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Will Cat Poop Kill My Plants? Risks, Prevention & FAQ

cat pooping outside
Image Credit: AjayTvm, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Christian Adams

A common challenge that many cat owners will inevitably deal with is the smell of kitty droppings. Cat poop has a foul smell, which can easily stench up the house. So, having your cat do their business outside can save you the trouble of cleaning and dealing with the not-so-aromatic fragrance of cat excrement.

While more convenient, you may think that your cat pooping on your plants outside is the better choice—but can cat poop hurt your plants? Yes, cat poop can be harmful to your plants if they are not properly composted or aged.

Curious how cat poop can be harmful to your plants? Read on to find out more!

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What Makes Cat Poop Dangerous?

Aside from the unpleasant smell, fresh cat excrement is potentially dangerous because of how it can affect the chemistry of your soil, as well as the health risks that it poses.

Soil Chemistry

Cat poop is essentially similar to cattle poop in the sense that it contains nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. These elements found in excrement are the primary ingredients in organic fertilizer. The difference, and the reason why fresh cat feces can be harmful to your plants, is the amount of nitrogen present. Cat feces contains nearly twice as much nitrogen as cattle feces, which can potentially burn and damage plants if it is added to soil.

Aside from the high levels of nitrogen, fresh cat feces may also contain harmful bacteria, pathogens, and parasites that can potentially infect and damage your plants.

orange cat pooping on the grass
Image Credit: topimages, Shutterstock

Health Risks

Aside from the potential harm that your cat’s poop can cause on your plants, leaving your cat’s poop in the garden or plant pot can also pose a variety of health risks. Humans can be at risk of diseases, such as Toxoplasmosis, Salmonella, E. coli, and roundworms if cat excrement is not disposed properly and left to decompose in the soil.

Toxoplasmosis is caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which is transmitted through cat feces. While most infected may not experience symptoms, pregnant women pose the highest risk, as toxoplasmosis is considered a common cause for congenital hearing loss.

Another parasite that can be passed to humans through feces is roundworms, which can also cause serious illness.

Salmonella and E. coli are two types of bacteria that can be transmitted through cat feces. Both these bacteria can cause gastrointestinal infections and fever.

Cleaning Your Cat’s Poop

Because of the potential harm to your plants and your health, it is important to safely clean up your cat’s poop. To prevent any spread or contamination, be sure to wear thick rubber gloves and a dust mask when cleaning your cat’s feces. With a shovel, scoop up any feces along with any surrounding soil or produce that has come into contact with the feces. To ensure that you removed everything, try to dig the soil up to two inches deep from where the cat feces rested.

With regard to cat urine, you don’t have to worry about any harmful effects toward the soil, plants, or human health. However, it is still recommended that you rinse off any urine on plants or the soil with water to manage the smell and prevent any further damage to your plants.

cat pooping on the grass
Image Credit: Inoprasom, Shutterstock

Preventing Your Cat From Pooping on Your Plants

Whether it’s vegetable beds or potted plants, there are a few tricks available to keep your cat from using them as litter boxes. Of course, the best way to train your cat from going potty on soil is by training them to use the litter box in the first place. Cats may be curious and love to explore, but they are also creatures of habit. If they develop the habit of doing their business in the litter box, then chances are they won’t be doing it anywhere else.

If completely unavoidable, especially if you’re in an area with stray cats, you may have to use some repelling methods. Chicken wire is a great and simple way to keep cats away from your garden or potted plants by acting as a cage. Another method that utilizes barriers includes the use of large stones to cover soil. This is preferred for potted plants rather than larger gardens or vegetable beds because of the number of stones needed to cover the soil. The use of stones makes the surface smooth and hard, which is unattractive compared to the soft texture of soil.

Aside from the barrier methods, there are also repellent methods available to keep your cat away from the plants. Motion-detected distractor devices are great and convenient to keep your cat from going near plants and other areas. These devices produce a certain sound or noise when motion is detected, which effectively deters cats from going closer. Using safe substances with overwhelming scents, such as apple cider vinegar, can also create safe cat repellent sprays.

For gardens and vegetable beds, using motion-detected water sprinklers is also a great way to keep cats from coming too close.

Cat Poop as Compost and Fertilizer

If you’re wondering if cat poop can be used as fertilizer, the answer is yes—provided that it is properly composted. Composting is a natural process that breaks down the feces and kills off harmful bacteria and parasites. Composting cat feces along with other materials should be done away from organic matter to prevent any contamination. To avoid over-fertilization, it’s best to dilute cat poop compost with other types of compost or organic matter.

Before using it as fertilizer, ensure that the compost has fully decomposed. Cat poop compost should only be used on non-edible plants, such as flowers, trees, or shrubs. Cat poop compost can still pose health risks even though properly decomposed and composted, so it’s best to avoid using them on fruit or vegetable plants.

When handling garden poop, or any garden matter, remember to wear gloves and wash your hands to reduce the risk of any bacterial or parasitic infections.

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Final Thoughts

Your house may smell much better if your cat poops out in the garden, but cat poop can be harmful for plants and humans. Should your cat end up pooping on your plants, be sure to properly clean it with gloves and a shovel to prevent plant damage and health complications.

There are safe ways to keep your cat from going potty around your plant life with the use of barriers or repellents, but using litter boxes is still the best and preferred way of dealing with your cat’s poop!

See also:

Featured Image Credit: AjayTvm, Shutterstock

About the Author

Christian Adams
Christian Adams
Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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