How to Properly Dispose of Cat Litter
Updated by Brandon F. on May 21, 2020
While we wish that there was a cat litter that would last forever, unfortunately, that isn’t the case. While some litters may last longer than others, ultimately they are all headed to the same demise.
Disposing of cat litter once it is past its prime is a common task of any responsible cat owner. It goes without saying, but both your cat as well as the inhabitants of your home appreciate the gesture.
There are several factors to consider when disposing of cat litter. Factors such as where you live, what type of cat litter you use, and disposal costs can all affect where and how you dispose of your litter. That being said, if you are like most people and simply want to throw your cat litter in your trash can, follow these steps below to make the entire process easier.
Using a Trash Can to Dispose of Cat Litter
Not taking a few essential steps before tossing used cat litter in the trash can result in a huge headache and potentially a nasty mess on your floor.
–If you are using a heavier cat litter (such as a clay product), purchase heavy-duty bags or consider double-layering if you use typical household trash bags. Clay cat litters are extremely dense and can result in a very heavy mass in a relatively small area. This has been known to stretch and tear through thinner household trash bags. Pick up some of the heavy-duty outdoor trash bags or if you must use thinner ones, double layering can provide the extra support that you need. If you have an extra-large cat litter box that is designed for multiple cats, this step is particularly important as you will have a much larger amount of cat litter to dispose of.
–Put the trash bag in the trash can before pouring in the cat litter. We have seen people try to simply hold a trash bag in their hands and pour the litter box into it. This can spell disaster and greatly increases the likelihood that the cat litter could spill out on the sides. Also, the trash can provides better structural support for the bag versus simply holding it in your hand. If you are particularly clumsy, it might also be smarter to simply use your cat litter scoop to transfer the litter. It takes longer but helps to minimize the mess.
–Use a new bag and close it up and dispose of after you fill with cat litter. When you try to add cat litter to an already half-full trash bag, you are playing with fire. While it may seem like there is plenty of room in the trash bag to put the cat litter, it is important to remember that cat litter is much heavier, denser, and fluid than most trash. It is going to fall and meander to the lowest point it can find in the trash bag and then fill it up. If you happen to have any sharp objects also in the trash bag, this extra weight can push down on them and ultimately cut the bag. Also, after the trash bag is full of the used cat litter, take it outside immediately. Don’t let cat litter just sit in your kitchen or bathroom trash can for long periods or it will begin to stink up the entire house!
To Flush or Not to Flush?
Whether you should flush cat litter has been a long-debated topic. While the ease and simplicity of simply tossing your cat litter in the toilet and flushing it away sound tempting, the potential damage both to your waste disposal system as well as the environment can be significant.
One of the most common hazards associated with flushing used cat litter down the toilet is Toxoplasma Gondii. This is a parasite that can exist in cat waste and is capable of surviving wastewater treatment processes. This means that it could potentially contaminate waterways.
Toxoplasma Gondii is some bad stuff! It has been linked to causing birth defects and brain damage in babies. While it is more or less harmless to adults with a healthy immune system, its potential hazard to babies is more than enough to warrant concern. It is also dangerous to marine life. Because of this, coastline states such as California have made amendments to their laws and require warning labels on cat litter packaging that encourages users to no flush cat litter.
As for the potential damage to your waste system, certain cat litters (particularly clays and crystals) are extremely hard and sharp and this can cause them to scratch and abrade your pipes. Also, the litter runs the risk of potentially clogging your system.
Certain cat litters advertise as being “flush-friendly”. These are almost always all-natural cat litters that are designed to break down over time without a significant environmental impact. They are also usually on the softer side which means that they don’t run as high of a risk of damaging your waste system.
Whether or not you decide to use flush-friendly litters is a personal choice. We encourage cat owners to try to avoid flushing cat litters when possible, even if they are using a flush-friendly brand.
If you do decide to flush your cat litter, try to do so in smaller batches. Instead of dumping the entire box into the toilet at once, do it in scoops. It might take a little bit longer but it will be much less strenuous on your waste system and it will help to minimize the chance of clogging.
Using Cat Litter as Fertilizer
Another great way to dispose of used cat litter is converting it into mulch or fertilizer. This not only avoids having to send it to the garbage dump but it can also be beneficial to your garden and save you money on buying fertilizer in the store.
If you do decide to try using cat litter as fertilizer, make sure that you are using a biodegradable and eco-friendly cat litter. Those who are using clays or crystals should avoid trying this as those materials will not break down in the dirt.
Try using cat litters that are made of wood, wheat, corn, or other natural organic materials. Also, be sure to properly process the cat litter to make it more garden-ready. Google has plenty of helpful tutorials on how to do this and we encourage you to check them out.
Some areas will also have recycling services that will come pick up your biodegradable cat litter for free. This is somewhat common in the farm industry as cow dung is very popular for making fertilizer out of.
Lighter Cat Litters: Save Money on Garbage Disposal Fees?
One of our readers told us that she takes her garbage to the dump to save some money. She is charged $0.25/lb for this service. Since she uses a heavier clay litter and owns two cats, the amount of litter that she has to dump out is quite high. This translates to higher expenses for her when she goes to the dump.
She brought up an interesting point: is it worth going to a lightweight litter for the cost-savings if you are in an area that charges you by weight for garbage disposal?
There can be a pretty big difference in weight vs. volume of a clay litter compared to, say, wheat litter. Many large bags of clay cat litter can weigh 50 pounds or more while a bag of lighter wheat or paper litter that lasts just as long may only weight 12 pounds.
That being said, if you have read many of our reviews, you know that we have high opinions of many clay litters. As far as we have seen, clay litter still reign supreme in their combination of being eco-friendly while also being affordable.
We decided to run some hypothetical numbers to see if it is more economical to go with a lightweight (and more expensive) bag of wheat/paper litter or stick with the heavier (and cheaper) bag of clay litter if you are paying for your garbage processing by the pound.
Keep in mind that these are all rough numbers and the specifics will vary greatly depending on where you live and at what prices you can get your litter and garbage disposal fees at.
A good 50-pound bag of quality cat litter can be had for around 15 dollars. That equates to around $0.30 per bag. An equivalent bag of wheat or paper litter can weigh in at around 12 pounds and will typically run more expensive (20 dollars per bag is pretty common). This equates to around $1.50 to $1.75 per pound.
Ignoring the clumping and odor-fighting abilities of each, let’s assume that they last equal periods. Remember, just because one particular bag is lighter doesn’t mean that it can’t last as long!
When it comes time to dispose of the litter, let’s say that your garbage disposal fee is the same as in our story above ($0.25/lb).
Ignoring any added weight that the cat litter might have after being used, that means that the cost of completely disposing of the wheat cat litter is 12 pounds * $0.25 = $3. The clay cat litter would cost approximately $50 * 0.25 = $12.50.
So the total cost of the cat litter plus the disposal fee for each type of litter comes to the following:
Clay cat litter = $15 + $12.50 = $27.50
Wheat cat litter = $20 + $3 = $23.00
As you can see, the added costs of disposing of the clay cat litter can be quite significant! For those who pay for your garbage disposal by the pound, it might be worth looking into going with a more lightweight product.