Composting is an increasingly popular way to dispose of organic material such as food waste, plant materials, and feces, but can you compost dog and cat poop? According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, you should not compost dog your pet’s poop.
What Is Composting?
Composting is a natural process to reduce organic waste by allowing the organic material to decompose and become a useable nutrient source for plants. It may not be advised that you compost dog or cat poop, but composting is great for the environment and should be strongly considered as a way of disposing of other, suitable organic waste.
Benefits of Composting
Why Shouldn’t I Compost Dog Poop?
As a responsible dog owner, it’s your job to pick up after your beloved four-legged friend. If you’re trying to be more environmentally friendly, wouldn’t composting their feces be an ideal way to dispose of it? After all, feces is an organic material and livestock manure is widely used as compost.
The reason it is not recommended to compost dog poop is that carnivorous and omnivorous animals can host a wide variety of parasites and pathogens. The parasites and/or pathogens that reside in the dog’s intestines are very resilient and cannot be eliminated in typical household compost piles.
Bacterial diseases such as salmonella and various parasites including hookworms, tapeworms, and roundworms would be at risk of being passed through the compost. When infected dog poop touches the soil, the eggs from these parasites can live within it. This can pose a danger to human and animal health and degrades the quality of the soil.
Though it is possible to attempt the composting process, to kill these dangerous pathogens and parasites, it would require a constant temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 5 days for this to take place. This is difficult to achieve in home composting situations and there is no guarantee the process would be fully effective in eliminating the bacteria and parasites.
Anyone attempting to compost dog poop would need to be very thorough and would never want to put the dog feces anywhere near a garden full of edible growth or any consumable plant species. It would be best near trees or shrubs.
Why Shouldn’t I Compost Cat Poop?
For very similar reasons, it is also not recommended to compost cat poop. Cats are carnivorous animals, and they can also carry various intestinal parasites, worms, and diseases. Cat feces contains over two and a half times the amount of nitrogen than that of livestock manure.
Cats are the only animal known to excrete Toxoplasma gondii parasite eggs through their poop. Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that causes the disease Toxoplasmosis. This disease can infect most warm-blooded animals and humans. Toxoplasmosis can cause serious complications for pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. It is best to use all preventative measures to avoid exposure.
In addition to diseases and parasites that can be found in cat poop, you would also have to consider that most cats use litter boxes and many commercial litters are not compostable. Litters containing deodorized crystals or clay litters could not be used in a compost pile. That being said, there are litters derived fully of plant-based material that could be used in compost but the risks associated with the cat poop itself are not worth the trouble.
How Do I Properly Dispose of Dog and Cat Poop?
So, if the risks of composting dog and cat poop strongly outweigh the benefits, what is the best way to dispose of your pet’s waste and still be environmentally friendly? For dogs, cats, and any other carnivorous pets, it is recommended to dispose of their waste in the garbage.
Pet waste doesn’t just decompose naturally. When not disposed of properly, it can add harmful pollutants such as bacteria and nutrients to the local water supply. When out for a walk with your dog, it’s best to carry poop bags and dispose of them in the garbage. When at home, you’ll want to pick up after your dog and/or cat when they go in the yard or litter box and throw it in the dumpster.
Featured Image Credit: triGri, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.