Your pet uses a litter box, and you love the self-sufficiency of it all. There’s no need to take them out to the bathroom, as they have their own area to make messes in. When the time comes to clean the litter box, you likely rely on plastic bags. Yet if your pet’s poop has torn open even one plastic bag before, you probably don’t want to go this route again. What are your other options?
How to clean your pet’s litter box without plastic bags? To clean your pet’s litter box without using plastic bags, try these alternatives:
- Add pet waste to a compost pile
- Use biodegradable bags
- Try a pooper-scooper
- Toilet-train your pet
In this article, I’ll go over some very convincing reasons why you should stop using plastic bags to clean up pet litter. I’ll also elaborate further on your alternatives. By the time you’re done reading, cleaning up your cat’s litter box and dog poop on your front lawn won’t be a challenge anymore!
4 Great Reasons to Ditch the Plastic Bags When Cleaning Your Pet’s Litter Box
It’s been the standard forever now. When you take your dog out, you carry a plastic grocery bag (or maybe two) with you in your pocket for cleaning up waste. It’s what any responsible pet owner would do, after all.
As for your cat, when their poop takes over the litter box and begins to stink up the rest of the house, you again reach for the plastic grocery bags. Yet those bags that have become so convenient are riddled with issues. Let’s take a closer look now.
Plastic Bags Rip Easily
Between bringing your plastic bags home from the grocery store, unloading your food, packing the bags away, pulling the bags back out for your pet’s walk, and then using them again, the thin plastic can rip. The tears might not be visible to the naked eye until you go to scoop up some poop and it slips right through the plastic and into your hands.
Or–here’s another bad scenario–you’re cleaning out your cat’s litter box for the first time in a while and it’s quite full. You’ve been bent over the stinky box for like 10 minutes now, shoveling all the poop into the plastic bag. You tie the bag off, stand up to drop the bag in your outdoor trash can, and it opens from the bottom since the load is too heavy. You’re then left to scrape dried (hopefully!) cat poop from your carpet.
Plastic grocery bags can be too flimsy, even for carrying groceries. That’s why you typically double-bag or layer a paper bag with a plastic one. You can’t expect these bags to be more reliable for pet waste.
Poor Choice for the Environment
Even if plastic grocery bags were somehow stronger, that still doesn’t make them any better for the environment. The Center for Biological Diversity states that plastic bags will break down in landfills over 500+ years. It’s not simple degradation, either, but a process known as photodegrading. With photodegradation, the components of the plastic bag transform into microplastics.
These microplastics are even more dangerous, as they’re like sponges, sucking up all the toxins around them. Wildlife near the landfill is at risk due to these microplastics, as they too are now toxic.
This hugely detrimental long-term waste is for a plastic shopping bag that the Center for Biological Diversity says the average person uses for 12 minutes.
All Those Bags Hog up Space in Your Home
We all have a part of the home where we hide plastic bags and other assorted household odds and ends. Perhaps you have a dedicated junk drawer or a corner of your closet in the living room or hallway. Since this space is stuffed full, you’re missing out on a lot of potential storage space.
Another interesting stat I found from the Center of Biological Diversity is that households accumulate 1,500 plastic grocery bags every year. Sure, maybe you don’t keep them all, but these bags still go through your home. Unless you recycle them, you can’t guarantee the bags don’t end up in landfills.
It May Soon Become the Law
If all the above reasons didn’t convince you to ditch the plastic bags when cleaning pet waste, you may soon not have a choice in whether you use these bags going forward. More and more states are passing laws banning the use of plastic grocery bags as the environmental horrors of plastic are being more fully realized.
Per late 2020 data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, the following states in the US have banned plastic grocery bags:
- New York
More states will likely be added to that list in 2021 and beyond. If you’re still using plastic grocery bags in the above eight states, you could face fees as a punishment.
Alternatives to Plastic Bags for Cleaning Pet Litter Boxes
Alright, so you’re convinced you could be making a better decision when cleaning your pet’s litter box than a plastic grocery bag. If you must use an alternative though, you want to ensure it’s going to work better than the plastic bags.
Don’t worry. With the four methods I’m about to introduce you to, you won’t miss plastic grocery bags, and neither will our planet!
Make a Pet Waste Compost Pile
Let’s just dive into this one, as a pet waste compost pile won’t be appealing to all pet owners. Regardless, it’s an option, so I wanted to discuss it.
