What to Know About Composing Cat Litter


In this Article

  • What Is Cat Litter Made Of? 
  • What Cat Litter Works Best? 
  • Can You Compost Cat Litter? 
  • How Can You Compost Cat Litter? 
  • What Are the Benefits of Composting Cat Litter? 
  • What Are the Risks of Composting Cat Litter? 

Dealing with feces and urine is an unavoidable part of cat ownership. A well-maintained litterbox can make it easy to contain and clean up pet waste, but figuring out the best way to dispose of used cat litter can be less straightforward. Pet parents can use several strategies to get rid of this waste. Throwing it in the trash is the simplest disposal method, but you may wonder if composting cat litter could be a better alternative.

Composting cat litter can seem appealing, especially for environmentally conscious cat owners. After all, the amount of litter used for even a single cat can add up quickly, and you may feel concerned or guilty about your pet’s environmental impact. Composting can prevent more cat litter from going to the landfill, but you should carefully weigh the benefits and risks before committing to this disposal method.

What Is Cat Litter Made Of? 

A litterbox is a staple in many cat-owning households. Felines who spend all or some of their time indoors should have constant access to at least one litterbox filled with an absorbent clumping or drying agent. You can purchase cat litter made from numerous materials, such as: 

  • Sodium bentonite clay 
  • Amorphous silica gel 
  • Corn 
  • Paper
  • Pine or sawdust shavings 
  • Tofu 
  • Walnut shells 
  • Wheat 

92% of cat litter is made from clay, 6% from various organic materials, and 2% from silica gel.

What Cat Litter Works Best? 

The type of cat litter that works best for your home depends on several factors, including your preferred disposal method. Other considerations to keep in mind include: 

  • Number of cats
  • Frequency of litterbox cleanings
  • Your cat’s preferences 
  • Odor tolerance

Here are a few pros and cons of each material: 

  • Clay litter. This popular form of cat litter is affordable and widely available. Clumping clay litter makes it easy to clean pet waste. But your cat can’t digest this material easily if they eat it, and clay litter isn’t biodegradable. 
  • Silica litter. Also known as crystal litter, silica litter traps moisture and odor-causing molecules like ammonia more effectively than traditional clay litter. This material is lighter and doesn’t release as much dust, keeping the area around the litterbox cleaner. However, silica litter costs more than clay litter and doesn’t clump much, making cleanup more difficult. 
  • Plant-based litter. This biodegradable litter is made from natural, plant-based products like grains, paper, or wood pellets. You can make homemade organic litter from common materials, but manufactured products can be more expensive and less accessible than other kinds of litter.

Can You Compost Cat Litter? 

You can compost cat litter safely in some circumstances, depending on the type of litter and your composting setup. 

To compost your cat litter, you should use plant-based litter made from grains, paper, or wood pellets. These biodegradable materials break down during the composting process, allowing you to compost pet waste and litter together. 

Clay litter isn’t biodegradable, so you can’t compost it. Also, manufacturers frequently make this product using strip-mined clay, which damages the environment. As a result, clay litter is a poor choice for pet owners who want to use a sustainable litter. 

You also can’t compost silica litter, because it’s made from artificial and nonbiodegradable silica gel. This material is commonly found in silica packets that manufacturers use to protect new products from moisture.

How Can You Compost Cat Litter? 

Understanding how to compost cat litter can help you decide if this method is right for you. Composting is the process of decomposing organic materials to convert them into a nutrient-rich fertilizer or mulch. 

Using these basic steps, you can compost materials like plant-based cat litter at home:  

  • Build or purchase a compost bin 
  • Chop up food scraps and other organic materials to help them decompose faster
  • Start building your compost pile by layering absorbent brown materials like twigs and dry leaves with the organic waste you want to compost 
  • Top off the pile with four to eight inches of brown materials
  • Use a shovel or rake to turn your compost periodically 
  • Keep your compost pile damp 
  • After at least four weeks, move the compost from the bottom of the pile to a separate location to cure

A well-tended compost pile typically takes three to five months to decompose. If you don’t rotate and water your pile regularly, it can take up to a year for your compost to mature. 

Composting cat litter requires two extra steps. First, you should create a separate cat litter compost bin that doesn’t include food waste. Second, you should only use cat litter compost to fertilize non-edible plants to prevent the spread of harmful pathogens.

What Are the Benefits of Composting Cat Litter? 

There are numerous benefits of composting plant-based cat litter, such as:

  • Protect waterways and aquatic creatures from cat waste
  • Reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills 
  • Create a versatile fertilizer that you can use for your lawn or tree beds
  • Improve soil quality

What Are the Risks of Composting Cat Litter? 

Composting cat litter has a few risks. Some cats’ feces contain the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which can spread through soil and into crops. This parasite causes toxoplasmosis, an infection that can harm pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. To prevent the spread of this disease, avoid using compost made from cat litter on edible crops. 

Composting any material produces harmful gases like ammonia, carbon dioxide, and methane. You should place your cat litter compost bin in a well-ventilated space to avoid gas leaks, which can cause a fire in confined spaces. 

Composting cat litter can decrease your pet’s environmental footprint and help you fertilize your yard. If this method sounds too complicated or risky, you could consider training your cat to use the toilet, as long as they have tested negative for toxoplasmosis. Both methods allow you to dispose of cat waste responsibly and more sustainably.

Show Sources

Animals: “The Behavioural Effects of Innovative Litter Developed to Attract Cats.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Toxoplasmosis FAQs.”
Chemical and Engineering News: “What is health-monitoring cat litter, and how does it help detect when your cat is sick?”
Department of Environmental Conservation: “Use Less-Toxic Products.”
Enviro Pet Waste Network: “Repurposing Cat Waste.”
PIMA County: “Got questions? Ask the Green Geek.”
United States Environmental Protection Agency: “Composting At Home.”
US Composting Council: “Compost Safety: Know Your Confined Spaces.”

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