Cat Feces: Flushing A Bad Thing?

| May 22, 2014 | 14 Comments

New Litter Box in the Bathroom with Caymus and MurphyThough a lot of cat litter products are advertised as “flushable,” researchers are saying that flushing cat litter might not actually be a “green” way of disposing of cat feces.  According to the article “Cat Litter: Is It ‘Green’ If You Flush It?,” the problem is not in the litter itself, but in a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, the eggs of which can be found in the feces of cats and other members of the cat family.  This parasite mostly affects wildlife, and traces of the disease have been found in dolphins and a humpback whale.  The disease can live for years in soil (which makes burying cat feces also problematic), and it often survives sewage treatment processes and can be carried long distances in water to oceans and waterways where marine life come into contact with it.  According to the article “Pets and Their Poop,” this parasite could also potentially be harmful to humans by causing brain defects in people with compromised immune systems or babies whose mothers were exposed to the parasite while pregnant.

However, the main issue is its noticeable effect on wildlife, particularly in California, where so much of the treated sewage water flows into the ocean.  Toxoplasma gondii has been linked to the deaths of Hawaiian monk seals and California sea otters, so California lawmakers have tried to address this problem by requiring companies to put warnings against flushing on kitty litter products.  However, there is no way to really prohibit people from flushing the liter or putting it in storm drains and gutters, so the spread of the parasite continues to be problematic, and cat litter producers have yet to create a litter that can inactivate the parasite eggs.

For those who are trying to be green with cat litter, here are few suggestions for how to properly handle your cat’s waste:

  • DON’T flush the litter—particularly if you live near water and are on a city sewer system.
  • DON’T bury the poop, as the parasite eggs can survive in soil for a long time and potentially contaminate groundwater.
  • DON’T compost the litter, as it will not get hot enough to kill the parasite eggs.
  • DON’T assume that it is not a problem with your indoor cat.  While indoor cats are less likely to carry Toxoplasma gondii, the chances are not zero.
  • DO put the cat litter in a bag and bring it to a sanitary landfill.  Though adding to landfills is not an ideal solution, researchers have not yet come up with a safer way of dealing with the feces, and the safety of both humans and wildlife is an immediate concern.

What are your thoughts?  What do you think about flushing cat feces or urine with litter attached to it?  Let’s discuss!

 

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Category: Litter Box, Poo

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About the Author ()

Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

Comments (14)

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  1. I didn’t know that flushing cat poop can kill sea life, that is heartbreaking, I haven’t flushed cat litter/poop/pee since 2011. I only throw away my cats’s waste, I agree with everything you’ve said on this post. Thanks for letting us know!

  2. Even though I use flushable litter I would never flush it down the toilet. Plumbers have told me never to do it as they say it does cause problems. I always dispose of it in biodegradable dog poop bags and then throw in the trash.

  3. Deidre says:

    To me, flushing is better than putting it in a plastic bag and throwing it out with household trash which is the only other option for me where I live. I live in a suburb of NYC, not near any water, and I’d rather see the plastic bags outlawed as they present a far greater risk in our landfills than a small amount of cat poop which most likely does not contain any parasite eggs. I use World’s Best litter which crumbles when wet, specifically so I can flush it like the rest of the family’s waste. I feel better about it being treated at a sewage plant than fermenting in a landfill somewhere.

  4. Jena says:

    Thanks for this info have often thought of buying flush able but now will avoid it.

  5. Dementia Boy says:

    I don’t flush. I go from litter box to litter box with a coffee can, emptying the can into the trash can. By “trash can,” I mean that thing you wheel to the end of the driveway once a week.

    But since we’re on the subject, let me say a word or 500 about toxoplasmosis. It’s on my list of “Top 10 Cat Myths That Piss Me Off.”

    You can only release toxoplasmosis into the environment if your cat has toxoplasmosis. You can only contract toxoplasmosis if your cat has toxoplasmosis. There’s a cheap add-on you can order with your cat’s blood panel to determine the presence of this. And it’s easily treated with antibiotics. Now that my cats are eating primarily raw food, I test them every time I draw blood. (Depending on my level of Munchausen’s-by-Feline, this might be every six weeks or every six-and-one-half weeks.) They’re more in danger of getting it from me than I am from them. (I don’t have it, either.)

