Is Flushable Cat Litter Safe for Your Septic Tank?

If there is one moment that any cat owner despises, that’s cleaning the cat’s litter box. You can use the best kitty litter and buy the best litter boxes pet shops offer; the cleaning part remains a chore any way you put it. You have to scoop out the fecal matter from the litter and the used litter, which is packed with the pungent smell of urine. Then, you have to bag the kitty litter waste and throw it out. This will never be a pleasant process, but the right tools will make the process easier.

But what if cleaning the cat’s litter box could be as simple as flushing the litter waste away? What if it could all go away with the press of a button? Flushable kitty litter sounds like a blessing for cat owners anywhere. In fact, they should recall regular kitty litter altogether, so we can all switch to the flushable kind.

The big question remains whether or not flushable kitty litter is safe for your plumbing or septic tank. As the name suggests, flushable kitty litter might be too good to be true. The miracle of quick kitty litter cleaning can be short-lived, as it might quickly lead to severe problems for your pipes and the environment. In fact, it’s hard on plumbing and a public health hazard.

But let’s learn more about flushable kitty litter, how it’s different from regular kitty litter, and what happens when you flush it.

Ragdoll cat Trigg in metal litter box next to litter scooper

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What Is Flushable Kitty Litter?

Regular kitty litter, both clumping, and non-clumping, is clay-based. There is also the silica-based variety. None of these are safe to flush in the toilet or septic tank. When clay-based litters come into contact with water, they harden and form a cement-like structure, and if this happens inside your pipes or tank, then you will need a plumber.

On the other hand, flushable kitty litter is made entirely from biodegradable materials. Some products are made using a single material, but others include a combination of materials. Here are some of the materials used:

  • Shredded Paper – Paper-based kitty litter comes in the form of pellets made by pressing the paper made from post-consumer paper. Manufacturers typically add baking soda to this kitty litter, which helps control the smell.
  • Corn – While corn may not be typically associated with kitty litter, it is one of the primary materials used to produce flushable litter. Manufacturers use whole-kernel corn, natural compressed corn, or corn pulp to make the litter.
  • Wheat – Also not typically associated with kitty litter, wheat makes a perfect material for kitty litter because when it comes in contact with water, the starch in the wheat makes it clump. This is the primary material that goes into making clumping flushable kitty litter.
  • Wood Products – If you’ve ever had a hamster or a Guinea pig, you are familiar with sawdust-based bedding and its efficiency in soaking up urine. Flushable kitty litter is made from sawdust, wood shavings, other wood products, or even reclaimed wood. It also comes in the shape of pellets, and compared to the other materials listed above, it is far more efficient in odor control because the wood has natural oils that act as deodorizers.
metal litter box chiggy peeing in it with lift litter scoop next to him.

As Easy as Flushing the Litter away…well, Not Quite

Suppose you’re visualizing how flushable kitty litter would work in your home. In that case, you’re thinking about how you could scoop all the dirty litter, throw it in a can and then flush it away with a button.

Well, this is almost true. The dirty kitty litter does go away, but it takes a few more pushes than you’ve expected initially. Flushable kitty litter manufacturers instruct to flush the toilet after each scoop. This is intended as a means of keeping your plumbing system safe. Flushing it scoop by scoop helps prevent clogging.

And that’s not all.

According to plumbing specialist Mike Agugliaro, “Today’s water-saving toilets use only 1.6 gallons of water per flush. That’s not enough water to keep the kitty litter moving.”, he told Today.com. Moreover, he says that the dried poop in the litter box is a danger in itself.

As we all know, cat poop becomes hard after it stays in the litter. When these “petrified poops,” as Mr. Agugliaro called them, are flushed in the toilet, they can get lodged in the labyrinth of pipes and cause clogs.

The Ecological Conundrum

Litterbox.com Cat Litter clumped on litter scoop with litter boxes in background

Flushable kitty litter is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional litter, which is unsuitable for the environment. It is made of biodegradable materials, and flushing it down the toilet means you don’t have to use plastic bags to dispose of it in the trash.

While it might seem that, at least from an ecological standpoint, flushable kitty litter is the better choice, according to Treehugger.com, the issue is far more complicated than it might seem initially. Everything is ok until the biodegradable litter is flushed, but the flushing is just the beginning.

When you flush the kitty litter and the kitty waste, you also introduce a new type of waste in the waterways. The Environmental Protection Agency considers pet waste a pollutant. “These pollutants can harm fish and wildlife populations, kill native vegetation, foul drinking water, and make recreational areas unsafe and unpleasant.”, says EPA.

