Recently, with environmental awareness on the rise, there have been some concerns about the environmental impact of animal waste and pet litter.
Pet owners are faced with determining how they should dispose of their pet’s waste most responsibly, what type of pet litter they should use, whether they in fact need pet litter and what the best way to dispose of pet litter is.
Commercial Pet Litters
There are a variety of pet litters available to buy in grocery and pet supply stores. The magnitude of choices can make it difficult to know which to choose. Two of the main types of commercial litter are are Clay-Based Pet Litters and “Green’ Pet Litters.
Clay-based pet litter is usually made from an absorbent clay called sodium bentonite. It’s clumping abilities mean that soiled clumps can easily be lifted out by pet owners, without them having to change all the litter in the tray. The only way to dispose of this type of cat litter is to send it to landfill. It can’t be flushed away. Plus, the sodium bentonite that acts as the clumping agent can poison your cat through chronic ingestion through their fastidious need to groom. Because sodium bentonite acts like expanding cement-it’s also used as a grouting, sealing, and plugging material-it can swell up to 15 to18 times their dry size and clog up your cat’s insides.
There are several other issues with the clay-based cat litters. The clay-mining processes used can be quite damaging to the environment. Clay sediment is also permeated with carcinogenic silica dust that can coat lungs.
There are now a wide range of green pet litters available on the market. They are made of natural or recycled materials such as corn kernels, recycled paper and sawdust. Most green pet litter choices are either biodegradable or can be safely flushed down the toilet. This is a preferable choice for many pet owners who don’t want to contribute to landfill waste.
diy pET LITTER
Many environmentally conscious pet owners prefer to re-use some of their own household waste as litter for pets such as cats, rather than paying for ‘green’ pet litter or, worse, paying for commercial pet litter which is made from harmful chemicals and can only be sent to landfill.
Useful household waste and natural pet litters include:
- Shredded newspaper; and
- Pine leaves
Some pet owners limit their use of pet litter as much as possible. For instance, many cat owners have ‘trained’ their cats to mainly go outside when they need to go! Cats will usually bury their own waste, so do not need to be monitored or cleaned up after in the same way as dogs.
Composting Pet Litter
There is much argument over whether it is safe to compost biodegradable cat and pet litters. The arguments centre around the fact that some pet feces, such as cat and dog droppings, can contain organisms which are dangerous to humans.
However, some experts say that it is safe to compost cat and dog litter ONLY if you compost it separately from the main compost heap and well away from any vegetables. They also suggest burying the actual feces and composting the litter only.
As cat feces can cause potentially fatal toxoplasmosis, a lot of pet owners would prefer to err on the side of caution and do not compost their litter.