Can You Flush Cat Litter? What Are The Pros and Cons of Flushable Cat Litter?
Wouldn’t it be great if cats can poop in the toilet just like us humans, or at least if we can simply flush cat waste together with kitty litter down the toilet? Is it just wishful thinking to expect that these things could happen, or is there really a chance for these to be realized? Frankly speaking, can you flush cat litter and cat feces down the toilet?
Many cat owners, both new and old, still have these questions in mind. And at some point, we may have thought that flushing cat excrement is totally safe and that it doesn’t cause problems with our pipes, and septic system.
So, once and for all, let’s find out if we can simply dump clumped litter with pet waste down the toilet without causing health issues to us and other animals, and without triggering problems in our sewer pipes.
Can You Flush Cat Litter Down the Toilet?
While it sounds like a good idea, you should never flush cat litter down the toilet. There’s only one advantage to this that we can think of, and that would be the convenience that it can give us. However, there are a lot of things that could go wrong with flushing cat litter, and we are not just talking about blockage into your pipes.
No kitty litter should be flushed down the toilet regardless of the type – whether it’s made from bentonite clay, silica gel, recycled paper, corn husk, wood products, and other biodegradable materials. All of these types of litter can cause tons of problems with your plumbing, clog pipes, and damage your septic system, which, needless to say, incurs a costly fix.
Blocked sewer pipes can cause raw sewage to leak out into the water system and contaminate our water supply. It can also be hazardous to the environment, and harmful to both human and wildlife populations.
Can You Flush Cat Poop?
It may be easy to assume that it’s safe to flush cat poop into the toilet, after all, it’s a natural animal waste. But unfortunately, you can’t. Unlike human waste, cat poop can contain the parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which can be extremely dangerous to pregnant women (and can cause fetal developmental disorders), and those with compromised immune systems such as the young kids, elderly, cancer patients, HIV patients, those taking high-dose corticosteroids, and other immunocompromised individuals.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers cat poop an environmental pollutant because of its risk to public health. Cat excrement doesn’t only contain the parasite T gondii, but it also contains other dangerous substances which can have a negative effect on water treatment and sewage plants.
Most water treatment plants can only handle human waste, and definitely not Toxoplasma gondii. According to the EPA, the pollutants present in cat poop can harm fish and wildlife populations, kill native vegetation, foul drinking water, and make recreational areas unsafe and unpleasant.
In terms of risk, it is considered to be low since there are only a few cats infected with the parasite, and there is also a small number of pet owners who flush their cat waste down the toilet. Also, many public septic systems have been upgraded and can deal with these pollutants, especially the parasite T. gondii.
However, the bottom line is that the risk is still there. And as a responsible cat owner, you can help in preventing the transmission of this infection, as well as other negative consequences by simply not flushing your cat’s poop down the toilet.
Different Types of Cat Litter
A clay based cat litter might be the first thing that comes to mind when we think about cat litter. After all, this is the most common among all types of non-clumping and clumping litters that are available online and in stores.
However, there are several other options to choose from in case you are looking for an alternative for this clay based litter. Below are some of the more common varieties:
1. Clay Litter
Most cat owners use clay based litters not just because they are more affordable, but because cats also like them. Litters that are made from clay material can be divided into two categories: non-clumping and clumping cat litter.
Clumping cat litter is more popular than the non-clumping type because of its capacity to form clumps that can be easily scooped. However, clumping cat litter is the worst type that you could attempt to flush down the toilet since it expands once it absorbs moisture. So, it is more likely to block your pipes.
Non-clumping litter is also made of clay material but it doesn’t expand. However, when flushed, it can still be stuck in your pipe and stay there. Over time, the amount of litter in your pipes can accumulate and cause blockage.
2. Flushable Cat Litter
There are a lot of brands claiming to have a flushable litter, and positioning it as an eco-friendlier choice than the more popular options. These types of litter are made from biodegradable materials, such as wood products, corn, wheat, pine, and shredded paper.
Additionally, flushable paper litter, in particular, has a special purpose. They are softer, so, they can be gentler to the paws of cats with paw injuries. And they also create lesser dust, which reduces the amount of residues that get into the wounds.
3. Silica Gel Litter
This type of litter is gaining popularity nowadays because it creates less dust, has a lesser odor, and doesn’t produce clumps because it absorbs and traps the urine inside.
Additionally, some silica gel litter can also turn into a particular color when exposed to cat urine indicating if a kitty is suffering from a certain ailment.
Pros and Cons of Flushable Kitty Litter
By this time, we’ve all established that flushing regular clay-based litter is a bad idea. However, some of us might still be entertaining the possibility of flushing flushable cat litter instead. But, is this type of cat litter really flushable? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this type of litter below.
If we are going to look at the composition of flushable cat litter alone, we can say that it is indeed ecologically sustainable and friendlier to the environment than the other options. Flushable cat litters are made either from paper, wood, corn, and wheat, which are all biodegradable materials that come from renewable sources.
Easy to Deal With
Let’s face it, flushing cat litter down the toilet is way easier and it also saves you more time that you can spend in doing other things, such as playing with your cat.
Flushing litter is more convenient than regularly scooping your cat’s poop and pee from your cat litter box, bagging the clumped or soiled litter, and throwing the plastic bag into the trash can.
Doing all of these things every day can take a lot of time and effort, especially for pet parents with multiple cats and multiple litter boxes which are strategically positioned at different corners of the house.
It Doesn’t Work Well Like Clay Litter
Cat litter that clamps effectively can be a big deal in keeping your cat’s litter box clean. Unfortunately, flushable cat litter doesn’t clamp as well as clay-based litters.
Modern clay litter clumps around the urine making it easier to find and scoop out. And since the clumping prevents the urine from spreading throughout the litter box, you don't need to clean it as often.
Your Cat May Be Allergic to It
Cats love clay-based cat litter and the material rarely gives them health issues. On the other hand, flushable cat litter can be made from materials that can trigger an allergic response in cats. Some of the common materials used in flushable litters that are also common allergens in felines are wheat and corn.
It’s More Expensive
Price is one of the leading criteria that cat parents consider when choosing a litter for their feline companions. And as mentioned earlier, flushable cat litters are more expensive than clay-based litters.
A bag of flushable cat litter can cost one to three dollars more than a bag of clay litter. It may not be that much, but considering the number of bags you’ll have to buy every month, the few dollar difference can add up. And the cost can pile up exponentially if you have multiple cats at home.
It’s Still a Public Health Issue
While a flushable cat litter in itself is environmentally-friendly, it loses such feature when it’s already mixed with cat poop. As mentioned earlier, cats can carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which can be present in their feces.
So, when you flush the litter down the toilet with your cat’s poop, the parasite will be transmitted into the public sewage system, and ultimately contaminate the water supply, kill native vegetation, harm fish and other animals, and make recreational areas unsafe and unpleasant.
Healthy individuals that are infected with T. gondii can experience milder symptoms, which include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle pain, and sore throat for as long as one month. However, immunocompromised individuals can have more serious symptoms, such as the following:
- Inflammation of the brain (which can lead to brain damage)
- Shallow breathing
- Lung infection
- Eye pain
- Blurred vision
Whether you are at risk or not, it’s important to wear rubber gloves while scooping your cat’s waste from his litter box and then wash your hands with soap after. If you are pregnant or have a compromised immune system, you should never clean the litter box. Have someone do it for you, instead.
It Clogs Your Drains
Placing cat litter down any type of drain is not the best thing you can do for plumbing. Clogs and backups will eventually occur when you flush cat litter into the toilet, especially if you have older pipes.
Nonetheless, even modern toilets with newer pipes can also have trouble since they use less amount of water, which is not enough to flush cat litter and poop away.
Also, most septic tank installations were not designed to accept and break down cat litter, whether it's clay-based or a biodegradable cat litter.
How to Properly Dispose of Kitty Litter?
The only proper and safe way to dispose of cats' wastes is to place them in a plastic bag and then in your main waste bin.
The litter will still end up in landfills, which is still not good for the environment. However, compared with the other options, this has fewer negative consequences both to the environment and to our health and safety.
Also, it's worth noting that you should never use cat waste to make compost heaps, and you should never recycle cat litter.
How to Switch Kitty Litter
Just like switching cat food, there is a right way to switch kitty litter that will keep your cat happy and will help prevent untoward reactions from your feline friend.
Changing the location of your cat’s litter box and suddenly switching to a new litter can be stressful for cats. Just like us, humans, cats are also particular about doing their thing and they are not fond of having changes in their daily routines.
Below are some tips to make the switch to a new litter less traumatic for your cat:
- Transition slowly. Similar to switching cat food, you can do this by mixing first the old litter with the new litter so that your cat can get used to the scent and texture of the new one.
- Respect your cat’s pacing. Don’t rush your cat. Cats can have different temperaments and experiences, so, they may not have the same reaction. If your cat isn’t ready, don’t push him. And you will know it if your cat doesn’t use his litter box the same way as before.
- Do one change at a time. Don’t change boxes, litters, and positions at the same time. Having all of these changes together may be too much for your cat to handle.
- Observe your cat’s reactions. The materials used in the new litter may contain allergens. If your cat starts to sneeze, cough, and scratch, he may be allergic to the new litter. You may want to consult your veterinarian to rule out other possible reasons or to point out and manage any underlying health issue.
There's no justification for flushing cat litter down your toilet, kitchen sink, shower drain, or other sinks. Your pipes may not clog immediately, but they will eventually, whether you use a flushable cat litter or clay-based litter. And the cost to you may be tons of frustration and thousands of dollars in repairs.
Additionally, flushing cat litter can be a public health issue because cat poop can contain the parasite called toxoplasma gondii and other substances, which can be harmful to us, humans, as well as to other animals, and the environment.