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Soil and Composting: Ceder Cat Litter Safety

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JRush
Guilford, CT
(Zone 6b)

February 1, 2007
12:30 AM

Post #3143687

I recently began using a dine ceder cat litter, & the cats really like it. It smells wonderful! However, the soiled ceder litter has a very strong odor of ammonia. I do not compost the cat poops, but I would like to use the urine soiled ceder as a top dressing for my garden plants. Will the high ammonia content harm or burn the plants? Should I avoid using it in the vegetable garden? I like to recycle/reuse as much as possible. Is this a good or bad idea?
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks-
Julie
joepyeweed
Peoria, IL

February 1, 2007
3:43 PM

Post #3145559

If the ammonia smell is really strong I probably would hesitate to put it near plants.

You could compost it though, mix it with some shredded paper or other wood chips and wait until it decomposes until the point where it smells more like dirt and less like ammonia. Then it would be fine for plants or your garden.

You could do this, right in your garden, but in an area that you don't have any plants. I usually have one corner of my garden that is the compost spot. And I move the spot each season. Last years compost spot will be planted in this season... and a new compost spot will be started in a different area. (Does that make sense?)

brigidlily
Lumberton, TX
(Zone 8b)

February 1, 2007
3:46 PM

Post #3145570

joe, as I turn my compost by moving the big hoops I keep it it, I'm working my way along the fence to get it all fertile. Hopefully I'll eventually cover the yard. But when I move the pile, the ground underneath is so soft and black!

I can hardly wait for spring.
JRush
Guilford, CT
(Zone 6b)

February 1, 2007
10:24 PM

Post #3146891

That is a great idea - to have a moving compost heap. We have 3-5 heaps, depending on the time of the year, with the last pile being the final product.
The ceder litter has a nice, light consistency. I could imagine it as an attractive, moisture retentive top dressing. But if there is any chance that it could damage the plants, then I will follow your good advice & take the more cautious route.
Thank you for the input. I know so many of us gardeners strive to find more ways to recycle & compost in this throw-away society.
Happy composting!
Julie
LindaTX8
NE Medina Co., TX
(Zone 8a)

February 10, 2007
6:25 PM

Post #3175396

Cat feces can carry diseases, so I would follow a more cautious approach and bury it deep in the soil if possible. Even if you remove the poop, the rest can be contaminated.
JRush
Guilford, CT
(Zone 6b)

February 11, 2007
12:55 AM

Post #3176401

I take the doots out - I just want to use the wet cedar litter. The cats do not doot in that litter box, so I am safe from any doot-related bacteria. But honestly - the sweet smell of the cedar is not nearly enough to mask the smell of the urine - it is just like pure ammonia. I don't think there is anything that can cover the odor of cat leavings! I liked the cedar because I read about the clumping cat litter causing problems in landfills - apparently the stuff does not break down easily. Then I think of all the baggies of litter that I have placed in the garbage myself. It must add up - somewhere.
garden_mermaid
San Francisco Bay Ar, CA
(Zone 9b)

February 11, 2007
3:18 AM

Post #3176839

We use a corn based litter called "Worlds Best Cat Litter", which does a very job on the odour. This is clumping type litter that is not a risk for clogging their intestines like a clay based litter. You might pick up a bag and see if it gives you better odour control. Because it is made from corn, you can still compost it.
leaflady
Hughesville, MO
(Zone 5a)

February 11, 2007
4:23 AM

Post #3177006

GM, how can litter clog up their intestines? Do they eat it?

Cat urine is very strong and will definately burn and kill plants if used anywhere near fresh. I learned this the hard way.

