Since the day kitty litter was invented, every feline pet owner at one time or another has been tempted to flush cat litter clumps — even if you use flushable cat litter — down a toilet. While doing so, you’ve probably also wondered, “is this going to be a problem?” The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.
So, once and for all, let’s find out if you can dump some clumped litter down a toilet without causing problems in your drains or sewer pipes. Let’s start with the basics.
Table of Contents
- What is Cat Litter?
- Different Types of Cat Litter
- Pros & Cons of Flushable Cat Litter
- The Bottom Line
- Call 1-Tom-Plumber
What is Cat Litter?
Pet owners love their indoor cats. But no one loves when they urinate or poop in the house. Kaye Draper didn’t love it either. Back in early 1947, she ran out of what was commonly used back then: sand. So she asked her neighbor, Edward Lowe if she might borrow some.
Not having any on hand, Lowe gave her fuller’s earth to use instead. It’s a clay material that’s highly absorbent. Draper was ecstatic with how well it worked. By the end of that year, the enterprising Lowe had created the modern equivalent of cat litter — a completely new market based on what would become a multimillion-dollar product that he sold in 5-pound bags.
Different Types of Cat Litter
While you’re most likely to find clay-based cat litter on store shelves, you can find all sorts which come with their own set of pros and cons. Here are just a small handful of the more common varieties:
- Clay Litter
The most common litter used by pet owners. Pros are affordability, likability by cats, and the ability (by using a clumping vs non-clumping litter formula) to form cat litter clumps that are easily scoop-able. You can find it everywhere. Cons include the creation of a lot of dust particles, the ease by which the litter gets tracked onto floors, and its heavier weight.
- Silica Gel Litter
This variety is growing in popularity. It creates less dust, has less odor, and no cat litter clumps because it traps the urine inside. However, it is more expensive per pound.
- Pine Litter
Yup, this one’s created from pine trees. Pet owners like that it’s more environmentally friendly, creates less dust and is pretty good at controlling odor. It also comes in clumping and non-clumping varieties.
- Paper Litter
This type has more cons (it’s not as absorbent, does not tamp down on odor, etc.), but it does serve a special purpose. It’s great for cats that have paw injuries because it is softer, more absorbent, and creates less dust to get into wounds.
- Flushable Cat Litter
There are a number of brands that claim to make a flushable litter. All are manufactured from biodegradable products, the most common being Corn, Wheat, Wood Products, and Shredded Paper. Continue reading and we’ll answer the question, “Are flushable cat litters a good idea or a good idea that you should avoid?”.
Pros & Cons of Flushable Cat Litter
We can all assume that flushing regular clay-based cat litter down the drain is a bad idea. But what about flushable cat litter? Can flushable cat litter be flushed down the toilet safely? It is marketed as being toilet- and drain-friendly. Let’s look at the pros and cons.
1. Ecologically Sustainable
The bottom line? Flushable cat litter is much better for the planet. The clay-based cat litter has to be strip-mined, meaning it leaves a negative impact that has long lasting environmental consequences.
Flushable cat litter is made out of biodegradable materials like paper, wood, corn, and wheat. Notice that each of these biodegradable items also come from renewable sources. Here’s more information on the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources.
2. Easier to Deal With
Let’s face it, flushing your cat litter clumps is pretty easy and takes little time. It’s much more convenient than scooping, bagging, and throwing it into a trash can. That can go a long way for those who have a long way to go to get to their trash or who have multiple cats constantly needing their litter boxes cleaned out.
1. It Doesn’t Work as Well
Unfortunately, flushable cat litter doesn’t clump as well as clay litter. And that can be a big deal for keeping your litter box clean. One of the best things about modern clay litter is that it clumps around the urine, making it easy to identify and scoop out. And because the clumping prevents urine from spreading throughout the litter box, you won’t have to clean your litter box as often.
2. Your Cat Might be Allergic
There’s a higher risk with flushable litter materials that your cat will be allergic. Clay-based litter is well received by cats and rarely causes health issues. But cats can be allergic at a higher rate to products like wheat and corn.
3. It Costs More
For many, cost is an important consideration. And flushable cat litter costs more than clay litter. One to three dollars more per bag doesn’t sound like too much. But your cat should live quite a few years. That adds up…especially if you have multiple cats and you’re using more litter.
4. It’s a Public Health Issue
This one is really important. Cats carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii which is harmful to humans. Especially babies, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems.
This parasite is passed on through a cat’s feces, which is now in the litter box that you’re constantly cleaning out. If you flush it down the toilet, that parasite will be transmitted into the public sewage system, which is constantly being recycled and reused.
For healthy individuals, symptoms of Toxoplasma gondii infection include fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache, muscle pain, and sore throat for as long as a month. However, people in the at-risk category can suffer:
- inflammation of the brain
- lung infection
- shallow breathing
- blurred vision
- eye pain
If you are not at risk, you should still wear rubber cleaning gloves every time you clean the litter box, then wash your hands with soap. If you are in the at-risk category, you should never clean the litter box yourself. Find someone else to handle this chore.
5. Your Drains Won’t Like It
Okay, this goes against all of the marketing claims promoted by flushable cat litter brands. Thankfully, we’re plumbers so we know better. Placing cat litter – flushable or not – down any kind of drain isn’t the best thing you can do for your plumbing.
Clogs and backups will eventually occur if you flush any kind of kitty litter down your toilet, especially one with older pipes. But newer pipes can also have trouble because modern toilets are designed to flush with less water. This could end up costing you a lot of money.
This is especially true for septic tank systems. They’re just not made to accept and break down materials like cat litter, whether clay-based or flushable.
The Bottom Line
So, can you flush cat litter down the toilet? Yes, you can do anything you want to your toilet. It’s a free country. Okay, strike that. I’m being sarcastic of course; it’s been a long day already and I haven’t had lunch. My apologies. The real answer is…
“NO, you can’t!”
It’s a bad idea no matter who tells you differently. Other than being more convenient, there’s no reason good enough to justify flushing cat litter down your toilet or any other drain (whether it’s a kitchen sink, bathroom sink, tub or shower drain, or storm drain). Don’t do it even if you’re using flushable kitty litter. Your drain might not clog today or tomorrow, but you’re asking for trouble that will eventually find you.
If you have a septic system , there’s even more cause for concern. You might create serious problems for a septic tank system that’s just not designed to handle this kind of material. The cost to you could be loads of frustration and hundreds of dollars in repairs.
Don’t hesitate to contact us or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you’d like help with your cat-inspired toilet, sink, or drain clog issues. We will immediately handle any emergency plumbing, drain, and water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines.