When you have a pet, you have to deal with pee and poop. And when you have a small, young one, it can seem overwhelming.
A healthy puppy will poop at least twice a day, and as many times as five. Pups of two months or so need to pee every hour. As they grow older, this improves. At about nine or 10 months of age, a puppy will be able to wait up to eight hours.
Older dogs revert to puppy habits so when your pet is 12 or so, you can expect to be running around again as if he or she were very small.
Cats will use their litter box around three to five times a day, with kittens and old cats going more often than adult cats. Generally speaking, cats will poop at least once or twice a day, and kittens up to four or five times. In other words, we’re talking about the same kind of waste level as for a human baby.
Luckily, healthy pets are very clean by nature. If you have a garden, you can teach them to use a particular corner and if you’re living in the city, it’s very easy to train them to use their own facilities.
As more of us live in cities than ever before, there are lots of different pet sanitation products on the market. Paper potty pads that are like nappies are popular with dog owners. These will absorb urine and provide odour-blocking, too. You simply fold them up when they’re soiled.
Cats need to cover their waste so you will need a litter tray with grit, sand or crystal.
Ideally, get a plastic baby bathtub about 15cm tall and fill it with 7.5cm or so of grit. This means kitty can be clean and the high sides of the tray will prevent too much sand going outside.
Good kitty litter will clump, so you can scoop out waste and not be forced to change the whole tray every day. It also prevents odour, which is important.
Whatever you use, disposing of messy pads and litter is simple.
“Sand and crystal sand fall under the non-recyclable category and can all go into the bin,” says Dr Hj Md Alashari Hj Othman, regional manager for SWM Environment Sdn Bhd, a solid waste management company.
“As long as animal or pet waste is neatly and properly packaged in plastic bags, it should not pose an issue as our garbage collectors wear gloves during collection. You don’t need to separate your pet waste, either. But we do highly recommend using 100% biodegradable plastic bags.”
If you decide to take on two or more pets, you needn’t worry.
“As non-recyclable/residual waste collection is scheduled twice a week, just practise timely and proper management to prevent pet waste overload,” Alashari advises.
“Alternatively, you might look for paid services that will collect pet waste for a small fee. However, these may not be available everywhere.”
If you have a garden, keeping the house clean is easier. However, clearly one cannot simply leave animal faeces lying around as any raw waste, animal or human, can lead to transmitting disease. Scoop it up and dispose of it daily.
As kitty litter is made of organic materials, you may be thinking of scooping out the solids and putting the rest in the garden.
On the face of it, it seems reasonable. Cheap standard kitty litter is simply sand and clay, with clumping litter being made of granulated bentonite clay, sometimes mixed with quartz and fancy crystal litter consisting of porous granular form of silicon dioxide.
However, scooped sand still contains cat pee, which has a pH of around 6.5. (In case you’re curious, the pH of dog pee runs around 7.0.)
There are no studies on whether disposal of such material has any effect, good or bad, so we asked Dr Sugumaran Manickam, Professor at the Institute Of Biological Sciences who is in charge of the Botanical Garden and Rimba Ilmu, or the Forest of Knowledge, that lie in the Universiti Malaya campus.
“Well, my opinions and observations are anecdotal,” Sugumaran muses, “but my simple answer is, yes, it will have adverse effects to plants if urine-soaked ‘wet’ kitty litter is placed on plants.
“Urine has a high concentration of urea; if this gets in contact with the surface of leaves or roots, it may ‘burn’ the parts. This is the same when we apply urea fertiliser to plants. Direct contact of the solid form of urea will ‘burn’ the leaves, which will directly have adverse effects on plant growth.
“I have observed it myself: when my brother’s dog pees on a patch of grass, it will turn brown.”
Farmers, however, do traditionally use waste as fertiliser.
“If the urea is diluted in water, it becomes less concentrated and that will have positive effects on plant growth,” Sugumaran notes.
“This is because urea has a high content of nitrogen, which is one of the three main components for plant growth – the other two being phosphorus and potassium or kalium.”
So, what can be done to the litter so that it is mild or light enough for plants to absorb the urea or nitrogen?
“I guess by simply weathering it down by exposing it to direct sunlight, and watering, may work. Urea breaks down easily if water is present. That is why agriculturists will always dilute the solid form of urea in water before applying it to their crops.”
So, the bottom line is that it may be possible for very experienced agriculturists to make use of kitty litter, but it’s not really advisable. Pitching it outside will most likely have a negative effect on your grass, plants and trees.
So, best dispose of it as Alashari suggested, neatly packed for the bin.