How can I reuse or recycle cat litter?

cat_litter.jpgWe’ve had an email from Andy Whittington about a subject that is close to my own heart (and nose):

We have two new feline housemates, and the accompanying cat litter with waste, does anyone have any idea how I can reuse/recycle this after the solid waste has been removed, and is the sawdust product more eco friendly than the porous stone chip version?

Congratulations on the new additions to your household Andy and welcome to the world of sitting on the floor because they’ve snagged the best chairs and refuse to be moved.

As I say on our sister site Compost This, it’s tempting to compost wood-based litter but poop parasites can cause a problem. Our garden is too small for multiple compost heaps but my mum and dad have a heap they just use for litter and accept that it’ll take ages to break down and not use it on their veg plot.

If the poo is, well, perfectly contained, then it’s less of a problem because it can be disposed of separately and the absorbed urine might actually help your compost heap because it’s nitrogen based. Just be careful to keep the heap balanced with other materials if you want it to breakdown in a reasonable time-frame.

I don’t know for sure about the eco-friendliness of the wood-based versus clay ones (does anyone else?) but I suspect (read: hope) that the former is a waste byproduct of the wood industry. It is also less likely to cause clumping issues for the cats. We’ve also tried recycled paper-based litters – they worked alright, just left the room smelling of damp paper – and if poo-free, could be composted like the wood ones.

Any other thoughts? Anyone know if the clay-based ones be used as aggregate in concrete or anything like that?

(Photo by mzacha)

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40 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle cat litter?”


  1. Delusion says:

    I’m not sure what you can do if you struggle with composting size but the most “eco friendly” is Bio-Catolet.

    It made from 100% recycled materials (paper based I think(, is compostable, nondust forming, non clumping, good at protecting agaisnt ordour and unlike other paperbased ones they are pellets and so dont “break apart” and mess up the house!

    Also, talking from intense experience, it is good for very VERY fussy cats! I have two little terrors who wouldnt use anything but Tescos own brand that was dust forming and well..awful!

    They took to the new one perfectly! The packaging is also paper so can be recycled unlike many that are plastic. It comes in at least 12ltrs & 25ltrs.

    Hope that helps! ^-^

  2. Delusion says:

    PS: it doesnt create the nasty damp paper smell :)

    And yes…. congrats on having your cats and good luck with the 3 – 4 – 5am wake up calls for no reason other than they just wanted to! :p

  3. Megan says:

    I don’t have an answer for this, except to say that another reason to swich from the traditional clay types is that (from what I’ve read), the mining practices are really destructive.

    We’ve been gradually switching our cat over to a pine-based litter with no problems (so far). She’s had litterbox problems in the past so I’m releived that she’s adjusting so well to this type.

  4. Barney McWhiskers says:

    this is gross! cat litter is disgusting anyway, why would anybody want to use it again.

    if you don’t want to waste resources take the cat out! duuuuuuuh! you don’t see a dog peeing in a tray!

    get a life!

    much love

    • JMB944 says:

      Because Barney McWhiskers some cats (like ours) have FIV and should not be allowed out incase they infect other cats or pick up other infections.
      Also, if you’ve ever had a cat decide to use your flowerbed as a toilet you’d be encouraging all cat owners to use a tray.
      Go figure – how often do you see piles of dog crap not picked up by irresponsible owners??????
      To answer the comment “you don’t see a dog peeing in a tray” there are two reasons, dogs aint clever enough to do it on their own and their owners are too dumb to train them! Period.

      I take it from your posting that you are a dog owner… figures…

      • barney mcwhiskers says:

        all dog owners train their dogs and their dogs ask to go out.

        you need to stop getting so annoyed about cat litter and stop saying figurs/go figure!

    • Cheryl Roberts says:

      Just goes to show how little you know about cats!!
      If you move house,you have to keep the cat indoors for at least 2 weeks,to let it get to know the new surroundings.
      This is why a litter tray ins needed.
      Also ,kittens need to use a litter tray,and can’t go out until they have had injections.Duuuuuuuuh!!!

