Author Topic: Composting rat litter/waste  (Read 2141 times)

Offline TheBandit

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Composting rat litter/waste
« on: March 04, 2012, 02:36:30 PM »
Not sure if this is the correct spot for this... it's related to rat housing because it's about litter... but really it's more a question about gardening. ..

Is there any reason it wouldn't be safe to compost my rats' used litter? I use recycled newspaper bedding, which I think would break down just fine, but I just wanted to make sure that there wasn't anything inherently dangerous about rat droppings that would make them unsafe for compost. The compost is intended for use in an edible garden.

I've generally heard that small animal litter is a great compost addition, because the substrate adds carbon, but I've never heard anything specifically about rat waste and compost so I just thought I'd check.


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Offline Miz

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2012, 03:53:11 PM »
I used to dump my old litter into the garden. Some parts of this garden had berries growing and potatoes and a few other things .... According to my mother-in-law, who is a gardener, it was FABULOUS.

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Offline binkyhoo

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2012, 01:05:51 PM »
If I had a garden now I would do it. When I had a horse, way back, Its poo made things bloom like never before. I can imagine that the  paper pellets would help hold water in the soil till they decomposed. That is an idea that is well worth a try. :thumbsup2:

Offline TheBandit

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2012, 02:45:17 PM »
Manure is magical! I'm currently farm-sitting and totally stealing some for my garden...

I just know that you can't use dog and cat waste for compost, but that bunny waste makes a wonderful compost addition, and rats are somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. Seeing as they eat mostly veggies and grains and live entirely inside, I can't imagine there would be any danger in composting their poops. But I just wanted to be safe!

And yeah, stuff like paper pellets and wood chips are awesome for compost, although they take a lot longer to break down. It balances out the mixture and turns it into nice soil (I've heard it's especially good for those compost turner barrels... because if you're just adding kitchen scraps to those, you end up with a naaaasty sludge instead of compost...)


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Offline Ratilda

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2012, 02:46:19 PM »
Why cant you compost cat litter?
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Offline Nari Caution

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2012, 04:11:20 PM »
I'm not exactly sure specifically, but i know you're not supposed to handle kitty boxes if you're pregnant. I think there's just something in their poop...


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Offline TheBandit

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2012, 04:24:38 PM »
I think it has something to do with certain bacteria/organisms present in dog and cat poop? Or maybe that it doesn't break down well in compost because they are carnivorous animals? I'm not certain--I've just always seen it on lists of things not to compost. Regular clay kitty litter, I imagine, would not be good for compost because it has weird additives in it...


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Offline Ratilda

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2012, 05:01:15 PM »
That's why I was asking.  because it is my understanding that rats can get toxoplasmosis from cats.  Pretty interesting because then, it affects their brain and they end up "loving' cats.  But, they get it from ingesting cat feces... therefore, I dont know if I would put rat feces into the compost.

PS

Here's some interesting links.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11007336

http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=toxoplasma-infected-rats-love-their-11-08-17

« Last Edit: March 05, 2012, 05:04:43 PM by Ratilda »
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Offline TheBandit

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2012, 05:20:40 PM »
Woah! I think I've heard about that before... so crazy.

But I can't imagine how that parasite could be present in domestic rat feces if there are no cats present in the household...?


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Offline binkyhoo

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2012, 05:26:05 PM »
Back to us farm kids.  Cats eat  a very high protein diet. That makes for an acidic poop. Not so good for plants.

Offline KatnRat

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2013, 02:03:29 PM »
I know this is a really old topic, but since it's relevant to a post I just made I'm going to reply anyway. :) Plus, for post topics with as little action as this one has seen, it's nice to keep all the information in one place.

Rat poop won't spread toxoplasmosis. Cat poop will. The life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii has two hosts. Cats are the primary hosts: the organism reproduces in this host and the oocysts containing the offspring are released in the feces. The secondary hosts (primarily mice, but this could also be rats, birds, or a whole slew of accidental hosts -- including humans) ingest these. Within these hosts, Toxoplasma gondii invades the host cells (primarily brain, muscle, and liver) and encyst, hoping that the primary hosts (cats) will consume this tissue and the life cycle will continue.

