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sawdust kitty litter  RSS feed

 
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On July 1, 2014 our household switched over to the exclusive use of a Humanure style home made lovable loo. Feet first, jumped right in, had never used one before. To give it a proper try and because we lacked space I removed the only flush toilet in the house and replaced it with our home made lovable loo. At the same time we switched our 2 yr old cat to sawdust kitty litter. This has simplified our lives, lowered our weekly costs and overall made me happier. What do you do with regular used kitty litter? Put it in the garbage, which is probably against the rules but where else can it go. We now add it to the lovable loo, generally but not always at the end of a pails use thus topping it up to that uncomfortable height in one fell swoop. It has become an easily compostable addition and in time will become a part of the food chain again as it should rather than being an increase in landfill.
 
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It was one of our best discoveries when we realized we could use stove pellets (made of sawdust) for cat litter. It cut way down on smell we could compost the results.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Wood pellets shouldn't be any more expensive than kitty litter plus you don't have to haul it to the landfill. I also think that my cat is happier and better taken care of with sawdust litter. I have now become the kitty litter caretaker which fits right in with the loveable loo chores.

The kitty litter gets changed with each pail or two and it is easier to manage. The loo top gets lifted, the kitty litter goes into the pail, the bin is rinsed and then set aside. The lid goes on the pail, old pail out new pail in and the cover container lid and cup get set aside. I then bring in a sawdust bag, top up the cover container and add about the right amount to the pail and kitty litter bin. Close everything up, take the old pail and the sawdust bag out and I am done. Five minutes, start to finish.

I don't really consider this a chore since I have chosen to take it on and I could stop at any time. Not likely to happen since there is a sense of satisfaction with doing this little job every two or three days. Puts a smile on my face every time.

Ronnie, do you bring in firewood pellets just for the cat? Would you consider buying sawdust kitty litter instead? Maybe its time has come.
 
Ronnie Ugulano
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Ronnie, do you bring in firewood pellets just for the cat? Would you consider buying sawdust kitty litter instead? Maybe its time has come.

We have a pellet stove, and some of the pellets were siphoned off into the cat box.

Can't see any reason to buy sawdust kitty litter instead. Local sources cost waaaaaaaay more for some kind of sawdust based kitty litter. A 40lb bag of pellets is less than $10. Pour 3 cups of pellets into the box, spray it 5 times with a spray bottle, just enough to let some of the pellets begin to fall into sawdust to make it attractive to the cat, and let her do the rest of the work. More moisture caused the rest of the pellets to fall apart, creating a generous amount of sawdust for kitty to complete her business.

Our kitty is now gone, but if we had to do it again, even if we didn't have a pellet stove, I'd buy the pellets. Two bags a year is more than ample.
 
gardener
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Our cat used to love to just dig in the sawdust pile. Can't you just use sawdust for the cat? Not fancy sawdust kitty litter marketed as such?
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Hi Rebecca, we use scrounged sawdust from a number of sources for the sawdust toilet and the cat but we are in an area that has sawmills, although less all the time, as well as firewood production, small and large. I was just speculating that there might be a market for a competitively priced retail sawdust kitty litter for people who want to compost and don't have access to sawdust. By the same token there is probably a limited market for cover material in areas that don't have readily available bulk supplies. There have been a fair number of posters on forums saying they do not have an available local supply so they are forced to buy peat moss from garden centers or animal bedding from pet stores.
 
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The recent books/articles I've read seem to be even more concerned about cat feces/urine than humanure, I believe due to Toxoplasma gondii. Has anyone read anything suggesting good composting methods that control this parasite? We are definitely not generating enough material to build a proper hot compost.

When our cat became too old to reliably go outdoors, we bought a wheat based "kitty litter" and compost it in a half-barrel attempt at vermi-culture. Since then I've read about using saw-dust in several places, but my concern is that the wood takes much longer to decompose than wheat chaff would. Has this been a problem for those using it? I hoped that faster decomposition would at least keep the volume of material more manageable, but sawdust is cheap/free and the wheat stuff is ridiculously expensive.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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I am not concerned about the volume of cat compost at my house. I don't feed my cat that much.
 
Rebecca Norman
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If you're not too constrained for space, you can make a barrel sized compost heap for the kitty-sawdust, and leave it for a year or two at a time.

I used to pooh-pooh the taxoplasmosis thing, but then those articles a few years ago linking cat feces, mental illness, suicidal rodents, and cat ladies -- oh my god, it was plausible and scary. Then again it didn't change my cat love at all. (If I'm already a crazy cat lady, will anyone tell me?)
 
Ronnie Ugulano
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but my concern is that the wood takes much longer to decompose than wheat chaff would. Has this been a problem for those using it?

We found that we didn't have to change the litter box nearly as much as before - about half as much. The sawdust absolutely killed any smell, and absorbed much better than clay kitty litter. On the one hand, it did seem as if it took a little longer for the sawdust to break down, but on the other hand, once it reached a certain point, it seemed as if the area that we dumped the cat litter never seemed to "fill up" - probably about 3 boxes worth. So, it was always breaking down into next to nothing, and it was never a problem.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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I have also found that the litter box is easier to clean when using sawdust. It does stay " fresh " longer but even if it is not cleaned out in a timely manner the sawdust doesn't glue itself down like commercial kitty litter. Anything stuck on the bottom can be released with a slight jar to the box and I don't mind if a little bit gets rinsed down the drain.
 
