A failed kitty litter composting experiment

alfie_md6August 20, 2001

Here was my hypothesis: worm composting gets rid of pathogens.

And here was my plan:

1. Switch the cats to corncob pellet litter.

2. Empty the used litter into a compost bin in the back corner of the yard.

3. Add red worms.

4. Let time pass.

5. Test the composted litter and the fresh litter for fecal coliform.

My hypothesis would be proven incorrect if there were fecal coliform in the composted litter.

Unfortunately, the cats balked at Step #1 in the plan, so it never went anywhere (though unfortunately the cats did, on the carpets).

Please, in the name of science, won't somebody with better cats try this experiment?

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Several thoughts come to mind....

1. Would growing catnip and adding it to the corn cob pelleted litter inspire your cats to participate in this experiment?

2. Why corn cob litter? What other natural choices do you have that worms will happily munch?

We hear conflicting advice on using dog/cat fecal matter in compost piles. I hope you are able to continue this experiment.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2001 at 10:51AM
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Alas, the Head Catbox Cleaner at the Palais d'Alfie (namely my husband) decreed an irrevocable return to scoopable clay litter. He claims that non-smelly carpets are more important than composting experiments. Imagine!

I don't think that whoever takes up the scientific challenge would have to use corncob litter in this experiment, though, just anything organic and biodegrable.

From what I know about cat behavior on catnip, I suspect that putting catnip in the litterbox would probably lead to some unusual but not necessarily desirable results.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2001 at 11:15AM
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I have found most cats balk at any change in their litter. I have 4 cats and one of them, only one of them use the toilet to urinate, dont know why the others dont but go try to figure cats.
PS I once had a rabbit that used the litter box and when I decided to change litter he refused to use it.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2001 at 12:26PM
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Boy- you all go to so much trouble. My two cats' favorite litter box is the garden. So far, no problems with kitty coliform! On a more serious note, why does everyone seem to worry so much about fecal organisms?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2001 at 1:02PM
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My reason for testing for fecal coliform wasn't so much that I'm worried about fecal coliform bacteria, but rather that it's a cheap and common way to test for general contamination by poo.

One might, I suppose, test for toxoplasma parasite, since toxoplasmosis is what always comes up in catbox-composting question. But our cats don't have the toxoplasma parasite, since they never go outside (hence the litterbox), so I wouldn't have had a control for the experiment.

Hunter, I've attached a link for you that might explain why people worry about fecal contamination :-).

Here is a link that might be useful: Cholera

    Bookmark   August 20, 2001 at 1:26PM
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bklyndirt(5 Ithaca)

So here goes!

I have two cats who happily use the biodegradable FelinePine, though they also just as happily use my garden about half the time when the weather is decent.

The FelinePine copy says it's compostable, but I've always worried about pathogens. So if someone out there can give me instructions on testing for fecal coliform and the toxoplasma parasite, I would love to run the experiment..

    Bookmark   August 21, 2001 at 9:08PM
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Woo hoo! Happy happy mad scientist dance!

If I were you, I would proceed as follows:

1. First, have the vet test your cats for the toxoplasma parasite. (Don't bother with fecal coliform, that would be like testing water to see if it's wet.)

2. Make a separate HOT compost pile OR a separate worm bin for the litter. At some point, stop adding to it, and then wait at least 3 months.

3. Find a commercial lab that will tell you how to collect a sample of a solid (namely, the composted litter) for testing for fecal coliform. If your cats don't have the toxoplasma parasite, there's no point in testing the compost for it. Otherwise, ask if they test for toxoplasma too, or ask your vet. The fecal coliform test shouldn't cost more than $20, I believe.

Here is one state-approved lab that I found in Brooklyn, but there must be others.

Has approved analytes in the following categories:
Non-Potable Water
Solid Waste

4. Let us know how it turns out! Yippee!!


    Bookmark   August 22, 2001 at 10:28AM
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I'd like to try this experiment with mulch around trees. My cat seems to consider this his litterbox. I can do my own lab tests, but positive I.D. might be hard without an oil microscope. I'll see if I can get the supplies I need locally. Thanks for giving me a great excuse to clutter the basement with Petri dishes!
I'd also like to make a dog-feces compost pile and test that after various intervals.