  5. Lily-helps-a-lot says:

    Insted of using the regular clay litter that you have to throw away use a organic litter. There’s a lot of different kinds, I recomend recycled wheat litter. It clumps well, is Biodegradable, and all you do is flush it away. Although some pets are allergic to wheat so a good alternitive is the pine litter. It works just as good as the wheat.(but depending on brand doesn’t mask the smell as well) I don’t recomend paper based because they’re not biodegratable

    • Anjou says:

      Nothing that clumps, whether biodegradable or not, should be flushed. It could very well clog the drain pipes.

  6. pam says:

    An old friend of mine used to use old litter to fill in the holes in her gravel driveway. Somehow exposure to the air took away the smell…

    • cathe Bell says:

      This is one of the most sensible recommendations laid out here.
      Thank you!

    • Husky says:

      Thanks for that, as I currently use cheapest gravel type/fullers earth type from Wilkinson. Always take the solids out but rest seems to be a waste and as we have a gravel area I can really use this tip! However, we do have numerous cats in immediate area, so I hope they won’t be encouraged to ‘use’ the area subsequently! Also hope it can keep the local foxes from the area as it is hard by our outside bins.

  7. Ann says:

    I’d recommend Morrison’s recycled paper cat litter, which is cheap, odourless and the cat happily uses it. Then it goes on the compost heap.

    On another tack, has anyone tried using shredded newspaper? It seems a bit pointless to carefully send off our old papers for recycling, and then buy in the same stuff after it’s been processed. I think I’ll try cutting out the middleman, and see how that works out.

    • louisa says:

      Hi Ann,

      We tried that the other week when we ran out of litter one Sunday night. We got a pee on the rug in return.

      I agree though it’s silly to add the middle step if it can be avoided though – all that fuel to move it back and forth. Perhaps it would work better if we’d gradually added the shredded paper to some litter that they’re more used to to wean them onto the different texture. I guess we’ll try again – but take the rug up first ;)

      Do let us know how your attempt goes though :)

      -louisa

    • Husky says:

      Another friend recommended that just yesterday! She bought a crosscut shredder and now all paper products get shredded after she is done with them and uses them for her cat.

  8. mormonsim says:

    responsible cat owners keep their cats indoors. It keeps them healthy and safe from the people walking their dogs who like to chase the cats who are also on leashes. I know this because I tried it. In return I have apermanent scar where my cat latched on in utter panic.
    I can’t get my cat to use anything but clay.My vet told me that once a cat decides what it likes your stuck. I was wondering about the stink factor .I love my clumping because I can remove the stink without having to change the litter every two days which is what I had to do with the non clumping kind.can these alternative litters be used with that electronic litter box? How does that thing work anyway?I would think I’d have to use clumping clay for it to work anyway. Also is there a clumping alternative? My cat is so very picky about this litter being clean.

    • Anonymous says:

      electronic trays need clumping litter to work – there is a metal rake type thing that scrapes through the soiled litter after the cat leaves (it’s timed) and the solid waste gets tipped into a little bucket or tray that you empty. They look fantastic, but soooo expensive!

  9. Cat Staff says:

    I use Yesterday’s News recycled newspaper cat litter for our two indoor cats. It’s not the cheapest but you can buy in bulk online and it is delivered in a couple of days. Excellent product. I’d really like to scope out the lumps and compost the rest in our wormery. Has anyone tried this?

    • Cipollina says:

      I use it and it’s fantastic – I like the fact that when we put it in the compost or as light mulch around trees, it’s not the first recycling it goes through.

      But I am terribly terribly annoyed that it’s not locally produced but has to cross the ocean to get to me.

  10. keith baldwin says:

    Hi

    My wife runs a boarding cattery & we get loads of wood litter waste. I have converted our 4 bed house to operate totally on wood. I ripped out the central heating & we have a solid fuel rayburn in the kitchen, for cooking, heat & hot water. A large wood burning villager stove with outside chimney is in the lounge & burns wood also. No rads at all.

    My wife puts any remains of trays with wood litter into seperate bags. I take these bags containing wood litter, cat poo & pee and spread them on a pile, under cover, well out of house/cattery reach. After about a month the smell goes & the poo has dried out. I then mix this lots with logs, any other wood & burn it on each of the fires. There is very little smoke smell &, as both fires are enclosed, none in the house. I get my wood from cattery customers who would rather give it to me than put into landfill. I suppose I am therefore carbon neutral.

