Cat Feces: Flushing a Bad Thing?
One of the worst headaches for cat owners is cat poo and what to do with it. Sure, getting a litter box for your cat will give your kitty a place to do its business. Question is, what do you do with the stool when it’s time to clean your cat’s litter box? Is flushing cat poop the best option?
Many cat owners have resorted to disposing of cat poop down the toilet as well as ‘flushable’ cat litter. There are a lot of cat litter products that claim to be “flushable”. At least that’s what their ads say.
Researchers say that flushing cat poop might not be a “green” way of disposing of your pets’ waste.
You may be at a loss on how best to dispose of your pets’ waste but worry not!
Here are a few suggestions that could be of great help instead of flushing cat poop.
Why You Should Not Be Flushing Cat Poop Down the Toilet
1. Cat poo may contain a parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii
Cat poop of infected cats contains the eggs of a parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii. This parasite is deadly. It does not only affects aquatic life. It poses a health risk to human beings, too.
a. Toxoplasma Gondii and marine mammals
The parasite enters the environment when you’re flushing cat poop down the toilet and into the waste system. The septic system was not designed for cat waste hence cannot kill the parasite.
It can thus live for years and end up in oceans and waterways where it comes into contact with marine life.
Traces of the disease have been found in dolphins and humpback whales. In California, so much treated sewage water flows into the ocean. A percentage of the deaths of the rare Hawaiian monk seals and California sea otters have been linked to T. Gondii. Mostly because humans are flushing cat poop.
California lawmakers have tried to address this problem. They now need companies to put warnings against flushing on kitty litter products.
There is no way to keep people from flushing cat poop or putting it in storm drains and gutters. So, the spread of the parasite continues to be problematic. Cat litter producers have yet to create a litter that can inactivate the parasite eggs.
The parasite can also live for years in soil, which makes burying cat feces problematic.
b. Toxoplasma Gondii and human beings
T. Gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis, could also be harmful to humans. Toxoplasmosis causes brain defects in people with compromised immune systems.
The children of pregnant women who get infected with the disease are also at risk. The mothers could experience serious complications such as miscarriage and even birth defects. Flushing cat poop down the toilet is an immediate risk for a pregnant woman.
Learn more about toxoplasmosis in this video:
2. Cat waste contains nutrients not present in human waste
When you’re flushing cat poop, these nutrients make their way into the waterways. They can speed up the growth of algae and other plants, causing water to be green and foul-smelling.
The weeds also obstruct the proper flow of water through the sewer system which could eventually cause problems.
How then, do I dispose of it, if flushing cat poop is not an option?
Seeing that any contact cat poop may have with the environment could be potentially hazardous, this is an excellent question to ask.
After all, we can’t send cat poop to space so how do we best dispose of it to reduce damage to the ecosystem? How do we dispose of the feces, when flushing cat poop is not a good alternative?
Use a biodegradable brown paper bag to take out your pet’s waste
This is more an alternative to using plastic wrappers than a solution to an environmentally safe way to dispose of cat poop. Biodegradable paper bags take less time to break down compared to plastic.
Do you want to reduce the amount of plastic you introduce to the environment? Try wrapping the waste in brown paper bags before you put it in your normal household waste bin.
Is it okay to continue flushing cat poop down the toilet?
Simple answer? No. Here’re two reasons why:
1. Flushing cat poop damages and clogs plumage
Since the risk of flushing cat litter along with cat poop is high, you might want to know what flushing cat poop does to your sewer system.
Most cat litters are clay litters made from bentonite clay. When bentonite clay contacts water, it absorbs the moisture and expands up to 10 times its original size. The clay also hardens like cement and is difficult to break apart. Bentonite clay litter might contain traces of silica.
When cat litter, made from such clay, makes its way down your sewer, it hardens. This could cause blockages to your pipes and you risk permanent damage. You’ll either need to call a plumbing service or in the case of severe damage, replace your house’s piping. All this because of flushing cat litter!
2. ‘Flushable’ cat litter isn’t really flushable
Today, there’s a whole wave of cat litter being advertised as flushable. This, in a real sense, is clickbait for those looking for easy ways to dispose of used cat litter – aren’t we all? So, why not just flush your ‘flushable’ cat litter down the loo once you’ve used it?
Well, in theory, cat litter made of biodegradable stuff like sawdust can be flushed. Practically, it’s a bit difficult because you’d have to flush a couple of times to get it to go down. This just doesn’t make sense if you’re looking for a convenient way to throw away used kitty litter.
If flushing cat poop and litter don’t work, how do I dispose of it once it’s used?
1. Go for an eco-friendly type of litter
I know this doesn’t seem like a way to dispose of used cat litter but bear with me here. Ecofriendly cat litter gives you an option when it comes to disposing of it. Unlike litter made from sodium bentonite.
Also, buying litter that the ecosystem can break down is a great way to help the environment.
Looking for a bentonite clay cat litter alternative? You can try:
- Paper granules
- Wood shavings
- Grass seed
- …and more
2. Compost biodegradable cat litter
Not a lot of people are over the moon about this method of disposing of kitty litter. Because once your compost’s been in contact with cat poop, you can’t be too sure it’s free from T. Gondii.
However, this could be a much safer alternative than flushing cat poop down the toilet. As long as you’re using the compost for non-edible plants such as grass, roses, or perennials.
Be careful to keep the compost away from children or your food garden to avoid a risk of contamination.
It would also be a good idea to compost cat litter in a compost bin as opposed to doing it directly on the ground. We don’t want any bacteria or parasites seeping into the ground underneath.
What’s the best and safest way to handle cat waste, if flushing cat poop is not an option?
As mentioned earlier, cat poop is a notorious carrier of Toxoplasma Gondii. This bacteria carries significant risk if it makes its way into the body or the environment. It is therefore important to exercise safety as you handle your cat’s waste.
1. Always wear gloves when cleaning your cat’s litter tray
Since it is not always evident when cats are infected by the parasite, it’s just good practice to exercise caution. Gloves will prevent any of the poop from coming into contact with you, reducing the chances of you getting sick.
2. Clean the litter scoop once you’re done
This will prevent bacteria from accumulating on the surface. You may also use soap or vinegar to clean. You can’t be too cautious.
3. Scoop the litter box every day
It sounds like a lot of work, which it actually is, but why risk? The Toxoplasma parasite does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in a cat’s feces. So disposing of the cat poo before it becomes infectious is the wise thing to do.
4. Wash your hands well
Washing hands isn’t just hygienic, it can keep you from unknowingly ingesting the parasite. Soap and water will do. Also clean, disinfect or throw away the gloves after use.
A few DOs and DON’Ts on flushing cat poop
For those who are trying to be green with cat litter, here are a 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. So avoid flushing cat poop is the way to go.
- 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.
- DO put cat litter waste in a biodegradable bag like the EcoLeo ones.
What are your thoughts? What do you think about flushing cat feces or urine with litter attached to it? Let’s discuss!
Did you like these flushing cat poop tips? If you did, you’re going to love these:
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,
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Well said, Dementia Boy 🙂
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.”
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.
Thanks for this info have often thought of buying flush able but now will avoid it.
You can still use/buy it, but you don’t have to flush it. 😉
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.
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.
I should have stated I live in California…and I use World’s Greatest Litter.
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!