I'll think about other garden-related bacteriology experiments, and I'll share my ideas with you guys.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2001 at 12:05AM
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try adding new litter very gradually mixed with old litter. Gradually increase the amt of new litter and decrease old. Cat will usually accept new litter if you do this over a couple of weeks untul finally none of the old is left

    Bookmark   August 24, 2001 at 10:32AM
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Alfie try another one, not soil borne.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2001 at 1:33AM
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I use recycled paper pellets, Yesterday's News (brand), made in Canada, for my cat. During good weather, he prefers to go outside. I spread the litter directly on top of the soil of my flower beds and under shrubs, covering with a thin layer of leaves or garden litter. It breaks down easily and the high carbon paper absorbs all the nitrogen so there is no burning of plants.

Rhubarb needs tremendous amounts of nitrogen (known as a 'gross feeder'), so I used to spread manure from our Norwegian elkhound kennel about a foot away from the stems and again cover it lightly. Some of the stalks got to be the size of my wrist, so I had to cut back on the amounts used.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2001 at 10:06PM
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Gyurkovitz, I don't understand. What isn't soilborne? Toxoplasmosis can be a soilborne disease, according to the CDC. Fecal coliform can survive too, or so I assume from the pretty stringent regulations on sewage composting. Or are you suggesting testing for a non-soilborne contaminant?

Here is a link that might be useful: Preventing congenital toxoplasmosis

    Bookmark   August 27, 2001 at 10:27AM
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No, I meant your cholera link. In water, or on food there is a relatively low density of bacteria (including the cholera). In an active compost pile, the cholera would find itself to be the meal of another microbe. Toxoplasmosis, I'm not worried about since:
1.)I am not having more children and 2.)I would be willing to bet any amount of money you care to name that it exists in my soil already anyway.

The link below was the best information I could find regarding E. coli, and they indicate that it is present in herbivores as well as omnivores and carnivores.

In addition, these people advocate controls which I find to be unreasonable.

The moral may be: Wash your food.

Here is a link that might be useful: Safe Tables Our Priority Re:National Organic Program Comments

    Bookmark   August 27, 2001 at 9:16PM
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Cedarific! Cedarific!

It's great, it's light, it's compostable, it works twice as well as clay...and cats loooove it.

Feline Pine and corncob litter is too big a change for some cats, but I've yet to meet one that balked at Cedarific.

And yes, somebody please let me know about dog poop compost. I have a pile 'way out back which seems like it would make a fine soil amendment after a year or two, but I'm a little afraid to try it, since I don't go out of my way to make sure it's being composted properly. I just dump poop on the pile, and every week or so I rake some dead leaves on top to keep the smell in check. A few times per year I sort of turn it over and rake more dead leaves on top. I must say that the bottom of the pile looks like perfectly good compost. Does anybody have any idea if it could be used for my non-edible plants, like the roses?

    Bookmark   August 28, 2001 at 7:46AM
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stripedone(2/3 SW ALBERTA)

Hurry up already! Less talk and more action. I have these confounded cats that keep doing it in my garden, and if this works dagnamit, I suggest it to my darn neighbors. So get to it already...no I don't have any cats to experiment with...(did that sound right?)

    Bookmark   August 28, 2001 at 10:32AM
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The only concern (as far as I can tell) is how safe the stuff is with potentially soil contaminated vegetables. In other words, corn would certainly be safe, carrots might be a problem, but since those are washed and peeled maybe not. Ironically, the greatest danger would probably be with plants that fruit above ground, since soil contamination of the fruits may not be apparent (I have been known to eat beans as I pick them).
I'm willing to be the guinea pig, if I suddenly stop posting and e-mails fail to rouse, me you can assume I am deceased (I'll see if I can have my wife post something to that effect in the event of my demise).

    Bookmark   August 28, 2001 at 1:41PM
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byron(4a/5b NH)


My cats use sawdust.. and a little baking soda.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2001 at 8:57PM
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Yup. Same principle as Cedarific. If the store is out of cedarific I've been kown to substitute hamster bedding, which is basically just pine and/or cedar shavings. I prefer that they use coarse sawdust/fine chips because they track it less.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2001 at 11:16AM
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Forty some years ago, when I started composting as a teenager, I used what was available. We had a dog kennel and 2 acres of mowed former hayfield. The dog droppings, weeds and "hay" made a hot fast pile, and the compost was great. I never saw any warnings at that time about using dog poop.

A few years later, as a college student, I learned about the parasites that dogs carried and stopped using dog waste, but I can report that it will make fine compost to use on your ornamentals. If you have dogs around, your lawn is already receiving the uncomposted stuff!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2001 at 1:24PM
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Regarding Dog Poop compost:

We have a courtyard - all concrete - and have been doing some container gardening, ornamentals only. We also have dogs, and plenty of dog poop.