So while you could ingest Toxoplasma gondii by eating poorly cooked mouse or rat (ewwwwww!), you're not going to get it through their poop.

Besides: many many humans have already been infected with toxoplasmosis. It is among the most prevalent of human infections and is primarily asymptomatic, though there are come continuing studies that it may affect brain functioning ever so slightly. It's only really dangerous when ingested by pregnant women as it can pass through the placenta and cause brain damage during fetal development. Raw meat poses the same risk (because the meat animals could be secondary hosts as mentioned above).

Just in case anyone was curious. :)

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Offline TheBandit

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2013, 02:11:10 PM »
Thanks for the info :)


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Offline bit-bit

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2013, 04:35:23 PM »
I don't remember seeing this topic when it was up last year, so thanks for bumping it.  It's a good conversation to have, since I know a lot of us try to be environmentally conscious and more and more are gardening.

I compost all of my rat litter, as well as food and garden waste.  I use this compost on my food garden, which provides most of the produce my husband and I (as well as our rats) eat.  We've never been made sick from anything in the garden, and I'm the type of person who will grab a tomato off the vine with dirt-crusted hands and chow down.  I know that's anecdotal data, but I'll say that in the few years we've been gardening, we've both gotten food poisoning from restaurants multiple times, so it certainly isn't due to amazing immune systems.

Carnivore manure isn't recommended for composting/gardening for a few reasons.  Disease risk was mentioned, but it can also be too "hot" - having too much nitrogen, which can kill plants.  Rats, who eat a mostly plant-based diet and have longer intestines, don't have very "hot" manure. [I'm using silly quotes to be clear: this doesn't refer to temperature, but nutrient content.]  Cat litter is usually heavy clay, something gardeners fight to keep out of their soil, while most rat litter is wood or paper (I use aspen, in part because I know it composts well).  Herbivore manure - cow, horse, goat, rabbit - is like gold on a farm or garden.  Many gardeners especially love rabbit waste because it comes mixed with bedding and therefore is even less "hot", meaning it can be applied to plants sooner, and some people even use it uncomposted.

Manure of any sort that is fully composted isn't a disease risk as the composting process will kill pathogens.  However, using compost that isn't "mature" can spread disease onto your plants, and should be avoided.  I don't put out compost that's been on the pile less than six months, or in which I can identify the original ingredients - it should look like dark, rich soil and not like what you put in.

When I had a dog, I composted his droppings separately, under my ornamental hedges.  Even though he was the only member of the family who never ate from the garden, I felt safer keeping his waste out of the compost that was destined to grow our dinners.

A couple other random thoughts... Many pharmaceuticals pass through the body intact. I compost my rats' waste in any case, but it might be a good idea to discontinue doing it while you have a rat on antibiotics - microbiology is so important in compost, so adding microbe-poison could throw off the balance.  Also, wild rodents nest in my compost pile.  I keep their life cycle in mind and turn my pile in seasons when they don't have eepers, but don't consider them when I'm composting rat waste - since they're closely related species, my colony may well pass diseases to the mice and voles.  My answer to that is to keep my guys as healthy as possible, and let the wildlings worry about themselves, but others may feel differently.

Sorry to ramble so much.  Obviously, I found the topic interesting  :yelcutelaugh:

Offline BigBen

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Re: Composting rat litter/waste
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2013, 09:45:46 PM »
. . . many many humans have already been infected with toxoplasmosis. It is among the most prevalent of human infections and is primarily asymptomatic, though there are come continuing studies that it may affect brain functioning ever so slightly. It's only really dangerous when ingested by pregnant women as it can pass through the placenta and cause brain damage during fetal development. . . .

There is a Danish scientist who maintains that more people are infected with T. gondii than realize it.  He maintains that it exerts a subtle but noticeable influence on the attitudes and behavior of the people infected with it, and points to aspects of his own personality that make him think he himself is probably infected.  It was a fascinating interview, and I will post a link if I can remember where I came across it.
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