Jay Angler
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Rebecca Norman -If you're not too constrained for space, you can make a barrel sized compost heap for the kitty-sawdust, and leave it for a year or two at a time.


Hi Rebecca - it was the "year or two" I couldn't find a reference for - I'm just not sure how long to leave Toxoplasma gondii when one isn't in a good position to get it hot. Some things, like the brassica club root (Plasmodiophora brassicae) takes 7 years to leave the soil, and Wikipedia claims the spores can live for 20 years, so if anyone has a good source to confirm a non-toxic way to keep Toxoplasma gondii sub-clinical in a cold compost heap, I will try it.
Some parasites go dormant rather than dying when dried, and getting things to dry in our climate is a drag anyway, so I'd rather use time than dryness to keep the load low unless someone has a good reference that suggests going there.
Does anyone know what happens to the parasite when cats just "go outdoors"? I know that's why parents are told to cover sandboxes and pregnant women are told to be careful gardening, but nature does not exist in a vacuum, so somehow there has to be something natural that helps control it.
I will choose a spot and expand my current half barrel to a series of 3 and make a point of putting a date on when I stop adding fresh to a particular barrel and see how it goes. As soon as I have some dry sawdust, I'll try switching Llyan over to it and hope she doesn't choose this moment to get fussy!! I agree with Wyatt - a little sawdust down the drain is not a problem - much better than many things that people carelessly put down drains.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Jay from what I have read the T gondii is only present in a newly infected cats feces so most of the time it won't be an issue in any type of compost.
 
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I am a noob at this so please bear with me! Right now I use clumping cat litter (didn't know about alternatives until today on here!)...twice a day I scoop out the clumps of pee and poo from my 2 cats so they always have a clean box to use. How does the sawdust thing work? No scoops. just dump the whole thing? I would have to do it at least once a day or my 96 year old father (who I live with to care for) would have a fit.

If one doesn't have land to make compost piles on (or permission to do so) what could I do with the sawdust waste? Right now I scoop the clay clumps into a bucket and put it in the garbage once a week, double bagged as per city bylaws. (There are 4 fir trees in the backyard that I think I could put the used sawdust under in a stealth way...it will have to be stealth though, and I have no idea about environmental/water issues with this)

Any information and ideas are greatly appreciated!
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Hey Anne, the forest city might not be the best place for stealth although I suppose you could continue disposing in the same manner, just knowing that what you are disposing of is more environmentally friendly.

I do a complete change every two days or so but you could probably do scooping as well. Maybe give it a try if you can come up with a cheap sawdust source. In a more perfect world the city would have a dumping sight for compostable kitty litter/dog waste.

If you have a backyard you could use a commercial plastic compost bin and combine the kitty litter with your kitchen scraps. I would think that it is similar to humanure composting in that you can add many of the things they say not to in regular kitchen composting such as meat/bone scraps and cooking fats.
 
Ronnie Ugulano
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Anne,

If you have your father monitoring the cat box (mine probably would too), you may want to continue to scoop the poop out, if that makes him feel better. But I have found that the sawdust kills the scent of urine so well that I could go a pretty long time before there was any smell from the cat box at all. I'd say let your nose tell you when to dump the old sawdust and replace with new. But if your nose (or Dad's) is not opposed, let it go until it becomes a problem, then with the next boxful, change the box a day or two before that. Honestly, I didn't change our box more than once a week. Nobody complained, even the cat. Sometimes we went longer than that, and there was never a smell. This minimizes the number of changes and sawdust output.

The rest is about what you feel you can do. When we had our cat, I had a corner of the backyard that I dumped the used sawdust into. There would be a pile, and then after a while, the pile never grew bigger, because it was constantly breaking down. Now we don't have our cat, and the pile and all traces of that sawdust is gone, as if it was never there.

There are ways you can disguise the whole thing, by spreading it thinly around trees and under bushes as mulch, or cutting the bottom of a plastic trash can, and burying it several inches into the dirt (in the shade), and putting the used sawdust in that, and putting the cover on, but watering the thing once a week or so to keep the breakdown process going. If you use the plastic garbage can method, then you can put the scooped poop into that and it will all be good.

Now, if you're throwing your current used kitty litter in the garbage, and you feel as if you just don't have anyplace to let used sawdust biodegrade, then I'd say just throw it in the trash the same way you did the other litter.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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Sawdust kitty litter has been a great thing for us but we are combining it with a sawdust toilet so most of the problems have already been solved. Our sawdust is free and readily available, our compost is already in place for the human side of the cycle and I add the whole kitty litter to the humanure pail about every two days when I swap out pails.

When the pail is approaching an uncomfortable height for continued use there is still lots of room to accept a batch of kitty litter sawdust. I dump the kitty litter in with the humanure pail, rinse the litter box twice, add fresh sawdust to it, the new pail and top up our crock storage in the bathroom all in one go. Old pail out new pail in, all done.
 
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