I've used aged dog poop mixed in with potting soil (1 part poop to 4-6 parts soil) for our ornamentals with *great success.* I take from the bottom of the pile; you'll notice it smells "earthy" rather than poopy and has grown a great crop of red wigglers. If I happen to have fresh poo when I'm planting new containers, I'll sometimes put in a pile or two on top of the first 1-2" of soil in the bottom of the pot. All our pots are at least 2-1/2 gal. size.

I began doing this because we have 3 large dogs, and to scoop and discard it all in the trash makes the cans very heavy and difficult to drag out to the street.

Here's an interesting link: http://www.thewormman.com/worms/

You might also look at the "humanure" info on the web. IIRC, they recommend that possibly pathogenic (?) manures age around 2 years before they're used on edibles.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2001 at 3:22PM
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bklyndirt(5 Ithaca)

Just to keep you all posted . . .

My new kitty poop worm bin (still sans kitty poop) is a few weeks old. The worms are happily munching on tonight's veggie scraps. As soon as the bin is solidly underway, I'll have the cats tested and begin adding the contents of their litter box.

Any other mad experiments you need me to preform (happy happy mad scientist dance all around the studio!)?


    Bookmark   September 9, 2001 at 10:37PM
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havent extensive studies proven that the pathogens present in the fecal matter of non-herbivorous animals to be resilient to the composting process?that is, not enough heat is produced by the pile to kill the pathogens and time seems to have little effect as well.personally,i would avoid the use of any carnivourous animal's feces as fertilizer.even if your intention is to only use it for landscaping plants,the possibility of children handling the soil (or even the landscaper!)and getting the pathogens should be enough to discourage its use.the fact that the earth has disposed of carnivorous animal feces for the time of its existence until now shows that nature can deal with it on its own.Just dump the stuff somewhere and have satisfaction enough that you arent harming the environment.The biodegradeable litters,especially the wood and paper ones seem to be the best ideas to me because they are renewable resources(coming from trees as they are)whereas conventional litters have to be dug up out of the ground somewhere and cant be renewed.I like your expirimenter's attitude,though.have you thought of using pet feces as a source of methane for use as an energy source?Best wishes.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2001 at 6:19PM
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I can't see how dumping the fresh cat feces somewhere is better for the environment than composing them and using the compost on ornamentals. While some pathogens might survive composting, they will nearly all be there in the "dump spot."

    Bookmark   October 13, 2001 at 10:09PM
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"Dump the stuff somewhere"? Where?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2001 at 12:14PM
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I'll tell you folks, I'd be a whole lot more 'scared' of the potential for developing a life-threatening case of visceral larval migrans from exposure to roundworm(Toxocara spp.) eggs in composted dog or cat poop than I would the potential for exposure to Toxoplasma(unless I was HIV+ or a pregnant woman with no previous exposure) or fecal coliforms.
Composting is a great pursuit, but for goodness sake, give it up when it comes to dog & cat feces, folks.
Municipal sludge may be OK for application to lawns & non-edibles, but there's no way I'd want to use Humanure, Milorganite or any of those type products on any food crops. Yeah, they used human excrement as fertilizer for millenia, but they also had a much higher infant mortality rate, and lesser life expectancies.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2001 at 11:31PM
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gardengrl(Northern Virginia)

Just a note....your cat can carry the toxoplasma parasite, even if it never stepped outside a day in its life. Apparently, they can contract the parasite from their mother and it lies dormant. Our cat (who has always been an indoor cat) started acting strange two years ago...when we took him to the vet and several tests were done, it was found that he did carry the parasite and always will.

I agree with Lucky P...I don't support composting with feces from a meat eating animal. There are way too many risks to take, especially around crops that you will be ingesting.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2002 at 9:24PM
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AzCat(Az/ Tucson)

