour a quart of pellets in a regular sized cat box, and spray it with 10-15 squirts from a spray water bottle, and a few of the pellets will start to fall apart into sawdust in a few minutes, enough to make it attractive to the cats, and the rest will take care of themselves as the cats use the box.

That scanty looking quart will turn into a box full lush cat litter. It will absorb the smell down to nothing, and keep the box fresh for far longer than clay litter. We generally stretched the litter out to twice as long as clay litter. Then, we composted it all in a far corner of the landscape.

If I were to get another cat, I'd use it again.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 7:26PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Hey that's a great idea. Completely compostable and cheap.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 11:04AM
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So no one is actually composting the feces, correct? Just the urine soaked litter? I'd imagine at least a little feces would occasionally end up in the compost pile but is it so little it's not a concern? I am totally thinking of switching to the alfalfa or wood pellets. I don't like artificial scents either and being able to compost it is intriguing.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 9:42AM
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terrene(5b MA)

So I stopped at Petco last month, looking for some plain clay litter. They didn't have it! They only had 40 other kinds of cat litter though. Since when has cat litter gotten so complicated?

So I decided to try something new and bought a bag of Yesterday's News. My cat uses it a little, but doesn't really like it - she has 3 boxes and prefers the boxes with the clay litter. Also, the pellets are so large that it doesn't sift well and it's harder to get out the poops.

This stove pellet thing is interesting - where do you buy them? And what are they made out of?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 5:01PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

They are made out of waste wood, the scrap and sawdust from sawmills. You can buy them at hardware stores and home centers and farm supply stores.

I suspect plain clay cat litter is a lower profit margin item and that's why Petco doesn't carry it. Weird though. Check dollar stores, groceries and (dare I say it) Wal-Mart.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 1:54PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Oh I usually buy Cat's Pride Unscented at a grocery store in the next town but I was going past the Petco on the way back from my son's college, and thought they would have it. Weird they don't, but yeah, guess they have to sell the hyped up "odor control" "premium" or "fresh step" or whatever.

I will maybe try the stove pellets next, but the cat is just a little 6 pound female, she goes to the bathroom outside most of the time, has 3 boxes (each with their own bag of litter), and doesn't go through the litter very quickly (except for winter).

This post was edited by terrene on Fri, Nov 15, 13 at 19:33

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 7:21PM
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priswell(9 CA)

>>This stove pellet thing is interesting - where do you buy them?Home Depot, OSH, etc. They are easier to find during the winter, so since the northern hemisphere is busy with winter, they should be easy to find now.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2013 at 9:03PM
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