I have recently transitioned to using reusable grocery bags exclusively. I've been wanting to do it for some time now, but have been concerned with what to do with my cats' waste. You see, my family has always reused plastic grocery bags to dispose of used kitty litter. Now that my grocery bag hoarding days are over, a new question arises: How can I be both a sustainable person AND a pet owner?
Unfortunately, the answer is more complicated than I had hoped.
It turns out that most of the clay-based kitty litters my family has been using for years is collected through strip mining, a notoriously environmentally unfriendly process. Though there are more eco-friendly products on the market, they are expensive and often rejected by picky pets. As unpleasant as it sounds, the consensus seems to be that the safest place for used litter is a landfill.
But there is always the option of flushing solid pet waste down the toilet, right? Well, yes and no.
It seems that dog waste is not harmful when flushed, but the same can't be said for all cat waste. The first issue is the litter. If you use clay-based litter, it can harden to become almost cement-like when exposed to the water in your sewage system. Also, a lot of research has been done about the possible transmission of parasites known as toxoplasma via water systems.
The toxoplasma parasites are said to be transmitted through cat feces and can cause birth defects and, sometimes, other serious symptoms.
Alright— now we can calm down a little.
Toxoplasmosis, which is rarely harmful to cats, is contracted by our kitties through rodents and other small animals that outdoor cats like to catch. So if you are looking for an eco-friendly option for your indoor cat, flushing (without the litter) might actually be your best option. If your cat doesn't go around munching on rats or bringing birds to your doorstep, it is unlikely that he or she has the parasite and unlikely that their poop would not be harmful.
If you want to be sure, talk to your vet! They can do screening tests for toxo antibodies.
As for the litter itself, I recommend testing biodegradable kitty litter if you can afford it. If your cat's are less prone to diva fits than mine, you might find some success. Other cat owners find that shredded newspaper with baking soda does the trick for their pets.