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Compost your pet's waste

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Whether you're scooping for a kitty or a pooch, composting your pet's waste will prevent it from polluting waterways and from taking up space in landfills.

How to compost your pet's waste

Pet waste often contains dangerous pathogens that can cause serious diseases and the average garden compost pile or composter does not reach high enough temperatures to reliably kill them. Therefore, it is best to compost your pet's waste underground and not risk using it as fertilizer or plant bedding. Pet waste should never be added to compost that is intended for fertilizing vegetables or other edible plants. Making a dog waste composter is relatively easy and convenient, and will allow the composted waste to enter the subsoil directly. Though it hasn't been used for cat waste, its creators encourage others to try.

Burying pet waste in the backyard without any prior treatment is an alternative to composting. To safely bury your pet's waste:

  1. Dig a hole about 1 foot deep, far from edible plants.
  2. Add about 4 inches of waste.
  3. Crush it up and mix it with the soil at the bottom of the hole using a shovel.
  4. Bury it under about 8 inches of soil to keep other animals from being attracted to the smell.

For those who keep a large kennel of dogs, the Natural Resource Conservation Service offers a helpful publication about safely maintaining your own dog waste compost pile.

Find it! Pet waste composters

Composting your pet's waste helps you go green because...

  • Waste will not be washed into waterways by rain, contaminating water resources.
  • Composted kitty litter will not accumulate in landfills, where it decomposes very slowly.

About 44 million households in the US own a dog, totaling nearly 73 million pet dogs. The average dog creates about 274 pounds of waste a year, which comes to 6.3 million tons of total dog waste in the US.[1] Dog waste contains bacteria, viruses, and nutrients that can run off into local waterways and diminish water quality.

As a result of the millions of cat owners in the US, more than 8 billion pounds of kitty litter is dumped in landfills each year, twice the amount of disposable diapers.[2] Flushing cat feces can also be problematic, especially if you live near the ocean, as it may contain the protozoa Toxoplasma gondii, which was recently linked to sea otter deaths in California.[3] Composting or burying animal waste safely can help minimize these adverse environmental effects.

Related health issues

Worms, such as roundworms, are more common in dogs and may infect humans, causing severe abdominal pain and vomiting.[4] Cat feces containing the Toxoplasma gondii parasite can lead to toxoplasmosis in humans, a disease that may cause long-term damage to the brain, eyes, and other organs and is particularly risky for pregnant women, young children, and persons with AIDS.[5][6]

Washing hands after handling or getting close to pet waste helps minimize these health risks as does preventing pets from eating raw meat or seafood or fish (where parasites often reside), as well as keeping pet waste, waste-handling tools, and separate from other tools.

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