I use alfalfa meal for cat litter. Yes, it can be a bit messy if they dig vigorously as some of mine do, but I can add it to the compost pile and not have the long breakdown time. I use it all in the compost. If your cat is healthy you have nothing to be concerned about. Cats have been using gardens for relieving themselves for centuries and other than killing some plants no harm has be done. If they have worms then these parasites will be spread no matter where they go to the bathroom. Same for diseases. Most of the diseases that are fatal or even really serious for cats are specific to the cat family and seldom jump species.
garden_mermaid
San Francisco Bay Ar, CA
(Zone 9b)

February 11, 2007
7:18 AM

Post #3177134

leaflady, the clumping litters are designed to congeal when wet. This is what makes it easy to scoop out the "pee balls" from the litter box. Since cats clean their paws after using the box, they can ingest some of the litter. With clumping clay, these particles can clump inside the cat. I found this out the hard way when I adopted my first cat. I had picked up a container of clumping clay litter, along with other basic supplies from the animal shelter store. After a few days, my new cat had stopped eating and was not eliminating in the box.
When I took her to my vet, she was badly constipated ("impacted") and my vet had asked if I was using clumping clay litter. Clumping clay can be especially hazardous to kittens. While I was googling around on the topic, I found several people had similar experiences, and a few people who claimed there was "no scientific proof" that clumping clay litter would cause problems. It may not be all brands. I don't need a slew of vet school trials to prove that it can cause problems. I experienced it first hand with my cat. I switched litter immediately and have not had any further problems.
This is the one we use:
http://www.worldsbestcatlitter.com/faq.php?PHPSESSID=912e9caac8a67b0e328c57c5c391d6ae
LindaTX8
NE Medina Co., TX
(Zone 8a)

February 11, 2007
4:10 PM

Post #3178034

This is what I go by for pet manures. Even if the chance I would take is very minimal, I'm not comfortable with it. I mean, is there a test to find out if your cats might be passive carriers of Toxoplasmosis? I haven't heard of one. This info was also contained in my Microbiology textbook from college, so I know it's legitimate. Now, with dogs, you could get them tested and treated, at least.
Linda

Since few home composting piles are "managed piles," they should not be used for disposing of risky materials such as cat litter and dog doo.

The problem with cat feces is not round worms as it is with dogs, but a serious disease called toxoplasmosis caused by a parasite spread by contact with raw meat, or mice which the cat may eat. Any person who handles cat litter improperly or fails to wash their hands after cleaning a cat box can catch this disease. It can even be fatal for children under two and is of serious concern for pregnant women and persons with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The cysts of the toxoplasma protozoa can live in the soil for years and will survive the passive composting process.

Even if the pile was well composted, the compost may be safe to use on gardens, but the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Alaska first wants to be sure the compost gets hot enough to kill Toxicara canis, or large roundworms, which is one of the most heat-resistant pathogens found in dog manure.

claypa
West Pottsgrove, PA
(Zone 6b)

February 11, 2007
5:22 PM

Post #3178334

Here's the Center for Disease Control's factsheet about Toxoplasmosis. As you say, anyone who handles cat litter improperly can catch it, but 60 million people are walking around with it and NO symptoms. Pretty good odds, in my book.

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/toxoplasmosis/factsht_toxoplasmosis.htm
gloria125
Greensboro, AL

February 11, 2007
5:46 PM

Post #3178416

Linda: I have found those hideous dog worms under rocks when I moved here. No dogs had lived here for several years.
garden_mermaid
San Francisco Bay Ar, CA
(Zone 9b)

February 11, 2007
8:03 PM

Post #3178890

Cats and humans can be tested for toxoplasmosis and it is recommended that you do test. My three have been tested and all tested negative.
JRush
Guilford, CT
(Zone 6b)

February 11, 2007
10:51 PM

Post #3179398

I used the corn for my canary when he was still alive - I loved the clean, fresh look. I love the smell of the cedar. Other than the short amount of time when there is urine in the box, it smells great. I thought I might designate a container for the used cedar. I could leave it open & allow the ammonia to dissipate. Then it would be safe to use. (A container kept OUTDOORS, of course!) The extent that we go for the sake of composting has no boundaries.
I do use the clumping litter, & there are other undesirable effects from use: If any water touches it, it turns hard as rock. I have a spot in the carpet where I dropped a dish of water - the litter hardened is now a permanent part of the flooring!
Soferdig
Kalispell, MT
(Zone 4b)