If you need an introduction to compost piles, compost is simply an amalgamation of materials, often organic, that decompose via microorganisms. The resulting inorganic and organic compounds are rich with nutrients that growing plants need. Thus, if you have a few houseplants in your home or apartment or if your backyard garden is growing nicely, you should seriously consider starting a compost pile.
What are a few items you have around the house that you could add to your compost pile? That’s the fun part, you have so much variety.
Here’s a list of common compost ingredients to get you started with your compost pile:
- Wood shavings
- Printer paper
- Avocado skins
- Banana peels
- Potato peels
- Browned lettuce pieces
- Coffee grounds
- Tree leaves
- Grass clippings
- Animal manure
Yes indeed, animal manure is a great ingredient for compost. If you do want to add your pet’s waste to a compost pile, it’s best if your litter is grass seed or recycled newspaper, as these types of litter will break down easier. Also, make sure the litter box isn’t in close proximity to your garden, especially if you’re growing herbs, fruits, or vegetables!
Switch to Biodegradable Bags
If you can’t let go of bags, that’s alright. Just make a choice that’s smarter for the environment than plastic, such as biodegradable vegetable-based pet waste bags.
Doggy Do Good on Amazon is one such brand of biodegradable bags. Despite the name, you can use these bags for cleaning up your cat’s litter box as well.
Doggy Do Good bags are made primarily of cornstarch and contain no plastic whatsoever. They biodegrade within 90 days, which is a heck of a lot better than 500 or more years like with plastic grocery bags. You can also compost them, so that’s another great reason to start a compost pile.
With 10 bags to a roll and six rolls to a pack, you’ll have 60 bags ready for cleaning up all your pet messes. You can even order the Doggy Do Good bags in a size XL for those big poops!
Try a Pooper-Scooper
A third option for your consideration is a pooper-scooper like this one on Amazon. If you don’t know how a pooper-scooper works, allow me to explain. You carry it with you the way you would a plastic grocery bag. Then, when your dog poops, you open the jaw-like mechanism, which is like a giant claw. The “jaws” open, collect the poop, then lock shut so odors don’t linger.
When you’re done with your walk, you open a trash bin or another sustainable spot for dumping poop and then release the mess there, no need for plastic grocery bags. You can use a pooper-scooper in your cat’s litter box in much the same way, although you may need a smaller one than what I linked you to before depending on the layout of the litter box.
Toilet-Train Your Pet
If you’re feeling especially ambitious and you never want to deal with pooper-scoopers or bags again, you can always train your dog to use the toilet. I’ll explain in the next section why cats are exempt from this option, so keep reading.
How do you get your dog comfortable with using the human commode rather than the front lawn or backyard? First, your dog must know how to target items, so if that’s a skill they lack, begin there. A clicker or laser pointer can direct them to the item you wish for them to target.
Once your pup gets a hang of targeting, teach them to target the toilet. You shouldn’t use your real toilet for training, at least not at first, but rather, a potty seat for kids. When you get your dog comfortable with targeting the potty, your next goal is to get them to use it. It helps if your dog knows how to go to the bathroom on command, as then you just take this skill and apply it somewhere new.
After your dog becomes a master at using the potty seat, you can upgrade to the real toilet. All along, to encourage your dog to keep repeating good behavior, you want to reward them when they do what you ask. Even if they track something simple like a toy across the room, give them a treat or verbally praise them.
Toilet-training your dog could be a weekslong, even months-long endeavor, but the results are worth it to some pet owners.
Why You Should NOT Flush Your Cat’s Litter Box Contents
Okay, so why shouldn’t you toilet-train your cat? It’s for the same reason why you don’t ever want to dump their litter box messes straight into your toilet and then flush.
No, I’m not talking about toilet backups, although that’s a very real possibility as well. Instead, it’s because cat waste contains a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii.
As that name alludes to, this parasite leads to toxoplasmosis, a disease that causes symptoms such as headache, lymph node enlargement, fever, fatigue, and muscle pain. In some cases, toxoplasmosis can infect the brain, leading to encephalitis that may result in death.
People aren’t the only ones who can get toxoplasmosis from Toxoplasma gondii, by the way. So too can poultry, pigs, cattle, goats, sheep, birds, and other cats, including your own. If your cat is female, pregnant, and has toxoplasmosis, her newborns could be born with it as well. The babies may have all sorts of health defects, everything from mental retardation to vision damage. It’s not worth the risk!