Maybe I should poll my neighbors as to the kitty litter they use and spread another brand in my yard. That might keep them out.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2002 at 3:54PM
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I read an article on bioremediation of feces that was posted on the SOE forum some time back. The idea was to grow fast growing plants (ornamentals perhaps) in sewage, then harvest the leaves and compost those. Seems the principle if not the specific practice could be applied by most home gardeners. This completely removes the possibility of contamination of edibles by fecal matter, but reclaims the waste for garden use.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2002 at 2:24PM
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My 6 cats use the flower beds most of the year. So as far as those beds go I guess they are infected. I try and put alot of stakes or rocks around my tomato plants so they won't beable to get in there and disturbe it. I do wash the fruit well and myself of course!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2002 at 8:06PM
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A bit late joining this thread, but thought I'd give you my scoop on poop.
First, although numerous studies are alluded to regarding survival of pathogens in the composting process, I have yet to see a cite. While survival might occur in a poorly run pile that does not heat up, it is very unlikely in a pile that does. Second, if you are composting your own waste, then you are not in danger anyway, as you are merely reingesting your own microzoo.
The existance of composting toilets and their efficacy shows the falsehood in the myths about omnivore/carnivore fecal matter compostsing.
That being said, here are a few practical things:
1) if you are afraid of pathogens in dog/cat feces, let them dry out first separate from the pile, for about 60 days. This will kill most of the hydrophillic pathogens, although some may enter spore stage and survive. ALso, you will find that a white powder develops, This is due ot fungal acation. This action will start the decomposition process and further decimates the pathogenic population. After the stuff is thoroughly dry, crumble into powder and apply to compost. This will ensure maximum decomposition. (The problem with simply burying it, as suggested above, is that it can take forever (YEARS) to break down. If you dig where you buried, you will find it years later.)
Also, Toxocara are not restricted to carnivores. There are versions in most domesticated animals, including cows (Toxocara vitulorum.) and I see no great uproar or outcry for the cessation of using cow manure in compost. There are other causes of VLM as well such as Baylisascaris procyonis. This bacterium exists in many domesticated and wild mammalian species (From the CDC: More than 90 species of wild and domesticated animals have been identified as infected with B. procyonis larvae. Outbreaks of fatal central nervous system disease caused by B. procyonis have occurred on farms and in zoos and research animal colonies and have affected commercial chickens, bobwhite quail, guinea pigs, commercial pheasants, and domestic rabbits. Natural infections have also been recognized in dogs, rodents, porcupines, chinchillas, prairie dogs, primates, woodchucks, emus, foxes, and weasels.) Obviously not all of these are carnivores. Eggs WILL remain viable for months after excretion, but if you leave your pile active for at least this long, then all Toxocaran eggs will be eliminated.
If you are really concerned about such things, but still want to do something garden friendly, try switching from aerobic composting to anaerobic composting. This is only efficient at high temps. Unlike aerobic piles that generate their own heat but do not need much to operate (which is why a good pile can go all winter), anaerobic piles generate no heat, but need it nice and hot(90F-130F) to work. To do this, one needs an oxygen barrier. Usually this is water. A large plastic bucket filled with "filth" and topped with a few inches of water will work fine. This system will generate copious amounts of methane. This is what is being alluded to by james_gtt. If it is closed-topped, which is advisable, you will need to have a gas relief valve, or store it in a tank or bag and use it for cooking or heating water. After several months with a little bit of (gentle) agitation/turning to ensure complete access to the pile by your microherd, you can empty the bin onto a flat sheet and dry. If it has been completely digested, it WILL NOT SMELL, will be free of pathogens (the aerobic pathogens will die in the heat/anaerobic environment) and will be rich in nutrients and will resemble the humus generated by aerobic piles. This is the basic process used in composting toilets. You can make it more complicated and efficient by adding reburners to take some of the generated methane to run burners to keep the pile hot, and by using a transport scheme to allow addition of new material while the pile is working ,but this is not necessary in a simple "digester," as it is called.
This process is used on a commercial scale on many farms for electricity generation concurrent with fertilizer generation. Many poultry farms do this, as well as pig, dairy, and other livestock farms.

Bottom line:
it is my opinion, based on a perponderance of the evidence, that composting pet feces is acceptible practice (BTW no results from this experiment, it would seem). With a little care it can be done with little to no response from annoyed neighbors.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2002 at 12:39AM
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Oh, I forgot, here is my scoop on poop:

Here is a link that might be useful: scoop on poop

    Bookmark   September 22, 2002 at 2:42AM
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We have a yard with soil and areas that no one worked on for many years. In these areas only cat poop was added by cats. If I then go to try to turn and work the said soil, then I found it to have a horrible smell, and also to contained a dust that I was allergic too and seemed to be toxic. This is from moving to a new house. My conclusion cat poop is bad for soil. It will make your soil foul and toxic. So, I would recommend not using any in any compost pile, of course, if someone is getting good results, maybe it is the good organic matter over ride the horror of the cat poop?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2002 at 4:33PM
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Which is why you should compost it rather than bury it.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2002 at 7:05PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I don't know if Alfie is still reading this thread, but for those who are...

I say go ahead and compost cat litter no matter what it's made of. Even composted clay litter can add to your soil. Now I'm assuming you have something to add to the compost in addition to this one element, but I'm not so sure even a single ingredient would be a problem.