February 12, 2007
1:29 AM

Post #3180028

I use fine sand 1 part with 2 parts Alfalfa meal. This keeps the dust down and allows me to dump the contents of cat deposits directly on the compost pile. I am a veterinarian and the life cycle of toxoplasma involves soil to mice/cattle/etc to cats to people via ingestion, inhalation of at least 2 day old cat manure. Yes Toxoplasma Oocysts (eggs) last a long time in the environment and that is why most of anyone who works in soil will have antibodies to Toxoplasma Gondii. Every soil in America is contaminated with this cycle of parasite. Should I tell you about the true concerns with the soil, air, and water we unknownly live in close contact with every day. I feel that this is far beyond any manure source of domestic pets in our back yard. Now I must preface this with I have a normal immune system and I prefer to use the nitrogen of this byproduct to break down carbon materials in my compost. Anywhere I dispose of this is a potential for contamination of soils. Ascarids (round worms) from dogs and cats will never have any source of contamination of feces into adult round worms. These can only cycle through the intestines of dogs and die shortly after leaving the host. No eggs become anything but larvae in the soil. These are microscopic and only one of the millions of potential zoonosis (human concern) from exposure to soil. Our ancestors ate, slept, drank, and inhaled large amounts of soil with all of these concerns and that is why our immune system is the real protection from exposure to parasites.
I use the manure in all of my compost with no concerns to myself or my wife who gardens by my side. The biggest concerns are women who are pregnate and are at risk for toxoplasma to their unborn infant.

This message was edited Feb 12, 2007 2:05 PM
garden_mermaid
San Francisco Bay Ar, CA
(Zone 9b)

February 12, 2007
3:50 AM

Post #3180396

I had my cats tested for toxoplasmosis to protect us from false accusations related to disposal of cat litter. There have been some peculiar ordinances proposed by municipalities whose governing bodies have a poor understanding of biology/zoology. Steve, thanks for a great, well stated post. I'm going to print it out to enlighten a some of our less educated legislative persons.
LindaTX8
NE Medina Co., TX
(Zone 8a)

February 12, 2007
5:54 AM

Post #3180513

Well, I guess there is enough info out there for everyone to make up their own minds about this. For myself, I talked to a veterinarian and a M.D. today and for my own peace of mind I'll just follow their recommendations to keep my kitties' poop out of my garden and compost.
JRush
Guilford, CT
(Zone 6b)

February 12, 2007
8:13 PM

Post #3182133

Thank you all for your input - kind of heard from all levels here, which is great. I could not have known the details otherwise -
Much love from my cats & me~
Julie
joepyeweed
Peoria, IL

February 12, 2007
8:54 PM

Post #3182271

Of course the vet and md are going to tell you not to compost poo. Because if you did compost it based uopn their advice, and you had a problem, they would be potentially liable.

I find its best to do use my own brain, do my own research and make my own decisions, rather than have someone else make them for me.
Soferdig
Kalispell, MT
(Zone 4b)

February 12, 2007
9:02 PM

Post #3182298

Yes Joe you and I are on the same page. Make your own decision based on need. Where else is that feces going where it will not be a problem? You will have many piles dissapear in rain, lost, and burried in your garden. How many problems have you had with parasitic disease or your neighbor or theirs etc.
brigidlily
Lumberton, TX
(Zone 8b)

February 13, 2007
5:12 PM

Post #3184994

It's all going to compost anyway -- just depends on where.
krowten
Greensburg, PA

July 4, 2008
3:37 AM

Post #5201534

sort of an older thread that I came across today and wanted to add a couple of thoughts.

My last cat died some years ago, but really like to use the pure crystal cat litter. It is still available today in round or sharp sand like particles. The crystal litter is actually a form of sand/silica that has been made highly absorbent but is not compactable, so makes an excellent addition to soil. It helps keep the soil loose, helps hold water and helps air circulate. If I had a cat today, this is the litter I would use, and mulch the used stuff for a year or two before adding to the garden/plants/etc. I'm talking the pure crystals, not the crystal/clay mix. Unlike organic litters or clumping litters, the crystal stuff stays around a long time and could be considered a long term investment in your soil. I believe it is nutrient neutral, but improves structure.

Check out the container gardening forum stickie for more information about soil additives.
Dean_W
Central Texas, TX
(Zone 8b)

July 25, 2008
8:04 PM

Post #5318992

I would have made a seperate pile just for the litter and used it on trees an the lawn. I didn't read the whole thing just in case somebody mentioned it.

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