Because of the health hazards associated with cat feces, dumping soiled cat litter on public property is illegal. In most jurisdictions, it’s also illegal to dump soiled cat litter on your own private property. It must be disposed of by bagging and sending to the landfill, burying, or composting.
The Dangers of Dumping Cat Litter
Cat poop sometimes contains the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, among other parasites and pathogens.
While T.gondii is often harmless to an otherwise healthy individual, it can cause serious harm to those with compromised immune systems, pregnant mothers, and their unborn children.
Cats are the primary carrier of T.gondii.
By dumping soiled litter, you are potentially spreading T.gondii to any wildlife or people who come in direct or indirect contact with the infected feces.
In an infected cat’s intestines, T.gondii rapidly reproduces and sheds millions of oocysts when the cat eliminates. Oocysts, which are effectively the egg form of the Toxoplasmosis parasite, can survive in soil for months and be carried by rainwater to streams and wetlands where they can spread further.
In addition to the risks specific to Toxoplasma gondii, decaying pet waste can release ammonia and other pollutants into waterways, harming fish and other aquatic life.
Cat waste should only be disposed of by carefully controlled composting or bagged and sent to the landfill. Never dumped and never flushed.
Is it Safe to Dump Cat Litter in the Woods?
Dumping soiled cat litter in the woods is not safe, even if you expect no human contact to occur. The parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, can spread far past your dumping site — by entering streams or wetlands, or by wildlife that comes in contact with the infected feces.
Dumping Cat Litter is Against the Law
Dumping any trash on public property is illegal, and the same applies to soiled cat litter. But in many areas, the regulations for dumping pet waste are even more strict.
Because of the health hazards associated with animal waste, in many jurisdictions, it’s illegal to even dispose of pet waste on your own property. In some rural areas, these laws are more lax or unclear. But that doesn’t justify dumping on your own property. You’re still putting wildlife and other people at risk.
To learn the laws specific to your area, refer to local legislation. A quick Google search should do it.
How You Should be Disposing of Soiled Litter
The only safe and effective methods of disposing of cat litter are to compost, bury, or bag and trash.
When composting, it’s important to adhere to strict standards to reduce the possibility of spreading Toxoplasma gondii. You’ll need to learn the correct way to compost cat litter before attempting. Otherwise, you may end up doing more harm than good.
Bear in mind, composting pet waste (and sometimes composting in general) is illegal in some jurisdictions, because of problems with rats and other rodents. Before starting, refer to local legislation regarding composting.
If you have a large enough yard with suitable conditions, live in an area where the soil can support greenery, and use a biodegradable litter, cat waste can safely be buried. You’ll just need a spot far enough from structures, edible plant life, wetlands, streams, and other bodies of water. Just dig a hole, at least ten inches deep, and immediately cover with dirt.
For most of us, litter should just be bagged and sent to the landfill with your trash. While it doesn’t seem like the eco-friendly choice, it’s much better than putting other people, pets, and wildlife at risk.
And lastly, we’d be remiss not to mention that flushing cat waste can spread T.gondii and should be avoided.
Dumping cat litter is illegal, bad for the environment, and potentially harmful to wildlife and other people. The only proper methods to dispose of soiled cat litter are to compost, bury, or bag and trash. Any other method, no matter how convenient, should be avoided.
- Washington DC Department of Energy & Environment. (n.d.). Pet Waste Complaints. Retrieved June 3, 2021, from https://doee.dc.gov/petwaste
- VanWormer, E., Fritz, H., Shapiro, K., Mazet, J. A., & Conrad, P. A. (2013). Molecules to modeling: Toxoplasma gondii oocysts at the human-animal-environment interface. Comparative immunology, microbiology and infectious diseases, 36(3), 217–231. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cimid.2012.10.006
About Matthew Alexander
Matthew lives in Maryland with his two cats, Puff and Pancho. He’s been caring for and fostering cats with various special needs for more than fifteen years. He hopes to pass some of the insight and knowledge that he’s gained on to the readers of Pawmore.