Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Do’s and Don’ts of Composting Pet Poo

“Dogs have owners; cats have staff.” – unknown

As I kneel down before my smelly cat box, I believe no truer words were spoken. Oh, the joys of rooming with feline companions. Of course, whether you’re scooping through cat litter or following your dog around with a baggy, you know you would do just about anything for the unconditional love of a pet.

Even clean up their poo. In a seemingly never-ending supply.

So first the bad news: you cannot and should not compost pet waste in your backyard compost bin from your cat, dog, or any other carnivorous or omnivorous animal. Besides being stinky it can also contain harmful pathogens. Yuck and double-yuck, don’t do it.

Now the good news: if you have an herbivorous pet, like a gerbil or rabbit, compost away. Chillman, my resident rodent, regularly contributes to the compost bin. My pint-sized, hopping, squeaking, housemate prefers shredded pine bedding to “do his business,” so to speak. And since he’s an herbivore, I can safely mix his used litter (which smells pine fresh unlike the cat box) into my compost.

Pet waste from our lovable herbivores is high in nitrogen and aerobic bacteria. In fact, urine contains urea which is one of the best and most plentiful sources of nitrogen around. It breaks down fast in the compost bin and really helps the pile heat up. Plus, the high carbon bedding that most of these pets use balances out the nitrogen perfectly.

Yes
Hamster Poo
Gerbil Poo
Rabbit Poo
Guinea Pig Poo
Chinchilla Poo
Mouse Poo
Horse Poo
Alpaca Poo

No
Cat Poo
Dog Poo
Ferret Poo
Snake Poo
Lizard Poo
Bird Poo
Kinkajou Poo

As far as I can tell, bird droppings are fairly dicey and contain many seeds so it’s best to avoid those in your bin. Although, I hear quite a few people compost their chicken poo.

Next time you’re cleaning up after your herbivorous pet, think of them as little compost additive makers, just doing their part to help with your compost bin. Yet another reason to love our furry friends.

And yes, I did win the bet of how many times I could say “poo” in a post.




25 comments:

  1. Actually you can compost dog poop provided you don't use the compost on your vegetable garden. If you think about it it makes sense - I mean in nature poop gets naturally composted all the time.

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  2. I did read online about a few methods of composting pet waste and most involved buying a special dog waste composting system. The danger is that the compost would not get hot enough to kill the pathogens. I think unless you know for sure the compost won't cause a health risk, its best to avoid.

    Your right that in nature all the waste gets composted (animals and their poo included).

    If only we were so efficient! (:

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  3. Do you have to use pine bedding in order to compost pet poo (in this case, from a guinea pig)? We have been using the recycled newspaper pellet-type bedding as the pet store people told us the pine bedding is not good for the little pets who like to chew things. I was uncertain whether to compost it - we use an open bin that does not get turned very often...

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  4. Absolutely, the recycled newspaper pellet bedding composts well. I've used that before too. It will add a good amount of carbon to the bin and probably break down faster than the pine bedding. And bonus, its from a recycled source!

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  5. AS for bird droppings from your caged bird containing seeds....I thought any seeds being composted get hot enough to keep them from germinating. So, why not compost the newspaper, seeds and droppings from the caged bird?

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  6. Some composting piles do get hot enough to kill the seeds. If you add a good mix of nitrogen and carbon and turn a few times a month, it should be hot enough. But if you never turn the pile and do what is called "cold composting" then the pile won't get hot enough and you may get weeds.

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  7. What if you feed your dog a strictly vegetarian diet? I have been considering switching my dog over to veggie pet food and wondering if I could use his poo in the compost, after a bit of a transition period? Thanks! ~Erin

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  8. From what I've read, waste from carnivores or omnivores, even with vegetarian diets, can still contain pathogens. It has somehting to do with their digestive track. Veggie pet food may be more environmentally friendly but I still wouldn't recommend composting the poo. (:

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  9. Just to double check..
    If I use my guinea bedding in my compost bin, it will be safe to use the compost in my FOOD garden, correct?
    Thanks!