    Roaring up both fires (chimneys red hot!!) as a test with outside temperature at “-2C”, the downstairs temp measures at floor level reached 27C, upstairs ceiling temp was 36C. Thus no problems with heating house. I keep rayburn going with litter only in summer giving us hot water at 70C throughout + some cooking.

    I save about black 14 bags of wood litter a week going to landfill. I burn at 220C min flue temp so no tar.

    Saves us about £1000 a year in house heating/hot water/cooking.

    I am a control engineer, so have temperature measurement points everywhere so I can tweak things!!

    Any questions will be answered including installation costs etc + windmill/solar possibilityquestions.

    regards

    keith baldwin, Iris’s animal farm (cattery) chepstow, Mon wales

    • Paddy Banville says:

      Keith (and anybody else who might be able to help);

      I have 22 cats, all FIV positive, it’s a sanctuary really. The issue of the used wooden cat litter has been bothering me for ages and I’d love to hear more about using it in stoves etc.

      Paddy

  11. potton says:

    I have a paper shredder , that shreds paper about 1″ x 1/8″, was thinking of shredding all letters(especially bills :-) ), news papers and anything else shreddable , and was going to use this in the cats tray as litter – would this be ok for the cats??
    thanks

  12. May I recommend a lovely invention by a woman in Australia? She’s invented The Litter Kwitter which is for kitties young AND old. Stubbon or multiple cat households? Her newest add-on – Multi kit – does wonders for mid-life training.

    No more litter to be bothered with.

    Visit her site (which I listed in the 411 area of this post) http://www.litterkwitter.com

  13. Chelsea says:

    I stopped using cat litter years ago. I take the bus, so the big bags where a pain to carry home and up stairs. So i tryed simply getting dry dirt from outside and mixed it with a little cat-friendly baking soda. The cat prefers it to litter! It has a little clumping affect so i might have a little clay in the soil. But it works great!

    When its time to change litter, i put the litter at an oposite area of the yard then my veggies are at. It keeps the racoons away too! seems to work great!

  14. Val and Three Cats says:

    I always flush the solids down the loo, so only have the wet wood litter to dispose of. Often wondered what to do with it, so might have a go at composting it separately to my home compost.

    What about taking it down the fields and disposing of it under the hedges?

    Maybe my cats aren’t too fussy but they show no preference for cat litter at all, they will use anything. I am going to try shreddings, so will let you know what happens!!!

  15. kk says:

    The answer to reusing cat litter for me has been really simple. Of course I live in Southern California with lots of dry sun days … but it could work elsewhere much of the year. I have a cardboard box in the yard and after taking out the solids, I dump the cat litter in it and let the sun bake out the wet and the smells. Meantime I have another batch in use in the house for the cat. After 3-4 days, I just switch them. So far I have used the same cat litter batches for MONTHS (since I experimented with this method which seemed logical). Trust me, if any smell was coming from the reused litter, which is in the bathroom off the master bedroom, it would be intolerable. But it is fresh as new and the cat is happy too!

    • JB says:

      I use the two largest litter boxes I could find. When one needs cleaning I just put it outside, preferably in the sun or under my car if it’s raining. Then rotate the clean one inside for kitty. Every other day stirring/cleaning the dirty one until it dried out. Haven’t bought litter in 6 years!!

  16. kk says:

    Ooops, in writeup just left about re-using kitty litter (sun bake it fresh!) obviously it has to be the non-clumping type! This is SO environmentally friendly! Never buy cat litter again I am hoping.

  17. Anjou says:

    The best cat litter available is unmedicated chick starter (finely ground corn). It’s cheaper than any commercial cat litter, non-toxic, and doesn’t involve environmentally unfriendly mining of clay. Go to the local feed mill and try it out.

  18. Tara says:

    I moved my cats over from Fullers Earth clay clumping litter to wood pellets a few months ago, and wished I had done it sooner.

    The reason for the change? The tracking dust was the main negative, but then I found out that its actually radioactive.
    Its not going to make your cat glow in the dark, but as my five furries spend quite a bit of time in the litter tray, it made me decide to stop using it altogether. (I wondered about how much of the dust I was breathing in too over the years)

    I am now going to compost their used ‘poo free’ litter for my non edible garden plants :-)

  19. Husky says:

    As I live in a block of flats with a communal outside area/garden, a lot of the above solutions not suitable for me due to neighbours’ objections; also not usually sunny enough for long enough to leave it out to sun dry! and again neighbours (and landlord) will object, but both fullers earth and gravel could probably be redistributed (after disposing of ‘lumps’) around the gravel in front of the outside bins.

  20. Sarah says:

    kk, I do the same! A few months back i moved into a flat with no catflap and no windows safe or convenient enough to leave open for cat access, so I’ve had to sort out a Kitty litter solution. I bought bags of zeolite litter, and a large deep sided bin with handles (to reduce the messiness of her majesty’s digging). I have three batches of litter going at a time. One in the tray, one in an open plastic container in the shed drying out, and one freshly washed one. I remove all solids into tied plastic bags and place in the rubbish, then spread the used litter out in a seed raising tray (which has a small gridded bottom so that I don’t lose much but has excellent aeration and drainage. I wash the used litter over top of the garden by pouring a bucket of hot water mixed with a dash of eucalyptus floor cleaner, and rinse with another bucket of hot water. Then I leave it for about two days, and change the litter again with the stuff from the shed. It’s about a 2 day cycle where each batch gets 2 days inside, 2 days draining and 2 days drying. It’s a quick process, takes about 4 minutes every two days to shuffle them around, with very little residual odour, and the cat doesn’t seem to mind a bit!

  21. Steven Gibbins says:

    I just did a Ask.com search and found these responses. It is almost laughable but I too have podered this question. It seem to me that it is mostly a waste to not reuse it somehow. So A month ago I started an ongoing experiment in which I am trying to reuse it. So far I have mildly been making an effort here. I took the old littler and cleanded the poop with a scoop. I then took it outside and placed it into big plastic container and applied a mixture of hot water and pint sol to it. mixed it good and drained it. Then I let it dry outside with direct sunlight to kill bacteria to some extent. Tonight I reintroduced the clean smelling mixture back into the boxes of two cats. Now it’s up to my felines to complete the test. As most of us know, as soon as you apply new litter, the cats come running to christen the box LOL Mine took a few sniffs and then left. Time will tell if he will return. Anyone have some suggestions let me know. I hate to send all of it to the dump. Next I will try better ways to clean it since my first attempt was a bit halfhearted.

  22. Steven Gibbins says:

    By the way it was the clay type

  23. KK says:

    Steven, Back to just airing it out – no pine sol! That stuff has a definite odor. Can’t use the clay type. Just let the air/sun dry it out thoroughly – depending on the weather, it could take 2-4 days so you can use a different batch of litter while the other is drying. You don’t have to use odorizers. Keeps it simpler, anyhow.

    • Anonymous says:

      not only does pine-sol have too much odor, it is toxic to cats. use an eco-friendly cleaner that is non-toxic. I’d suggest an Amway product called LOC, actually (liquid organic cleaner). Good stuff and won’t pollute the soil.

  24. Fae says:

    I mix wood pellet cat litter with ashes from the fire and use this as landfill when landscaping my garden. For a year or two I cover it with bark chips and pruning chips…after that I lay turf on top. I have managed to create nice flat terraces out of a very hilly and bumpy garden.
    It’s true that cat litter loses the smell quickly when exposed to the sun and plants don’t mind it at all after two years composting.
    It’s quite good for clearing nettles when its straight from the tray!

  25. Anonymous says:

    we have 5 cats- 2 large litter boxes. after a near success of toilet training – all but 1 was using potty, we gave up. For the past year we have recycled the clay litter. Every day we scoop out the poo and wetness – and put it throught a screen. the stuff that falls through the fence screen goes into a bucket. About once a week we get rid of all litter in a box and replace with recycled litter.

    To recycle, we dump the bucket of screened litter onto a metal sheet, that is slightly tipped. Water (or rain) is used to wash the litter. It then sits in the sn to dry – for cold days, we put a large double pane glass over the metal/litter pan. When dry, it is stored in buckets.

    Every 4 mths or so, old recycled litter is tossed into the woods and replaced with new litter.

  26. anarchagranny says:

    I have a wood burner and in the winter/cold nights, use the wood pellets as a fuel. they can be used todamp down the fire and slowit but when they burn you get a very intense heat. much recommended.



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