    The reason why toxoplasmosis is something I get really angry about is many cats lose their lives because of a suspected threat. Doctors–including mine–advise pregnant and immunosuppressed folks to give up their cats or at least not clean their litter boxes. (But what about those claws that are digging in the litter? What about those kissy-face tongues? No claws, no kisses.) I’ve never had a physician suggest toxoplasmosis testing to me–of either the cats or myself. Just get rid of them. And my neurologist is my primary vet’s sister-in-law!!

    Anyhoo…Here’s a link to PubMed. PubMed also doesn’t suggest testing your cat (or dog). Are animals really that disposable?

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001661/#adam_000637.disease.signs-and-tests

    • LaDonna says:

      Well said, Dementia Boy 🙂

      • Dementia Boy says:

        If I did not rant and rave like the lunatic I am, I could have summed up my diatribe as:

        “If you absolutely, positively must flush litter, test (and treat, if necessary) your cat for toxoplasmosis.”

    • Elines Acevedo says:

      I agree with you 100%. I absolutely hate the exaggeration about toxoplasmosis and cats. And like you said, it is easily testable and treatable and my vet said that if youve already had toxoplasmosis, you have probably built immunity and wont get it again if you are a normal person. And so many doctors advise people to get rid of their pets for stuff like this, especially pediatricians. I cant understand how so many professionals can be so ignorant.

  6. patricia says:

    hmm i read that it’s advisable to flush cat poop and that the water treatment facilities clean everything. i didn’t know that cat poo was killing sea life. i know that a lot of other crap we throw in the ocean and all the oil we spill kills sea life. i don’t flush just because i do worry about my toilet getting clogged. i put it in a bag and throw it in the trash.

    i’ve had cats all my life. i don’t think i ever had one of them tested for toxoplasmosis, nor have i ever been tested. i walk in kitty litter on the floor barefoot, i kiss.. and smell.. haha, my cats paws, i kiss their faces and i don’t worry about it. when i die i will be full of cat hair in my lungs and blood. and it’s all worth it.

    • Dementia Boy says:

      If you get regular blood transfusions, you’ll be tested for toxoplasmosis, even if you don’t confess to having cats. Dumb for me to deny it, though, as I’m usually enveloped in a tortie-colored cloud of fur. No one yet has required a test determining the ratio of body mass to cat fur =) I believe I am held together by cat fur; this is a good thing.

  7. Robin says:

    I don’t use flushable litter, but I have a question about it. Do people flush only the poop, or do they flush pee clumps, too?
    My “green” way of dealing with cat waste is this: I have an extra-large size litter box for my smallish Ragdoll girl. (Actually, I have two boxes, but she uses the upstairs one more often because she hangs out upstairs a lot.) I carefully scoop it out at least twice a day. I find that I do NOT need to change the whole box once a month, as the litter companies suggest. And it is very clean and fresh-smelling. So if you can avoid getting rid of tons of litter, over the cat’s lifetime it may literally be “tons” of litter! Hope this helps.

  8. Deidre says:

    Robin, I do flush all of it because A) it’s meant to be flushed and B) it’s easier and more sanitary for my living arrangement. Word’s Best litter is not a hard clumping litter and breaks apart the minute it hits the toilet water. The litter doesn’t stick to the poop, so that gets flushed “naked”.

    You might want to check out this link …

    http://www.greenstar.coop/grocery/106-news/270-the-straight-poop-on-kitty-litter

    I found this article while further researching this topic. I recently learned that my city will be launching a composting program and I will definitely be looking into composting my biodegradable World’s Best litter. It is highly doubtful that my indoor only kitten is infected with toxoplasmosis as he does not eat or come in contact with raw prey. I plan on discussing this further with my vet, to see if my kitten should be tested as suggested above. I ‘ll post again to let you all know what my vet has to say.

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