A primary concern surrounding the introduction of cat fecal matter in the waterways is the spread of Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite for which the cat is the definitive host. Cats become infected with the parasite when they eat meat that is contaminated with it or hunt small mammals or rodents that carry Toxoplasma. The parasite then reproduces inside the cat, and when the cat defecates, it eliminates oocytes with fecal matter. If this is introduced in the waterways, it can take the oocytes into the environment.

The intermediary hosts of Toxoplasma gondii include a wide range of mammals and rodents (including humans). They become contaminated when soil, water, and plant material contaminated with oocytes are ingested. Find out more about the life cycle and transmission means for Toxoplasma from the CDC website or watch this video to go into more detail.

Only a tiny part of house cats are contaminated with this parasite because most are not exposed to it. House cats don’t usually hunt, so they can’t eat the intermediary hosts of Toxoplasma. On the other hand, cats that spend time outdoors have the chance to hunt mice or small birds, which could be carrying the parasite.

Toxoplasmosis is dangerous for humans because it could lead to severe ocular disease. It is dangerous for pregnant women because if they get contaminated during the pregnancy, the toxoplasmosis will also be transmitted to the infant. The potential results are a miscarriage, a stillborn child, or a child born with congenital toxoplasmosis, which is extremely severe.

Aside from Toxoplasma gondii, cat poop may carry many other parasites and bacteria into the waterways. The main issue is that the purification system is equipped to clear the typical pathogens in human fecal waste, not pet waste. So flushing kitty litter is unsafe for your pipes, septic tank, and the environment.

The Safe Way To Use Flushable Kitty Litter

Yes, there are still pros to using flushable kitty litter. It can’t damage your piper or septic tank if you don’t flush it. It also won’t spread a new batch of pathogens into the waterway if you use it as regular kitty litter.

You are making a difference in the environment by replacing your clay and silica-based litter with biodegradable kitty litter. Remember to use biodegradable bags when you dispose of them, though.

EcoLeo Cat litter Waste poop Bags

The Cons of Using Flushable Kitty Litter

Aside from the danger it poses to your septic tank and pipes and the environment (if you actually flush it), using flushable kitty litter comes with a few more cons which you should be aware of:

  • It is more expensive

The price difference between flushable kitty litter and the regular kind might make some cat owners reconsider changing.

  • It does not clump as well as regular litter

Most flushable kitty litter products do not clump at all, which makes them more challenging to clean. Still, even those that do clump are less efficient than regular clumping kitty litter.

  • It is a potential allergen.

Corn and wheat are common allergens for cats as well as people. Don’t use flushable kitty litter made from corn or wheat if the cat or any family member is allergic to these.

Unlike traditional clay and silica-based products, flushable kitty litter is made of biodegradable materials like corn, wheat, wood, and paper. Flushing it, however, is unsafe for your pipes and septic tank because they might not use enough water to wash the litter away.

Moreover, dehydrated cat poop can cause clogs all on its own. It is also unsafe for the environment because the waterway purification systems are not equipped to deal with pathogens in cat feces. Flushable kitty litter remains a worthy option, though, if you don’t flush it, which is counterintuitive. Still, it is the safest way to use this type of litter altogether.

What do you think about flushable kitty litter? Have you ever tried to use it? How did your cat respond to it? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

 

 

 

 

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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,

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3 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    We use Dumor Chicken Crumbles as kitty litter. Liquids clump in it. Plus keep a bag of Arm & Hammer Baking soda near by and mix it when refilling litter box. Both are biodegradable and most importantly flushable. Learned this trick from a breeder where we bought our Ragdolls. Make sure is Nonmedicated and its the small crumbles (looks like Grapenuts cereal). Wife was alergic to the powder from the clumper litter mix. Crumbles is much cheaper. Buy it at most local Farm & Feed stores LARGE 50 lb bags. If you have free range chickens you could spread it over the open areas where they roam. Other birds may eat it and it becomes sort of a territorial marker for other cats to avoid.

  2. Annonymous says:

    This is a fantastic article! Just what I was looking for.
    In our case, we are training our two kittens to learn to use the toilet which has an automatic flush and the excrement goes down the toilet right away and does not harden, etc. We have a septic system. We use very small portions of Walmart’s Vibrant Life Natural Paper Pellets cat litter on the rings of the cat training kit called Litter Kwitter. When we clean it, we flush just a little bit at a time. And the kittens are strictly indoor and parasite free. Thus, I’m feeling more confident that flushing this litter is not going to hurt our septic system which would be very expensive.
    Thank you again for such a wonderful post.

  3. TYSVM for this SUPER PAWESOME & FABULOUS POST, Jenny honey! What an interesting topic! Flushable kitty litter. Hmmmmm. Sounds interesting but not for me or Miss PSB. We’ll stick with our Dr. Elsey’s litter. 😉 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs & Happy New Year's Eve Eve!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3

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