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  10. Yes! Guinea pigs are herbivores and their poo will break down just like anything else in the bin. I use my finished compost on my vegetable garden and get delicious results!

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  11. We just got a guinea pig a few weeks ago, and just started a compost last year. I needed something to add to the compost. Thanks for this post!

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  12. Hi! If I remove the poop, would it be OK to add cat litter (paper pellets + urine....) to the Earth Machine? We do not use the compost for vegetables. I just hate to throw into the land fills perfectly compostable paper... Thank you!!!

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    1. Hi Laura! Its still possible some of the pathogens will remain in the litter so I would only do this with caution. If you want to try this try to create the hottest pile possible (look up hot composting tips) and do not use the finished compost for any fruits or vegetables.

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  13. i read that rodent urine and poo it toxic to humans and needed to be handled and disposed of carefully.......http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317138246716

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    1. Thanks for sending the link, Barbara. I agree that you should always use gloves when dealing with animal waste. Everything I have read says rodent manure is safe to put in your compost pile.

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  14. Awesome article! Gonna contribute. Rodent poop and pee is harmful if ingested. And the urine can be harmful if the problem goes untreated. Your daily rodent pets you have no fear. I don't know how ppl are doing compost (bins vs open air) open air compost are exposed to sunlight and radiation which kills a lot of the bad things in, not all but most. And I encourage bird droppings typically they are high in nitrogen and great fertilizers. As far as the seeds go. Just pay attention to your geow area. Recognize the difference bt planted plants and volunteer weeds. Most of the seeds you feed birds won't have much effect on your garden any way. Generally speaking bird feed is made up of sorgum, milit and sunflower. seeds.

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  15. Is pet rat poo & bedding ok? They are just giant mice, sorta.

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    1. It should be ok as long as the rats eat a vegetarian diet.

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    2. I know this is very old but for anyone reading this -- please do not EVER make a carnivore become veg.. They will most likely be ill. Can you not imagine trying to support the body of a lion or wolf on salad? I would consider that animal abuse

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    3. Rats need protein in their diet - my mice and rats always get cat/dog kibble mixed with their grains and seeds (oats,sunflower seeds,cereal)

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    4. One more comment .. Turkey and chicken poop is food for Garden compost (they sell it ..)
      But they are omnivorous -- goes against what you've noted thus far. My chicken poop is regularly raked or tossed in (from coop tray)
      Do you think this is wrong ? They aren't eating tons of meat but occasional food scraps and most definitely wild MICE.. They LOVE. They are dinosaurs after all:)

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  16. Apologies for the "anonymous" tag but I don't want to create a Google account just to ask one question. My name is Sabina. My rabbit has a chronic condition that requires a once a week shot of injectable penicillin. She's doing fine. Is her antibiotic laced poop and pee still safe to put on my garden, or would the antibiotic residue kill friendly soil bacteria? I grow a grass bed just for her food and I've been fertilizing that with her own poops and the grass is growing tall and lush. However, I also put her poops around a young cumquat tree and it is looking very sickly with pale yellowish leaves instead of green (I've stopped putting her poops on it). I don't know if it was her poops that caused the cumquat to sicken or just my ignorance on how to properly fertilize a citrus tree. I have never fed the cumquat tree anything other than her poop.

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    1. Interesting questions, Sabina. I am also not an expert in plant fertilization or in how much antibiotic makes it through to an animal's feces. However, I think your instinct to not use it while she is on the medication is a good one. I have read water quality studies that show how much of the medicines humans take (like birth control) end up in our water supply. I can imagine it is similar in bunnies. Hold off until it is out of her system just to be safe.

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  17. Okay so I have an iguana and he is a lizard, who is a herbivore. Perhaps you should be a little bit more specific.

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    1. Great point, Angela, I didn't think of lizards who are herbivores. If they only eat vegetables and no insects or other animals, their manure should be safe to add to your compost.

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