Disposing of cat litter can be one of the most annoying parts of owning a cat. Even with the best possible kitty litter, the process of cleaning it and throwing away the used litter with the feces is unpleasant.
So, is there a faster way of making kitty litter go away? Is cat litter flushable? Could this be the quick fix to this foul-smelling problem? The short answer is no and in the article, we are going to detail all the many reasons why not.
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1. No, Because of the Damage It Will Do to Your Pipes/Septic Tank
The first reason why cat litter is not flushable is its ability to quickly clog up pipes.
Cat litter is one of the items that plumbers advise never to flush down a toilet. Why?
Firstly, all types of kitty litter are made to absorb moisture (kitty pee). They are made from various materials, but all of them share this role. When they absorb the moisture, they expand, and when they come in contact with the water in your toilet, they have plenty of moisture to absorb. Some kitty litter products can expand as much as 15 times their initial size. Imagine that inside your plumbing system.
Secondly, the granular texture of kitty litter makes it very suitable for forming clumps and when it comes in contact with waste inside the pipe, it forms a very hard clump that can’t be pushed down by a simple flush. Depending on the size of the pipe and that of the clump, the obstruction of the pipe can be partial or complete. Either way, it requires plumbing assistance.
No, There Are No Loopholes
Most cat owners quickly understand that kitty litter is not flushable. As soon as you visualize the clumps in your cat’s litter box inside your pipes, the idea of flushing it becomes less and less attractive. However, the need for convenience remains and we’re still tempted to look for loopholes. Here are the two most popular ones:
False Loophole No. 1 – Flushing Cat Poop Without the Cat Litter
Kitty litter is bad for your pipes, so why not throw away the cat poop alone? That would help you get rid of the smelliest of kitty bathroom issues quickly, efficiently, and (seemingly) hygienically, right?
Wrong! Cat feces is also bad for your pipes, say plumbers. Why? Because cat poop can be hard as a rock. After the cat poops in a litter box, it (almost always) covers it in litter, which is very absorbent. It quickly takes away all the moisture in the cat poop, which is extremely useful to get rid of the smell, but which leaves behind very hardened poop. If you’ve ever wondered why cat poop is so hard when you scoop it out, part of it is because of the kitty litter. The other part is the cats’ diet or it’s reluctance to drink water.
When the dried cat poop is flushed down the toilet, it does not rehydrate properly. If you’ve ever thrown cat poop in your toilet, you’ve seen that it floats. Then, as it travels through your pipes, it can get stuck in narrower portions of the pipe system, causing various issues that also require plumbing assistance.
And there’s more! The damage that flushing cat poop down the toilet can do is more extensive though. Take a look at reason no. 2 and no. 3 why cat litter is not flushable to find out more.
False Loophole No. 2 – Flushable Kitty Litter
Where there’s a will, there’s a way! And since cat owners really wanted to flush away their cats’ litter, there is a way to do that – flushable kitty litter. There are several options available on the market, which are made from various biodegradable materials such as paper, corn, wheat, or sawdust.
However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. While theoretically this type of litter can be flushed, you won’t be done with one flush. You will need to flush several times to dispose of your litter because the amount of water used by modern economic toilets like the ones we have installed in our homes is simply not enough to flush away too much of the flushable kitty litter. So it’s not nearly as easy to use as you might think and you’re still left with reasons no. 2 and no.3 why you shouldn’t flush cat litter of any kind down the toilet.
2. No, Because of the Environmental Damage
Whether you use regular kitty litter, the flushable variety, or you only flush away the cat poops, it is dangerous for the environment. Sewage systems from modern cities are very complex and they are made to clean the water of pollutants found in human feces, which includes an enormous range. However, it is not built to cover all the pollutants found in cat feces as well.
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This means that certain parasites or bacteria found in cat poop can pass through this complex sewage system unharmed and make its way into the environment. This way, they can make those waters unswimmable and unfishable.
Aside from the pathogens, cat feces also include certain nutrients which are not present in human feces. When they make their way into waters after they pass through the sewage system, they also affect the local environment by accelerating the growth and development of algae and weeds. These make the water murky, green in color, and foul-smelling, making it unusable for fishing, swimming, or boating.
3. No, Because of the Public Health Concerns
The passage of parasites and bacteria through the sewage system is dangerous for the environment, but it also poses serious danger to public health. While there are several pathogens involved, one parasite poses danger to humans in particular – Toxoplasma gondii.
Life Cycle of Toxoplasma Gondii
- gondii has a complex life cycle, at the core of which lies the cat, which is the definitive host for this parasite (the host where it reaches maturity and inside of which it reproduces). Cats eliminate T. gondii oocysts in the environment in their feces. The oocysts are the survival stage of the parasite, which is aimed to resist the harming effects of the environment – cold, warmth, acidity, etc. After 1-5 days in the environment, the oocyst sporulates and it can infect intermediate hosts.
Toxoplasma gondii – Source – Wikipedia
The role of the intermediate hosts is to provide the parasite with the proper environment to develop its intermediate stages. T. gondii has a wide range of possible intermediate hosts, including humans, but also other mammals and birds.