Composting animals and animal manure is one of the things Mother Nature got pretty good at over the past few eons. If she hadn't we'd all be mucking around somewhere in the middle of the dinosaur manure zone.

I used to have two 60 pound dogs in a small back yard. After a year, the microbes in the soil got very specialized at disposing of the dog piles. The only time I have any lasting more than a few days now is in the coldest part of winter when the soil temp keeps the decomposing microbes and insects underground.

I am fortunate to live in a city with one of the country's leading experts on compost. These guys compost anything organic. They usually do not compost herds of livestock, but they have when a disease threatened. "Normally" they will take roadkill deer, cattle or horses when they die.

It usually interests people to know that in a normal hot compost pile, a large animal will be totally digested by the microbes in 4 days including bones, teeth, hide, horns, hair, hooves, and all. When composting more than a few animals, they will set up a separate pile and handle it differently. This is because the amount of methane generated makes quite a fire hazard. But in the end it all ends up in one compost pile. Also interesting is that there is no smell associated with the composting of livestock. When buried deep enough in the pile, the smell is captured by the aerobic microbes.

The reason most people don't compost meat eating animals or manure is the smell attracts varmints. If those varmints can smell the attraction, they will dig up your compost pile and drag out the offending stuff. However, if you bury the stuff at the bottom of the pile, the smell does not seem to escape - at least my dog doesn't chase after it. Other than this, there is no reason not to compost cat litter, or cats for that matter.

One problem Alfie might have had had he continued with his experiement is that not all worms are created the same. Composting worms are not usually referred to as "red worms." Usually compost worms are referred to as wigglers or composting worms. When I think of red worms I think of the slow moving worms that drown when it rains too hard. Composting worms are so wiggly they literally leap out of your hand if you try to hold them. So this part of it could have thrown off the experiment.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2002 at 5:11PM
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The first thing that comes to my mind is that corncob litter is probably not a good compost. Corn husks, cobs and corn stalks, as I seem to remember hearing a long time ago (and I can't track it down at the moment) contain some sort of chemical that tends to inhibit plant growth. You might want to check that one out.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2002 at 9:43PM
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Yes, it is used in weed inhibiting products as well as everyones present favorite, Febreze. B.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2002 at 2:16PM
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NewPenny(z8a-7b WA, USA)

I've never had a problem with changing types of litter for any cats I've owned. The only time I have had problems is if the box isn't cleaned regularly enough. But even then strong praise when they use the box and a few stern words if they even look like they might be thinking about useing one of my house plant pots keeps them well behaved. I have recently switched from the clumping scoopabel clay litter to an unscented pelleted plant fiber litter. The chlorafill in the pellets removes any smells. It lasts twice as long as clay litters, is flushable if you want or is also biodegradable and is suppoed to be good compost for your garden. I plant to flush the poop and compost the used plant fibers when the box neads changed. I'll proably sprinke on a little sweat lime accasionaly to keep it from being to acidic, on the compost not in the litter box, I'll test the ph first. At least these are my plans. We'll have to see how it goes. :-)

Take care, Penny

    Bookmark   December 31, 2002 at 10:49PM
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Irma_StPete(z9 FL)

I would like to ask a question I have held onto for too long: Re the warnings to not change cat litter if pregnant...If cat feces with(toxoplasmosis?)can hurt a fetus (because it has not developed immunity as adult women are ASSUMED to have developed) or HIV-positive person, doesn't it seem probable that some of us adult litter-box-changers have been affected/infected and the body compromised somehow? Low level infection..."Gee doctor, just not up to par for the past x # of years, what could it be?". Really! Doctors don't test us or ask if we have pets. Can anyone shed light on this?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2003 at 6:13PM
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calpat(zone9ab No.Ca.)

Another link on poop!
Compost Poop

    Bookmark   November 17, 2003 at 11:53AM
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I never knew of a cat cooperating with ANYTHING, much less an experiment.

Please don't acuse me of hating cats. I just cared for my neighbor's cat while they were gone a week. But I'll admit to not liking them much. In fact I don't know many men that do, and the ones that do - well-I kinda wonder abt them.

But, I DO love my wife of 42 yrs, my dog, and my tomatoes. Jim

    Bookmark   December 2, 2003 at 1:53PM
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madspinner(z7 WA skagit)

A good type of litter for cats used to clay is just plain old rabbit or alfalfa pellets from the feed store. Cheaper than many kinds of fancy litter and very compostable. My mother has used her cat's catboxes in her garden for years on ornamental plants with no ill effects. I mean, come on, your neighborhood cats are all going in your garden anyway, arn't they? And these are your cats, whom you have already been pretty exposed to anything they may carry. I wouldn't use on eddibles, but ornamentals shouldn't expose you anymore than you already are.

When I was pregnant I had myself tested for exposure to toxoplasmosis and was found negative. If you have already been exposed you are not considered a risk as you have antibodies and are resistant. At the time I had 3 cats, gardened, and also worked at a thrift shop that had cats in cages to be adopted. While I was pregnant I stopped changing any litter boxes (my husband and co workers just LOVED that!) and used latex gloves in the garden because I knew one of my cats and possibly neighbor's cats went in my beds. Everything went fine, though I did worry a bit at my above average exposure to cats!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2004 at 6:32PM
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I have been using the clay litter for my 2 cats, and using the well used litter in the yard to fill in low spots. I have also been using it in flower beds when I till them. The neighborhood cats seem to enjoy the low spot areas and it keeps them out of my flowers.

And JimRushing2000, be careful about making broad statements.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2004 at 12:36PM
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Here is an idea, I have been buy wheat litter, that is for sale at traget in a 15 pound box. My cats love it and it does not smell bad nor is it dust like tidy cat. But, still I don't use it my composting. But, if you try the wheat litter and your cats like it, then you can go ahead with the test.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2004 at 9:22AM
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ok, I have to give a few ideas. On Toxoplasmosis; my cousin was diagnosed toxoplasma POSITIVE years ago; she has never owned a cat ( I'm the crazy cat lady; I dont have it), back then, I did a little research and it turns out you can get it from eating medium well or rare steak, that said, I also dont see why NOT cleaning the cat box while pregnant will protect you from it if the cat still sits in your lap or sleeps with you, they WALK on the litter ya know? Ok, I covered the futility on worrying about toxoplasmosis, let's move on.
Cat litter composting; I have composted the regular kind, kitty green and my personal favorite, cedar shavings ( they smell great while in the house) and regular pine shavings. Set up a 3 sided bin, made with leftover lumber; dump chip litter ( cedar, sawdust, pine shavings) add whatever else you have in your yard (leaves, lawn clippings, leftovers-use your resources) mix and let it be. Garden earthworms will move in, if you added plenty green stuff the compost will get HOT, in about 2 months time it will be wonderful black earth. Of course you have to mix it periodically and maybe wet it down if it gets too dry. Keep adding stuff as you get it, keep mixing with every addition. I'll be 42 on the 19th, havent caught anything from well composted stuff yet. I have a friend that does the same; she is 41, I guess we can attest THAT IF YOU COMPOST IT WELL IT'S HARMLESS.
The clay litters dont compost well, but I know another cat keeper that picks the feces out of it and incorporates it around her flower beds then gives it a good hose down ( all the nitrogen in the urine makes her flowers gorgeous), of course that wont be a good amendment on clay soils, but works good in sandy Florida soil. Rabbit pellets work great too. The main trick here is to change the litter dayly, use just enough so the cats have something to dig in and dump it out and replace with fresh every evening. The more green in your compost pile, the better it will work, I'd recommend the rabbit pellets, they are mostly alfalfa with some corn and molasses, that will heat up fast and decompose quickly. The heat will kill anything.
Hope that helps the experiments underway.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2004 at 11:06PM
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Here is some info from a blog "Greening My House". Composting? Well What About All those Nasty Bacteria?
Thats a very good point. Cat feces sometimes contains many types of fecal coliform bacteria such as the dreaded E. Coli, and also a very nasty bug called taxoplasma gondii which can survive in soils and eventually get into food growing in that soil. This particular taxoplasma bacteria is very nasty for pregnant women and their babies, and for that reason pregnant women should never be "doing the litter". Unfortunately, us guys need to sign up for that household chore. (I was going to make a quip about "always dealing with the crap" but I realized my wife will probably read this posting!
Composting does get rid of a lot of bacteria, especially if you do worm composting (vermicomposting). But it does not get all of it. The safest thing to do if you are composting your litter is to use the resulting worm casting on non-food plants only, such as trees, shrubs, flowers, ornamentals, etc.
You can also sterilize the soil by essentially "cooking" it to kill off all the bacteria. This can be done in a green fashion via solarization. Solarization is a technique where you spread a thin layer of soil (or in this case, worm castings) out on a black surface and cover it with a transparent cover such as a thick plastic sheet. Then, you leave that out in the sun to "cook". In sunny climes, this technique can raise the temperature of the casting up to as much as 140 to 150F. If this is left in the sun for a few weeks, pretty much all bacteria, fungus, weeds, and seeds will be sterilized. Also be very careful  the temperature must be above 140F for a few hours to ensure that the bacteria are all killed off. If you are not sure about it, donÂt use this compost on your food crops. See the USDA web site for more details about killing off harmful bacteria in foods, some of which applies to killing bacteria in compost.
Alternately, you can cook the castings in the oven at 200F for 20 minutes to do the same thing. (DonÂt worry, the worms have removed anything smelly!) This is what companies do to chicken and cow manure that you buy in those huge packs at your home and garden megastore.
The only problem is that cooking it in the oven probably uses electricity that causes carbon emissions. Solarization is the preferred "green" method if it gets warm enough where you live to raise the temperature sufficiently.
But there is a problem with cooking. Even the beneficial bacteria can be eliminated. All of its mojo is gone, baby!
So, the idea is that you would keep 2 compost heaps: one for kitchen wastes, and one for worm composting the kitty litter. When a batch of the worm compost is done, and then appropriately solarized or sterilized, then it goes directly into the kitchen compost heap to get its mojo back. The castings will pick up beneficial bacteria and also provide food and materials to help the bacteria break down the food wastes as well. The result should be usable on food gardens.
So What are You Doing, Edwin?
Well, step 1 is already complete: we have switched from the clumping clay litter to Swheat Scoop wheat litter. The cats didnÂt seem to mind at all. The only thing I have noticed is that there is an ammonia smell when I change the litter that I didnÂt smell before with the clay. Currently, we are still throwing the litter out in the garbage. (You canÂt put it in the green bin for the same bacteria reasons listed above.) Also, the price seems to be competitive with the clay clumping litter. We pay perhaps a dollar more (thatÂs about 10%) to get this biodegradable stuff.
Step 2 is to get a 2 composting bins, one for food and one for litter. Then, weÂll use the food compost for the food garden, and the litter compost for the non-food parts of the garden.
Step 3 is to build or buy a solarization tray so that we can sterilize the litter compost with a high enough heat that we can use it for the food parts of the garden.
IÂll blog again when we have done parts 2 and 3.
Comments so far »
1. 1
2008-03-19 @ 03:01 PDT
I have been looking for info about composting kitty litter. Thanks for writing about this-I esp.was interested in the info about sterilizing the bacteria. I just got some extra worms especially for the kitty litter (we use the pine stuff too), but I think the ammonia in the urine may have killed all the worms, so perhaps the urine has to be taken out first. Will keep working on it and will check your updatesÂ.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2008 at 8:37AM
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'But I'll admit to not liking them much. In fact I don't know many men that do, and the ones that do - well-I kinda wonder abt them.'

