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The Best Way to Dispose of Cat Litter Sustainably

Flush, compost, toss, bury, burn—what's the most eco-friendly cat litter disposal method? We break down all the options.

Written by
Kylie Fuller

Whether you're a cat or dog person, our pets are the ultimate companions. We love caring for and spending time with them, but owning a pet still has some downsides. For cat owners, taking care of the litter box is one of them.

Cleaning up after a cat can be easier than cleaning up after a dog. You don't have to take cats outside or search for their waste. However, it's critical that you properly dispose of your pet's poop in order to reduce the environmental impact your furry friend has.

If you're wondering what the best cat litter disposal method is, we have you covered. Here's everything you need to know.

Cat Litter Disposal Methods to Avoid

1. Don't Flush It

Some biodegradable litters claim to be flushable on the packaging. Should you flush used cat litter, though? Cat litter has come a long way, from non-clumping to scented litter. Unfortunately, flushing litter can still clog up private septic tanks and municipal sewer systems alike

Both litter and poop also contain harmful toxins and pathogens. This means flushing cat litter can be just as bad as flushing cat poop. For example, it contains Toxoplasma, which is dangerous to sea life and humans with weakened immune systems. There's also Cryptosporidium to be aware of—a diarrhea-causing parasite found in animal feces.

Most municipal waste plants can’t filter these pathogens out (though we do recommend reaching out to your local facility to check). So as a rule of thumb, don't flush animal waste into the sewer system. That way, you avoid putting your community, local wildlife, and waterways at risk of being exposed to harmful bacteria.

2. Don't Compost It

Technically, you can compost cat poop if you're using certain cat litters. However, experts don't recommend doing so for several reasons.

Cat fecal matter can contain parasites and other harmful organisms, including Toxoplasma, which can infect people. Therefore, the health risks of composting cat poop are too high.

"Folks should not try to compost pet waste at home; they will not achieve high enough temperatures to kill pathogens,” Robert Horowitz, a supervising environmental scientist at the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, told PetMD. To kill the parasite, the compost pile must reach 131 degrees Fahrenheit, but compost piles rarely reach this temperature.

3. Don't Bury It

Burying your pet's waste is also problematic for many of the reasons previously mentioned. If cat poop doesn't biodegrade well in a compost pile, it's unlikely that it will biodegrade well underground. The organisms in the waste can also leach into gardens or waterways.

4. Don't Burn It

If you live in a rural area, you may consider burning your cat poop and litter along with other trash, but this is a bad idea. If you use certain types of litter (particularly those containing clay), the waste will not burn completely.

In addition, burning trash is harmful to both human health and global warming. You run the risk of releasing harmful toxins into the air while burning. Doing so also releases greenhouse gases into the air that contribute to climate change.

The Best Way to Dispose of Cat Poop

You won’t hear us say this often, but when it comes to discarding pet waste, we recommend sending it to the landfill. To dispose of your pet's waste, scoop out all waste clumps, double bag them, and place them in a trash can outside.

If you want to minimize your environmental impact, you can use a biodegradable poop bag, which will improve the chances of the waste properly breaking down. However, not all biodegradable bags undergo the rigorous testing needed to prove their claims of biodegradability, so it's important to research your options.

"Just looking at the bag or looking at the claims on a bag or on a box doesn’t really tell you much," Amanda Basta, staff attorney with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), told PetMD. "A consumer can look to see whether a company is talking about the type of testing they have to support those claims, and if they’re making a representation about what conditions their products were tested under... they have to dig a little bit deeper in order to figure that out. And if companies aren’t talking about testing at all, consumers should be skeptical."

Regardless of which bag you use, the number one way to get rid of those number twos? Throw them in the trash.

How to Choose Eco-Friendly Cat Litter

Cat litter has a significant impact on our waterways and landscapes if not properly disposed of. And as you've probably surmised at this point, a lot of that has to do with the harmful toxins and pathogens present in animal waste.

While the introduction of dangerous bacteria is a huge problem, the sheer volume of cat litter is another issue. Even litters advertised as being biodegradable won't break down properly in most landfills because they're disposed of in plastic bags that prevent decomposition. That's why it's so important to buy eco-friendly cat litter options—and dispose of the waste in biodegradable bags—whenever possible.

Typical clay-based litters don't biodegrade as easily as eco-friendly options. They also pollute waterways and sewer systems. Consider a more organic, biodegradable litter made from corn, corncobs, citrus scraps, grains, wheat, paper, or wood shavings.