When the intermediate host ingests the oocysts, they pass through the digestive tract. The hard membrane of the cyst is breached and the parasite passes to its next development stage – the tachyzoite. At this stage, the parasite exists the digestive tract and travels to muscular tissue and to neural tissue, where it transforms into its final stage inside the intermediate host – the tissue cyst bradyzoite.
Toxoplasma gondii – tissue cyst including numerous bradyzoites in mouse brain – Source – Wikipedia
As mentioned above, the definitive host for Toxoplasma is the cat and the parasite is adapted to make its way to its definitive host and reproduce. Cats become infected with T. gondii when they eat contaminated meat, which includes the cyst bradyzoites.
Life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii – Source – CDC
What makes this parasite’s life cycle complex is the presence of cross-contamination possibilities. When cats ingest muscle tissue with bradyzoites, they become the definitive host for T. gondii, but if they ingest sporulated oocysts, they become the intermediate host (they develop muscular cyst bradyzoites).
According to the CDC, humans can become infected with the parasite in one of the following ways:
- By consuming food or water contaminated with oocysts (coming from cats) – either from cat feces or by contaminated environmental samples such as soil contaminated with cat feces.
- By cleaning a contaminated cat’s (which must be a definitive host) litter box and not washing their hands properly afterward – direct fecal-oral contact.
- By consuming undercooked meat contaminated with cyst bradyzoites – this includes meat coming from a wide range of intermediate hosts for T. gondii – cattle, pigs, birds.
- By blood transfusion or organ transplantation
- Pregnant women who become infected with T. gondii during the pregnancy transmit the parasite to the fetus transplacentally.
Toxoplasma gondii is present in the environment and for most humans, infection is controlled by the immune system. In the vast majority of cases, the evolution is asymptomatic. However, in some cases, the parasite develops to its intermediate stages and forms the cyst bradyzoites in muscular and neural tissue – it has a predilection for skeletal muscles, myocardium, brain, and eyes.
Even so, the presence of the cysts may not cause any issues to its human host and they can remain there for the human’s entire life. But in some cases, the presence of these cysts can lead to severe issues – muscular or neurological.
The most violent development of T. gondii in humans occurs in the fetus, which does not have an immune system in place to fight off the parasite. As a consequence, it causes very severe damage and compromises the fetus. Congenital infections (from mother to fetus) with T. gondii are a major concern in pregnancy monitoring and they can be diagnosed by detecting T. gondii DNA in amniotic fluid. The pregnant woman is tested several times during the pregnancy for T. gondii.
Here the most commonly asked questions about flushing cat litter:
- Can you flush kitty litter?
No, you can’t. Doing so is dangerous for the environment and it poses a public health threat. It is also very damaging for your pipe system or septic tank because the litter and the hardened cat feces cause obstructions in the pipes.
- Where to buy flushable kitty litter?
Flushable cat litter is available in pet shops and it is an eco-friendly alternative to regular kitty litter. However, flushing it down the toilet is a lucrative process involving several flushes, which results in environmental hazards because the sewage system is not equipped to handle pet waste.
- What brand of cat litter is flushable?
There are several brands of flushable kitty litter available, such as Dr. Elsey’s Premium Cat Litter, Garfield Cat Litter, World’s Best Cat Litter, Naturally Fresh Walnut Litter, and It’s a Tea Potty, but using it is dangerous for the environment and poses a threat to public health.
- Can cat litter be flushed down the toilet?
No, it can’t. Cat litter is extremely absorbent and when it comes in contact with water, it can increase up to 15 times in size. It forms cement-like clumps inside the pipes when combined with waste that cause severe obstructions in pipes.
- How do you dispose of cat litter?
The ideal way to dispose of cat litter is using biodegradable cat litter, which you store in biodegradable garbage bags. Cat litter contains pollutants, so it must be burnt to destroy them. It should be considered contaminated waste and not be used for compost.
- How often should you replace cat litter?
It is best to clean cat litter once a day – use a kitty litter scoop to remove clumps/used litter and cat feces. The remaining litter in the cat’s litter box can be supplied to ensure that enough litter remains after cleaning. The litter box must be emptied and disinfected regularly.
- Can used cat litter be composted?
No, it can’t. Cat litter should be considered contaminated waste because it can include parasites and bacteria, which will contaminate the soil where compost made from cat litter is used. This is a potential means of transmission for Toxoplasma gondii.
- Is cat poop good for anything?
The short answer is no. Cat poop contains pollutants and pathogens and it should be disposed of hygienically and then destroyed appropriately so that it does not contaminate the area where it is deposited in.
- Is cat poop toxic?
Cat poop can be dangerous to the environment, and it can pose a risk to public health because it contains nutrients and pollutants that have a negative effect on the environment. It must be disposed of hygienically and not used for compost.
As you can see, there are many reasons why cat litter is not flushable. Considering the damage it can do to your plumbing and the dangers it poses to the environment and even to public health, you should never flush cat litter down the toilet. How do you dispose of cat litter? What type of kitty litter do you use? Tell us all about it in the comments section below:
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,