And we wonder about anyone so unsure of their masculinity that they can't appreciate an incredible animal that women happen to like too.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 10:10AM
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The main idea is to have enough good, beneficial bacteria that the pathogens are weeded out or broken down OR that the environment encourages the growth of certain beneficial bacteria. Drying the waste out beforehand was a really good idea too. There is a lot of good information in these posts. Thanks to all those people excited about compost and microorganisms that contributed. I pretty much agree with you, DChall. Mother nature is pretty good at this by now. It's also interesting to note that the garden flora become USED to breaking down certain waste. Anything is better than sterile soil and landfill waste, I think. I never worry about bad bugs and I have never gotten sick... I don't have much of a vegetable garden, but I do have herbs and fruit trees. I also use a compost tea, just as an extra safety measure. Worms seem like a good idea too. And using them only on ornamentals... you'll be fine. Any safer than that, I would say is paranoia.

The worms probably died from the pine, Kayla, not from the ammonia. Composted corn kitty litter may be good to amend an area that has a weed problem. I don't think it would inhibit the growth of shrubs, trees or bulbs... but I don't know. I'm assuming it prevents the germination of small seeds.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 5:32PM
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I really love these posts.
So what happened..? did the person running the test complete it or what... did it test free.

I use yesterdays news, for my pets health (won't cause asthma and he is allergic to pine.)
it does not cut down on the smell, so I spray the litter with bleach and water after I scoop and flush it then I wipe out the plastic tray if there is any excrement on it with the bleach water.
When I dump the rest it is just pellets that have soaked up urine. I thought it they looked very appealing to mix into the soil as well, I thought perhaps a bleach bath would kill any bacteria prior to mixing and bleach disappates when left in the air, so soaking in bleach and letting dry out would kill bacteria wouldn't it, and then it could be used in the garden to allow better soil drainage and would be biodegradable waste.
that was my plan (would it work)?

