This article includes Pet waste, dog and cat food and cat litter. Also check out the EcoPets episode of How to Save the World podcast which has a lot more information on all of the topics and also flea treatments and pet paraphernalia.
One of less glamorous parts of dog ownership is picking up after their bowel movements! Our dogs poo has always been dealt with on site, even when we lived in a unit in Auckland with hardly any garden. Here’s how:
The pick up:
For home, get a designated (second hand) scoop or shovel to pick up the poo. When you are out, you’ll need to pick it up and put it in something so you can transport it in. Some options include: certified home compostable dog poo bags (e.g. Little Green Dog), mini tongs/ scoop + jar with lid (good reuse option but more bulky to carry); pre-cut newspaper that touches the poo, combined with regular old plastic bag that you reuse indefinitely (kept clean by the newspaper). It HAS to be certified home compostable. There is a lot of false and confusing claims out there.
You need a special compost for the poo. Poo from meat eaters – cats, dogs, people etc have pathogens that can make us sick if we touch it. (On the other hand manure from horses, cows and other vegetarians animals is awesome in your compost). Cat poo is particularly bad and don’t go anywhere near if your a pregnant.
A pet waste compost system can be as simple as a hole in the ground and it is easy to build your own.
Another option (see photos below), which we did in the unit when we were short on space, was to take an old crate; Ensure there are holes/ slits in the side; Fashion a hole in the centre of the base and snuggley fit a pvc pipe into the hole (use an off cut from somewhere, a building site perhaps? keep your eye out); Dig a hole big enough bury the crate; Turn the crate upside down, bury it in the hole; The PVC pipe will be the only thing sticking up out of the ground, use this as the shoot to put the poo down. Plant something in front of it and no one will ever know its there.
The holes in the side are so the worms can escape if the water table rises. The crate itself is just so your hole doesn’t cave in.
Also thanks to Nikki who emailed saying; “I have a three tier worm farm that feeds on 99% doggy doo. This emits no smell and the worms do a brilliant job breaking it down into great fertiliser for the garden. Just make sure if you are worming your dog however that you do not put the doggy doo in the worm farm for three weeks as this could kill the farm.”-
How to get it started:
Throw in compost from your compost pile and worms your worm farm and food scraps to get it going. Otherwise its hard for the system to get started – but possible, just feed it food scraps until the worms find it. They will. It may take a couple of months to find and build up a population. Then, ideally, slowly transition the food source, because worms actually aren’t good with abrupt diet changes. *Too much food waste will rot and once its rotting its best to take that away and try again because the worms can’t handle rotting food – plus it might stink.
How to empty a full pet poo toilet:
We have always left the resulting compost in the ground and planted something on top of it. Its safe to plant anything on top, the pathogens disappear with composting, but also can’t travel through the plants. But there are different opinions online, so do what you are comfortable with (you could get sick if it hasn’t composted before you dig it in and a physical particle, perhaps too small to see, touches a plant you eat).
The compost is a good rich feed for whatever you plant on top. Whatever way you do it the resulting hummus created is great for ornamental plants and gardens.
If you want to go next level on your dog poo disposal knowledge check out Waste MINZ guide to dog poo disposal in New Zealand, which I have summarised here. Its excellent, even though my version lost the pictures.
I recently did an EcoPets episode of How to Save the World podcast which has a lot more information on food – especially New Zealand sustainable dog and cat food brands. Find the podcast here. Where possible try and buy food in bulk. We bought dry food for our dog from the Bin Inn which worked out really well. Otherwise go for the biggest bag possible. Some are plastic, others are heavy duty brown paper with a plastic lining. We have been able to separate out this lining, which is rubbish, and compost the paper.
Another idea is to buy offcuts direct from the butcher.
Whatever you do make sure your pet gets all the nutrients it needs.
A lot of kitty litter contains clay which doesn’t biodegrade easily. A much better option, cheaper (and performs better!), is to use wood pellets (designed for use in wood pallet burners). You could also try newspaper or untreated wood shavings. The poo can be extracted for the pet poo toilet and the urinated on material will be REALLY good in your garden – just be aware of the risks and don’t put it anywhere near edibles or places children might play. Ideal around the roses!