My only question

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 9:49PM
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Does your cat and/or dog get near you? If so, then you are more than likely already exposed to any type of parasite that your animal carries. They clean themselves all over, and if you pet or pick up, or if they lick you then your are exposed. When you clean their litter, clean up after your dog in the park, you are being exposed. Look up what happens to your toothbrush when you leave it exposed in your bathroom... Proper composting (140+F and a strong freeze hence the reason you are to wait at least a year) will kill 99% of the critters.

I am sure I have been exposed considering my dog likes to lick everything and my cat trys to eat my soul by sticking her head in mouth as I sleep... but if I planned to make cat or dog compost, I would make a heat box to dry and "cook" the fecal matter before adding to my normal compost pile just for that peace of mind.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 12:25AM
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backyardgrown(7b-8 NW MS)

Considering every animal in a 1/4 mile radius poops in my yard and flower beds anyway, I won't be exposing myself to any new pathogens by composting the kitty litter seperately from the other compost pile.

Now to find a biodegradable litter that doesn't cost a fortune.

If I remember correctly, something like 75% of the European population already has exposure to toxoplasma. It's not harmful if you are already exposed to it and become pregnant, but if you get initial exposure during pregnancy it can cause severe birth defects. As I am done having children, and already walk barefoot in my yard I think I'll be ok. I grew up running barefoot in the country so my constitution is pretty strong and probably resistant to a lot of what I could catch from any of my pets, or anyone else's.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 2:30PM
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deusexmachina(Z6 PA)

Ah, well, it seems I have survived the composting process myself!

Anyway, for a cheap source of compostable litter, get 40 lb bags of stove pellets for wood burning stoves. It is about $4 a bag, as opposed to $8 for a 7lb bag of FelinPine®.

As for toxoplasmosis, it is not pregnancy that is the issue, per se, rather it is only a VERY small time window (two weeks in the first trimester) during which the disease is transmittable to the fetus, and ONLY if the mother has not had prior exposure. And ONLY if the mother has a new cat, who ALSO has not been previously exposed, because th organism is only present in the feces during a brief window after initial exposure. I.e. it is almost impossible to get the toxoplasmid from cat feces. In fact, a study of the organism had to be scrapped and totally redesigned, because it was based on a sample population of cat owners, assuming they would harbor the organism. Instead, they found that there was no evidence that ANYONE had EVER contracted toxoplasmosis through this vector.
Instead, they found that the vast majority of cases (close to 100%) resulted from pica.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 5:12PM
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You can use shredded newspaper for the cats; ours like that just fine. You will need to change it daily, though. We run our newspaper through the shredder (otherwise we wouldn't have enough for them!).

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 1:15PM
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arugula(4/5 Wisconsin)

This is a great discussion. Seems like it's time for a new subject line, though, to reflect all the positives here.

I use pine litter and dig deep holes in the ground far, far from any water source, then let the soil life do their thing. This of course is not possible in the city, where hot composting and vermiculture can do the job much better and safer.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 12:29AM
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No more lugging heavy expensive litter from the store!!! I started using composted leaves mixed with a little sand. Cats prefered it over Feline pine. It is free from my compost pile. No oder so far and I am starting a new compost pile for just this kitty litter covered with more leaves. completes a perfect recycling circle- look where they go to the bathroom outside ( the girl living in our house will not let the cats out and this compost has been the winner so far- they did not like homemade newsprint litter- too fluffy)

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 11:41AM
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My cat is 15 and has arthritis in her back legs she's on metacam which helps her the trouble is she's been using the rug as a litter tray I now have to keep rug rolled up I have 2 litter trays in the kitchen which she has gone in to wee where as before metacam she was weeing outside the box I have changed a box to lower seed tray box to help her get in it and kept the other box aswell the only thing she's doing is not pooing in the trays and doing it on the floor and both trays are dry so can't understand why she's doing it I have wood chip litter which I've used for years is it anything to do with this I have tried everything possible to try and see what I can do to help her

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 5:13AM
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ui actually buy cat litter (clay pellets) to add to my container soil.
it seems to hold water.
i think as long as its not clumped together its ok.
i heard it can turn into a clumpy/soggy mess
(and get hard when it dries) if you use too much

by the way, my dog is 18 yrs.
still healthy except arthritis
just thought id add that.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 11:32AM
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Has anyone had any experience with reptile waste? I have a bearded dragon and if it is compostable it would be a lot better then trashing it, she has a carpet so no bedding, just the poop,

edit: have been putting in in a worm bin it has worked great!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 8:58PM
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